Recorded on 02/01/2012, uploaded on 05/21/2012
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Intermezzo in E – Andantino teneramente
As a pianist Brahms made his mark early - by the age of 20, he had composed three masterful sonatas for the instrument. Given his own keyboard prowess, it is remarkable that he never returned to the solo piano sonata genre. Instead, sets of variations occupied his attention in mid-career, while collections of short pieces— intermezzi, rhapsodies, capriccios - were the focus of his last works for piano solo.
Chamber music and short piano works occupied his attention more as he aged. Op. 116 is comprised of seven pieces, three Capriccios (the stormier movements) and four Intermezzi (more introspective). The first Capriccio is fiery movement characterized by destabilizing cross-rhythms and dramatic contrast. The following A minor Intermezzo has a forlorn, character with a circling middle section. The G minor Capriccio – contrasts dramatic urgency and despair in the outer sections with an ecstatic outpouring in a middle section in E flat major. The fourth, fifth and sixth movements (all intermezzi) are all centered in the key of E (major – minor – major) and form some kind of unit within the set. The fourth is surely one of Brahms’ most touching and personal utterances, the fifth explores strange harmonic and emotional territory in something that resembles a melancholic lullaby, and the sixth is a hymn-like movement whose middle section in G sharp minor is filled with regret. The final movement (a capriccio) in D minor – the overarching key of the set – is an extremely agitated movement whose middle section explores unusual textures, cross-rhythms and displacements of meter. The piece reaches a frenzied climax, only at the very end finally triumphing by ending in the major key. Sam Armstrong
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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