Originally posted by Scriabin
The recording is unusual and the piece comes in at 55 minutes -- there is a lot of great music in the piece. I would not describe it, however, as a great concerto. It is more akin to a symphony with piano.
It's funny that you should describe it this way, because that's exactly
how it was conceived.
In the decades after Beethoven, because of the writings of such critics as E.T.A. Hoffman and
A.B. Marx, composers of the 'Romantic' period were sort of gunshy when it came to writing
symphonies. That is, anything they ever wrote was immediately compared to the monster
symphonies of Beethoven, most notably 'The Ninth.'
In the next generation of critics, Robert Schumann was one of the foremost voices. And, as
Brahms developed into a composer in his own right, Schumann pulled a 'John-the-Baptist' card:
He hailed Brahms as the 'messiah of the symphony,' the heir to Beethoven, &c &c &c. This was,
of course, after a litany of so-called 'kleinmeister,' minor composers few people have heard of
who strove to make their mark in the symphonic world, but failed because they were not
evaluated on their own merits, but whether they sounded Beethovenian.
Consequently, Brahms basically clammed up; any symphonic sketches he had were thrown away.
Only two such pieces before his monumental first symphony survive (to my knowledge):
The Piano Concerto in d, and the Piano Quintet in f.
The way that composers sketched out symphonies was often in what is called 'short score,'
which is basically two pianos; basically, one for the strings, the other for the winds (but not
always quite so cut and dried). So, as Brahms was working these out, he decided that they
simply would not do as symphonies, but that the material could be reworked in another fashion
(thus, their final forms).
This compositional technique bears itself out: if you have the occasion to play or listen to
any of his four symphonies (or, for example, the symphonic Variations on a Theme by Haydn)
in a two-piano arrangement, they are decidedly satisfying -- much more so than, say, the
four-hand piano arrangements of Mahler's symphonies, or Bruckner's, or Dvorak's who were
writing largely contemporaneously with him.
Personally, of all his concerti, I find the d minor to be the least satisfying. The 'real' piano
concerto (in that it was conceived from the outset as a piano concerto), the one in Bb, I find,
is significantly better (alas, never recorded by Glenn Gould). And I'll take the Double Concerto
and the Violin Concerto over the first piano concerto, personally.