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Brahms, Johannes, Part I

The first of a two-week biography exploring the music and life of a defining voice of the German Romantic Era. In his formative year as a pianist, Brahms befriends Robert and Clara Schumann, and with their support and later with the violinist Joseph Joachim, develops his musical voice. Bill speaks of Brahms’ struggles to publish symphonies on the heels of Beethoven‑ his two orchestra serenades were played publicly twenty years before his four symphonies. We end this first part of Brahms’ story with the German Requiem.

Program 1

Johannes Brahms was one of the biggest romantic composers. He was born in Hamburg in 1833 and grew up as a child prodigy. His musical talent almost brought his family to America, but after that plan fell apart, he stayed in Hamburg and studied with Edward Markson. Bill reads an excerpt from Markson`s writings about Brahms. In his late teen years Brahms worked on his classical music studies and compositions, while at night he played mazurkas and waltzes at seaport dives.

The first time he heard Schumann`s Paradies und die Peri, he did not appreciate the opening seventh chord, being quite conservative at the age of seventeen. In 1850 the Schumanns arrived in Hamburg for a concert. Robert performed some of his own pieces, and Clara played husband`s piano concerto in a minor.

After the revolution swept across Europe in 1848, it freed a lot of people in the east. A lot of people started moving west. Many Hungarian gipsies playing violin moved to Hamburg, bringin Hungarian gipsy music with them. Their music influenced greatly Brahms` compositions. Gipsy music became a great source of inspiration for him.

Edward Hoffmann made Brahms his recital partner and introduced him to Liszt in Weimar in 1853. Brahms was nervous to perform for Liszt, so Liszt sightread Brahms` scherzo in e-flat minor, which we can hear in Zimerman`s performance.

Beethoven heard Joseph Joachim playing Beethoven in Hamburg. They became friends. Joachim introduced Brahms to the Schumanns. Brahms performed his sonata in C major for them. Bill talks about the influences in this sonata.












Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 21, Waldstein (excerpt)
Kovacevich, p.
EMI 54896

Schumann: Paradies und die Peri(excerpts)
Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique/Gardiner
:27, 2:09

Schumann: Piano Concerto in a minor, Op. 54 (excerpt)
Chamber Orch. of Europe/Harnoncourt; Argerich, p.
Teldec 90696

Hubay:On the Waves of the Balaton (excerpt)
Ens/Lakatos, v.
DG 459642-2

Brahms: Piano Quartet in g minor, Op. 25, IV (excerpt)
Kremer, v.; Bashmet, vla.; Maisky, vc.; Argerich, p.

DG 463700

Brahms: Scherzo in e-flat minor, Op. 4
Zimerman, p.
Phil 456 997

Chopin: Scherzo #2 in b-flat minor, Op. 31 (excerpt)
Rubinstein, p.
RCA 63045

Liszt: Piano Sonata in b minor, S 178, (excerpt)
Argerich, p.
DG 447430

Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Op. 1, I & II
Richter, p.
Lon 436457
11:20 & 5:58

Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 29, Hammerklavier, (excerpt)
Goode, p.
Nonesuch 79328

Schubert: “Der Leiermann” fr. Die Winterreise (excerpt)
Goerne, bar.; Brendel, p.
Lon 200802

Brahms: “Liebestreu”, Op. 3 No. 1
Fink, ms.; Vignoles, p.
HM 901926

Brahms: “Frühling”, Op. 6 No. 2
Ameling, s.; Baldwin, p.
Phil 121702


Program 2

In this hour, Bill focuses on Brahms' continuing relationship with the Schumanns and several major works such as the Piano Trio No. 1 and the Serenade No. 1.

Bill reads a letter written by Schumann to Brahms` father, praising his son and sending him an article he wrote about Brahms. The article was read everywhere in wide circles. To show his gratitude, he dedicated his sonata in f# minor to Clara Schumann. Brahms later moved into the Schumann house after Robert attempted suicide in the Rhine.

F.A.E. "Frei aber einsam". Freely but lonely was the motto of Joachim, the violinist. Brahms, Schumann and Dietrich composed the FAE sonata together for Joachim`s birthday.

The connection between Brahms and the Schumanns was extremely complicated. He loved Clara, and loved and admired her husband as much as she did. But Schumann was in the asylum,and Clara was not allowed to see him. Brahms and Clara spent their time playing music and discussing music. In today`s broadcast we can also hear two romances by Clara Schumann, who wasn`t only an amazing pianist, but also a great composer.

Bill reads three letters at the end: one by Clara, one by Brahms to Joachim about his love for Clara, and a last one from Brahms to Clara after he left Dusseldorf, trying to stop his passion.

Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 2 in f# minor, Op. 2 (excerpts)
Richter, p.
Lon 436457
3:13, :35, 3:54, 1:41

Brahms: F.A.E Sonata for Violin and Piano, III
Milstein, v.; Bussotti, p.
EMI 66872

Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Op. 8, I
Szeryng, v.; Fournier, vc.; Rubinstein, p.
RCA 63072

C. Schumann: Romance Nos. 1 & 3, Op. 22
Van Keulen, v.; Brautigam, p.
Koch 6554

Brahms: Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11 (excerpts)
Scottish Chamber Orch/Mackerras
Telarc 80522

Program 3

Brahms` piano concerto No.1. was greatly influenced by his experience of hearing Beethoven`s 5th symphony live in 1854. He had sketches written for a new piece but was not sure whether to turn it into a symphony and walk in Beethoven`s footsteps. He ended up turning the sketches into a piano concerto in d minor. The first performance of the concerto in Leipzig was not successful surprisingly .

In today`s hour we will hear the first movement of the concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by George Szell and with Fleischer at the piano, and the second movement with the CSO, conducted by Reiner and with Rubinstein playing the piano.  It is common belief that Brahms wrote this second movement as a requiem to Schumann, who was on his death at that time.

After the concerto we will hear the first and last movement from Brahms` Serenade no.2. in A major.

Brahms: Piano Trio in B Major, II (excerpt)
Szeryng, v.; Fournier, vc.; Rubinstein, p.
RCA 63072

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in d minor, Op. 15, I
Cleveland Orch/Szell; Fleisher, p.
Sony 632325

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in d minor, Op. 15, II
CSO/Reiner; Rubinstein, p.
RCA 63034

Brahms: Serenade No. 2 in A Major, I & V
NY Phil/Bernstein
Sony 60970
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in d minor, Op. 15, III (excerpt)
CSO/Reiner; Rubinstein, p.
RCA 63034


Program 4

Today`s broadcast starts with a Brahms song called "Nicht Mehr Zu Dir Zu Gehen", sung beautifully by Quasthoff. Brahms wrote it for Agathe von Siebold, a singer he got to know in 1858. Bill tells the background story.

The next piece will be Brahms` string sextet in G major.

After Schumann`s death, Brahms started working on some new sketches. In 1865 he recieved  the news about his mother`s illness. He rushed to Hamburg, but by the time he arrived, she had already died. Between the two deaths Brahms started working the sketches together. He built the movements into Ein Deutsches Requiem, a German requiem. German because he did not use the traditional latin words to write a latin requiem. The words were the result of his own research. He studied scriptures and the Bible, and selected his own text.

Bill will focus deeply on Ein Deutsches Requiem in today`s and tomorrow`s broadcasts.

Brahms: “Nicht Mehr Zu Dir Zu Gehen” fr. Lieder & Gesänge, Op. 32
Quasthoff, bs. bar.; Zeyen, p.
DG 463 183

Brahms: String Sextet in G Major, Op. 36, IV
Berlin Phil Octet
Phil 454073

Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45, IIV
Philharmonia Orch & Chorus/Klemperer; Dieskau, bar.
EMI 66955
24:25, 15:32

Brahms: String Sextet in G Major, Op. 36, I (excerpt)
Berlin Phil Octet
Phil 454073


Program 5

Yesterday Bill started discussing Brahms` German Requiem, and he continues with the piece today. We will listen to a recording of the V. movement by the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle, with soprano Dorothea Röschmann, and of the final two movements in the Philharmonia Orchestra`s performance under Klemperer.

The last movement ends with the word "selig", which means blessed. It is also the very first word of the Requiem. The piece starts with "blessed are they, who mourne" and ends with "blessed are they, who die in the Lord".

The next piece Bill focuses on today is Brahms` Cello Sonata No.1.

After writing his sonata in C major (the one he played for the Schumanns), Brahms composed three more, then stopped. The next sonata he wrote over ten years later is the Cello Sonata No.1. we will hear today with Leonard Rose and Jean-Bernard Pommier.

After listening to the Requiem and the Cello Sonata, Bill turns to lighter music: Waltzes for Piano Four Hands in Argerich`s and Rabinovich`s performance.


Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45, V
Berlin Phil/Rattle; Röschmann, s.
EMI 65393

Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45, VI & VII
Philharmonia Orch & Chorus/Klemperer
EMI 66955
Brahms: Cello Sonata No. 1 in e minor, Op. 38, I
Rose, vc.; Pommier, p.
Virgin 90750
Brahms: Waltzes for Piano Four Hands, Op. 39 #1-3
Argerich & Rabinovich, p.
Teldec 92257
Brahms: Waltz in A Major, Op. 39 #15
Milstein, v.; Pommers, p.
EMI 66872
Brahms: “Wegenlied” Op. 49 #4
von Otter, ms.; Forsberg, p. 
DG 429727



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