I do so love the sound of Classical piano and stringed instruments playing together.
Today’s CD – Piano Quartet No. 2 in A Op. 26 – does an adequate job of filling my ears with what I love most about Classical music.
This composition is oddly incongruous with itself. The piano sounds like it was recorded in another era while the stringed instruments sound modern.
Or, to put it another way, this recording (or maybe it’s the composition itself) sounds like the piano is playing either in a different room, or a different time (even a different piece of music!) and the stringed instruments are laid over the piano track.
I know that’s not the case. Brilliant Classics is my favorite music label. Everything they do is first-rate, top-notch, and with the highest regard for quality in mind. So the problem is not the recording. The problem is the composition itself.
The worst offender of this is Movement I (“Allegro non troppo”) which starts out with piano and strings relatively together. But then, very shortly, the piano starts to meander off by itself and the strings play their parts almost incongruously. Almost like Jazz music. The different instruments peal off on their own for awhile, then return to play the main melody.
But it sounds odd in this composition because the piano is not as prominent as the strings. The volume level. They don’t mesh well. The piano is quiet and relegated to the background. The strings are right up front.
According to its entry on Wikipedia:
Piano Quartet in A major, Op. 26, by Johannes Brahms is scored for piano, violin, viola and cello. It was completed in 1861 and received its premiere in November 1863 by the Hellmesberger Quartet with the composer playing the piano part. It has been especially noted for drawing influence from composer Franz Schubert. Lasting approximately 50 minutes, this quartet is the longest of Brahms’s chamber works to perform.
Not even the pizzicato can save this piece for me.
Speaking of pizzicato, Brahms seems to use it a lot. Yet, it doesn’t have the same effect on me that it does in the music of other composers.
Anyway, Brahms was 28 when he composed this piece for piano and strings.
Today’s music was performed by:
Derek Han piano
Isabell Faust violin (Stradivari, 1704)
Bruno Giuranna viola
Alain Meunier cello
I really wish I could hear some Brahms that blew me away the way Beethoven’s music did. So far, though, not so much.
That’s not to say Brahms was a hack. It just says that his music doesn’t resonate with me the way Beethoven’s did.