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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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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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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
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Registered: 03/06/07
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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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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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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."
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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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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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#1229840 - 07/10/09 11:45 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: akonow]
Barb860 Offline
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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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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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^ Interestingly, Die Meistersinger was Brahms's favorite Wagner opera.
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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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^ 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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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 Online   content
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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 Online   content
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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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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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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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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
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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



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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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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
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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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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: 6072
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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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
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Registered: 09/22/06
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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.
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#1230118 - 07/11/09 05:28 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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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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#1230158 - 07/11/09 08:06 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: BruceD]
argerichfan Offline
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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
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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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#1230168 - 07/11/09 08:25 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: argerichfan]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: argerichfan
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.


Maybe this will "cure" you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TC2Wkv8IS8


Edited by pianoloverus (07/11/09 08:25 PM)

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#1230188 - 07/11/09 09:00 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: pianoloverus]
argerichfan Offline
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus


Maybe this will "cure" you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TC2Wkv8IS8

OMG. That was absolutely fabulous! Stephen Hough is one of my all time favourite pianists, and what a feast that was. I am clearing the tears away, sometimes I forget what an impact Brahms can make on me.

Hough, btw, wrote an incredible essay on Elgar's Catholicism.

Thanks, I think I need to watch this again. smile
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#1230193 - 07/11/09 09:06 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: argerichfan]
Barb860 Offline
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Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus


Maybe this will "cure" you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TC2Wkv8IS8

OMG. That was absolutely fabulous! Stephen Hough is one of my all time favourite pianists, and what a feast that was. I am clearing the tears away, sometimes I forget what an impact Brahms can make on me.

Hough, btw, wrote an incredible essay on Elgar's Catholicism.

Thanks, I think I need to watch this again. smile


And what an impact Hough can make as well. Awesome! This made my day. Especially after reading so much arrogance in some of the threads here, this was quite refreshing.
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#1230200 - 07/11/09 09:20 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Kreisler]
rrb Offline
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Originally Posted By: Kreisler
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."

Thank you for pointing out Schoenberg's acknowledgment of Brahms as an innovator. It's not very hard to see the link between early Schoenberg (Verklaerte Nacht) and late Brahms. Schoenberg actually went as far as to arrange a Brahms piano quartet for orchestra which for a while was touted about as 'Brahms' 5th Symphony'.

A few things that this thread has perhaps not emphasized enough:
1. Brahms was a perfectionist. He destroyed more of his work than he allowed to be published. Ergo any published work has something about it Brahms was happy with, and he was much harder on himself than we lesser mortals could ever be.

2. The 'Brahms vs Wagner/Liszt' controversy was fed mainly by Wagner, who persisted in writing nasty articles about Brahms' music. Brahms was a bit mystified by this because he admired Wagner's work. There is even a story of him planning a trip to Bayreuth, but calling it off at the last minute because he was afraid Wagner would use Brahms' presence as an excuse for further attacks on Brahms' adherence to 'absolute music' (as distinct from 'tone poems'). Wagner would not have attacked Brahms as virulently as he did if he had not recognized a threat to his claim to be the preeminent composer of his day. (Wagner was notoriously a tad short on compassion, but rather long on ego.)

3. Brahms symphonies are very tightly written, meaning that material is used sparsely, as in Beethoven's late piano sonatas and quartets. Wagner's canvasses were very large and rather loose. Attempting to 'rank' these composers against each other is therefore akin to comparing kiwifruit and melon.

4. Brahms is reputed to have said that his piano music was not intended to be accessible to someone 'whose talent did not extent beyond his elbows'. Which, if I can be so bold as to translate from 'north-German', means that the challenge is in grasping the musical content of the piece. Just 'playing the notes' will not get you there. Possibly this is why pianists tend to favor composers whose piano music is musically more accessible.

In my opinion, Brahms' music, in terms of content and innovation thoroughly deserves his designation as the third 'B'. His third and fourth symphonies are the finest to have been written in the 19th century post Beethoven. His piano quintet is rivaled in quality only by Schumanns's, and his violin concerto is on everyone's list of the few finest ever written.

Brahms is only a 'difficult composer' if you are looking for a cheap thrill. Thrills there are a-plenty in Brahms, but cheap they are not.
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#1230203 - 07/11/09 09:23 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: rrb]
Andromaque Offline
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who do you have in mind for cheap thrills? Mozart?

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#1230204 - 07/11/09 09:26 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
rrb Offline
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Originally Posted By: Andromaque
who do you have in mind for cheap thrills? Mozart?


What on earth made you think of Mozart in this context?
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#1230208 - 07/11/09 09:44 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: rrb]
Andromaque Offline
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I am being sarcastic. You came down so hard on some folks' slight lack of fanaticism towards old Johannes.. Others evoked arrogance..
I don't think anyone in this thread said Brahms was an idiot. Specific negative criticism was nicely placed in historical context and referenced..
Your dismissal of those who do not love Brahms as musical neophytes who cannot fathom his difficulty and are in search for cheap thrills was a bit unequivocal. So I asked myself who I would rather listen to, and Wolfie came up. I will take any of his piano concerti or sonatas anyday anytime over JB's.. But that is just me..

For Brahms' fans, Andras Schiff is playing Brahms' first piano concerto with Muti and the NY Philharmonic in March. The second part of the program, interestingly, consists of Hindemith's Symphony in E flat...

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#1230221 - 07/11/09 10:08 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
rrb Offline
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Originally Posted By: Andromaque
I am being sarcastic. You came down so hard on some folks' slight lack of fanaticism towards old Johannes..


The OP wanted to know whether there are any Brahms fans on the forum. I read quickly thorough the thread and believe this gives in its totality an underestimation of a composer I consider to be one of the all time greats.

