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Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1

Ekaterina Litvintseva; Klassische Philharmonie Bonn/Heribert Beissel (Profil PH)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15
Ekaterina Litvintseva (piano); Klassische Philharmonie Bonn/Heribert Beissel
Profil PH 18065   48:52 mins


Brahms’s First Piano Concerto is one of musical history’s miracles: a work of sweeping tragedy and epic grandeur written by a composer still in his early 20s. Much of it was influenced by the events he witnessed in the Schumann household: Schumann’s suicide attempt, followed by his departure for an asylum where he spent the last two years of his life.  Brahms initially conceived the Concerto’s first movement as the start of a symphony, and it’s a piece in which the symbiosis between orchestra and piano is of utmost importance. While it’s possible to imagine glossier orchestral playing than that of the Klassische Philharmonie of Bonn, there’s a real sense of rapport between its conductor, Heribert Beissel, and the young Russian pianist Ekaterina Litvintseva. Only at the piano’s very first entry is there a small miscalculation. Brahms creates a ‘dissolve’ between orchestra and piano by having the soloist take over the three-note figure the cellos have been repeating over and over again during the introduction’s closing bars. The effect depends on the pianist maintaining the exact tempo of the cellos, but Litvintseva comes in at a notably slower pace. It’s a small blemish on an altogether impressive performance.

Litvintseva ascribes the intensity of her playing to the harsh conditions in which she grew up, on the edge of the Arctic Circle. She also expresses a preference for ‘live’ recordings such as this. Certainly, her playing has an expressive depth which makes you forget the music’s prodigious technical difficulties. In all, she’s a pianist to watch.


Misha Donat