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42.  Brahms: 1st Piano Concerto

[…] sick on a Friday night 
while the discos rock of ass and hip and leg, 
I’m too sick too drink,
listening to Brahms and squeezing orange juice.
when I’m too sick to drink you know I’m sick.

Excerpt from Sibelius And Etc. by Charles Bukowski

Brahms was a talented yet conservative bastard who considered the death of Beethoven the day the music died. Throughout his life he composed beautiful but rather predictable tributes to his Master Ludwig. At the same time colleagues like Wagner and Liszt stated Beethoven’s death was mereley the beginning. They continued Beethoven’s innovative approaches, thus paving the way for people like Mahler, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Stravinsky.

Brahms publicly stated Liszt and Wagner were pissing on Beethoven’s grave. Liszt and Wagner publicly told Brahms that he should do the world a huge favour by giving up composing altogether, while waiting for a new Messiah. Their public disagreement would become known as The War Of The Romantics and it was quite something. F.e. during the premiere of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto, many Liszt and Wagner-adepts bought tickets and hissed throughout the performance.

In the end Wagner died, Liszt found God and Brahms’ 1st would never become the world’s most revolutionary Piano Concerto. But it rightfully earned it’s place in the vault for being a shining example of the style and skills of the Romantics. Part of hem anyway.

Recommended recording:
Sir Clifford Curzon, George Szell & London Symphony Orchestra

If it hadn't been for Leonard Bernstein's peacekeeping abilities there would have been another war on April 6, 1962, this time between him an soloist Glenn Gould. Much to Bernstein's disscontempt, Gould wanted to perform a rather unorthodox version. Before the concert Bernstein addressed the audience in the most polite, funny and respectful manner, stating that he didn't agree with Gould's approach. He explains he had considered cancelling the performance altogether, yet decided otherwise out of respect for Gould's remarkable talent.  "I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist totally new and incompatible, and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould." 

Bernstein decided to grant Gould the stage and the spotlight, and let history and the audience decide. Well, both history and the audience hated it, as did the critics. The recording has become legendary famous for being a down-right clunker in Gould's rather spotless career.

Fortunately, there are plenty other decent recordings available. No one in his right mind will argue that Sir Clifford Curzon’s recording with George Szell is among the best.


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