The thread is imho unrepresentative of what I would regard as a reasonable consensus on the significance of Brahms' music. So I wrote a corrective.

You are, of course, perfectly entitled to express in whatever terms you wish your 'slight lack of fanaticism' for whomsoever you wish.


Edited by rrb (07/11/09 10:09 PM)
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#1230261 - 07/12/09 01:23 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: rrb]
Swordfish Offline
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His fourth symphony is one of the most recognizable ever written. The Hungarian Dance No. 5 too. Somehow I have the impression it is too easy to sound monotonous and predictable for the piano solo works. Maybe it's due to the pianist instead of the composer, but I anticipate every single outburst in any performance, however great.

I mean if you listen to a piece familiar enough, you expect when there are sudden shifts in dynamics, sudden pauses, etc, but there is still a kind of spontaneity. I haven't ever had the same feeling with Brahms.


Edited by Swordfish (07/12/09 01:28 AM)

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#1230271 - 07/12/09 02:19 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Swordfish]
BruceD Offline
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I don't quite get it.

The OP asked for opinions on the works of Brahms. Some people expressed their opinions and then others criticize them for voicing those opinions. Is this not an open forum for expressing opinions? Do all opinions have to agree, otherwise they are considered invalid?

Regards,
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#1230277 - 07/12/09 03:14 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: BruceD]
btb Offline
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With sincere respect Damon,

At 50 years of age (excuse a look at your profile) you’re more than ready for anno Domini insight into the Brahms legacy ... only with the years does the majesty of Brahms works filter through ... with 20 years on you, soaking up the marvels of Johannes B , I continue to be completely stopped in my tracks by the breathtaking 4 Symphonies ... but this morning on our local ClassicFm radio channel the host played the slow movement to the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto ... and so rightly mused "it is as if the world stood still".

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#1230305 - 07/12/09 07:30 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: rrb]
pianovirus Offline
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Originally Posted By: rrb
2. The 'Brahms vs Wagner/Liszt' controversy was fed mainly by Wagner, who persisted in writing nasty articles about Brahms' music. Brahms was a bit mystified by this because he admired Wagner's work. There is even a story of him planning a trip to Bayreuth, but calling it off at the last minute because he was afraid Wagner would use Brahms' presence as an excuse for further attacks on Brahms' adherence to 'absolute music' (as distinct from 'tone poems'). Wagner would not have attacked Brahms as virulently as he did if he had not recognized a threat to his claim to be the preeminent composer of his day. (Wagner was notoriously a tad short on compassion, but rather long on ego.)


There's no doubt that there were many polemic attacks from the side of Wagner. But note that Brahms, in 1860, was the first of four authors of a highly polemic "declaration" against the Neudeutsche Schule in a Berlin newspaper called Echo. The other party responded (smartly) with a witty parody of this declaration in the "Neue Zeitschrift für Musik". As a consequence there was a public perception of Brahms as conservative and aggressive. Apparently Brahms considered his prominent participation in this declaration as a big mistake and would never again want to be associated with a particular "school" afterwards.
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#1230322 - 07/12/09 08:57 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: BruceD]
sotto voce Offline
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Originally Posted By: BruceD
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….

Bruce, could you elaborate? I don't understand how lack of spontaneity—an inherent characteristic of all non-improvised music—distinguishes Brahms's music in particular; it seems to me that your comments could apply equally to the music of most any great composer.

Steven
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#1230381 - 07/12/09 11:15 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: argerichfan]
jdhampton924 Offline
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Originally Posted By: argerichfan
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 really think you hit it on the head with your statement on Brahms. I do enjoy his works now more so then when I was a younger, but a lot of times it does seem dull. And the smugness you are talking about is definitely there. When he was told he was the next Beethoven he took it to seriously. I have played Brahms a lot, but every time his music feels like a chore except for op. 118 and the Piano concerto in D minor. I do enjoy his sonatas and wish I had time to learn one.

Though I did not have the same reaction to other German romantic composers when I started listening to them more. I can't get enough of the music of Mendellssohn and Schumann!

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#1230406 - 07/12/09 12:49 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: jdhampton924]
sotto voce Offline
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I'm as perplexed by smugness as I am by lack of spontaneity, and equally uncertain how it is conveyed or revealed in music.

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

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#1230426 - 07/12/09 01:50 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
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Brahms is truly a great composer. His large scale orchestral works (such as his 4 symphonies, 2 piano concerti, violin concerto, and double concerto) are among the greatest works in their genres ever composed. His variations on a theme by Haydn are my favorite set of variations written for orchestra. Two other favorites of mine are his variations and fugue on a theme of Handel and his piano quintet in F minor.

Others have commented on several of his shorter works for piano as well as the sonatas. His larger works for piano such as the 2 piano concerti, variations and fugue on a theme by Handel, and sonatas are extremely difficult to play.

It is fairly common on this forum to find many critical remarks of the greatest composers who ever lived. Mozart’s music has been criticized as being too simplistic. Bach has been criticized as being boring. Liszt is often criticized as being superficial, etc. No matter how good your music is, there will be a vocal contingent critical of it. Perhaps this reflects the diversity of musical tastes that people have. Ultimately, the number (and particularly the high percentage; all of his symphonies and concerti are masterpieces. This is at least in part the result of how self critical Brahms was in the pieces he chose to publish) of large scale works Brahms wrote that have become part of the standard repertoire and the high regard that exists for these works speak for themselves.

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#1230452 - 07/12/09 03:03 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: sotto voce]
jdhampton924 Offline
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Originally Posted By: sotto voce
I'm as perplexed by smugness as I am by lack of spontaneity, and equally uncertain how it is conveyed or revealed in music.

