The old model for creating a hit classical recording – big-name soloist plus big-name conductor in major repertory work – is not so common anymore, but this live Brahms recording from the Staatskapelle Berlin under Venezuela's Gustavo Dudamel, with Argentine-Israeli-Palestinian-Spanish pianist Daniel Barenboim as soloist, shows that there's life in the concept yet. One could point to the virtues of pianist and conductor separately: it's a rare septuagenarian who can combine power and clear articulation of detail the way Barenboim does, and Dudamel builds a vast sweep in, especially, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. But it's the way that the two work together that really makes news. Chalk it up to shared South American heritage or to whatever the listener wants, but the way the orchestra and piano define separate spheres and work them together is extraordinary. Again, it is in the Piano Concerto No. 1 and its Beethovenian drama that their mutual understanding is most evident, but there is a sense of great variety powerfully unified throughout.
Brahms (1833-97) devoted much of the 1880s to his three Piano Trios, having decided, as he told a friend, that there was “no further point in attempting an opera or a marriage”. They are among his less familiar chamber works. He originally wrote No 1 as a young man, overhauling it more than three decades later in 1889. All three works – the B major Op 8, C major Op 87 and C minor Op 101 – have a tender, shadowy intensity, without quite the same heart-on-sleeve fervour of the bigger chamber works. The string players here – brother and sister Christian and Tanja Tetzlaff – are regular quartet partners. Together with sensitive pianism from Lars Vogt, ensemble is alert, accurate, never forced: already a favourite CD.
As a musician, as a man of ideals, and as a true world citizen, Yehudi Menuhin made an extraordinary mark on his era. The Menuhin Century commemorates the 100th anniversary of his birth on 22 April 1916.
Here are Herbert von Karajan's celebrated interpretations of the four Brahms symphonies recorded in concert in 1973, at the peak of his career. Unitel's films from this period documented the maestro with his great Berlin orchestra on 35mm colour film and in stereo. "Others have gotten more reflection out of Brahms … but not more virility and controlled intense beauty than Karajan in the Unitel films" (New York Times).
"…While it may appear that this disc is a memorial worth only one playing, it is instead a set of beautiful readings of three essential Brahms works, fully in the Central European tradition. Moreover, it is not marmorial, but a real 'feel-good' and life-enhancing disc. What better memorial could a conductor have?" ~sa-cd.net
Gilels had immense physical power and impeccable control, but he was also capable of exquisitely refined poetry and had an acute perception of the lyrical impulse lying behind even the most assertive of Brahms's writing. The firmness of attack and the depth of sound that make his (and the Berlin Philharmonic's) playing so thrillingly dynamic can be offset by the most poignant of delicate gestures. There is undeniable grandeur to these readings, but with those additional qualities of wise thinking, generous expression and artistry of great subtlety, these performances are in a class of their own.