Music by Johannes Brahms for four hands would be nothing out of the ordinary as a recital programme given by the renowned Silver Garburg piano duo – but a concert featuring piano four hands with orchestra? The versatile Austrian composer and arranger Richard Dünser has arranged Brahms’s Piano Quartet op. 25 and dedicated the resultant work to his friends of many years Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg. This is a very special piece of music with an exciting genesis.
True, there is already a version of the Piano Quartet op. 25 for orchestra by Arnold Schoenberg and Johannes Brahms composed a four-handed version himself, but not in the form of a piano concerto. So it was a special challenge for arranger Richard Dünser to prepare the work in a completely new and unfamiliar scoring, drawing on both the earlier versions in the process. “This is all absolutely nothing like a scientific or philological exercise; ultimately, I went to work on the original as if it was my own, and I had the courage to do things that a mere arranger would never dare do,” says Richard Dünser himself of his piece. “It was a stroke of luck at this premiere recording that I could be present and interact with the Silver Garburg Piano Duo and the Vienna Symphony, all of whom are perfectly at home with music in the Classical-Romantic tradition and with my own music, so as to exchange concepts and ideas and feed the sum of this interaction into the recording.”
For Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg themselves, it was an adventure to be recording this new arrangement. The interpretation of a new work is always an amazing, creative process: “We have great respect for the composer and the musical text. That represents a great responsibility, especially in the case of a new piece. We as its interpreters see it as one of our principal aims to move each listener and accompany him and her on their musical journey. The promise extended by a newly heard work and the curiosity that it arouses excites and involves the exponents as much as their audience. That is what keeps the music experience alive and constantly relevant.” Nor was this piece a matter of coincidence. Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg were actively investigating the possibility of playing a concerto suited to their instrumental configuration. After a long search, arranger and piano duo settled on this piano quartet; the present arrangement is the result. It was recorded in December 2018 in the city that Brahms made his home: “Recording the Brahms concerto in the heart of Vienna, in the city’s Konzerthaus, together with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Viennese conductor Florian Krumpöck, was something we perceived not only as an appropriate, natural choice, but also as a thrilling challenge and a commitment to tradition that we have met with delight.”
The CD also features an “original” work by Brahms. His Haydn Variations are among the most important Romantic works for two pianos and show that Brahms greatly valued this scoring. He took as his model the Divertimento in B flat major for winds, which interestingly enough is not “original Haydn” at all. Modern musicological research shows the theme to have been based on an early pilgrim song dating from before Haydn’s time. Not that Brahms was aware of that. He wrote a set of eight “Variations on a theme of Joseph Haydn for two pianos in B flat major” op. 56b, also known as the St. Antoni Variations.