Ably abetted by the period-instrument Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, András Schiff has stripped back Brahms’s warhorse Piano Concertos to their essentials and the results are revelatory.
Schiff’s choice of a Blüthner grand piano dating from around 1859 (the year in which the First Piano Concerto was premiered) is both apt and inspired. Pianophiles will want to know that the model number is 762, the largest instrument the venerable Leipzig-based firm had built until then. With straight-strung bass strings (modern grands are cross-strung) its voice is characterised by a powerful, singing tone, while its branded “patent action” allows for a lighter but more controlled touch from Schiff enabling fine-spun textures and a rich, natural colour palette.
Those qualities are well to the fore in this first coupling of the concertos on disc to present both on period instruments, and only the second to feature the soloist as conductor (Lars Vogt’s Ondine recordings with the Northern Sinfonia the first).
The D Minor First Concerto,...