Steven


Do you believe music can convey emotions such as love, loss, anger, sadness ect ect. Do you believe that music can convey things even about the composer? If so it is not much of a stretch to believe what I am saying, but to each his own.

In the end we should continue to critique these master works. Not only will it lead to greater appreciation of some, but will lead to new discoveries as well.

Jeffrey


Edited by jdhampton924 (07/12/09 03:06 PM)

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#1230459 - 07/12/09 03:40 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: sotto voce]
BruceD Offline
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Originally Posted By: sotto voce
I'm as perplexed by smugness as I am by lack of spontaneity, and equally uncertain how it is conveyed or revealed in music.

Steven


I am not sure why you should be perplexed by what others feel or hear in the music of Brahms, or, specifically by the "smugness" or "lack of spontaneity" that others have mentioned in his (piano) works. Are these not subjective reactions to his music, and do not many of us react differently to others to the same piece of music, the same work of literature, a given painting or sculpture? Little of what has been said so far has been totally objective - how objective can one be in talking about one's reactions to music - so it should be neither surprising nor perplexing that we all do not share the same reactions.

As for elaborating on my feeling that the Brahms music I know often lacks a character that I called spontaneity - in response to Andromaque's questioning "lack of inspiration" - I don't have sufficient verbal skills to put that thought into more precise language; it's a feeling, a reaction to Brahms' music that I can't articulate. There's a certain gravitas, a seriousness, a complexity and a formality of structure that all perhaps stem, in part, from the relatively thick texture of his writing that precludes - for me - a sense of ... what's the right word? I'm at a loss for the precise expression, but "lack of spontaneity" is the closest I can come. Rather than adding more of what his music does not have, perhaps I could add that his music strikes me has having a strong "introspective" character.

As I said before, however, for me that is not a criticism of Brahms, that's just what makes Brahms' music distinctively his own. There are soulful melodies, clever - often brilliant - interplays of voices, a rich harmonic palette and an often intriguing use of rhythmic patterns that distinguish the music of Brahms from that of other composers.

Nor would I deny that he is one of "the greats."

Regards,
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#1230461 - 07/12/09 03:42 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: jdhampton924]
sotto voce Offline
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Jeffrey,

Those are very interesting questions. My uncertainties about the answers, and my wish to understand the underlying issues better, makes we want to start a new thread about the topic of emotions in music.

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

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#1230513 - 07/12/09 05:13 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: sotto voce]
Andromaque Offline
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what BruceD says..

I also could not find a precise term to describe my reaction(s) to some of Brahms' music. This is not to say that it is devoid of beauty and appeal.
he is like a gorgeous sophisticated creature or painting that does not speak my language or, that does not convey a direction or resolution.
A famous poem by Charles Baudelaire ends with a verse that describes my state of affairs after listening to a complex work by Brahms 'sometimes':
La toile était levée et j'attendais encore
Which translates a bit awkwardly into something like : the curtain had risen and I was still waiting.
Music is subjective!

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#1230537 - 07/12/09 05:46 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: btb]
Damon Online   happy
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Originally Posted By: btb
With sincere respect Damon,

At 50 years of age (excuse a look at your profile)

That's why it's there. smile

Originally Posted By: btb
you’re more than ready for anno Domini insight into the Brahms legacy ... only with the years does the majesty of Brahms works filter through ... with 20 years on you, soaking up the marvels of Johannes B , I continue to be completely stopped in my tracks by the breathtaking 4 Symphonies ... but this morning on our local ClassicFm radio channel the host played the slow movement to the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto ... and so rightly mused "it is as if the world stood still".


Purely happenstance that I was listening to that very piece while reading this forum. I don't remember the last time I was so emotionally moved by a piece of music. How music that I considered "aimless meandering" yesterday caused me to cry today is beyond my ability to explain.
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#1230560 - 07/12/09 06:42 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
anne with numbers Offline
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Originally Posted By: jdhampton924
Though I did not have the same reaction to other German romantic composers when I started listening to them more. I can't get enough of the music of Mendellssohn and Schumann!

it is a mistake to call Brahms a romantic, as he belongs to the Classical school. this does not mean however that he was not imaginative.

and as we all know (or most of us), classicalism is an art that is (i) a formal discipline, (ii) model of excellence, supplemented by (iii) that which has to do with Greek or Latin antiquity; or as most people learn from basic music reference books, a form of art in which there is "control and balance"

the classical composers work on a purely musical basis, while the romanticists include some external non-musical factor as the emotional basis of their work

generally the mass believes any composer after Beethoven and before Wagner is "romantic". this is not true of course. the "progressives", or the majority of composers after Beethoven's death were all of the romantic persuasion, and this continued to be the case until Brahms appeared and returned to the apparently obsolete methods of Beethoven, producing "pure music"

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#1230566 - 07/12/09 06:47 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: anne with numbers]
Pathbreaker Offline
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Originally Posted By: anne with numbers

it is a mistake to call Brahms a romantic, as he belongs to the Classical school. this does not mean however that he was not imaginative.

and as we all know (or most of us), classicalism is an art that is (i) a formal discipline, (ii) model of excellence, supplemented by (iii) that which has to do with Greek or Latin antiquity; or as most people learn from basic music reference books, a form of art in which there is "control and balance"

the classical composers work on a purely musical basis, while the romanticists include some external non-musical factor as the emotional basis of their work

generally the mass believes any composer after Beethoven and before Wagner is "romantic". this is not true of course. the "progressives", or the majority of composers after Beethoven's death were all of the romantic persuasion, and this continued to be the case until Brahms appeared and returned to the apparently obsolete methods of Beethoven, producing "pure music"


I always thought Romantic/Classical etc. dealt with the time period mostly but I understand what you're getting at. For fun there is this link which I found today:

http://web.mit.edu/ckcheung/www/MusicalWritings_files/Brahms_NoteOnOp60_web_20041205.pdf

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#1230567 - 07/12/09 06:51 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: BruceD]
sotto voce Offline
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Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
I'm as perplexed by smugness as I am by lack of spontaneity, and equally uncertain how it is conveyed or revealed in music.

