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#1229789 - 07/10/09 10:04 PM Do we have any Brahms fans here?
Damon Online   happy
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Registered: 09/22/06
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Loc: St. Louis area
Other than the Paginini Variations, I never paid much attention to Brahms. But his music has recently been coming to life for me due to the interpretations of Julius Katchen.
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#1229793 - 07/10/09 10:12 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
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Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Damon
Other than the Paginini Variations, I never paid much attention to Brahms. But his music has recently been coming to life for me due to the interpretations of Julius Katchen.


Well, yes, I guess so if you say so, but ...?
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#1229800 - 07/10/09 10:33 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: BruceD]
sotto voce Offline
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Brahms is one of my favorite composers, and I think he's one of the most important composers of piano music, too. (I also have Julius Katchen's box set!)

Damon, I assume you're referring to the solo piano music here. If you're not familiar with Brahms's piano concertos, you have quite an adventure to look forward to. Written more than 20 years apart, they are quite different from one another but equally magnificent. (I'm not a recordings maven, so I leave it to others to make recommendations.)

I have no affinity for playing Brahms, but that's another story. smile

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1229806 - 07/10/09 10:47 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: sotto voce]
Beethoven Fan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/06/07
Posts: 191
Well they say that the three B's of the piano are: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. and I'll admit that he's the last one to grow on me but man ballades got me started and I haven't been able to get off since.

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#1229813 - 07/10/09 11:00 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: sotto voce]
Damon Online   happy
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Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6226
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
Brahms is one of my favorite composers, and I think he's one of the most important composers of piano music, too. (I also have Julius Katchen's box set!)

Damon, I assume you're referring to the solo piano music here. If you're not familiar with Brahms's piano concertos, you have quite an adventure to look forward to. Written more than 20 years apart, they are quite different from one another but equally breathtaking. (I'm not a recordings maven, so I leave it to others to make recommendations.)

I have no affinity for playing Brahms, but that's another story. smile

Steven


I have been exposed to most of his works, including the concertos; they just never made an impression before. Not intending to tout Julius Katchen as the consumate Brahms interpreter, I just notice that not much of his work is discussed here. Everybody, me included, is working on Chopin. (yes, I know, exaggeration)

So you like Brahms, but you don't like playing Brahms?


Beethoven Fan:

It's funny you should mention the Ballades. That was right where I intended to start.


Edited by Damon (07/10/09 11:04 PM)
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#1229830 - 07/10/09 11:21 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
BruceD Offline
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Originally Posted By: Damon
Other than the Paginini Variations, I never paid much attention to Brahms. But his music has recently been coming to life for me due to the interpretations of Julius Katchen.


Are you asking something, or are you just making an observation?

I still can't make out what sort of thread your post intends to start,
- the observation that you had never paid much attention to Brahms?
- Katchen as a Brahms interpreter?
- whether others like Brahms?
- what (piano) pieces of Brahms others like?
- etc.

Regards,
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#1229832 - 07/10/09 11:22 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
sotto voce Offline
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Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Originally Posted By: Damon
So you like Brahms, but you don't like playing Brahms?

That's it in a nutshell. frown

I was literally raised on Chopin, and my technique is thoroughly Chopin-centric. Brahms's pianistic idiom is significantly different; as congenial as I find the music, his figurations and the way they fit my hand typically are not. I suppose I should treat that as a challenge, and perhaps at some point I will.

I did learn the Rhapsody Op. 79 No. 2 many years ago. It was not problematic, but I don't believe that it's characteristic of Brahms's pianistic devices generally.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1229837 - 07/10/09 11:39 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: sotto voce]
akonow Offline
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Registered: 03/07/08
Posts: 589
Loc: Los Angeles
I love Brahms to death but I find oftentimes that his music requires the ability to execute fingerings and gestures that may, for some people, seem unnatural like Steven said. That said, my experiences with Brahms are rather limited.

As far as recordings go, I hold Stephen Hough's interpretation of the piano concerti very dear. The orchestra is also exceptionally lovely. I also really like Alfons Kontarsky's Hungarian Dances.
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Mozart - Sonata K 282
Chopin - Polonaises Op 26
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#1229840 - 07/10/09 11:45 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: akonow]
Barb860 Offline
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Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Originally Posted By: akonow
I love Brahms to death but I find oftentimes that his music requires the ability to execute fingerings and gestures that may, for some people, seem unnatural like Steven said. That said, my experiences with Brahms are rather limited.

