JOHANNES BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1
in D Minor, Op. 15
began writing what would eventually become his Piano Concerto No. 1 in 1854, at
a critical point in his early development as a composer. He originally began
the piece as a sonata for two pianos, but soon reworked it, first as a symphony and
ultimately as a piano concerto.
Ambitious and sprawling, the concerto makes
considerable demands on the listener’s attention and concentration, and though
it presents more than enough of a challenge to the soloist, it is not overtly
virtuosic and flashy. There is struggle and conflict, too, but rather than the
customary back-and-forth between piano and ensemble, there is a sense of the
soloist and orchestra united in grappling with a higher power.
HECTOR BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique,
classical canon, there are precious few truly unprecedented works, pieces that
at the time of their composition were so unexpected and deviated so drastically
from convention that early audiences were shocked, confused, thrilled—and
sometimes disgusted—in equal measure, and that, through revolution rather than
evolution, changed the course of music history. Among these is Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, which both expanded
the definition of what a symphony could be and gave birth to the new breed of
vibrantly descriptive, viscerally dramatic program music that remained one of
music’s strongest stylistic forces throughout the Romantic era.