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 335: Variations: On an Original Theme, On a Hungarian Song, On a Theme by Schumann

BrahmsCD29This is wonderful music.

Instant Favorite status.

These variations are in turns contemplative, clever, and dramatic…full of pathos and verve. In short, these piano variations sound like life itself.

These are some of the most honest compositions I’ve heard from Brahms. Very little pretense here. This is music for the sake of music.

This CD would make perfect background music for writing.

Here’s what I listened to today:

Variations on an Original Theme in D Op. 21 No. 1

According to the IMSLP web site, these variations were composed in 1857. If that is true, Brahms was 24.

Variations on a Hungarian Song in D Op. 21 No. 2

According to the IMSLP web site, these variations may have been composed somewhere between 1853 and 1856, which means Brahms was between 20 and 23.

Variations on a Theme by Schumann in F sharp minor Op. 9

According to the IMSLP web site, these variations were composed in 1854. Brahms was 21.

Here’s who played all 43 short tracks:

Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy piano

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.