Day 326: String Quintets

BrahmsCD20Today’s CD makes me snooze.

In other words, it’s back to bland for Brahms.

This music is nothing like the boldness of yesterday’s. It sounds pretty much like everything else I’ve heard from Brahms.

Only more so.

For example, Movement II (“Grave ed appassionato – Allegretto vivace – Tempo I – Presto – Tempo I”) from String Quartet No. 1 in F Op. 88 sounds like five instruments are warming up, each playing something slightly different. In that regard, it’s almost like progressive rock or Jazz. It’s busy.

But the ending to Movement II is remarkable. Absolutely compelling. Mesmerizing. Magical.

Today’s musicians are:

Brandis Quartett
Thomas Brandis, Peter Brem violins
Wilfried Strehle viola
Wolfgang Boettcher cello
Brett Dean viola

And this is what they’re playing:

String Quartet No. 1 in F Op. 88

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

Johannes Brahms’ String Quintet No. 1 in F major, op. 88, was composed in 1882 in the spa town of Bad Ischl, Upper Austria, and published by the firm of Fritz Simrock. It was first performed at a chamber music evening in Frankfurt-on-Main on 29 December 1882.

Brahms described the quintet to his friend Clara Schumann as “one of [his] finest works” and told Simrock, “You have never before had such a beautiful work from me.”

I’m sure he did describe this work in glowing terms to Clara. He was trying to woo her. He’d have told her God Almighty visited him one bright morning and handed him the manuscript if he thought it would have gotten him into her pants.

I will tell you straight out that this Continue reading

Day 320: Piano Trio No. 2 & Horn Trio

BrahmsCD14Instant Brahms Favorite!

These trios are splendid, full of melody and pathos.

There are two compositions on today’s Brahms’ CD:



Piano Trio No. 2 in C Op. 87

Performed by:

Israel Piano Trio
Menahem Breuer violin
Marcel Bergman cello
Alexander Volkov piano

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

The Piano Trio in C major, Op. 87, by Johannes Brahms was composed during 1880-2. It is scored for piano, violin and cello. It was first performed at a chamber music evening in Frankfurt-on-Main on 29 December 1882.

Brahms was 49 when he completed his Piano Trio.

Horn Trio in E flat Op. 40

Performed by The Nash Ensemble
Frank Lloyd horn
Marcia Crayford violin
Ian Brown piano

According to its entry on Wiki:

The Horn Trio in E-flat major, Op. 40, by Johannes Brahms is a chamber piece in four movements written for natural horn, violin, and piano. Composed in 1865, the work commemorates the death of Brahms’ mother, Christiane, earlier that year. However, it draws on a theme which Brahms had composed twelve years previously but did not publish at the time. The work was first performed in Zurich on November 28, 1865, and was published a year later in November 1866. The Horn Trio was the last chamber piece Brahms wrote for the next eight years.

Brahms chose to write the work for natural horn rather than valve horn despite the fact that the valve horn was becoming more common. The timbre of the natural horn is more somber and melancholic than the valve horn and creates a much different mood. Nineteenth-century listeners associated the sound of the natural horn with nature and the calls of the hunt. Fittingly, Brahms once said that the opening theme of the first movement came to him while he was walking through the woods. Brahms also learned natural horn (as well as piano and cello) as a child, which may be another reason why he chose to write for these instruments following the death of his mother.

Brahms was 32 when he composed the Horn Trio.

Both are equally wonderful. It would be hard for me to pick between the two, although I am partial to the horn. It’s one of the most soothing sounds on the planet. So the Horn trio would probably get the nod.