Day 336: Ballades, Two Rhapsodies, Klavierstucke I

BrahmsCD30These piano compositions are alternately more mellow, yet also more showboaty than those on the previous CD.

In other words, one minute the piano would barely be playing more than few notes, and at very low volume…and, in the next minute, it would ramp up to playing a flurry of notes with teeth-jarring intensity.

Here’s what I listened to today:


Ballades Op. 10

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

The Ballades, Op. 10, were some of the finest examples of lyrical piano music written by Johannes Brahms during his youth. They were dated 1854 and were dedicated to his friend Julius Otto Grimm. Their composition coincided with the beginning of the composer’s lifelong affection for Clara Schumann, the wife of Robert Schumann, who was helping Brahms launch his career. Frédéric Chopin had written the last of his famous ballades only 12 years earlier, but Brahms approached the genre differently from Chopin, choosing to take its origin in narrative poetry more literally.

Brahms’s ballades are arranged in two pairs of two, the members of each pair being in parallel keys. The first ballade was inspired by a Scottish poem “Edward” found in a collection Stimmen der Völker in ihren Liedern compiled by Johann Gottfried Herder. It is also one of the best examples of Brahms’s bardic or Ossianic style; its open fifths, octaves, and simple triadic harmonies are supposed to evoke the sense of a mythological past.

Brahms was 21 when he composed these ballades.

Two Rhapsodies Op. 79

According to its entry on Wiki:

The Rhapsodies, Op. 79, for piano were written by Johannes Brahms in 1879 during his summer stay in Pörtschach, when he had reached the maturity of his career. They were inscribed to his friend, the musician and composer Elisabeth von Herzogenberg. At the suggestion of the dedicatee, Brahms reluctantly renamed the sophisticated compositions from “klavierstücke” (piano pieces) to “rhapsodies”.

Brahms was 46.

Klavierstucke Op. 76

What’s a “Klavierstucke”?

According to Google (and, really, is Google ever wrong?) it’s the German word for piano.

According to the IMSLP web site, these Klavierstucke pieces were composed between 1871 and 1878. Brahms was between 38 and 45.

Here’s who played them:

Hakon Austbo piano

Overall, I wasn’t as enamored with these solo piano compositions as I was yesterday’s selection. There’s no telling why. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

Day 316: Violin Sonatas, Scherzo in C Minor

BrahmsCD10I’ve been listening to Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 1 and Violin Sonata No. 2 for the better part of the last hour and I not only couldn’t tell you which is which I couldn’t prove that I’d heard anything at all.

The music absolutely did not stick with me, except for a bit of for Movement I (“Allegro amabile”) of Violin Sonata No. 2.

The piano in that piece reminded me of Chopin or one of Beethoven’s wistful compositions. And the violin has some emotionally penetrating moments.

Still, a mere 10 minutes later, I couldn’t hum a few bars of it.

I think I know the perfect analogy: Brahms is like Chinese food. An hour later and I’m hungry again.

The musicians on today’s CD are:

Kristof Barati violin (tracks 1-10)
Karla Wurtz piano (tracks 1-10)

Tasmin Little violin (track 11)
John Lenehan piano (track 11)

Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Op. 78

From its entry on Wikipedia:

The Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78, for violin and piano was composed by Johannes Brahms during the summers of 1878 and 1879 in Pörtschach am Wörthersee. It was first performed on 8 November 1879 in Bonn. Each of three movements of this sonata shares common motivic ideas or thematic materials from the head-motif of Brahms’s two songs “Regenlied” and “Nachklang”, Op. 59, and this is why this sonata is also called Rain Sonata (Regen-Sonate).

Brahms was 56 when he composed this music.

Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Op. 100

From its entry on Wiki:

The Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100 (“Thun” or “Meistersinger”) by Johannes Brahms was written while spending the summer of 1886 in Thun in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland.

It was a very fertile and refreshing time for Brahms. His friend the Swiss pastor and poet Josef Victor Widmann (1842-1911) lived in Berne and they visited each other. He was also visited by the poet Klaus Groth and the young German contralto Hermine Spies. Both Groth and Brahms were somewhat enamoured of Spies. He found himself so invigorated by the genial atmosphere and surroundings that he said the area was “so full of melodies that one has to be careful not to step on any”. In a short space of time, he produced, in addition to this violin sonata, the Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 99, the Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 101, and various songs.

The 2nd Violin Sonata is the shortest and is considered the most lyrical of Brahms’s three violin sonatas. It is also considered the most difficult of the three to bring off successfully, and to exhibit its balance of lyricism and virtuosity. It maintains a radiant, happy mood throughout.

That’s the best description for what I’m hearing that I’ve yet read on Wiki.

Violin Concerto No. 2 is Continue reading