Steven

I am not sure why you should be perplexed by what others feel or hear in the music of Brahms, or, specifically by the "smugness" or "lack of spontaneity" that others have mentioned in his (piano) works. Are these not subjective reactions to his music, and do not many of us react differently to others to the same piece of music, the same work of literature, a given painting or sculpture? Little of what has been said so far has been totally objective - how objective can one be in talking about one's reactions to music - so it should be neither surprising nor perplexing that we all do not share the same reactions….

Bruce, I think that my perplexed state is prosaic: I simply don't understand how something like smugness is conveyed or revealed or perceived in music. I can stretch my imagination to include a whole laundry list of attributes that people might find in, or feel from, music, and smugness is beyond my ken.

So when I say I'm perplexed that someone finds smugness in music, that's my own subjective reaction to someone's subjective reaction. Obviously, people do react in a surprised and perplexed manner to something—however subjective we know it to be—that comes as a complete surprise.

Thanks for clarifying about spontaneity, although it still eludes me—again, my subjective reaction—how any non-improvised music could be anything other than non-spontaneous.

Perhaps it just attests to my own musical illiteracy and lack of sophistication that I would never in a million years characterize any classical music as smug or lacking in spontaneity. And just as there's nothing wrong with anyone holding that opinion, I can't see what's amiss with saying that I, personally and subjectively, find it unusual, surprising and perplexing.

Originally Posted By: BruceD
I don't quite get it.

The OP asked for opinions on the works of Brahms. Some people expressed their opinions and then others criticize them for voicing those opinions. Is this not an open forum for expressing opinions? Do all opinions have to agree, otherwise they are considered invalid?

Regards,

So why do I feel that my opinion is somehow invalid? Is this not an open forum for expressing opinions about opinions as well?

Steven
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—Albert Schweitzer

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

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#1230568 - 07/12/09 06:57 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: currawong]
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Quote by music critic Cecil Gray: "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."


I guess it depends on one's definition of a "great composer."

Certainly the same statement could be applied to other 19th century composers such as Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner, and (gasp) even Chopin. If any one of them had not lived, "the history of music would be the same in all essentials" - although we would have been deprived of amazing musical literature that has enriched our lives. They all built upon the legacies of Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
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#1230596 - 07/12/09 07:59 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: carey]
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I don't think the history of music would have been the same without Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner, or Chopin. Just because they may have built on the legacies of Bach, Beethoven etc. doesn't mean they didn't make major contributions to the history of Western music.

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#1230617 - 07/12/09 08:52 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: pianoloverus]
carey Online   content
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Per Anne with Numbers: "......and this continued to be the case until Brahms appeared and returned to the apparently obsolete methods of Beethoven, producing "pure music."

Anne - All of the great "romantic" composers produced their fair share of "pure" music which followed "classical" forms.
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#1230635 - 07/12/09 09:19 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: carey]
anne with numbers Offline
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what forms are you talking about? the "sonata allegro" form is not a classical form, if that's what you're implying

whether or not those composers composed pieces in the classical style, which is extremely rare, they all belong to the romantic school as they composed strictly following the style of that "school". a school that lacked the powers to organize their ideas through the means of a nice sense of proportion, but composed by an intense desire to make their music intelligible by connecting it with the outside world. in fact to make in some sense a "criticism of life"

possibly why people think Brahms is "smug" is that his music is too "formal", his music is not driven by "emotions" but by music itself

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#1230647 - 07/12/09 09:41 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: anne with numbers]
jdhampton924 Offline
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Originally Posted By: anne with numbers
Originally Posted By: jdhampton924
Though I did not have the same reaction to other German romantic composers when I started listening to them more. I can't get enough of the music of Mendellssohn and Schumann!

it is a mistake to call Brahms a romantic, as he belongs to the Classical school. this does not mean however that he was not imaginative.


By that line of thought, I would argue Mendelssohn is also from the classical school. I should clarify, when I refer to romantics, I am usually refering to a time period and not compositional style. I mean it would be a mistake to imply that he did not have imagination. Or that anyone from the classical school didn't. I mean we wouldn't say the same thing of Beethoven, Haydn or Mozart.

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#1230662 - 07/12/09 10:13 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: anne with numbers]
carey Online   content
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Per Anne with Numbers: "what forms are you talking about? the "sonata allegro" form is not a classical form, if that's what you're implying"

whether or not those composers composed pieces in the classical style, which is extremely rare, they all belong to the romantic school as they composed strictly following the style of that "school". a school that lacked the powers to organize their ideas through the means of a nice sense of proportion, but composed by an intense desire to make their music intelligible by connecting it with the outside world. in fact to make in some sense a "criticism of life"

possibly why people think Brahms is "smug" is that his music is too "formal", his music is not driven by "emotions" but by music itself
_____________________________________________________

I'm not sure I know how to respond to your broad generalizations - although I think I understand what you are trying to say. Just out of curiousity - why do you believe that the "sonata allegro" form was not a classical form?
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#1230665 - 07/12/09 10:21 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: jdhampton924]
anne with numbers Offline
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Originally Posted By: jdhampton924
By that line of thought, I would argue Mendelssohn is also from the classical school.


his first symphonies which were composed at a very young age were an attempt to copy the Viennese classical style, and are also amateur studies of the contrapuntal music found in Bach and Handel, but these pieces do not reflect his mature works were purely romantic, and vastly more significant.

