Itzhak Perlman and Mstislav Rostropovich
This concerto was for Brahms partly an exercise in promoting social harmony. The composer wanted to win back his close friend, violinist Joseph Joachim, annoyed when Johannes sided with Mrs. Joachim during a marital dispute. The gesture succeeded; Joachim worked with Brahms on the piece, even suggesting the violin part be made more difficult. He joined the first performance, in Baden in 1887, with Brahms conducting. This new version also calls for a sublimation of egos—those of Perlman and cellist Rostropovich, who are hot in classical circles these days—and they bring it off splendidly, aided by Bernard Haitink, conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. Perlman and Rostropovich handle the solo sections with predictable finesse, and in their harmonic duets, especially in the graceful second movement, blend so well that the sound is that of one hybrid instrument—and a quite beautiful one.