Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1
Oct 29, 1993
Some pieces of music, whether simple or sophisticated, immediately engage the listener’s mind and emotions on first hearing. Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor is not one of these. A newcomer to the work is likely to find the piece difficult to integrate, owing to its complex structure and numerous themes of great emotional contrast. The listener may receive only the impression of an overall grimness, despite the fact that much of the concerto is devoted to themes of great warmth and beauty. This workshop’s purpose is to clarify the structure of the work and to “train the listener’s ear” in isolating its different thematic components.
The workshop began with a short introduction to the work describing the circumstances in which it was composed, some of the musical influences on it, and its overall structure. Next, the different themes of the work were presented via audio recording. Each theme was played several times in succession, with each instance a variant coming from a different point in the piece. (I am grateful to Jay Garing for his assistance in preparing the tape used in this part of the presentation.)
The workshop culminated in the playing of the complete performance. The recording was of a very special and somewhat unorthodox performance, made live at Carnegie Hall with William Kapell at the piano and Dimitri Metropoulos conducting. The aim of the workshop was to make this experience as intelligible and as stirring as possible.