Ten reasons why I love Brahms: Reason #1: Opus 18, Intermezzos 1&2

>> Friday, March 19, 2010

Next to Mozart, Brahms is my favorite of the German composers, and most certainly my favorite of the Romantic Era German composers.

Johannes Brahms (pronounced [joːˈhanəs ˈbʁaːms]) (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897)
, was a German composer and pianist, one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms's popularity and influence were considerable; following a comment by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the Three Bs.

Brahms composed for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus. A virtuoso pianist, he gave the first performance of many of his own works; he also worked with the leading performers of his time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed many of his works and left some of them unpublished.

Brahms was at once a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. He was a master of counterpoint, the complex and highly disciplined method of composition for which Bach is famous, and also of development, a compositional ethos pioneered by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Brahms aimed to honor the "purity" of these venerable "German" structures and advance them into a Romantic idiom, in the process creating bold new approaches to harmony and melody. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by subsequent figures as diverse as the progressive Arnold Schoenberg and the conservative Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms's works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers.

The Six Pieces for Piano, Op. 118, are some of the most beloved items that the composer Johannes Brahms wrote for the solo instrument. Completed in 1893 and dedicated to Clara Schumann, the collection was the second to last composition to be published during Brahms' lifetime.

The six pieces are:

* No. 1. Intermezzo in A minor. Allegro non assai, ma molto appassionato
* No. 2. Intermezzo in A major. Andante teneramente
* No. 3. Ballade in G minor. Allegro energico
* No. 4. Intermezzo in F minor. Allegretto un poco agitato
* No. 5. Romance in F major. Andante
* No. 6. Intermezzo in E flat minor. Andante, largo e mesto

Evgeny Kissin plays Brahms intermezzos op.118 1,2. In Verbier festival 2007.

Information: Wikipedia


Jasper March 19, 2010 at 4:52 PM  

Apparently Brahms was a tremendously accomplished performer. On one occasion at a young age while touring, when he sat down to the piano he found it to be a halftone off pitch and transposed the program accordingly on the spot.

Don't have a citation for you (it was a long time ago that I read it), but I should concede that I've heard that story mentioned regarding other performers, so either it's a feat that gets repeated or is a story that gets recycled. Either way, they don't tell such stories about the likes of us ordinary folk....

Joe Barron August 23, 2011 at 10:34 AM  

I love Brahms!

Just thought I'd throw that out there ...

I've heard a couple of different versons o the tranposition story. In one, the piece was a Mozart piano concerto. In the other, it was a Beethoven sonata, which doesn't make as much sense. There'd be no need to transpose a solo piece, since there's no one else to blend with and most people couldn't tell the piano was a semitone off, anyway. My hunch is it's a legend, though it's perfectly conceivable.

Best rendition of the symphonies I have found, btw, is Bruno Walter with the NYPO. Mono recordings from the early 50s, and hard to find (I got mine at Amazon France) but just outstanding.



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