Brahms

BBC Music Magazine - - Concerto -

Pi­ano Con­certo No. 1

Eka­te­rina Litv­int­seva (pi­ano); Klas­sis­che Phil­har­monie Bonn/ Herib­ert Beis­sel

Pro­fil PH 18065 48:52 mins

Brahms’s First Pi­ano Con­certo is one of mu­si­cal his­tory’s mir­a­cles: a work of sweep­ing tragedy and epic grandeur writ­ten by a com­poser still in his early

20s. Much of it was in­flu­enced by the events he wit­nessed in the Schu­mann house­hold: Schu­mann’s sui­cide at­tempt, fol­lowed by his de­par­ture for an asy­lum where he spent the last two years of his life. Brahms ini­tially con­ceived the Con­certo’s first move­ment as the start of a sym­phony, and it’s a piece in which the sym­bio­sis be­tween orches­tra and pi­ano is of ut­most im­por­tance. While it’s pos­si­ble to imag­ine glossier or­ches­tral play­ing than that of the Klas­sis­che Phil­har­monie of Bonn, there’s a real sense of rap­port be­tween its con­duc­tor, Herib­ert Beis­sel, and the young Rus­sian pi­anist Eka­te­rina Litv­int­seva. Only at the pi­ano’s very first en­try is there a small mis­cal­cu­la­tion. Brahms cre­ates a ‘dis­solve’ be­tween orches­tra and pi­ano by hav­ing the soloist take over the three-note fig­ure the cel­los have been re­peat­ing over and over again dur­ing the in­tro­duc­tion’s clos­ing bars. The ef­fect de­pends on the pi­anist main­tain­ing the ex­act tempo of the cel­los, but Litv­int­seva comes in at a no­tably slower pace. It’s a small blem­ish on an al­to­gether im­pres­sive per­for­mance.

Litv­int­seva as­cribes the in­ten­sity of her play­ing to the harsh con­di­tions in which she grew up, on the edge of the Arc­tic Cir­cle. She also ex­presses a pref­er­ence for ‘live’ record­ings such as this. Cer­tainly, her play­ing has an ex­pres­sive depth which makes you for­get the mu­sic’s prodi­gious tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties. In all, she’s a pi­anist to watch.

Misha Donat

PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★

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