Johannes Brahms

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    Brahms composed this music during the summer of 1878, and led the first performance, with its dedicatee Joseph Joachim as soloist, in Leipzig on January 1, 1879.

    In the 1860s, Brahms toured as Joachim's pianist. Despite the kilometers separating them otherwise -- the violinist lived in Berlin, while Brahms settled permanently in Vienna after 1867 -- their mutual regard as well as affection flourished. Until 1881, that is, when "Jussuf," a pathologically jealous husband, accused his wife of adultery, naming his and Brahms' publisher, Fritz Simrock, as correspondent. Knowing Joachim's mania, Brahms consoled the lady privately in a letter that she made public during divorce proceedings -- one that the judge agreed with publicly, adding injury to insult in the fiddler's mind. For the next six years there was silence between them. Brahms, atypically, broke the ice by writing his "Double" Concerto in 1887 for Joachim and a cellist of choice -- the composer's last work for orchestra, although he lived a decade longer. Even so, Joachim was never as close as in 1878, when Brahms put aside sketches for a new piano concerto (the B flat, Op. 83, finished later) to make one for him instead.

    A summer composer, he wrote the music in Pörtschach, a small resort community on the Wörther-see in south-central Austria that he found both charming and congenial (until "lady admirers" annoyed him beyond tolerance in 1879). Brahms created a large work, in the Beethoven tradition, though he gave up the idea of two movements in the middle; in their place he put an F major Adagio, with a seraphic oboe solo but a stormier central section in F sharp minor before calm returns.

    The opening movement, marked not too fast, has a sonorous orchestral introduction in 3/4 time amounting to a first exposition of the main theme. When the violin enters, it is with an extended display over horns in octaves and a timpani roll before playing the main theme and a "secondary" group, from which one melody is outright gorgeous. Brahms begins his development section in A minor; a cadenza that Joachim contributed comes after the recapitulation.

    Next comes the filigreed Adagio already discussed, then a rondo-finale with a "Hungarian" main theme (marked joyous but not too lively). Most agree that Brahms was saluting Joachim's origin; he was born near Pressburg, later called Poszony -- today Bratislava in the Czech Republic. The music teems with challenges yet never becomes the circus-piece that so many nineteenth century fiddle concertos were.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro non troppo
    2. Adagio
    3. Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4796220
    2016 SWR Music SWR 19018CD
    2016 Decca 4788412
    2016 Swedish Society Discofil SCD 1162
    2016 Pentatone / PentaTone Classics PTC 5186592
    2016 Urania WS 121153
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88843095342
    2016 CAvi-music AVI 8553328
    2016 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4795983
    2016 EuroArts / Warner Classics 555050
    2016 Warner Classics 0825646777044
    2016 Warner Classics 0825646777051
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Nimbus Alliance NI 6270
    2015 Guild Historical GHCD 2418
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646130177
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646129713
    2015 Berlin Classics 0300595BC
    2015 Music & Arts MACD 1282
    2015 Sony Classical 88875126182
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646144433
    2015 Sony Classical 88843061362
    2015 Radio France FRF 02027
    2014 Talent DOM 291099
    2014 Les Dissonances LD 004
    2014 Linn / Linn Records BKD 224
    2014 Bella Musica
    2014 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic 94226
    2014 Wienerworld 01367
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    2014 Andromeda ANDRCD 9112
    2014 ZYX Classics / ZYX Music CLA 101832
    2014 Decca 4811031
    2014 Andromeda ANDRCD 9122
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Decca
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    2013 AAO Music PWM 71022
    2013 Broken Audio BRAU 0991
    2013 Melodiya / Melody MELCD 1001931
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