Concert of December 17, 2015

Curiosities

 

A fruitful summer

In the summer of 1886 Brahms had a creative explosion. Indeed he wrote the Sonata for cello and piano, op. 99, the Sonata for violin and piano, op. 100, the Trio for violin, cello and piano, op. 101 and the Lieder op. 105, 106 and 107.A fruitful summer

 

Did you know…

Brahms wrote a sonata for violin and piano six handed. It is called the F.A.E. Sonata, composed in 1853 together with Robert Schumann and Albert Dietrich, dedicated to the famous violinist and friend, Joseph Joachim. It seems that it was Schumann, in a moment of joy, to propose this original sonata for Joachim who would have had to guess the composer of each movement. Brahms wrote the Scherzo, Dietrich the opening Allegro, Schumann the Intermezzo and the Finale.

 

 

Self criticism

Brahms wrote three Sonatas for violin and piano (op. 78, op. 100, op. 108) in his full artistic maturity. Indeed, it seems that he had written others, that he himself had  discarded because he was not satisfied with their form. All Brahms production was a "victim" of his harsh self-criticism. A couple of examples? Here's what he wrote to Clara Schumann about the Trio op. 8, revised after 35 years from the first draft: «I have rewritten my B major Trio and can now call it op. 108 instead of op. 8. It will not be so wild as it was before - but whether it will be better…?». Famous is also his response to Schumann's article: "Illustrious Master. You made ​​me infinitely happy, so much so that I cannot even find words to thank you. (...) The praise that you bestowed publicly on me has probably dramatically increased public expectations towards my work, so that to some extent I do not know how I can do it justice. I think not to publish some of my Trios (...)"

 

From Schuman for Brahms

In the famous article New Paths Robert Schumann, in 1853, launched Brahms with these words: " and he is come: a young man over whose cradle Graces and Heroes have stood watch. His name is JOAHANNES BRAHMS (…)  Even outwardly he bears all those signs that proclaim: here is one of the elect! Sitting at the piano, he begins to reveal wonderful regions: we are drawn more and more into charmed circles. Add to this a technique of absolute genius, which turns the piano into an orchestra of sometimes wailing sometimes exultant voices. (…) If he lowers his magic wand where the power of the choir and orchestral masses are able to grant their forces to him, we may expect to discover even more beautiful landscapes in the secrets of the spirit world. (…)

 

An enigmatic character

Brahms has left an aura of mystery around his personality. The surgeon and music critic Theodor Billroth, a great friend of Brahms, described him using these words: "Brahms remains an enigma to me, full of question marks I do not get to solve. I am unable to discover the connecting point between his deep seriousness, his great tenderness and the rudeness of his behaviour in the most serious society. (…) It is difficult to always love him!”

 

The Brahms crater

On the surface of Mercury there is Brahms Crater, named by the International Astronomical Union, in honour of the famous German composer. To keep him company, on the same planet, there are his "colleagues": Bartok Crater and Verdi Crater.

 

Thuner-sonate

Brahms wrote the Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 100 in the summer of 1886, spent on the shores of Lake Thun, in Switzerland. Thuner-Sonate: this is how his friend Joseph Viktor Widmann, critic and poet, called it to emphasize the perfect identification between music and scenery. Widmann himself dedicated to the sonata, a ballad that Brahms strongly appreciated.

Dort, wo die Aere sanft dem See entgleitet
Zur kleinen Stadt hinab, die ie bespült
Und schatten mancher gute baum verbreitet,
Hatt’ich mich tief ins hohe Gras gewühlt,
Und schlief und traümt’ am hellen Sommertag
So köstlich, wie ich kaum es künden mag…

There, where the Aare exits the lake and flows gently towards the small town, wetting it,
and the trees stretch beneficial shadows,
there I immersed myself in the tall grass,
and I slept and dreamed in the clear summer day
so nicely that I can barely tell

 

Aimez-vous Brahms?

Aimez-vous Brahms? is the title of the novel by Françoise Sagan (published in 1959 and which was made into the eponymous film by Anatole Litvak in 1961 with Ingrid Bergman, Yves Montand and Anthony Perkins), one of the many artists struck by Brahms' musical genius and personality. In the cinema sector alone, there are over 300 films that make use of his unforgettable melodies. If you are curious, check the IMDb (Internet Movie Database

 

Brahms' notebooks

Brahms loved to write down in linen covered notebooks the phrases of his readings that struck him most. On the cover of one of these notebooks he wrote The little treasure chest of the young Kreisler, alluding to the character created by Hoffmann with whom Brahms had identified in his youth. In 1909 the musicologist Krebs published these notes and later Artemio Focher made an Italian edition that contains quotes by Jean Paul, Novalis, Goethe, Schiller, Dante, Shakespeare and others, useful to plunge into Brahms enigmatic personality. Here are some notes:

It's just the music, this mocker of our desires, that should not be there! Is it at its call, probably, that the fibres of my heart start flowing in all directions, extending like many octopus tentacles, poignant, trembling with longing, eager to embrace, who? What? ... Something not seen, existing in other worlds. (Jean Paul)

Touch not the lute, when the drums are sounding around! When fools have the word, the wise will be silent. (Herder)

 

By Antonio Pappano and Giovanni Bietti

Watch the listening guide for the concert of December 17 (in Italian)

Browse the libretto

Brahms in Rome

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