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 321: Clarinet Trio, Clarinet Quintet

BrahmsCD15A clarinet quintet, eh?

I had no idea such a thing existed.

But, apparently, it does.

Because here it is on today’s Brahms CD, which is a clarinetist’s dream come true.

There are two compositions on Brahms CD 15:

Clarinet Trio in A minor Op. 114

Performed by:

Karl Leister clarinet
Wolfgang Boettcher cello
Ferenc Bognar piano

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

The Trio for clarinet, cello and piano in A minor, Op. 114, was one of four chamber works featuring clarinet composed by Johannes Brahms in rapid succession after emerging from retirement toward the end of his life.

It is one of a small number of compositions for clarinet, cello and piano, and one of the very few to have entered the standard repertoire. Eusebius Mandyczewski, a scholar and friend of Brahms, wrote of the trio that “It is as though the instruments were in love with each other.”

Brahms was inspired to compose these works by the playing of clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld.

Brahms was 58 when he composed this trio in the summer of 1891.

Clarinet Quintet in B minor Op. 115

Performed by:

Karl Leister clarinet
Brandis Quaratett
Thomas Brandis, Peter Brem violins
Wilfried Strehle viola
Wolfgang Boettcher cello

According to its entry on Wiki:

Johannes Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115 was written in 1891 for the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld.

The piece is known for its autumnal mood. It consists of a clarinet in A with a string quartet and has a duration of approximately thirty-five minutes.

At the time Brahms started composing his Clarinet Quintet, only a few works had been composed for this type of ensemble and even now there are not many. Examples include those by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Anton Reicha, Carl Maria von Weber, Franz Krommer, Alexander Glazunov, Heinrich Baermann, and Thomas Täglichsbeck. Brahms modeled his composition after Mozart’s.

Brahms was 58 when he composed this clarinet quintet.