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NA 4089
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NA 4089

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 / SCHUMANN: Introduction and Allegro appassionato

The Classical Shop
release date: August 2008

Originally recorded in 2008


Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra

Antoni Wit

Idil Biret


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Total Time - 67:06
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Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83

1 I. Allegro non troppo 18:32
2 II. Allegro appassionato 9:11
3 III. Andante 13:28
4 IV. Allegretto grazioso 9:38



Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Op. 92

 Idil Biret piano
 Antoni Wit

’The long terror’ was Brahms’s description of his second piano concerto, a massively impressive work completed in 1881 and falling between the second and third of the four symphonies in order of composition. Brahms had started work on the concerto in 1878 and finished the score in the summer of 1881, which he spent happily at Pressbaum, near Vienna. For its first performance in November 1881, the composer appeared as soloist in Pest, following this, later in the same month, with performances nearer home with the Meiningen Court Orchestra under Hans von Bülow, who had espoused the cause of Brahms with the eagerness and enthusiasm that he had once shown for Wagner, before the latter eloped with his wife Cosima, illegitimate daughter of Franz Liszt.
Brahms played the concerto in various towns with the Meiningen orchestra. In Vienna, however, where the first performance of the concerto took place in 1884, the critic Eduard Hanslick, a firm friend of Brahms, could only speak with reserve of the composer’s technical ability as a pianist whatever his admiration for the concerto itself, praising his rhythmic strength and masculine authority, and remarking that Brahms now had more important things to do than practise a few hours a day, a kind excuse for any technical imperfections there might have been in his playing.
The first movement of the B flat major Piano Concerto opens with a dialogue between the orchestra and soloist, initiated by the French horn. The orchestra adds a second important element to the thematic material, to be interrupted by a longish piano solo. On its return the orchestra has a third item of significance to add, before the piano turns expansively to the opening melody, as the movement takes its impressive course. The second movement, a form of scherzo in the key of D minor, is on the same enormous scale. It is followed by a slow movement, in which a solo cello proposes the first, tranquil theme, later to be varied by the soloist, before the appearance of other material, the pianist playing music of simple and limpid beauty above a low cello F sharp, accompanied by two clarinets. This brief passage of quiet meditation leads to the return of the first theme from the solo cello and the end of the movement. The concerto ends with a rondo that happily dispels any anxieties that might have lurked in the more ominous comers of the preceding movements, its mood inherited from Mozart and Beethoven, Brahms’s great predecessors in Vienna.
In 1844 the Schumanns moved from Leipzig to the city of Dresden. Robert Schumann had suffered intermittently from depression, accentuated by the fact that he had now become the consort of a pianist of considerable fame, his own rôle a decidedly secondary one during the concert tour of Russia that had occupied the earlier months of the year. Dresden, where Wagner had recently become conductor at the opera, was, in spite of this, relatively conservative. Here Schumann set about the task of teaching his young wife counterpoint, while he returned to his work as a composer with a certain renewal of energy. The Introduction and Allegro appassionato for piano, with orchestral accompaniment, was a product of the eventful year 1849, the period that brought a republican uprising in Dresden, the hurried departure of Wagner, who had been involved openly with more extreme factions, and general disturbance, as the unrest was suppressed with Prussian help. Throughout the months of tumult, during which the Schumanns had taken refuge outside the city, Robert Schumann continued to write music, completing the present work during the later part of September, a month that brought songs and piano pieces. The gentle Introduction to Opus 92 allows orchestral melodies to appear through the evocative piano arpeggios, first from the clarinet, then from the French horn, before the piano too assumes a melodic rôle. The Allegro appassionato is dominated by the opening figure from the orchestra, but largely justifies its descriptive title, a work for piano with orchestral accompaniment.
Keith Anderson
"Idil Biret is among the few classical musicians who have made a major reputation by recording on a budget label. Alfred Brendel did it nearly 50 years ago and is now among the grand old men of pianists. Ms. Biret, born in Turkey and trained mostly in Paris, hasn’t moved to a more expensive label, as Mr. Brendel did. But critics have taken seriously her complete sets of the piano music of Rachmaninov, Chopin and Brahms. And audiences have bought them in droves. Her performance of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 shows why. She’s primarily a poetic performer but with plenty of muscle for when the going gets tough. She has mastered the long Brahms musical line, and she can whip up excitement when she needs too - the titanic scherzo movement, for instance... The bonus performance of Schumann’s Introduction and Allegro appasionato is a treat."
Lawson Taitte - The Dallas Morning News

"Biret’s virtuosity and mature musicianship are on display in another blockbuster, Brahms’ Piano Concerto NO.2 on new Naxos CD. Given strong support by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (Katowice) led by Antoni Wit, Biret plays this magnificent work with a winning mixture of power and lyricism. With Biret’s flying fingers and hot-blooded approach, this appealing work sizzles from start to finish."
John Puccio - Sensible Sound - December 2001

"Idil Biret’s playing seems perfunctory in the opening sections but most able in the final movements...slightly mechanical, never quite expressing either the grandness of the first movement or the poetry of the slow movement, but she does playfully dance about in the closing part. The orchestral accompaniment can range from burdensomely obscure to moodily transparent, depending I suppose, on the mood of the engineers. I found the accompanying Schumann piano work closer to my liking, being more concisely treated as well as striking a better balance between orchestra and soloist. At a low bargain price, this Brahms issue may seem a bargain."
John Puccio - Sensible Sound - December 2001

"The two Schumann works are fine bonuses, both rendered with the same commitment and insight from soloist and orchestra. In the end, one must assess all these performances as quite extraordinary and fully competitive with the best. Sound is good, if a bit boomy in the Brahms First. At Naxos’s prices potential buyers can hardly go wrong."
Robert Cummings - ClassicalNet - September 2001

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