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#1230667 - 07/12/09 10:25 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: anne with numbers]
anne with numbers Offline
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Quote:
Just out of curiousity - why do you believe that the "sonata allegro" form was not a classical form?

it was indeed developed during the Classical period, and developed through classical composers. However, romantic composers, and even contemporary composers today use this form, so I would not say it is a "classical form".

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#1230675 - 07/12/09 10:39 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: anne with numbers]
carey Online   content
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AWN - If Romantic composers sometimes used the sonata form, how can you state that everything they wrote was driven primarily by emotion? Also - which mature works by Mendelssohn, in your opinion, are purely romantic?? Earlier today I was listening to his piano trios (piano, violin and cello). They are wonderful examples of "pure" music.
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#1230679 - 07/12/09 10:52 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: carey]
gooddog Online   content
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Joining the discussion rather late: I've played some of his shorter pieces and the two Rhapsodies. I really enjoy playing and listening to Brahms but I really have to be "in the mood" for him. I'm especially fond of his first symphony and concerto (first, I think?, I don't remember), but I only listen to them about once a year because I find his music draining and heavy. I find his music to be complex and emotionally exhausting. Just my take...
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#1230680 - 07/12/09 10:53 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: anne with numbers]
Kreisler Offline



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Brahms was keenly interested in literature. He signed his early letters "Junges Kreisler" (The "young" Kreisler, as opposed to the elder - E.T.A. Hoffmann's character)

We forget that the majority of Brahms's output was vocal, and he had a great affinity for poetry and literature. I think Brahms is unfairly labeled a composer of "absolute" music. Just because he chose not to reveal the literary inspirations behind his works doesn't mean they're not there. There are at least five piano works with direct literary ties - the slow movements of the sonatas, the "Edward" Ballade of Op. 10, and the Eb Intermezzo (Op. 117#1)

That Brahms chose to cast his works in classical forms does not exclude the idea that his works were inspired by the Romantic notions of his day.

I think much of the debate over Brahms is the result of gross oversimplification by bad professors teaching bad music appreciation classes from bad textbooks. Brahms's work is often held up as a polar opposite of Liszt and the "New German School." But while there are a great many stylistic and formal differences, there are also a great many philosophical similarities. The broad philosophical and spiritual statements one finds in the symphonic poems and vocal/orchestral works of Liszt, Strauss, Bruckner and Mahler have their counterparts in the Alto Rhapsody, Nänie, the Schicksalslied, and German Requiem.
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#1230742 - 07/13/09 03:25 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Kreisler]
btb Offline
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fan must have had a bad day to have unloaded his bag of gloom ... with twittish comments on Brahms works as being:

dull and impotent with faded colours ...
whose mastery is only theoretical and whose humanity was self-serving ...
and then hiding behind the waggish humour of GB Shaw who supposedly wrote that Brahms was "the worst composer of his generation" ...

but then the playwright also said:

"Nothing soothes me more after a long and maddening course of pianoforte recitals than to sit and have my teeth drilled".

Any clown who reads smugness into the works of Brahms is in fact simply reflecting a vein of inferiority in their own upmarket makeup ... and needs to grow up.

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#1231023 - 07/13/09 04:17 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: argerichfan]
SantaFe_Player Offline
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I love Brahms although am still of the opinion that Chopin and Beethoven are #1
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#1231130 - 07/13/09 08:48 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
rrb Offline
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Originally Posted By: Andromaque
he is like a gorgeous sophisticated creature or painting that does not speak my language ...

At the risk of being picky, I think Johannes shuffled off this mortal coil a while back and so would not be in a position to know what your language is. However, you know what his is, or you could know. So maybe one could invert your remark as, for example, 'he is like a gorgeous creature whose language I have not yet learned?' Or if you are quite convinced, you could write 'whose language I will never be able to speak', or 'whose language I do not wish to speak'.

Any of the above is fine. The original could possibly suggest whichever word you'd like to choose as the opposite of humility.
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#1231160 - 07/13/09 09:51 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: rrb]
Andromaque Offline
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rrb
You made me smile. That is a mighty awkwardly crafted paragraph.. You could have stated it simply: you think I am being arrogant or worse, ignorant, for not loving Brahms.
That will nonetheless not change the fact that many people, more and less learned than I am, do not list Brahms as their favorite composer. My opinion reflects by definition my personal relationship to his music (and only some of it as stated throughout the thread), and not an absolute assessment of its worthiness. One would think that would have been obvious to someone as enlightened as you are.

Incidentally, I was browsing through an older issue of Gramophone today and within a few pages, I read two references to Brahms, one describing his muisc as "granitic and indigestible", and the other, by none other than Martha Argerich herself, saying that she never liked Brahms and did not record him. Just another reminder that I , and a few other PWites, are not the only ones wallowing in ignorance apparently..




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#1231163 - 07/13/09 10:00 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: rrb]
beet31425 Online   content
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One record Brahms holds in my personal book: The first movement of the second piano concerto has the most wonderful transition from development section to recapitulation.

(Runners-up are the first movement of the Schubert Bb sonata and the first movement of Mahler's 2nd symphony.)

In college I had a friend who used that graceful, profound moment from the Brahms as his answering machine message. With the beep perfectly timed to the reemergence of the main theme. So you always felt a little flushed, like you had just almost witnessed a divine revelation, whenever you called to leave a message about dinner or something.
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#1231164 - 07/13/09 10:00 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: rrb]
carey Online   content
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Per Kreisler - "I think much of the debate over Brahms is the result of gross oversimplification by bad professors teaching bad music appreciation classes from bad textbooks."


Kreisler - Excellent observation !!


