Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Opus 83
- Written 1878 – 1881.
- Inspired by a holiday in Italy.
- The extra movement, scherzo, to the standard 3 movements of the concerto makes this more like a symphony than any other 19th century concerto.
Listen for ways that the piano interacts with the orchestra:
- when the orchestra accompanies the piano
- when the piano accompanies solo instruments in the orchestra
- when the piano has a duet with an orchestral instrument
- when the piano and orchestra have 'question and answer' / 'call and response' patterns
Try and listen to the inner-parts below the melodies. You may even spot the melody developed into an accompaniment, for example slowed down or turned upside-down.
How do you think Brahms was feeling when he wrote this?
What do you think Brahms wanted audiences to think about / feel when they hear his second Piano Concerto?
Which movement would you describe as the most virtuosic or challenging for the pianist?
Movement 1: Allegro non troppo
Listen to the opening French horn solo, followed the piano entry.
Near the beginning there is a virtuosic unaccompanied solo or cadenza.
This movement is in B flat major. Listen to how the character of this contrasts with the minor key in the next movement.
Movement 2: Allegro appassionato (scherzo)
A piano solo begins this movement.
This movement has a 3-part structure: D minor - D major - D minor. Can you hear the difference in character between the major and minor sections?
The dance-like spirit with 3 beats in a bar contrasts with the character of the surrounding movements.
The ending of this movement is a big, loud D minor chord in both the orchestra and piano.
Movement 3: Andante
The opening is a delicate, lyrical cello solo, which is later passed to the solo piano. Notice how in the beginning, they play on their own, but can you spot when they play at the same time?
Listen for the peaceful section with quiet chords in the strings accompanying solo piano.
The cello solo returns near the end.
This movement uses fewer instruments, creating a much smaller orchestral texture.
Movement 4: Allegretto grazioso
Listen out for the different moods: gypsy character at opening in the violins and piano, clown-like at the end.
Listen out for melodies being passed around the different instruments.
Listen and watch the technical skill of the pianist as he whizzes around the piano.
The concerto finishes with a big B flat major chord.
About the Composer
Johannes Brahms 1833 – 1897
- Brahms lived in Hamburg, Germany
- Brahms was a virtuoso concert pianist – famous around Europe and the USA for performing lots of his own music. For example, he played his second Piano Concerto 22 times in 3 months!
- Brahms wrote his first Piano Concerto in 1859.
- Brahms loved folk music, as you can hear in the fourth movement. He heard gypsy music played by Hungarian refugees who travelled through Hamburg.
- Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini
- Bartók Concerto For Orchestra
- Bartók The Miraculous Mandarin
- Beethoven Egmont
- Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5
- Beethoven Symphony No. 9
- Berg 3 Pieces, Op. 6
- Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique
- Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2
- Britten In Memoriam Dennis Brain
- Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1
- Bruckner Symphony No. 4
- Debussy Images
- Debussy Jeux
- Debussy La Mer
- Mahler Symphony No. 6
- Mahler Symphony No. 7
- Mahler Symphony No. 9
- Mendelssohn Violin Concerto
- Messiaen Turangalîla-symphonie
- Mozart Horn Concerto No. 4
- Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27
- Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2
- Rachmaninov Piano Concerto 3
- Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 4
- Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2
- Ravel La Valse
- Ravel Piano Concerto in D
- Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major
- Schumann Symphony No. 1
- Schoenberg 5 Pieces
- Schoenberg Gurrelieder
- Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht
- Sibelius Karelia Suite
- Sibelius Symphony No. 2
- Strauss Don Juan
- Strauss Horn Concerto No.1
- Stravinsky The Firebird Suite
- Stravinsky Rite of Spring
- Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4
- Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6
- Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D
- Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony
- Vaughan Williams London Symphony
- Vaughan Williams The Pilgrim's Progress