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.