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.
Brahms’ Violin Concerto was written for Joseph Joachim, the greatest violin player of the time. Brahms entered into detailed correspondence with Joachim over the solo violin part seeking his advice (and often ignoring it!) on all technical issues. The work was premiered in Leipzig on New Year’s Day 1879. It is written in three, separate movements with no link between the slow movement and the finale. The work bears some similarities to Brahms second symphony in terms of its musical language. The slow movement is wonderfully lyrical and also allows the spotlight to fall on the principle oboist. The final movement exhibits a lighter note with a flavour of Hungarian gypsy music.
There are well over three hundred recordings of this work currently available! We have opted for a majestically played version by the Russian-born, Belgian violinist Vadim Repin, once described by Yehudi Menuhin as ‘simply the best and most perfect violinist that I have ever had the chance to hear’.
Vadim Repin plays this concerto with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig conducted by Riccardo Chailly, who is highly acclaimed for performances of the orchestral works of Brahms. This is a reading full of drama and bold gestures. The first movement is also taken quite slowly and this emphasises the stately nature of Brahms music. In the second movement there is an excellent contribution from the oboist Henrik Wahlgren.
As a further bonus our recommended CD also contains an enjoyable account of Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin & Cello in A minor, Op. 102 for which the performers are joined by the talented Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk.