The third of the three B’s (according to pianist and critic Von Bülow) created his first piano concerto when he was in his early twenties. Originally it was meant as a sonata for two pianos, but Brahms didn’t like it. He made it into a symphony, and subsequently changed it to this: a pianoconcerto with a strangely mysterious first part.
The whole work can be seen as an homage to the second of the three B’s: Beethoven. Brahms often found himself stylistically between the older Beethoven and the more modern Liszt. This work still puts him firmly in the Beethoven camp though.
Pianist Emil Gilels was born in 1916 in Odessa (Ukraine), then part of the Russian Empire. He is considered one of the greatest pianists of all time, famous for his technical control. Here he works together with the Berliner Philharmoniker, resulting in a recording of epic proportions.
Do I like it? Yeah. Is it special? Not really. I think it is a remnant of that time, a time of big orchestras with a strong sound. Nowadays the sound would be a bit lighter.