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Music

Brahms blockbuster

A healthy dose of that composer this hour, with German pianist Gerhard Oppitz performing his Piano Concerto No. 1.

This concert from the Beethovenfest celebrates arguably the most important composer to come after Beethoven: Johannes Brahms - who not only deeply admired Ludwig van Beethoven but also Joseph Haydn. "What a guy!" he once remarked. "And how miserable we are in comparison!" Putting his music where his mouth was, Brahms wrote Variations on a Theme by Haydn in 1873.

We know meanwhile that Haydn didn't invent that melody himself. But whoever did, that does nothing to detract from its quality or the variations that Brahms spun forth from it.

In 1854, Brahms, then 21 years old, began work on a piano sonata. After finishing the first three movements, he hit a bump, feeling that for this music, not even two pianos would suffice.

He then went to work on orchestrating the sonata, hoping to turn it into a symphony. There, too, he hit a dead end. "Imagine what I dreamt last night," Brahms wrote to his friend Clara Schumann. "I used my failed symphony as a piano concerto and played it." The dream came true.

Pressebild Beethovenfest 2016 - Gerhard Oppitz

Pianist and amateur pilot Gerhard Oppitz

We'll hear the solo part played by Gerhard Oppitz, praised by critics for his clear-headed playing. As the pianist told DW, he has performed this work over 200 times in the space of 40 years. Yet, he revealed, the experience is always different: "It remains an exciting adventure. The cards are reshuffled every time. It depends on the thoughts and feelings that everybody brings to the performance, what they've experienced that day and in the weeks and months preceding. Exciting things happen each time. This music lives from the musicians' listening and reacting to each other, each making an active contribution."

As a bonus, we have Oppitz teaming up with clarinetist Karl Leister in the Sonata No. 1 in F Minor by - you guessed it -: Johannes Brahms.

Johannes Brahms:
- Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, op. 56a
- Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, op. 15, first movement

Gerhard Oppitz, piano
West German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Cologne
Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor

Recorded by West German Radio, Cologne (WDR) in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn on September 17, 2015

Johannes Brahms:
Sonata No. 1 in F Minor for clarinet and piano, op, 120, No. 1, first movement
Gerhard Oppitz, piano
Karl Leister, clarinet

on ORFEO C 086 841 A

Rebroadcasting rights: one broadcast before February 7, 2017

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