BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Major – after Violin Concerto Op. 77 (Arr. by Dejan Lazic); Two Rhapsodies Op. 79; Scherzo in E-flat minor Op. 4 – Dejan Lazic, piano/Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Robert Spano – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 29410, 66:10 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
This SACD is quite a surprise all the way round: Amsterdam-based Channel Classics coming over to the U.S. to record a major U.S. symphony. And out of the blue, a world premiere of the Third Brahms Piano Concerto! It’s his Violin Concerto in new garb, with a new piano part created by Dejan Lazic, although the entire original orchestral score is untouched. The Croatian pianist points out in his notes his inspiration for the project were the piano versions of the Violin Concertos of both Bach and Beethoven, which were made by the composers themselves. And Lazic is a busy composer on the side
Muzio Clementi was attracted to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and shortly after its premiere asked Beethoven to arrange it for piano and orchestra, which the composer did. In the same way Lazic has been fascinated by the lovely Brahms Violin Concerto – considering it one of the best instrumental concertos ever composed. He wanted to have an idiomatic version for piano and orchestra to perform himself, and finally decided to create it himself. Brahms also arranged several of his own works for other instruments, but never got around to doing the Violin Concerto as had the other two Bs.
The Allegro non Troppo first movement is lengthier than the other two movements put together. Adding to its length is its new cadenza by Lazic, which doesn’t replace Brahms’ original because no cadenza is extant for this concerto – and anyway it would be terribly inappropriate for piano since it was being played on a violin. Lazic feels every cadenza should be a “free area” where the soloist can improvise as he wishes on material previously heard. And Lazic does. The fine oboe solo in the Adagio movement fits in just as well with the piano part as it does in the Violin Concerto. The whole work sounds like it was a piano concerto to begin with. Lazic has done a masterful job of transcription as well as of performance in this exciting live recording made in Atlanta.
The three Brahms solo piano works that fill out the album are fine choices, and the two Rhapsodies
coincide with the same year the composer’s Violin Concerto saw its premiere performance. The Op. 4 Scherzo is the composer’s earliest surviving composition – when he was only 18. It is in a Classical form and shows influences of both Beethoven and Schubert. The piano sound, as well the entire orchestral pickup, is exceptional, especially in multichannel. A unique and recommended recording!
– John Sunier