Sony Classical announces the new recording by

Igor Levit, Christian Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic

of Brahms’s two Piano Concertos

The release is a triple album with Levit’s long-anticipated recording of Brahms’s late solo piano works

As a special encore, Levit and Thielemann play a Brahms waltz together

The album will be released internationally on October 4 2024

(May 31) “Feel-good vibes effervesced, while applause resounded around the stage: that’s amore!”  This is how the Viennese newspaper Der Standard described the audience’s enthusiastic reaction after Igor Levit, Christian Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic performed Brahms’s First Piano Concerto in April 2024 at Vienna’s famous Musikverein. “During these fifty minutes, an irresistible dose of emotion was conveyed – but at the same time the sophisticated structure of Brahms’s masterpiece remained crystal-clear.” Levit and Thielemann had already performed the Second Piano Concerto with the same orchestra in December 2023; the headline in Die Presse at the time ran: “Igor Levit sets a new gold standard for Brahms.”

These two concertos make up the first joint recording by Levit and Thielemann, which will be released as a triple album with Levit’s recording of Brahms’s well-known solo works opp. 116–119.  Levit’s and Thielemann’s first meeting was quite unplanned, although both had been curious about each other for a long time.  In 2015, Levit spontaneously stepped in for a colleague who had fallen ill and performed Mozart’s C major Concerto K 467 with Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden in Munich.  Despite an extremely short rehearsal period, the two hit it off straight away: “We have such a similar way of thinking that it is not necessary to discuss many things” says Thielemann. Levit adds: “When the piece begins, I simply have complete confidence in you. I know I can’t take a wrong turn. Having such unconditional trust is extraordinary.”

The two do not have to discuss individual passages – a common understanding is attained without the need for words, simply through listening and responding.  Instead, they prefer to talk about performers and composers and are always amazed to discover how similarly they perceive so many things.  Sometime after their initial meeting, it was during a walk together near Berlin that the conversation turned to Brahms – and thus they conceived the plan to record the two piano concertos as part of an upcoming Brahms cycle with Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic.  “I’ve known the Wiener Philharmoniker for thirty-five years,” says Thielemann, adding: “I’ve always been fascinated by how this orchestra can react to conductors and assimilate even the smallest details.  And then there is the concert hall, the Wiener Musikverein, with its acoustic properties that Brahms knew so well.”  “And what a sound!” Levit exclaims.  “I was sitting in the first rehearsal and the horn began to play.  You do not really want to start playing, but rather to say to the hornist: can you please play that again?  It was so beautiful.”

For Levit the addition of Brahms’s beloved solo works opp. 116–119 on the album just felt right.  Levit says: “Brahms’s music cannot leave you untouched. It’s just physically and emotionally not possible.  Take op. 118 no. 2, for example, it’s like an arrow shot straight into your heart.   simply the most beautiful, touching, and tender music imaginable.”

The album concludes with a special encore – the four-hand rendition of Brahms’s charming Waltz op. 39 no. 15 played by Levit and Thielemann.  Levit explains: “It’s taken me some years to get to the point of having the courage to play and record this music, and Christian Thielemann has been instrumental in getting me here.  Unlike Beethoven’s music, where you go emotionally from peak to bottom almost continuously, here Brahms is often the steadiest of music, with very long breaths and a steady heartbeat.  Now that I feel right placed with this music, you couldn’t find me happier than I am right now.”

Tracklist

JOHANNES BRAHMS

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor op. 15

Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major op. 83

  • Igor Levit, Christian Thielemann & the Vienna Philharmonic

7 Fantasias op. 116  

3 Intermezzi op. 117

6 Piano Pieces op. 118

4 Piano Pieces op. 119

Waltz op. 39 no. 15 (version for piano 4-hands with Christian Thielemann)