The two great piano concertos by Brahms are perhaps the most symphonically conceived of the standard repertoire. Indeed, the earlier in D minor—also the key of Beethoven's last symphony—began life as a piano solo work, which the young composer struggled to turn into a symphony before finalising its form five years after its original conception. The later B flat major work is unusual for the so-called 'classicist' Brahms in that it has a four-movement structure, like a symphony, including a 'scherzo'; but there is nothing joke-like about this epic, turbulent allegro appassionato (also in D minor), especially as conceived by Hough and Wigglesworth in their broad, spacious and dramatic accounts of both masterpieces.
Hough brings his famed dexterity to the bravura passages, but never sounds glitzy or showy. Indeed, the most rewarding aspect of both performances is his chamber-music-like interplay with the excellent Mozarteumorchester's soloists—the principal horn is glorious throughout, launching the B flat concerto with a clarion but warm central European glow. These familiar and oft-recorded works sound fresh minted. Brahms's concertos have rarely sounded more brilliant, energetic and innovative.