This disc contains the Piano Concerto No. 1, at 53 min, 19 sec, and the Academic Festival Overture, at 10 min, 1 sec. The following is a review of the Piano Concerto No. 1.
MAESTOSO begins like a squadron of bombers, taking off for the skies, while shards of lightning gash into the ground. Then, at 1 min to 3 min, comes a very quite part. At 3 min to 4 min, the noisy squadron of bombers returns. AT 4 min to 5 min, 15 sec, comes a nostalgic melody, reminding one of a childhood home from the distant past. At 5 min to 5 min 40 sec, the menacing squadron of bombers returns. At 7 min to 8 min 30 sec, comes a tune reminding one of springtime, awakenings, and rejuvenation. The tune could make a fine church hymn. Then follows a quiet episode. At 9 min, 40 sec, comes a shimmering optimistic tune. At 10 min we are treated with a pop-tune, somewhat saccharine in nature. At 10 min, 50 sec, the shimmering optimistic tune returns. But at 11 min, 50 sec, the squadron of bombastic-bombers returns. Watch out!
At 14 min, 30 sec, to 15 min, 15, sec, comes a lilting waltz, reminding me of Tchaikovsky's Christmas pixies. At 15 min, 30 sec, the squadron of bombers returns. At 17 min, the bomber theme returns, but instead of being in the usual minor key, it shifts to the major key, where it is further developed or pursued in a quieter pace. At 19 min to 23 min, we are treated again to the melody of springtime awakenings and rejuvenation. At 23 min, the bombers return and MAESTOSO ends on a noisy note.
ADAGIO is quiet and slow-paced. Much of the ADAGIO comes just one note at a time. For the first 6 min, there is no particular or discernable tune. At 6 min, 15 sec, the pianos get a bit louder and a tune emerges. But the emerging melody soon dissipates and the pianos get softer and slower. At 9 min, 50 sec, to 11 min, a loud, majestic sequence materializes, like Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance march. But this too dissipates. At 12 min, 45 sec, comes a shimmering, sparkling sequence, but this soon dissipates, and ADAGIO ends quietly.
RONDO wakes the listener with a rousing, motoristic tune. The motoristic tune, lasting 50 sec, is one of Brahms' most distinctive melodies. Then comes a lengthy interlude with various interesting and distinctive tunes. At 3 min, 20 sec, to 4 min, 10 sec, the motoristic tune returns. At 5 min, 30 sec, comes an odd tune, sounding like a computer-generated signal from a telephone. At 6 min, comes a mild variation of the motoristic tune. At 6 min, 45 sec, the rousing, motoristic tune returns. At 9 min, starts a quiet aleatory sequence. At 10 min, 40 sec, comes a few odd-sounding arpeggios. The arpeggios, in the oddness, at first made me think that my compact disc had a skip in it. At 11 min, 10 sec, we are treated to a dainty version of the motoristic tune. From 13 minutes to the very end (20 sec in all), we hear a conventional "ending" typical of many Romantic compositions. I could listen to the 2-piano version of RONDO over and over and over again (not every day, but perhaps several times per year).
Silke-Thora Matthies and Christian Kohn, and the Naxos label, have done a great service to humanity by bringing Brahms' 2-piano renditions to compact disc. I have purchased most of the other discs in this Brahms 2-piano series from Naxos, and I am glad that I did. I also suggest the following discs, relating to piano versions of symphonic compositions from other composers:
(1) Gyogy Sandor's 1-piano rendition of Bartok's CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA. This is available on the Sony label (MK44526).
(2) Andreas Grau and Gotz Schumacher's 2-piano rendition of Hindemith's MATHIS DER MALER, as well as other Hindemith symphonic pieces. These are available on the Wergo label (WER-6633-2).
(3) Fumiko Shiraga's 1-piano plus small chamber ensemble rendition of the Hummel transcription of various Mozart Symphonies and Mozart piano concertos. These are available on the BIS Records AB, Akersberga label.
(4) Konstantin Scherbakov's 1-piano versions of the Liszt transcriptions of all the Beethoven Symphonies. These are available on the Naxos label.