Recorded live in Tokyo on 20 May 2009 with the NHK Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tadaaki Otaka, this concert provides a new opportunity to take the full measure of the poetry deployed by Nelson Goerner. This poetic approach has come to be seen as the pianist’s trademark in his recordings of Chopin or Debussy. Yet his interpretation also shows unfailing virtuosity, with a precision and power that place him among the most eminent pianists of our time. This recording is one that Nelson Goerner was particularly keen to make, for he views Brahms’s Second Concerto as an immense masterpiece. Premiered in Budapest in 1881 with Brahms himself at the piano, the work enjoyed immediate success with critics and public alike. Now, more than 200 yearsRead more later, the piece is receiving new life.
There is something particularly well-thought out about this performance that makes it compelling. Pianists and conductors can often take a very different view of this concerto with the result that the work can feel like two performances rather than a single performance. The intertwining of a narrative between the orchestra and the pianist – the essence of great chamber-music – is particularly strong here, but so, too, is the sense that both Otaka and Goerner are just letting Brahms’s score unfold. It often feels like an event, a rather special experience, but I suspect one that Nelson Goerner would probably play very differently under another conductor and orchestra.