Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic tells Christopher Morley about his six-year labour of love.
It may be well known that Johannes Brahms wrote two piano concertos but now Brahms’ Piano Concerto no.3 has come into existence, thanks to the vision and enterprise of Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic.
This is no less than an arrangement of the Brahms Violin Concerto, regarded by many as among the world’s greatest, but one which Lazic feels was written slightly gratingly against the violin, when Brahms always composed at the piano.
It was only through innumerable consultations with the eminent violinist, Joseph Joachim (the concerto’s dedicatee) that Brahms was able to conjure all the idiomatic technical demands the work imposes upon its soloist.
Piano versions of violin concertos by Bach and Beethoven (yes, there is indeed one of that insuperable masterpiece) inspired Lazic to realise his dream of interpreting the pianistic subtext of the violin concerto by Brahms.
It took him nearly six years, and was released to the world on October 1, 2009 thanks to the enthusiasm of Robert Spano, who conducted the arrangement’s premiere with his Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, with Lazic as the soloist.
When I interviewed the composer Anthony Payne well over a decade ago about his triumphant elaboration of the incomplete sketches Elgar had made in the early 1930s for his Third Symphony, I asked him if he had felt the composer sitting on his shoulder.
I put the same question, regarding Brahms, to Dejan Lazic.
“Even more than that! He was in my dreams, he was there while I was practising, flying, eating, writing..." he tells me.
"There were so many sleepless nights, that kind of commitment I have never experienced before! It took me therefore almost six years."
“I just love Brahms’ Violin Concerto, and respect and honour him as a composer and human being so much. After going even deeper into the score of this timeless, noble, powerful and wonderfully inspiring work, I knew I had to imagine at all times what Brahms would have done if he were arranging.”
Lazic said he studied arrangements like the one of Bach’s famous Chaconne for violin solo which Brahms made for piano. He read all correspondence between Joachim and Brahms and also played almost every chamber music work of his involving piano and clarinet.
“Back in the 19th century, honouring other composers by arranging their music or composing a set of variations on their themes wasn’t a taboo whatsoever, so I knew from the very beginning that I wasn’t doing anything ‘forbidden’,” he continues.