Edited by carey (07/13/09 11:03 PM)
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#1231165 - 07/13/09 10:01 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Originally Posted By: Andromaque
Incidentally, I was browsing through an older issue of Gramophone today and within a few pages, I read two references to Brahms, one describing his muisc as "granitic and indigestible", and the other, by none other than Martha Argerich herself, saying that she never liked Brahms and did not record him.

Huh. That must've been from sometime back, since Argerich has recorded the First Piano Quartet, the Haydn Variations and the Sonata for two pianos.
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#1231168 - 07/13/09 10:06 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Janus K. Sachs]
Andromaque Offline
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Funy Sachs. you beat me to it. I was actually looking it up because I thought I remembered listening to her Haydn variations (for 2 pianos) at last year's Lugano festival, although that was live. . Do you know the dates of the recordings. I wonder if some of what she said was "mistranslated", or I misread it. i do not have the issue with me to quote her accurately.
It was an interview with Kovacevich.


Edited by Andromaque (07/13/09 10:21 PM)

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#1231175 - 07/13/09 10:19 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
piqué Offline
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Quote:
I don't have sufficient verbal skills to put that thought into more precise language; it's a feeling, a reaction to Brahms' music that I can't articulate. There's a certain gravitas, a seriousness, a complexity and a formality of structure that all perhaps stem, in part, from the relatively thick texture of his writing ... Rather than adding more of what his music does not have, perhaps I could add that his music strikes me has having a strong "introspective" character.


actually you articulated this very well. and what you describe is part of what i love about brahms.

i'm a huge brahms fan and have been ever since i was a child. i have never developed a taste for wagner or liszt, and think of them as lacking subtlety and greatly overblown. i like mahler even less.

brahms is incredibly difficult to play well. perhaps that is why he is so controversial with musicians. he is difficult to understand, musically, incredibly complex, with rich ideas that are not immediately apparent from reading the score.

when someone performing brahms does not really understand brahms, you get bad brahms. very few musicians really seem to understand brahms, judging from most of the live performances i have heard. maybe that is why brahms gets a bad rap. you just haven't heard the right performances.

the fact that i can't play brahms well, however, has never stopped me from totally adoring his work. he was my favorite composer when i was growing up, and is still one of my favorites, alongside bach, mozart, and schubert (to give you an idea of the general tenor of my tastes).

i only got to liking chopin after i took up the piano. he is less interesting to listen to than to play. perhaps with brahms it is the reverse, unless you are a very gifted musician.

the OP asked for some of our favorite brahms works and performances.

my absolutely most favorite performance of the first symphony is an old deutsche grammophon recording with karl bohm conducting the berlin philharmonic. he takes this magisterial work at just the right pace, whereas most of the recordings i've heard are much too plodding.

the clarinet/viola sonatas are incredible. almost modern in their forms.

the piano quintet--there's a great recording with arthur rubinstein and the guaneri quartet--plenty of spontaneity and passion for you, guaranteed.

of course i love the piano works, especially the intermezzos. radu lupu is a great brahms interpreter for these.

richter playing the second piano concerto.

the second symphony is an especial favorite. i find his symphonic works filled with so much love, and i definitely hear the echoes of the alps in them. brahms was a great nature lover.

all his chamber music works, for that matter, i recommend.

you have to remember that everything he wrote was a symphony. even the solo works are very symphonic in their layerings.

of his vocal works, i especially love the "alto rhapsody" and i recommend the old ace of clubs recording with the british singer kathleen ferrier.

so, yes, you have a brahms fan here.
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now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#1231176 - 07/13/09 10:19 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Originally Posted By: Andromaque
Funy Sachs. you beat me to it. I was actually looking it up because I thought I remembered listening to her Haydn variations (for 2 pianos) at last year's Lugano festival, although that was live. . Do you know the dates of the recordings. I wonder if some of what she said was "mistranslated". It was an interview with Kovacevich.

Let's see -- her recording of the Sonata, the Waltzes, and the Haydn Variations with Rabinovitch on Teldec dates from 1994. She recorded the Sonata again (with Zilberstein), which was released on EMI in 2003. The recording of the First Piano Quartet (DG) was released in 2004.

Oh, and apparently Argerich forgot that one of her first recordings (her "debut" recital on DG, which dates from the 60s if memory serves) includes the Op. 79 Rhapsodies.
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Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#1231191 - 07/13/09 11:18 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Janus K. Sachs]
Andromaque Offline
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I found the interview online and I admit I read it too fast. While the conversation started about her and Kovacevich's discographies, she did not exactly say that she did not record Brahms, (duh.. I should have known I guess and probably should not have posted about it so quickly)..Apologies!
..
Excerpts from the Gramophone interview :

The pair discuss their discographies and the fact that there are hardly any overlaps in repertoire - almost as though Kovacevich has done one part and Argerich the other. What they wonder, determines these chokes of what you play and what you don't? Character? Temperament?
5K Who knows?
MA I think it's temperament. I think l have a youthful temperament. Not in life, but when I play. I think so
JN So you choose repertoire that reflects that? I mean, Brahms isn't going to do it for you.
MA No, he doesn't.
5K Brahms is your weak spot. For me, it's Haydn.
MA I like Haydn! Very much.
SKlknow.
M A Haydn is wonderful - he's very youthful and humorous. In life I am not as humorous, for instance, as you Stephen. You have an extraordinary sense of humour. But in music I like humour. This I got from [Friedrich] Gulda. "


Edited by Andromaque (07/13/09 11:18 PM)

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#1231220 - 07/14/09 12:39 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: btb]
argerichfan Offline
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Originally Posted By: btb
fan must have had a bad day to have unloaded his bag of gloom ... with twittish comments on Brahms works as being:

dull and impotent with faded colours ...
whose mastery is only theoretical and whose humanity was self-serving ...
and then hiding behind the waggish humour of GB Shaw who supposedly wrote that Brahms was "the worst composer of his generation" ...

