Johannes Brahms

Biography

Born: 1833   Died: 1897   Country: Germany   Period: Romantic
The stature of Johannes Brahms among classical composers is well illustrated by his inclusion among the "Three Bs" triumvirate of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Of all the major composers of the late Romantic era, Brahms was the one most attached to the Classical ideal as manifested in the music of Haydn, Mozart, and especially Beethoven; indeed, Hans von Bülow once characterized Brahms' Symphony No. 1 (1855-1876) as "Beethoven's Tenth." As a Read more youth, Brahms was championed by Robert Schumann as music's greatest hope for the future; as a mature composer, Brahms became for conservative musical journalists the most potent symbol of musical tradition, a stalwart against the "degeneration" represented by the music of Wagner and his school. Brahms' symphonies, choral and vocal works, chamber music, and piano pieces are imbued with strong emotional feeling, yet take shape according to a thoroughly considered structural plan.

The son of a double bassist in the Hamburg Philharmonic Society, Brahms demonstrated great promise from the beginning. He began his musical career as a pianist, contributing to the family coffers as a teenager by playing in restaurants, taverns, and even brothels. Though by his early twenties he enjoyed associations with luminaries like violinists Eduard Reményi and Joseph Joachim, the friend and mentor who was most instrumental in advancing his career was Schumann, who all but adopted him and became his most ardent partisan, and their esteem was mutual. Following Schumann's death in 1856, Brahms became the closest confidant and lifelong friend of the composer's widow, pianist and composer Clara Wieck Schumann. After a life of spectacular musical triumphs and failed loves (the composer was involved in several romantic entanglements but never wed), Brahms died of liver cancer on April 3, 1897.

In every genre in which he composed, Brahms produced works that have become staples of the repertory. His most ambitious work, the German Requiem (1863-1867), is the composer's singular reinterpretation of an age-old form. The four symphonies -- lushly scored, grand in scope, and deeply expressive -- are cornerstones of the symphonic literature. Brahms' concertos are, similarly, in a monumental, quasi-symphonic vein: the two piano concertos (1856-1859 and 1881) and the Violin Concerto (1878) call for soloists with both considerable technical skill and stamina. His chamber music is among the most sophisticated and exquisitely crafted of the Romantic era; for but a single example, his works that incorporate the clarinet (e.g., the Trio in A minor, Op. 114 and the two Sonatas, Op. 120), an instrument largely overlooked by his contemporaries, remain unsurpassed. Though the piano sonata never held for Brahms the same appeal it had for Beethoven (Brahms wrote three to Beethoven's 32), he produced a voluminous body of music for the piano. He showed a particular affinity for variations -- notably, on themes of Schumann (1854), Handel (1861), and Paganini (1862-1863) -- and likewise produced a passel of national dances and character pieces such as ballades, intermezzi, and rhapsodies. Collectively, these constitute one of the essential bodies of work in the realm of nineteenth century keyboard music. Read less
Brahms: Piano Concertos / Barenboim, Dudamel
Release Date: 08/07/2015   Label: Deutsche Grammophon  
Catalog: 002353102   Number of Discs: 2
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Mozart, Brahms: Clarinet Quintets / Anthony McGill, Pacifica Quartet
Release Date: 05/27/2014   Label: Cedille Records  
Catalog: 147   Number of Discs: 1
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Brahms: Piano Quartet Op 25, Orchestrated by Schoenberg / Albrecht
Release Date: 08/14/2015   Label: Pentatone  
Catalog: 5186398   Number of Discs: 1
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Brahms, Joachim: Concertos / Rachel Barton Pine
Release Date: 05/27/2003   Label: Cedille Records  
Catalog: 68   Number of Discs: 2
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Brahms: Violin Concerto, Etc / Swensen, Scottish Chamber Orchesta
Release Date: 02/25/2014   Label: Linn Records  
Catalog: 224   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Variations on a theme by Haydn

 

Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Variation VIII: Presto non troppo
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Finale: Andante
About This Work
In Brahms' earliest sets of variations, especially those of Op. 9, the melody is of primary importance. His later studies of Beethoven, however, led to a new variation approach, in which he adhered instead to a theme's basic phrase structure and Read more harmonic pattern. As with the Händel Variations, Op. 24, the eight Variations on a Theme of Haydn, Op. 56a, are bound by a consistent harmonic motion; at times, this is the only perceptible remnant of the original theme. Since its first performance in Vienna, on November 2, 1873, this has been among Brahms' most popular compositions -- a sprawling masterwork based on the simplest of thematic germs, very much in the tradition of Bach's Goldberg Variations and Beethoven's Diabelli Variations.

Brahms composed both the orchestral and two-piano versions of the Variations on a Theme of Haydn in the summer of 1873, while at the Starnberger See near Munich; during the same months, he completed the String Quartets, Op. 51. The piano variations, Op. 56b, were published first, in 1873 by Simrock in Berlin; the orchestral setting in 1874, also by Simrock.

