Day 319: Piano Trios 1 & 3

BrahmsCD13This is beautiful music.

I could listen to this again, and likely will.

I’ve always enjoyed trios (piano, violin, cello). Those particular instruments blend well together.

This is just nice, soothing, intriguing music that pulls me in and compels me to keep listening.

The musicians on today’s CD are the Gutman Trio, which consists of:

Sviatoslav Moroz violin
Natalia Gutman cello
Dmitri Vinnik piano

The compositions are:

Piano Trio No. 1 in B Op. 8

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

The Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8, by Johannes Brahms was composed during 1854. The composer produced a revised version of the work in 1889. It is scored for piano, violin and cello, and it is the only work of Brahms to exist today in two published versions, although it is almost always the revised version that we hear performed today. It is also among the few multi-movement works to begin in a major key and end in the tonic minor; another being Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony.

Brahms was 21 when he first composed this music, and 56 when he revised it.

Piano trio No. 3 in C minor Op. 101

According to its entry on Wiki:

The Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 101, by Johannes Brahms is scored for piano, violin and cello, and was written in the summer of 1886 while Brahms was on vacation in Hofstetten, Switzerland. It was premiered on 20 December of that year by Brahms, violinist Jenő Hubay, and cellist David Popper.

There are still a lot of competing notes for my tastes. But these compositions are exquisite.

I particularly liked Movement II (“Scherzo: Allegro molto”) from Piano Trio No. 1 in B Op. 8, and Movement I (“Allegro energico”) from Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor Op. 101.

Of the two compositions, I think I liked Piano Trio No. 1 better than No. 3. The first one seemed more melodic and introspective to me.

Brahms was 53 when he composed this piece of music.

Day 317: Cello Sonatas

BrahmsCD11I like things that are different.

Like most people who dig underground/alternative music, musicians, authors, books, or art, I like discovering stuff that’s a step or two outside the norm.

When it comes to music, I still flip out over Led Zeppelin, Rush, Queen, ELP, Yes, Bad Company, the Beatles, and Alice Cooper. But when I discover an obscure passage of music, or a quirky band – or rare instrument like the glass harmonica, which I discovered listening to Mozart’s compositions a few years back – I get all tingly.

That goes double for Classical music. Symphony after symphony after opera after opera bores me to tears. Especially if they all sound the same, which they often do.

That’s why I like piano sonatas, cello sonatas, and other compositions that open up the space between notes to let another instrument come forward, or a melody reveal itself. There’s usually an opportunity for the music to sound different, to be magical.


Beethoven, for example, knew how to put air between notes, to let his compositions breathe. There’s no equivocation with Beethoven. His works are just powerful pieces of music that kick my ass.

Brahms, however, is another story.

In the case of Brahms’ cello sonatas (Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor Op. 38 and Cello Sonata No. 2 in F Op. 99), what we have is more notes, not necessarily something fundamentally different from everything else I’ve heard from him so far.

And that’s too bad, because the cello has the ability to dig really deep, to pluck emotional chords that can bring tears welling up in one’s eyes. It’s a mournful instrument. Combined with a piano – which can also be extremely emotional – such a sonata could be powerful stuff, indeed.

Although Movement I (“Allegro non troppo”) from Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor features Continue reading

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