As far as recordings go, I hold Stephen Hough's interpretation of the piano concerti very dear. The orchestra is also exceptionally lovely. I also really like Alfons Kontarsky's Hungarian Dances.


YES! Another Hough fan!!!! 3hearts
I love Hough (and Brahms, too, staying on topic here). I am working (struggling) with the Opus 76 No. 2 Capriccio and am putting it aside out of frustration with the section starting at measure #83 for those familiar... eek
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#1229841 - 07/10/09 11:46 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: sotto voce]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8927
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
I also have Julius Katchen's box set!

I do too! All around, incredible playing. His F minor Sonata and Eb minor Scherzo could make you impatient with Arrau. Kissin's F minor is also a very fine recording, IMO.
Quote:
I have no affinity for playing Brahms, but that's another story. smile

Perhaps, but I think it depends on one's hands in a sense. I've never tried to learn either of the concertos or the sonatas, but I've played a number of the smaller pieces (particularly Op. 118 and 119), numerous lieder with various singers and back in those heady uni days, the Horn Trio.

There is just something about Brahms' piano writing which just 'fits' my hands. His music feels pleasurably comfortable, more so than, say, Chopin or Schumann. This leads to me to believe that my hands might be similar in size and anatomy to those of Brahms.

Otherwise, I am no inveterate worshiper at the altar of Brahms. The music of his I like, I absolutely adore, yet some of his music leaves me more with the impression of simply pouring notes into a preconceived form. Sometimes he is on auto-pilot.

I realize this may be heresy to some -and for that I apologize- yet the contemporary composer most antipodal to Brahms, Wagner, is to me a far greater musical visionary -his music is charged!- than anything in the Brahms canon.

Obviously Brahms and Wagner cannot be properly compared, but they were contemporaries after all. Listen to a Brahms symphony followed by Wagner's Meistersinger. (If you have all day. grin) Brahms is, well... Brahms. Wagner excites the senses. Meistersinger makes you cry and laugh, all at the same time. It is a work of profound humanity.


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#1229860 - 07/11/09 12:34 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: argerichfan]
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Registered: 10/31/07
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Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
^ Interestingly, Die Meistersinger was Brahms's favorite Wagner opera.
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Die Krebs gehn zurcke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
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#1229866 - 07/11/09 12:42 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Janus K. Sachs]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8927
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
^ So it's true that Tausig gave Brahms the autograph copy of Meistersinger? Then subsequently didn't Wagner have to ask for it back?
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#1229870 - 07/11/09 12:52 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: argerichfan]
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1711
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
^ If memory serves, the autograph in question was the Venusberg music (Paris version). And I believe Brahms gave it back. The miscommunication was apparently Tausig's fault.
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurcke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#1229878 - 07/11/09 01:45 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: argerichfan]
carey Offline
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Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6426
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Wagner and Brahms were markedly different composers and individuals. Wagner primarily wrote operas (music dramas) and Brahms composed in just about every musical form except opera. Brahms was definitely more traditional in his approach to composition, and Wagner more visionary.

My favorite orchestral works include the Brahms Academic Festival Overture, Variations on a Theme by Haydn, and the four symphonies. The Requiem is a work of "profound humanity." It moves me deeply and I never tire of listening to it.

Interestingly, since Wagner's works are primarily operatic in nature, most of us don't have the opportunity to actually perform and interpret his music. On the other hand Brahms' music is more accessible to pianists.

Bottom line - Brahms and Wagner are acquired tastes - and both are great composers. Opinions will always be divided regarding the relative mertis of one over the other.
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#1229892 - 07/11/09 03:04 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: carey]
beet31425 Offline
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Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3832
Loc: Bay Area, CA
I love a lot of Brahms, including the piano concertos, the violin sonatas, and the piano quintet. And yet and yet and yet...

Here's a provocative quote by music critic Cecil Gray, from his study The Forty-Eight Preludes and Fugues of J. S. Bach (1938). I love Brahms, and yet I almost know what Gray's talking about, even if I 80% disagree:

Quote:
There is no great figure in the history of music who has not in some way or other contributed substantially to the enrichment and expansion of the art, with the possible exception of Brahms, and it it precisely for that reason that many people feel that he is not one of the first rank. He is, you might say, one who has received a vast inheritance which he has handed on to his successors undiminished, perhaps, but also unincreased. The history of music would be the same in all essentials if Brahms had never lived; one cannot say the same of any other great composer-- certainly least of all Bach.
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#1229907 - 07/11/09 04:45 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: beet31425]
Andromaque Offline
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Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
I enjoy Brahms' music most of the time as well. But I find that he does not have a very original identity or imprimatur. There is always a sense of déjà vu in his music when you listen to it the first time. I hesitate to say it, but did he perhaps lack a bit of creativity, compared to the titans who were his contemporaries?? or is creativity not the right word here?

