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Brahms, Johannes, Part II

This is the second of two weeks exploring the music and life of the great German master. Brahms’s love of Hungarian Gypsy music and folksongs allowed him to create music that speaks to our inner souls. Scholars think Brahms threw away more works than he published, so let us treasure the music we have from him.

Program 1

We ended last week with Brahms` German Requiem. This week we will continue with Brahms. Today`s hour will start with a piece written right around the time of the German Requiem: a Horn Trio in E-flat major for horn, violin and piano. Other pieces Bill will focus on today are the Liebeslieder Waltzes, the Piano Quartet no.3. and the first movement from Brahms` first symphony with the CSO and Solti.

All the text of the Liebeslieder is derived from folk material: from Russian, Polish and Hungarian folk songs.

Brahms started composing his Piano Quartet no.3. in 1855, when Robert Schumann was taken to the asylum. Brahms` love for Clara manifests itself in this music. Brahms revised the piece twenty years later.

His first symphony took a long time to compose. Robert and Clara Schumann knew the first time they heard Brahms play, that he was a symphonist, and that he would express himself the most through his symphonic music.

Brahms kept trying to find his symphonic voice. He started the first symphony in 1862, and didn`t finish it for 14 years.

Brahms: Horn Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 40, I & IV
Bloom, hn.; Tree, v.; Serkin, p.
Sony 46249

Brahms: Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 52 (excerpts)
soloists, Forsberg, p.
EMI 55430

Brahms: Piano Quartet No. 3 in c minor, Op. 60, III
Beaux Arts Trio; Trampler, vla.
Phil 454017

Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in c minor, Op. 68, I
Lon 430799


Program 2

Yesterday we ended with Brahms` first Symphony.  Today we will continue with the III. and IV. movements of Brahms` first Symphony. Then we will move on to his second Symphony in D major, which leads to the Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major, written just a year after his second Symphony. Our closing piece today will be a song called "An die Nactingal".

It seems like Brahms` whole life before writing his symphonic works was leading up to his symphonies. The first time he played for the Schumanns, they told him he was a symphonist. He performed  his Piano Sonata No.1. for them. Did he? Bill will tell us the story.

After finishing his first Symphony, the second one only took Brahms a year. Bill reads a letter Brahms wrote to Elizabeth von Herzogenberg about it.

Brahms` compositional style is extremely "economic": he uses motivic development as his compositional method, which means that he derives and developes all the musical material from the first few motives of the piece. The beautiful pastoral quality he uses also appears in another piece he composed a year later: his Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major.

The song "An die Nachtigal" shows us that Brahms had the ability to compose "his own folksongs"; melodies that sound like folk melodies, but are not derived from actual folk songs.

Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in c minor, Op. 68, III & IV
Lon 430799

Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73, I
NY Phil/Masur

Brahms: Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major, Op. 78, I
Szeryng, v.; Rubinstein, p.
RCA 63041
10:32, 1:24

Brahms: “An die Nachtigal”
Fink, ms.; Vignoles, p.
HM 901926


Program 3

Today Bill focuses on three major works by Brahms: the Sonata in G major for Violin and Piano, his Concerto for Violin in D major and his third Symphony.

Bill reads a letter from Clara Schumann to Brahms about the sonata he had sent her. That was the sonata in G major for Violin and Piano that we heard yesterday. Brahms uses the same melody in the last movement of his violin sonata as in the song "Nachtklang".

Bill shows us an incredible recording today: one with Joachim playing the violin, recorded around 1900. Bill also reads an excerpt about him from Michael Steinberg`s book, which explains a lot about Joachim`s role and importance in Brahms` life and music.

Brahms composed his D major Violin Concerto for Joachim.

Brahm changes Joachim`s FAE motto ("Frei aber einsam"  - free but lonely) into FAF ("frei aber froh" - free but happy) and uses this motive as the main motive of his incredible third symphony.

Brahms: “Nachtklang ”Op. 59 No. 4
FischerDieskau, bar.; Demus, p.
Brilliant Classics 92891

Brahms: Sonata in G Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 78, III
Szeryng, v.; Rubinstein, p.
RCA 63041

Brahms: Concerto for Violin in D Major, Op. 77, I
NY Phil/ Masur; Mutter, v.
DG 457075
Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90, I
Vienna Phil/Giulini
DG 431681
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bflat Major, Op. 83 (excerpt)
BSO/Haitink; Ax, p.
Sony 703510


Program 4

Yesterday`s hour introduced us to the first movement of Brahms` amazing third symphony. Today`s we will hear the rest of the symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic. After the 3rd symphony, Bill focuses on the second Piano Concerto, but before that, he talks a little about Brahms` personal life throughout the 1860`s. We will listen to the first movement of the concerto played by Ax and the Boston Symphony under Haitink.

Bill finishes today`s hour with two Hungarian Dances, performed by the Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Ivan Fischer.

Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90, II-IV
Vienna Phil/Giulini
DG 431681

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83, I
BSO/Haitink; Ax, p.
Sony 703510
:38, 1:16, 18:32

Brahms: Hungarian Dance #5 in g minor & #6 in D Major
Budapest Festival Orch/Fischer
Lon 191702


Program 5

Today`s broadcast will start with Bill introducing the Fourth Symphony and the circumstances the piece was composed and performed in. He also reads exerpts of Brahms` letters about the composition of the symphony, and his fear of the public not understanding his music. We will hear the first movement with the Vienna Philharmonic with Kleiber. 

In 1885, at age 52 Brahms thought about retiring, but projects kept coming up, one of them proposed by Joachim. He asked Brahms to write a piece for him and Robert Hausmann, the cellist of his quartet to play together. Setting Beethoven`s triple concerto as an example, Joachim convinced Brahms to write his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello. We wil hear the third movement with Oistrakh and Rostropovich.

The next piece Bill focuses on is the Trio in a minor for Clarinet, Cello and Piano. In 1890 Brahms felt like retiring again. He plans to finish some unfinished pieces, and never compose again. In 1891 clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld`s playing captivated him, and he ended up composing multiple pieces for clarinet. We will hear the first movement with Stoltzman, YoYo Ma, and Ax.

The two-week Brahms fest ends with a few Intermezzi played by Vogt, and gorgeous song "Sonntag", Op.47.No.3.

Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in e minor, Op. 98, I
Vienna Phil/Kleiber
DG 457706

Brahms: Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in a minor, Op. 102, III
Cleveland Orch/Szell; Oistrakh, v.; Rostropovich, vc.
EMI 66954

Brahms Stoltzman: Trio in a minor for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op. 114, I
cl.; Ma, vc.; Ax, p.
Sony 92730
Brahms: Intermezzi Op. 117 No. 1, Op. 118 No. 2 & Op. 119 No.1 
Vogt, p.
EMI 54446
Brahms: “Sonntag” Op. 47 No. 3
von Otter, ms.; Forsberg, p.
DG 429727



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