Day 330: St. Anthony Variations, 16 Waltzes, Variations on a Theme by Schumann

BrahmsCD24I’m not as enamored with today’s piano music as I was yesterday’s, although it’s pretty.

It’s not just as intriguing or magical.

This might make good background music.

But it’s not compelling enough to be good active-listening music.

Not for me, anyway. You’re mileage may vary.

Here are the three two-piano compositions:

Variations on a theme by Haydn (“St. Anthony Chorale” Op. 56b for two pianos)

There’s a good article about this composition posted on The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra web site, part of which says:

The theme at the heart of Brahms’s piece is likely not the work of Joseph Haydn, despite the work’s title. It came to Brahms by way of an unpublished divertimento score, discovered in 1870 by the Viennese music librarian Carl Ferdinand Pohl while he was preparing a Haydn biography. Knowing Brahms’s fascination with early music, Pohl showed the composer the manuscript. Brahms was particularly struck by the movement headed “St. Anthony Chorale,” scored for eight wind instruments. Brahms copied out the chorale and returned to it in the summer of 1873 as the basis for the set of variations, fleshed out in parallel versions for two pianos (completed first, but given the secondary Opus number of 56b) and for orchestra.

If that’s true, Brahms was 40 when he composed these pieces of music.

16 Waltzes Op. 39 for piano four hands

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

Sixteen Waltzes, Op. 39 is a set of 16 short waltzes for piano four hands written by Johannes Brahms. They were composed in 1865, and published two years later, dedicated to Eduard Hanslick. These waltzes were also arranged for piano solo by the composer, in two different versions – difficult and simplified. The three versions were published at the same time, and sold well, contrary to the composer’s expectations. In the solo versions, some of the keys were altered from the original duet version (the last four in the difficult version and No. 6 in the easy version). Waltz Number 15 in A major (or A-flat major) has acquired a life of its own. An arrangement of five of the waltzes (Nos. 1, 2, 11, 14, and 15) for two pianos, four hands was published after the composer’s death.

Brahms was 32 when he composed these waltzes.

Variations on a theme by Schumann Op. 23 for piano four hands

According to the web site IMSLP, these variations were composed in 1861. If that’s true, Brahms was 28.

Here are the four hands playing today’s music:

Bracha Eden piano
Alexander Tamier piano