When you listen to the music of Johannes Brahms – you hear in it a kind of magisterial assurance and a sense of being part of a great tradition that stretches back to Bach. There is a weight and a command in his music that would never happen quite happen again. But if something ended with Brahms, it ended with a glorious shout. He wrote his first piano concerto at the age of 25, with the strongest orchestral statement since Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

Piano Concerto No.1 is Brahms’ first foray into concerto and orchestral writing and it’s a powerful statement from a composer who was still in his mid twenties and reeling from his love for Clara Schumann. The concerto is actually a reworking of ideas and themes from a sonata for two pianos Brahms had written earlier. Unhappy with the result, he endeavored to orchestrate the work, transforming it into the symphony. Still unsatisfied, Brahms claimed he got the idea to transform it into a piano concerto from a dream. It premiered in Hanover, Germany on January 22, 1859 and received a second performance in Leipzig five days later at which an unappreciative audience hissed at the end. In a letter to the influential violinist Joseph Joachim following the performance, Brahms wrote, "I am only experimenting and feeling my way", adding miserably, "all the same, the hissing was rather too much!"

Brahms Piano Concerto No.1 in D Minor, Opus 15
Mov't 1 Leon Fleisher/Cleveland Orchestra/Szell
SONY MH2K 63225

Mov't 1 Glenn Gould/New York Philharmonic/Bernstein
SONY SK 60675

Mov't 2 Rudolf Serkin/Cleveland Orcehstra/ George Szell
CBS MK 42261

Mov't 3 Emanuel Ax/Chicago Symphony OrchestraLevine
RCA Red Seal RCD1-4962