Commonly referred to as the "St. Anthony" variations, the piece is based on a theme from the first of a set of six Divertimenti (Feldparthien) -- for many years thought to be by Haydn, but now thought to be by Haydn's pupil, Ignace Pleyel -- the second movement of which is based on an old Burgenland (an Austrian state that abuts Hungary) chant entitled, "Chorale St. Anthony."

Brahms shatters the stately atmosphere of the theme with a pulsating horn passage in the first variation, in which the melodic aspect of the theme has all but disappeared. A great outburst from the strings accents the second variation, while the third returns to the character of the theme, if not the original rhythm and pitches. A climbing woodwind tune traces the general shape of the theme in the quiet fourth variation, while the fifth takes off at lightning speed, emphasizing the falling intervals in the original theme. Brass and winds initiate the martial sixth variation, in which the theme is easily recognized. The seventh variation has some of the character of a Strauss waltz, while slithering contrapuntal lines noodle their way through the eighth. The work closes with a passacaglia in which the theme, gently articulated at first by the woodwinds at the opening, returns with the force of the full orchestra. The repeated, five-measure bass line of the passacaglia is derived from the main theme; because the bass line provides the variation material in this last segment, what we have are variations on a variation of the original theme.

-- John Palmer, All Music Guide Read less

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Ensembles

Johannes Brahms


WORKS
Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op.68 (1999 - Remaster): I. Un poco sostenuto - Allegro
Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op.68 (1999 - Remaster): II. Andante sostenuto
Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op.68 (1999 - Remaster): III. Un poco allegretto e grazioso
Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op.68 (1999 - Remaster): IV. Adagio - Piů andante - Allegro non troppo ma con brio
Brahms: Symphony No.2 In D, Op.73 - 1. Allegro non troppo
Brahms: Symphony No.2 In D, Op.73 - 2. Adagio non troppo - L'istesso tempo, ma grazioso
Brahms: Symphony No.2 In D, Op.73 - 3. Allegretto grazioso ( Quasi andantino) - Presto ma non assai
Brahms: Symphony No.2 In D, Op.73 - 4. Allegro con spirito
Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90: I. Allegro con brio
II. Andante
III. Poco Allegretto
IV. Allegro
1. Allegro non troppo
2. Andante moderato
3. Allegro giocoso - Poco meno presto - Tempo I
4. Allegro energico e passionato - Piů allegro
I. Maestoso
II. Adagio
III. Rondo - Allegro non troppo
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-Flat, Op. 83: Allegro non troppo
Allegro appassionato
Andante
Allegretto grazioso
Allegro non troppo
Adagio
Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace
Double Concerto for Violin & Cello in A Minor, Op.102 (1997 - Remaster): I. Allegro
Double Concerto for Violin & Cello in A Minor, Op.102 (1997 - Remaster): II. Andante
Double Concerto for Violin & Cello in A Minor, Op.102 (1997 - Remaster): III. Vivace non troppo
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Variation VIII: Presto non troppo
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Finale: Andante
Hungarian Dance No.1 in G Minor, WoO 1
Hungarian Dance No.2 in D minor - Orchestrated by Iván Fischer
Hungarian Dance No.3 in F - Orchestrated by Brahms
Hungarian Dance No.4 in F sharp minor - Orchestrated by Iván Fischer
Hungarian Dance No.5 in G minor - Orchestrated by Iván Fischer
Hungarian Dance No.6 in D flat - Orchestrated by Albert Parlow
Hungarian Dance No.7 in F Hungarian Dance No. 7 in A - Orchestrated by Iván Fischer
Hungarian Dance No.8 in A minor - Orchestrated by R. Schollum
Hungarian Dance No.9 in E minor - Orchestrated by R. Schollum
Hungarian Dance No.10 in F - Orchestrated by Brahms
Hungarian Dance No.11 in D minor - Orchestrated by Iván Fischer
Hungarian Dance No.12 in D minor - Orchestrated by Iván Fischer
Hungarian Dance No.13 in D - Orchestrated by Iván Fischer
Hungarian Dance No.14 in D minor - Orchestrated by Iván Fischer
Hungarian Dance No.15 in B flat - Orchestrated by Frigyes Hidas
Hungarian Dance No.16 in F minor - Orchestrated by Albert Parlow
Hungarian Dance No.17 in F sharp minor - Orchestrated by Frigyes Hidas
Hungarian Dance No.18 in D - Orchestrated by Frigyes Hidas
Hungarian Dance No.19 in B minor - Orchestrated by Antonín Dvorák
Hungarian Dance No.20 in E minor - Orchestrated by Antonín Dvorák
Hungarian Dance No.21 in E minor - Orchestrated by Antonín Dvorák
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (1997 Digital Remaster): Ziemlich langsam - Selig sind, die da Leid tragen
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (1997 Digital Remaster): Langsam, marschmäßig - Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (1997 Digital Remaster): Andante moderato - Herr, lehre doch mich
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (1997 Digital Remaster): Mäßig bewegt - Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (1997 Digital Remaster): Langsam - Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (1997 Digital Remaster): Andante - Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (1997 Digital Remaster): Feierlich - Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herren sterben


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