Emmanuel Despax / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra / Miho Kawashima

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1; 16 Waltzes

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Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1; 16 Waltzes Review

by Keith Finke

Childhood dreams meet reality as pianist Emmanuel Despax records a personal favorite in Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15, a work he listened to obsessively as a teen. After winning a concerto competition while studying at the Royal College of Music, Despax performed this work for the first time with pianist and conductor Andrew Litton as the conductor. Here, Despax is joined once more by Litton, who leads the BBC Symphony Orchestra in this recording. Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 began life as a sonata for two pianos before the composer considered using the material to write a symphony. Though Brahms wouldn't complete his first symphony until more than two decades later, much of the grand orchestral sound carries over in the first concerto, and the BBC Symphony is more than ideal for this undertaking. Despax and the orchestra capture the monumental scale and the tragic nature of the concerto, as evidenced by the lush Maestoso first movement. The serious, somber tone of the second movement with its "Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini" inscription is given proper weight by both orchestra and soloist. Despax gives the concerto a passionate rendering, and listeners will have to decide where this slower, emotional performance belongs in the long list of recordings available, but it's well played and worth hearing. Despax is joined by his wife and chamber music partner Miho Kawashima for Brahms' 16 Waltzes for piano, four-hands, Op. 39. Written in Vienna as a tribute to the dance style that became synonymous with that city, these short works display influences from Schubert and Strauss II with Brahms' characteristic sophistication. Alternating first and second parts throughout the set, the pianists offer a cohesive traversal of these rather intimate dances.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
1 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 24:27 Amazon
2 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 14:26 Amazon
3 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 13:05 Amazon
16 Waltzes, Op. 39 for piano four hands
4 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 00:49 Amazon
5 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:15 Amazon
6 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:10 Amazon
7 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:08 Amazon
8 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:29 Amazon
9 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 00:56 Amazon
10 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 02:00 Amazon
11 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:06 Amazon
12 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:14 Amazon
13 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 00:32 Amazon
14 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:30 Amazon
15 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:58 Amazon
16 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 00:34 Amazon
17 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:16 Amazon
18 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:41 Amazon
19 Emmanuel Despax / Miho Kawashima / Andrew Litton / BBC Symphony Orchestra 01:11 Amazon
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