During this period Brahms composed three great symphonies, at that time the best of this genre since Beethoven's 9th, and arguably the greatest violin concerto ever.
I cannot resist to put multiple recordings of these works into this playlist. For the violin concerto, besides the supreme performance from Jascha Heifetz, I also added in the recording of the prominent Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov, accomplished by Daniel Barenboim and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Yehudi Menuhin's recording with Wilhelm Furtwängler. Barenboim has always been an admirer of Furtwängler, the length of each movements in the last two recordings are almost identical. It's the same for the symphonies so I included both.
Some might say that Brahms's Op.83 is the grandest piano concerto. Well, think about Mozart's 21st, K467, and Beethoven's 4th. Do they even belong to the same type of music? In Schiff's lectures on the Beethoven sonatas, I heard him saying:"Beethoven goes to heaven, but Mozart comes from heaven." Where does Brahms belong to? I'm not sure. I think this kind of explains why I am seldom fully convinced by him. Brahms seemed always busy perfecting the craft of his art, for the sake of perfection, and to honour the art that he loved. But he is also a far cry from Oscar Wilde, or the romantics like Chopin and Schumann. Beethoven comes down, grabs you shoulders and shouts:"I'm going to tell you something VERY important." And most of the time it really is. Mozart just reveals the heavenly grace from where he comes from so naturally that you don't even wonder why we are privileged to hear his music on earth. But Brahms? Sometime I feel that Brahms is trying to say through his musc:"Listen, here I am, the great composer". Luckily his genius always keeps this hypothetical intention from doing any harm to his music, and his endless effort to hide from egotism indeed made his best works timeless, well, at least till this day.
Sorry, rant over:-)
Here's the Spotify playlist: Johannes Brahms: Op. 61-90
Stay tuned for part 4, and check out how the oboist steals the thunder from the real soloist at the beginning of the adagio:)