Paul Lewis explains why he’s shifted gears from the piano works of a Classic to a Romantic.

Having recorded Schubert and Beethoven so extensively, does Brahms require you to shift gears in any significant way?

Not consciously, although every work you play – even different works by the same composer – requires something different in approach. The main ‘gear shift’ for me was probably five or six years ago when I suddenly realised I wanted to play more Brahms. Up until that point I had mostly avoided Brahms, feeling that the craft of the composition was so perfect that it somehow acted as a barrier to the expressive content. I don’t feel that anymore, especially not with early Brahms.

Much has been made of the turmoil in Brahms’ personal life while he composed this concerto. How important is that for your interpretation of the work?

It’s quite a big deal as far as this particular work is concerned. The D Minor concerto was composed in the wake of his friend Schumann having plunged himself into the Rhein, which we know affected Brahms very deeply. For me, there is a submerged quality about the very first note...