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About the program

Brahms: Piano concerto No. 2

Twenty-two years passed between the writing of Brahms’ first and second piano concertos: he composed the one in D minor in 1859, at the age of 26, and the one in B flat major in 1881, when he was 48. The composer sent the completed score of the B flat major concerto to one of his best friends, Theodor Billroth, a renowned Viennese surgeon and passionate musician. The second piano concerto, declared Billroth, compared with the first like a man with a youth. The composer himself may have believed he had reached one of the summits of his career with this work, because this was the first (and last) piano piece he dedicated to his “dear friend and teacher,” Eduard Marxsen. (Marxsen, a famed teacher, pianist and composer in Hamburg, had recognized the exceptional talent of the child Brahms, and taught him free of charge for a few years.) The piece also has some Hungarian aspects: it had its premiere in Budapest, on 9 November, 1881, with Sándor Erkel conducting and the composer himself playing the piano part. Unlike the piano concerto in D minor, the B flat major piece was an immediate success, and in the course of three months during the 1881/1882 concert season, Brahms performed it on twenty-one more occasions in the cities of Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.
It is a piano concerto with a scherzo, wrote Brahms in the accompanying letter to Billroth, and indeed, instead of the customary three-movement structure of a concerto, the piece follows a four-part model, with a scherzo of a second movement.

Brahms: Symphony No. 4

Brahms started writing his fourth symphony in the summer of 1884, and he finished it in 1885. He informed his friend, Hans von Bülow, about the completion of the work: “A pair of Entr’actes are to hand – such as together one commonly calls a symphony… I can’t stop thinking of the pleasure of starting the rehearsals with you. I don’t know whether a wider public will get to hear it. I fear it has the taste of the climate here – where the cherries never become sweet enough to eat!” The success of the October 1885 world premiere, where the conductor was von Bülow, was to prove the composer’s worries unfounded.


Johannes Brahms: Piano concerto No. 2
Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 4


Iván Fischer


Arcadi Volodos, piano