Piano Quintet in F minor Op.34

Composer: Johannes Brahms (b. 1833 - d. 1897)
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Composer: Johannes Brahms (b. 1833 - d. 1897)

Performance date: 06/07/2018

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1833 - 1897

Duration: 00:41:44

Recording Engineer: Tom Norton, RTÉ

Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Quatuor Danel (Marc Danel, Gilles Millet [violins], Vlad Bogdanas [viola], Guy Danel [cello]) - [quartet]

I am leaving on Monday for Vienna! I’m looking
forward to it like a child.  Of course I
don’t know how long I shall stay… The C minor Symphony is not ready; on the
other hand a string quintet (2 cellos) in F minor is finished.  I should like to send it to you and know what
you have to say about it.
This letter from Brahms to his friend Dietrich in
1862 on the eve of his departure to Vienna is the first inkling we have of this
early version of the piano quintet.


During this
first visit to Vienna, Brahms not only helped to copy parts of Die Meistersinger for three concert
performances given by its composer, but he also spent many hours studying
Schubert’s manuscripts. These were so unknown and so untouched that Brahms was
able to preserve the writing sand from them in a little box he kept
specifically for that purpose.  When
Brahms returned to Vienna the next year as conductor of the Singakademie, he
had been persuaded by the violinist Joachim to rewrite the Quintet as a two
piano Sonata which he premiered with pianist Tausig at an all Brahms concert
early in 1864.


However, Clara
Schumann, who along with Joachim was Brahms’ most intimate musical
collaborator, had been enthusiastic about the original Quintet and was abruptly
dismissive of the two piano version as merely an arrangement.  This forced Brahms to recast the work yet
again into its final familiar form. 
Hermann Levi speaking for all of Brahms’ friends wrote the Quintet is beautiful beyond words… you
have turned a monotonous work for two pianos into a masterpiece of chamber
music, the like of which we haven’t seen since the year 1828


The Allegro immediately presents us with the
dramatic contrast of the work, between emotional introspection and explosive
defiance.  The sinuous opening idea is
brutally interrupted by its ebullient sequel before returning in a grand unison
statement.  The second subject is
melancholy at first and later atmospherically sinister.  It is treated at reflective but tender length
in the development section.  This
tenderness returns in the coda in the strings alone before being swept aside in
the final accelerando.


The slow
movement begins with all those studies of Schubert’s scores, where an
infinitely extendable one bar refrain is stretched far far beyond Schubert to a
great romantic song. The central section with the piano’s strummed accompanying
chords is more gentle, less passionate, but more complex in instrumentation.
The song then returns, a trifle wistful now, despite its beauty.


Brahms since his
earliest works had relished the challenge of the Scherzo and he specialised in these comparatively short, intensely
dynamic and virile explosions, often after a deceptively low key start. This
one is driven by an unquenchable rhythmic impulse and a fusillade of hammered
syncopation between piano and strings. The big singing tune of the Trio seems to be in strong contrast but
is in fact a development of the Scherzo


hectic close of the Scherzo is then
met by the extraordinary introduction to the Finale, sonorous and intense, a chromatically ambiguous reminder of
the dark side before the folk-influenced rondo that follows. This opens with a
sturdy Haydnesque cello tune, clearly intended as a relaxed contrast, followed
by a second subject that re-establishes the fevered romanticism of the
introduction. The main theme returns only after a salon-style digression that
reminds us of the B major Piano Trio. The massive and rhythmically
unpredictable coda brings this supremely self-confident work to an impetuous