STRING CONCERTOS 8 – Brahms double concerto

Brahms in 1889

The last of Brahms’ four concertos and his last major orchestral work is the double concerto for violin and cello in a, Op. 102, dating from 1887.

In writing for two concertante players, Brahms harks back to the to the multiple soloists of the concerto grosso, but also he may have had some of the more recent examples of the genre in mind (Haydn and Mozart’s Sinfonie Concertante, Beethoven’s Triple Concerto).

The work was written as a peace offering to the violinist Joseph Joachim. Brahms had written his violin concerto (Op. 77) in collaboration with and for Joachim but their long standing friendship had been severely strained by Brahms’ siding with the violinist’s wife in an acrimonious divorce action – hence the peace offering.

While debate still continues about Schönberg’s characterisation of the composer as ‘Brahms the Progressive’, it’s certainly true that beneath the conservative surface of Brahms’ music there are lurking some pretty novel harmonic and formal events.

Here are two performances of the work; this, dating from 1965, with two rather famous Russians…

0:43 Allegro
16:45 Andante
24:44 Vivace non troppo

Direction : Kyril Kondrashin
Moscow Philharmonic

… and this, from the first decade(?) of the 21st century with two slightly younger soloists…

Allegro 00:01
Andante 17:12
Vivace non troppo 25:06

… compare & contrast.

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