Brahms Violin Concerto in D
What better day can there be for a première than New Year's Day? On January 1st 1879 Johannes Brahms' only Violin Concerto had its first performance in Leipzig. On the violin was Joseph Joachim, the virtuoso player and friend to whom Brahms had dedicated the piece. (In fact, Brahms had also sought Joachim's advice for writing some of the solo violin sections). The technical demands on the soloist are formidable - Henryk Wieniawski called it "unplayable" while Pablo de Sarsate, another violin virtuoso, refused to play it because he didn't want to "stand on the rostrum, violin in hand, and listen to the oboe playing the only tune in the adagio". It may be a question of Brahms being a pianist-composer that meant he had less of an understanding for the players' needs, but then again he did pick the violin-friendly key of D major.
At the première reaction was mixed - partly because Joachim insisted on opening with Beethoven's Violin Concerto, also in D major and to whom Brahms had paid homage in his work. The comparison was difficult for the listeners to handle. However, against his critics, modern listeners often feel that Brahms had higher musical aims and that he did not intend to write a vehicle for virtuoso display, where in fact the soloist comes over as part of the orchestra.
Enjoy this sensational piece on this recording of the Orchestre National Bordeaux Acuitaine with Bruno Pasquier mastering the tricky solo.