Johannes Brahms (07.05.1833 – 03.04.1897) was a German composer and pianist and is considered to be one of the leading composers in the romantic period. He was born in Hamburg into a Lutheran family, though he spent most of his career in Vienna, Austria. His most popular works include four symphonies, the Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80, two piano concertos, Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 and his Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77.
Both of Brahms’s piano concertos are gargantuan works. His Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83 was composed some 22 years after his first piano concerto. Brahms began work on the piece in 1878 and completed it in 1881 while in Pressbaum near Vienna. He dedicated his second piano concerto to his teacher, Eduard Marxsen. The work received its first performance in Budapest on 9 November 1881, with Brahms as soloist with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra. At nearly fifty minutes in duration, this concerto lasts longer than any other major Romantic piano concerto by quite some stretch.
Brahms was a master at writing music for the piano and as this four-movement concerto demonstrates, he was able to blend beauty with fire and tenderness with drama. In this expansive work Brahms takes his time to unveil his musical themes and ideas before we reach the well-known thrilling, energetic finale. However this popular finale produces even greater enjoyment when heard as the culmination of that which precedes it.
If you have only ever heard the finale do set aside the time to listen to the entire work and in a wonderful performance such as that by Nelson Freire with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Riccardo Chailly you will be richly rewarded!