It was Hans von Bülow, the one-time chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker who said that Johannes Brahms’s Violin Concerto is a “concerto against the violin” – simply because the soloist is given little opportunity for virtuoso showmanship. In this recording, the Berliner Philharmoniker, soloist Guy Braunstein and conductor Andris Nelsons set about to uncover the evident as well as the hidden charms of the work.
The solo part of the Violin Concerto is however anything but easy to play. With the violin closely interwoven with the other instruments for long passages, the work can appear more like a symphony than a concerto. All the greater then is the effect when it confidently rises above its fellow instruments with its delicate lines, leaving all the large-scale orchestral force behind it. The violinist Guy Braunstein was concertmaster with the Berliner Philharmoniker from 2000 until 2013, when he left the orchestra to concentrate on his solo career.
The second work of the evening, Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, complements Brahms’s Violin Concerto in two respects. Firstly, there is the triumphant gesture of this self-portrait – that is, after all, what it is – in direct contrast to the seriousness of the Brahms work. And secondly, in the third movement you can experience how an expansive violin solo develops unexpectedly from a symphonic poem, played here by Guy Braunstein’s fellow concertmaster, Daishin Kashimoto.