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Piano Concerto #2 by Johannes Brahms (1881) - One of the Single Greatest Pieces of Music Ever Written


DonRocks
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If I were forced to pick one desert-island piece of piano music - perhaps *any* piece of music - the Piano Concerto #2 in B-Flat Major, Opus 83, by Johannes Brahms, would be under serious consideration - I could spend the rest of my life studying just this one piece, and still not plumb its immense depths.



It is, simply put, one of the greatest pieces of music ever written - one of the greatest works of art produced in the history of mankind.



B2, as I affectionately call it, is a piece of such profundity that I cannot adequately convey it using the clumsy written word; instead, I will direct you to one particularly great recording. At around 50 minutes in length, it is no small feat to get through, but each of the four movements is its own masterpiece, and listening to parts of it is better than never having heard it at all.



I cannot imagine what could have possessed a human being to think of something this epic in scope - the profound encapsulation of musical heroism, written down with pen and paper. It is the equivalent of any Beethoven Symphony or Sonata, or of any painting by da Vinci, or of any play by Shakespeare.



We can start right here with my choice for the greatest pianist who ever lived: Sviatislav Richter. It's in five parts on YouTube, so you'll need to listen to all five to hear the entire piece. You can spend as much time listening to this piece as you would reading War and Peace, and your time will be equally well-spent here:



1st Movement - Allegro non Troppo (This is a very long movement, and it was apparently necessary to split it into two YouTube entries.)





2nd Movement - Allegro Appassionato (Just when you think music can't get any more profound than the 1st movement, along comes the second.)




3rd Movement - Andante (This long, expansive, absolutely beautiful movement is almost desperately needed after the 1st 2 movements, which leave the listener completely spent.)




4th Movement - Allegro Grazioso (The ten-second passage from 1:56 - 2:06 is unspeakably difficult, but notice also the call-and-response motif from 1:05 - 1:30 - it is imperative to play this lightly.)



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Jan 6, 2014 - "Brahms Piano Concertos: Which is First Among Equals?" by Stephen Hough on theguardian.com

From the essay:

"For all the grandeur and excitement of the first concerto's youthful flare, the second's older vintage seemed wiser, more fascinatingly complex as I revisited and re-recorded both pieces last year. Its musical arguments seemed more nuanced, more open to exploration, more a search for common ground where, as in life, the sun can shine brightest ... and warmest."

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