During our visit to beautiful, snowy Santa Fe this past Christmas Eve, we were excited to premiere a work that has been years in the making: Brahms' Double Concerto in our arrangement for two pianos and orchestra. We were fortunate to perform the work with the Performance Santa Fe Symphony under the direction of maestro Joseph Illick, whose boundless positivity and supreme flexibility made the premiere a joyous success.
Brahms often struggled with instrumentation when composing. For example, he morphed his string quintet into a two piano sonata before finally settling on its final form: a piano quintet. Similarly, the first piano concerto began as a sonata for piano, four hands. But regardless of his music's instrumentation, one gets the sense that he conceived at the piano, especially given how many of his works he ultimately arranged for piano duo and duet. In fact, Brahms arranged nearly every piece he wrote for the genre — see Christian Köhn and Silke-Thora Matthies’s complete 18-disc set of Brahms' piano duo music for evidence.
With the Double Concerto, the solo violin and cello lines translated themselves idiomatically to the piano. We were further delighted by the number of similarities between this concerto and his two solo piano concertos, which we ultimately highlighted in the arrangement itself. The pieces feels as if we're performing a big, Romantic Brahms piano concerto, but with the added dialogue of a double concerto. And suitably, the piece's biographical subtext remains firmly in place (the piece was composed as something of a reconciliation plea to violinist Joseph Joachim); the piece now serves as a universal statement of pain, forgiveness, and friendship.