Recorded on 07/20/2010, uploaded on 10/21/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Of the triptych of piano quartets Johannes Brahms composed, the A major Quartet is the musical center panel. Composed in 1861, immediately after the First Piano Quartet in G minor, it shows Brahms’s love for Schubert’s chamber music, which at the time was undergoing a substantial revival in Vienna. The longest of the three quartets, it is set out on a grand, symphonic scale, yet is imbued with the effortless lyricism of Schubert interpreted, of course, in a purely Brahmsian manner.
The opening movement, at an unhurried pace, opens with a noble melody, which establishes two distinct motivic ideas—one with a triplet rhythm and the other with a duple one—worked out in a broad sonata form. The following Poco Adagio in E major is one of the finest among Brahms’s slow movements. Beginning with a gentle melody accompanied in the piano accompanied by muted strings, the tranquil music is later interrupted by a turn to a darker and more mysterious mood with sweeping arpeggios. The central episode of the movement’s broad ternary design features a passionate and grief-stricken melody in the piano followed by a delicate passage for the trio of string instruments. With mutes removed, the opening melody reappears in the strings marking the reprise of the opening section.
Returning to the relaxed composure of the first movement, the Scherzo third movement on the whole is certainly unlike the dramatic examples of the genre found in Brahms’s other works, though it does have its passionate moments. The Trio section, on the other hand, adopts a fiery gypsy-like melody which is, somewhat ironically, worked out rigorously in a canon at the octave. The Finale returns to the Hungarian influence that Brahms had also used in the last movement of the G minor Quartet. Here, however, instead of a rondo, it is a full-fledged sonata form, emphasizing again the grand scale of the entire piece. Joseph DuBose
courtesy of the Steans Music Institute
The Steans Music Institute is the Ravinia Festival's professional studies program for young musicians.
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