Recorded on 07/18/2010, uploaded on 10/19/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
courtsey of the Stean Music InstituteThe Piano Quintet in F minor, op. 34 is one of Brahms’ early masterpiece and a superb example of the Sturm und Drang mood of his early works. The Quintet, like the earlier Piano Concerto in D minor, underwent a long and troublesome path to completion.Brahms began the Piano Quintet in 1862 as a string quintet of the Schubertian kind—a second cello as opposed to Mozart’s quintet of an added viola. In this form, the Quintet troubled him much the same way the Piano Concerto in its original symphonic form did. His friend and violinist Joseph Joachim remarked that strings were not an effective medium for the work. Brahms then reworked the composition as a sonata for two pianos which was actually given a premiere in 1864. This time it was Clara Schumann that influenced him to once again to recast the composition. What resulted was a synthesis of the first two attempts—a piano quintet. The piano quintet version is undoubtedly the most famous, however, Brahms was satisfied with the two piano arrangement to have it published and it still maintains a significant spot in the repertoire.The Quintet demonstrates Brahms’ increasing control of Classical forms and his ability to build these forms out of the smallest motivic material. One of the works central motivic ideas is a rising or falling semitone. Besides this motif’s melodic presence throughout the work, it also influences the tonal plan of the work as well. The second theme of the first movement appears in the key of C sharp minor (a half step above the dominant key of C minor), then later in F sharp minor (a half step above the tonic of F minor). The keys of A flat major and E major are used prominently in the second movement. This semitonal relationship between keys is often referred to as a Neopolitan relationship. Incidentally, this same relationship is used extensively in Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata, also in the key of F minor.In the finale, a wholly unique movement in its own right, the semitone motif is made plain in the opening notes of the cello and then imitated in turn by the other strings and the piano. The structure of the finale is exclusive to Brahms. The mysterious introduction, the unusual design of the following Allegro and the brilliant coda creates a formal design that he would return to later, even more expanded, in the finale of his First Symphony. Joseph DuBose
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