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#1229911 - 07/11/09 04:59 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: beet31425]
pianovirus Offline
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Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 956
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
beet31425, what an interesting quote (btw, with which I disagree 100% - I adore all of Brahms music, not only for piano). It shows how much "public opinion" can change.

I guess this kind of thinking goes back to the old dispute during Brahms' life between the (self-proclaimed) "innovative" Neudeutsche Liszt/Wagner school and the people around Brahms who were more consciously concerned with developing new musical ideas on the foundation of the baroque and classical tradition.

Now in hindsight, Brahms can well be considered a much bigger innovator than Liszt (as much as I like much of Liszt's music), having found new ways for the symphony after Beethoven, having shown how to transform the piano concerto into a symphony with obligatory piano, having discovered new sound qualities and sonorities for the piano (here of course Liszt is one of the biggest contributors, too), and new form ideas based on variation technique, among countless other things.

Still, over quite some time, the fact that Brahms was looking both forward as well as backward, seems to have prompted opinions as those shown in the Gray quote. Maybe it was these opinions that prompted Schoenbrg's essay on "Brahms the progressive" (1933, rewritten 1947).

Here are some other quotes along (or beyond) the lines of Gray:

"I played over the music of that scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless bastard! It annoys me that this self-inflated mediocrity is hailed as a genius... chaotic and absolutely empty dried-up stuff" (Tchaikovsky)

"The art of composing without ideas has decidedly found in Brahms one of its worthiest representatives" (Hugo Wolf)

It’s not bad Brahms I mind, it’s good Brahms I can’t stand (Britten)
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#1229919 - 07/11/09 05:21 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: pianovirus]
Andromaque Offline
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Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
PV
May be I misunderstood you, but why would musicians and composers who are chronologically removed from Brahms,eg Britten adopt or follow the original, context-dependent concerns of the Neudeutsche's school? It seems that opinions were based on the music itsef rather than an assesment of its role in the history of music.
Tchaikowsky was a contemporary of Brahms, and his music, I would say, not dramatically divergent in style despite his greater genre diversity, yet he does not suffer from the same negative connotations surrounding Brahms.

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#1229923 - 07/11/09 05:35 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
pianovirus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 956
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
It was just a speculation by me, but Gray's statements that Brahms did not "contribute substantially to the enrichment and expansion of the art" and "has received a vast inheritance which he has handed on to his successors undiminished, perhaps, but also unincreased" seem to express some of the thinking that AFAIK was already prevalent in the Neudeutsche Schule (whose proponents considered the way forward not via e.g. symphony but via new forms like the Symphonic Poem, the music drama etc.).

I agree, the other quotes are not about tradition vs. innovation, but just about the music itself, and therefore don't add to my point (but maybe a bit of amusement).
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#1229967 - 07/11/09 09:16 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: pianovirus]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13813
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Just FYI, a more exhaustive and contemporary study of Schoenberg's comments on Brahms is Walter Frisch's "Brahms and the Principle of Developing Variation."

http://www.amazon.com/Principle-Developing-Variation-California-Studies/dp/0520069587
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#1229994 - 07/11/09 10:25 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Kreisler]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
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I think the Brahms Op.76 and Op.116-119 are perhaps the greatest set of pieces that can be played(with a few exceptions like the E flat minor Intermezzo and E flat Rhapsody)by pianists with "amateur" technique.

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#1229996 - 07/11/09 10:30 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: sotto voce]
Damon Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6226
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: sotto voce

I was literally raised on Chopin, and my technique is thoroughly Chopin-centric. Brahms's pianistic idiom is significantly different; as congenial as I find the music, his figurations and the way they fit my hand typically are not. I suppose I should treat that as a challenge, and perhaps at some point I will.

Steven


I think I see what you mean. Chopin is a different kind of difficult; I can sight read many Chopin pieces at reduced speed quickly but have difficulty bringing it up to speed. Similar to chess, "easy to learn, difficult to master."
I have one book of Brahms that includes the op39 waltzes, the two piano concerti, and the paganini variations. Yesterday, I started to run through the waltzes and soon had my hands aching from maladroit fingerings. Hopefully the Ballades and Sonatas are more accessable, since they were the pieces that perked me up.
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#1230000 - 07/11/09 10:40 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: pianoloverus]
sotto voce Offline
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Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I think the Brahms Op.76 and Op.116-119 are perhaps the greatest set of pieces that can be played(with a few exceptions like the E flat minor Intermezzo and E flat Rhapsody)by pianists with "amateur" technique.

