Day 325: Piano Quartet No. 3, Piano Quintet

BrahmsCD19What a minute.

To whom am I listening?

It can’t be Brahms.

Can it?

This is bold music, with an edge to it that I haven’t yet heard from Mrs. Brahms’ boy Johannes.

I was drawn in from the first chord of the piano, which rang out and then decayed. A few instruments played softly. Then another crashing piano chord. Then other instruments.

Movement II (“Scherzo: Allegro”) proved Movement I (“Allegro non troppo”) wasn’t a fluke. The music continues to be bold, unexpected, surprising, compelling.

This can’t be Brahms!

This piano concerto is dramatically different from other Brahms compositions that I’ve heard to date.

I like this.

A lot.

So much so that I award this Favorite Brahms Composition.

In the grand scheme, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. I realize that. Who cares what I think about Brahms, right?

I care. I want to remember that this particular CD was outstanding and that Continue reading

Day 324: Piano Quartet No. 2

BrahmsCD18I do so love the sound of Classical piano and stringed instruments playing together.

Today’s CD – Piano Quartet No. 2 in A Op. 26 - does an adequate job of filling my ears with what I love most about Classical music.

Almost.

This composition is oddly incongruous with itself. The piano sounds like it was recorded in another era while the stringed instruments sound modern.

Or, to put it another way, this recording (or maybe it’s the composition itself) sounds like the piano is playing either in a different room, or a different time (even a different piece of music!) and the stringed instruments are laid over the piano track.

I know that’s not the case. Brilliant Classics is my favorite music label. Everything they do is first-rate, top-notch, and with the highest regard for quality in mind. So the problem is not the recording. The problem is the composition itself.

The worst offender of this is Movement I (“Allegro non troppo”) which starts out with piano and strings relatively together. But then, very shortly, the piano starts to meander off by itself and the strings play their parts almost incongruously. Almost like Jazz music. The different instruments peal off on their own for awhile, then return to play the main melody.

But it sounds odd in this composition because the piano is not as prominent as the strings. The volume level. They don’t mesh well. The piano is quiet and relegated to the background. The strings are right up front.

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

Piano Quartet in A major, Op. 26, by Johannes Brahms is scored for piano, violin, viola and cello. It was completed in 1861 and received its premiere in November 1863 by the Hellmesberger Quartet with the composer playing the piano part. It has been especially noted for drawing influence from composer Franz Schubert. Lasting approximately 50 minutes, this quartet is the longest of Brahms’s chamber works to perform.

Not even the pizzicato can save this piece for me.

Speaking of pizzicato, Brahms seems to use it a lot. Yet, it doesn’t have the same effect on me that it does in the music of other composers.

Anyway, Brahms was 28 when he composed this piece for piano and strings.

Today’s music was performed by:

Derek Han piano
Isabell Faust violin (Stradivari, 1704)
Bruno Giuranna viola
Alain Meunier cello

I really wish I could hear some Brahms that blew me away the way Beethoven’s music did. So far, though, not so much.

That’s not to say Brahms was a hack. It just says that his music doesn’t resonate with me the way Beethoven’s did.

Day 323: String Quartet No. 3, Piano Quartet No. 1

BrahmsCD17Okay. Now we’re talkin’.

This string quartet is more like it!

Or maybe I’m just hopped up on Tim Hortons’ coffee and Boston Cream donuts.

But something feels different about String Quartet No. 3 in B flat Op. 67.

Movement I (“Vivace”) is lively and fun. Even the much slower Andante of Movement II isn’t putting me to sleep (I’m not ruling out the coffee, though).

Nope. Movement III (“Agitato – Allegretto non troppo”) is also interesting, even though I feel kind of…oh, I don’t know…agitated.

Finally, Movement IV (“Poco allegretto con variazioni”) finishes up Brahms’ third string quartet in fine form, sounding very Baroque like. Plus, there’s that humorous-sounding pizzicato happening. Never fails to put a smile on my face.

Once again, the performers on this string quartet are:

Tokyo Quartet
Peter Oundjian, Kikuei Ideka violins
Kazuhide Isomura viola
Sadao Harada cello

From its entry on Wikipedia:

The String Quartet No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 67, was composed by Johannes Brahms in the summer of 1875 and published by the firm of Fritz Simrock. It received its premiere performance on October 30, 1876 in Berlin. The work is scored for two violins, viola, and cello, and has four movements:

Brahms composed the work in Ziegelhausen, near Heidelberg, and dedicated it to Professor Theodor Wilhelm Engelmann, an amateur cellist who had hosted Brahms on a visit to Utrecht. Brahms was at the time the artistic director of the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. The work is light-hearted and cheerful, “a useless trifle,” as he put it, “to avoid facing the serious countenance of a symphony”.

Brahms was 42 when he composed this string quartet.

The second composition Continue reading