If you’re looking to get a sense of Andris Nelsons before his October concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Deutsche Grammophon obliges with today’s release of Nelsons conducting the two Brahms piano concertos.
The star of the recording is Hélène Grimaud, the celebrated French pianist, whose personal flair has evoked comparisons, not always favorable, with Martha Argerich and even Glenn Gould. Fortunately, her feeling for Brahms is the opposite of Gould’s lugubrious account of the first concerto.
If you like your Brahms on the energetic (vs. expansive) side of the scale, this live recording is the one for you. Grimaud is on fire and Nelsons is pretty hot himself.The two orchestras, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in the First Concerto and the Vienna Philharmonic in the Second, could play these pieces in their sleep, but under Nelsons they’re very much awake and fully caffeinated.
Here's a taste, though the selections aren't particularly indicative of the pace of the recordings:
Unlike Grimaud, the next BSO music director is not a member of the DG all-star club, at least not yet, but it seems he’s becoming a favorite of the label’s soloists. Grimaud has her pick of conductors — she’s recorded Beethoven and Schumann with Esa-Pekka Salonen — and Daniel Barenboim tapped Nelsons for the Chopin recordings.
Salonen is one of the few conductors who can get a major recording contract on his own and Nelsons has a way to go before he’s there. Bringing the BSO along with him is even iffier as American orchestras have fallen out of favor with the major labels, mostly because of cost and the dwindling appetite for classical music here. It's not impossible, though, as Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic have proved.
In any event, this is a feather in Nelsons’ cap and this fine recording can only be good news for him and the BSO.
This program aired on September 30, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.