Composer: Johannes Brahms (b. 1833 - d. 1897)
Performance date: 01/07/2010
Venue: Bantry Library
Composition Year: 1893
Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Philippe Cassard -
Brahms’ late piano pieces are amongst the most personal piano
music ever written, something written for himself and a few close friends such
as Clara Schumann, who was the first to see them in manuscript. A late night
concert probably creates the ideal ambience of shared intimacy for listening to
these miraculous miniatures.
The ravishing B minor Adagio that
opens the set was a particular favourite of Clara’s, who described its elusive
nature to Brahms as like a
grey pearl – do you know them? – they look as if they were veiled and are very
precious. The dreamlike
melody is built upon a descending chain of thirds, there is a slightly
contrasting central section. The second Intermezzo sees the gradual
transformation of the the agitated opening melody through a process of
developing variation into a gracious song that makes up the central section
before the earlier agitation returns. The tiny third Intermezzo has deft
touches of humour before capriciously dissolving itself.
The final Rhapsody is a Brahms we know
well from his virile younger self – he himself described it as rough, crude, brutal. It is based on three thematic ideas
structured ABCBA(Coda) opening with a muscular pounding affair that develops
into a powerful subsidiary bell-like passage. The central section is a
deliciously contrasted grazioso with tripping grace notes. The
second half sees Brahms teasingly delay the re-appearance of the main theme and
when it does triumphantly stride back in he almost immediately takes it apart
again before he brings his last work for solo piano to an abrupt close.
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