Any clown who reads smugness into the works of Brahms is in fact simply reflecting a vein of inferiority in their own upmarket makeup ... and needs to grow up.

Now, now, btb, my good mate, a lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge.

Recently posted here was a wonderful YouTube of Hough playing the D minor concerto, and perhaps that reignited my love.

Unlike, say, Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner or Elgar (just a few examples), there are some moments wherein Brahms doesn't 'work' for me, and that happened the other night wherein I found the Brahms 2nd symphony more than a bit exasperating. Somehow it wasn't working for me: the whole musical argument seemed contrived and lame, the orchestration faded, the self-conscious pretension of profundity.

It is possible for some of us to go through love and hate relationships with the great composers, and I think this is a natural and healthy thing. I have never presented myself on this board as some completely self-evolved master. I have my issues, I have my loves and enthusiasms, I have my blind spots. I am a mortal, and for that I apologize. (I am also young and stupid.)

That said, down through the years there has been some very potent and cogent criticism of Brahms. In some sense he remains as controversial as Liszt, but of course I've never had any issues with Liszt.

A very good friend of mine (pianist, singer, conductor- an infinitely greater musician than I, and much older) frankly HATES Brahms with the exception of the concertos and the requiem. He is not a stupid man, he is probably as fine a musician as most on this board. Life really isn't very simple... I am not about to tell him he is a fool. (I wish I had a fraction of the knowledge of the Wagner operas he has... smokin )
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#1231230 - 07/14/09 01:18 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: argerichfan]
beet31425 Online   content
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Here are two more interesting quotations, in the name of "it takes all kinds." Certainly musically intelligent people hold a variety of strong opinions.

Quote:
I have gone through all Brahms by now. All I can say of him is that he's a puny little dwarf with a rather narrow chest... You will be astonished when I tell you where I get more completely bogged down than anywhere else-- in his so-called "developments." It is very seldom he can make anything whatever of his themes, beautiful as they often are.

-Gustav Mahler, letter to Alma, 1904



Quote:
It is the purpose of this essay to prove that Brahms, the classicist, the academician, was a great innovator in the realm of musical language; that, in fact, he was a great progressive....

It is important to realize that at a time when all believed in "expression," Brahms, without renouncing beauty and emotion, proved to be a progressive in a field which had not been cultivated for half a century... He did not live on inherited fortune; he made one of his own.

-Schoenberg, from Style and Idea, 1950



(By the way, I'm getting these quotes from a wonderful book called The Composer as Listener, 300 pages of composers writing about other composers' works and styles. Fascinating stuff. Out of print I'm sure, but available for free here .)
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#1231262 - 07/14/09 02:42 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: beet31425]
Ferdinand Offline
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Originally Posted By: beet31425
One record Brahms holds in my personal book: The first movement of the second piano concerto has the most wonderful transition from development section to recapitulation.

Seconded.

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#1231268 - 07/14/09 02:48 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Ferdinand]
currawong Offline
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And one of the most beautiful slow movements there is - that of the F major cello sonata.
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#1231301 - 07/14/09 08:15 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: currawong]
Andromaque Offline
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You know it is quite interesting to note the heat and acrimony that some dislike of Brahms music has generated here. If you look at the Schumann thread, quite a few people stated unqualifyingly that they dislike his music, yet very little emotional turmoil has resulted. And Schumann is not exacly a minor player.

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#1231316 - 07/14/09 08:49 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
sotto voce Offline
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Andromaque, you are right (and the same thought had occurred to me). But, to be fair, no one who didn't like Schumann ascribed the kinds of traits to his music that have been attributed to Brahms here (unless you count the poster who thinks Schumann's piano concerto sounds like a whiny, ill-bred child; I can't really take that seriously).

Steven
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#1231596 - 07/14/09 06:18 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
rrb Offline
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Originally Posted By: Andromaque
That is a mighty awkwardly crafted paragraph.. You could have stated it simply: you think I am being arrogant or worse, ignorant, for not loving Brahms.

I accept using convoluted English, but to make a point different from what your 'simplified statement' implies.

I would never consider anyone arrogant merely because they are not enthusiastic about Brahms, or Beethoven or classical music in general.

My convoluted paragraph was intended to point out the difference between two modes of expression:
a) 'Brahms does not speak my language.'
b) 'I don't connect with Brahms' music.'

In essence a) and b) express the same thing. But in a) 'I' has pride of place. In b) it doesn't.

If you still don't see the point, try replacing 'Brahms' with 'Chekhov', and 'music' with 'plays'. Or pick any well-known and widely respected composer, writer, painter who you do not particularly like.
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#1231665 - 07/14/09 09:00 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Swordfish]
Damon Online   happy
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Originally Posted By: Swordfish
His fourth symphony is one of the most recognizable ever written. The Hungarian Dance No. 5 too.


I was never too fond of orchestral works, but I went on Itunes to hear how recognizable his fourth would be to me. Imagine my suprise when I recognized the snippet from the 3rd movement only because the progressive rock band "Yes" had recorded a synthesizer version of it.

I'm tossing a coin now over downloading this.
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#1231722 - 07/14/09 10:54 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
Andromaque Offline
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rrb
Let us get over it.. You ought not draw conclusions about pride from a posting on a forum, lest you be prejudiced.. smile

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#1231743 - 07/15/09 12:01 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13763
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I thought I'd point out another rather interesting article on the subject:

http://www.jstor.org/pss/962911

In the article, Musgrave presents Brahms as a "postmodern" composer. Most definitions of postmodern include the idea of an artist looking to the past as a way to move forward. Brahms, in using classical formal principles, offers an answer to "what comes next" after the Romantic ideal of Schumann.