What are the salient characteristics of "amateur" technique? I ask because the term seems at once vague and restrictive. Do all non-professional pianists by definition have amateur technique, or is one's technique defined instead by the level of repertoire that one can play well?

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1230002 - 07/11/09 10:43 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: beet31425]
Damon Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6226
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: beet31425
I love a lot of Brahms, including the piano concertos, the violin sonatas, and the piano quintet. And yet and yet and yet...

Here's a provocative quote by music critic Cecil Gray, from his study The Forty-Eight Preludes and Fugues of J. S. Bach (1938). I love Brahms, and yet I almost know what Gray's talking about, even if I 80% disagree:

Quote:
There is no great figure in the history of music who has not in some way or other contributed substantially to the enrichment and expansion of the art, with the possible exception of Brahms, and it it precisely for that reason that many people feel that he is not one of the first rank. He is, you might say, one who has received a vast inheritance which he has handed on to his successors undiminished, perhaps, but also unincreased. The history of music would be the same in all essentials if Brahms had never lived; one cannot say the same of any other great composer-- certainly least of all Bach.


A month ago, I would have agreed with that.
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#1230026 - 07/11/09 12:38 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
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Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Andromaque
I enjoy Brahms' music most of the time as well. [...] I hesitate to say it, but did he perhaps lack a bit of creativity, compared to the titans who were his contemporaries?? or is creativity not the right word here?


I would suggest that much of Brahms' music seems to lack spontaneity; there is a well-crafted, almost studied feel to some of Brahms' piano works. That said, I am quite a fan of the shorter works, particularly those of Opp. 116 through 119. He certainly can be credited with creativity in the way he fashions a melodic line, in his part-writing and in his distinctive use of rhythmic patterns.

Regards,
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#1230046 - 07/11/09 01:16 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: BruceD]
BDB Online   content
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His chamber music is better than his solo piano works, for the most part.
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#1230097 - 07/11/09 03:54 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: BruceD]
Damon Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6226
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Damon
Other than the Paginini Variations, I never paid much attention to Brahms. But his music has recently been coming to life for me due to the interpretations of Julius Katchen.


Are you asking something, or are you just making an observation?

I still can't make out what sort of thread your post intends to start,
- the observation that you had never paid much attention to Brahms?
- Katchen as a Brahms interpreter?
- whether others like Brahms?
- what (piano) pieces of Brahms others like?
- etc.

Regards,


Sorry, I didn't mean to ignore your question. I was just trying to start a general discussion of his (Brahm's) work: Favorite performances, pieces. I left it open-ended on purpose as I am only lately a fan.
_________________________
It's been scientifically proven that Horowitz sucks.

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#1230118 - 07/11/09 05:28 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18233
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Damon
[...]
I was just trying to start a general discussion of his (Brahm's) work: Favorite performances, pieces. I left it open-ended on purpose as I am only lately a fan.


It's exciting to begin to become a "fan" of a composer whose works one hadn't appreciated before. There's much to admire and enjoy in his works. I hope he continues to "grow" on you.

Regards,
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Estonia 190

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#1230158 - 07/11/09 08:06 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: BruceD]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8927
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Funnily, I'm listening to the Brahms symphony 2 as I write. The lady doth protest too much, methinks, incredibly written music, but so utterly dull and impotent. There is a certain smugness about Brahms which really puts me off.

I suppose I have to be in the 'mood', but today is not that. I'll gladly give him up for the more vibrant Wagner, Brahms is utterly tiresome. His colours are so faded, his mastery only theoretical, his humanity self-serving.

A good case might be made for Brahms being one of the worst composers of his generation- and I would not be quick to dismiss the observations of G. B. Shaw. He made some valid points.

Whatever, tomorrow I might feel differently. But with Bach, Mozart, Liszt, Wagner, I have never wavered in my admiration. Not so with Brahms, and the only other composer falling into that category would be Mahler, but that's a different issue.
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#1230164 - 07/11/09 08:18 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: BDB]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5966
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: BDB
His chamber music is better than his solo piano works, for the most part.
I think I'd agree here - the violin, cello and clarinet/viola sonatas alone are enough to ensure him a place in my heart. And some of the loveliest Lieder as well.
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