Brahms was famously casual about performance instructions for his own compositions. And, following Bach and Beethoven before him—both of whom recast their violin concertos using keyboard protagonists—he wasn’t at all averse to arrangements of his music in other-than-original instrumentations, and indeed reworked his late clarinet sonatas for repertoire-starved violists.
If the notion of replacing the violin with the piano in his magisterial Opus 77 Concerto probably wouldn’t have bothered old Johannes, it’s still likely to startle today’s concert audiences. Fortunately Dejan Lasic’s 2008 rendering of the work as a piano concerto (here in its first recording) is amazingly effective. It leaves the orchestration untouched and transforms the solo violin part into idiomatic Brahmsian piano figurations with appropriately rich chordal sonorities, sparkling arpeggios, and a fully elaborated first-movement cadenza. Lasic plays with flair, eloquence, and, in the lovely central adagio, songful poetry. Recorded “live in concert,” the hybrid SACD conveys full- throated weight and a judicious balance between soloist and orchestra, with the multichannel encoding offering extra ambience and presence.