It's an interesting article, and one that deserves consideration, especially by those who believe that innovation is the only means of moving forward. (For many, it is not.)
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#1231748 - 07/15/09 12:10 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Andromaque]
argerichfan Offline
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Originally Posted By: Andromaque

Let us get over it.. You ought not draw conclusions about pride from a posting on a forum, lest you be prejudiced.. smile

Well you got off easier than I did, though I tried to explain (save face?) in a previous post. I was just attempting to be honest in saying that Brahms simply doesn't always catch in my personal filter trap... maybe it depends on the mood at the time, I don't know. If my choice of words in describing that feeling produced some 'flash points', well I apologize.

As other forum members may know, I have even more problems with Mahler, though that situation is generally driven by a distrust of a composer who is so frequently worshiped with an uncritical, hot house, messianic fervor.

Re the Schumann thread, I had nothing but praise for the piano works. I have loved several of them since I was a boy... as with the Brahms piano concertos. But moving on to the (Schumann) symphonies, it's a different kettle. The melodic material is always first rate (particularly in the 2nd & 3rd), but the orchestration so often comes off as unadventurous, dull and unbalanced. IMO of course.

I've read several essays devoutly defending Schumann's orchestration, usually tying it to his 'state of mind' and such, but it all seems merely self-evident.
_________________________
Jason

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#1232140 - 07/15/09 06:30 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: argerichfan]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
Hey Argerichfan, we nearly got sent to the doghouse over this one.. I , sheepishly admit not being a huge fan of Mahler either, but we are inundated with Mahler symphonies here in NYC, what with Maazel regularly cycling through them and now the new director of the NY Philharmonic, Gilbert, planning to open the season with Mahler's Third!
Re: Schumann, he was a very bad conductor. If I recall my readings correctly, he got fired as a conductor even as he was leading his own works (was it from the Geawandhaus or was he already in Dresden? I am not sure). Perhaps the 2 skills, orchestration and conducting, are somewhat related.


Edited by Andromaque (07/15/09 06:33 PM)

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#1232157 - 07/15/09 07:14 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Kreisler]
Damon Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6072
Loc: St. Louis area
Do any Brahms players here on the forums have any recommendations
for editors? I have Sauer's version of the op. 39 and 35 and he isn't very
helpful. I have a comfortable fingerspan of just under a 10th and am interested
in the Sonatas.
_________________________
It's been scientifically proven that Horowitz sucks.

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#1232189 - 07/15/09 08:11 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Rafael Joseffy is my favorite editor for Chopin, specifically on the strength of his fingering suggestions. I never knew until recently that he edited at least some of Brahms's piano music, too. The only source I know is IMSLP, and the selection is limited (so far as I am aware) to the Ballades Op. 10, Rhapsodies Op. 79 and Sonata Op. 5.

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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#1234059 - 07/20/09 12:26 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: sotto voce]
Damon Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6072
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
Rafael Joseffy is my favorite editor for Chopin, specifically on the strength of his fingering suggestions. I never knew until recently that he edited at least some of Brahms's piano music, too. The only source I know is IMSLP, and the selection is limited (so far as I am aware) to the Ballades Op. 10, Rhapsodies Op. 79 and Sonata Op. 5.

Steven


Between there and free-scores.com, I found pretty much all in the way of actual material. The editions all have fairly sparse fingering help. That may end up being a good thing after all. I'm usually in the habit of changing fingerings but this Brahms has an awkward feel to it.
_________________________
It's been scientifically proven that Horowitz sucks.

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#1234069 - 07/20/09 12:44 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21287
Loc: Oakland
The best edition I have seen of Brahms' piano music is Schirmer's Mandyczewski. There are other publishers who have reprinted the original Breitkopf, but Schirmer reengraved the errors out of it. Accuracy is not much of a problem with Brahms, who was very careful with the works he published, so there is no great difference between the text of different editions. The Henle is uncharacteristically poorly engraved, making it hard to read sometimes.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#1234071 - 07/20/09 12:47 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Originally Posted By: Damon
[...] [T]his Brahms has an awkward feel to it.

And that, to me, is the rub though those who play Brahms fluently would challenge that assertion.

You may be interested in a discussion I initiated last year concerning this subject:

"Pianistic" writing: is it all in the hands of the beholder?

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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#1234541 - 07/20/09 10:59 PM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: BDB]
Damon Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6072
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: BDB
The best edition I have seen of Brahms' piano music is Schirmer's Mandyczewski. There are other publishers who have reprinted the original Breitkopf, but Schirmer reengraved the errors out of it. Accuracy is not much of a problem with Brahms, who was very careful with the works he published, so there is no great difference between the text of different editions. The Henle is uncharacteristically poorly engraved, making it hard to read sometimes.

I see those editions are available on Amazon. Am I right to assume these are in the larger than 8 1/2 x 11 paper size as are my other Schirmers' editions? I've printed some scores from the web but am tired of squinting at them. (getting old has it's drawbacks frown )

A peek inside the editions (a page each of the 3 volumes) show no fingerings at all. Do you know if that is the rule in these? (Not necessarily a deal killer at this point)
_________________________
It's been scientifically proven that Horowitz sucks.

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#1234630 - 07/21/09 02:48 AM Re: Do we have any Brahms fans here? [Re: Damon]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21287
Loc: Oakland
It is the Schirmer Library format, the same size as their other publications in that series.

There is a little fingering. I think what there is comes from Brahms. I think you can work out the principles of fingering from the 51 exercises and what Brahms said about his piano music: It is not difficult if you take the time to play it intelligently.

Actually, I keep my Schirmer's for reference, and write in the corrections and my fingerings in my copy of the Dover, which is my copy for messing up. The notes explaining the errata are printed in the Schirmers, which makes it easy to find where to make the corrections for the Dover.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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