Tag Archives: Johannes Brahms

[126] Johannes Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2

4 Sep

A quiet opening catches my attention, and the tinkling piano brings a smile to my face.  When an unexpectedly abrupt run and stab up the keys begins, I am fully engaged.

We are 90 seconds into the first Allegro movement of Piano Concerto No. 2.


Here is an orchestra apparently with something to say, a conductor and pianist willing to let them be heard.  It is not so much call and response as point and counterpoint.  The orchestra states its position and the piano rebuts and refutes.

I am sure there is some sort of structure being adhered to, but to my ear the mood and tempo ranges far and wide, seemingly at will.  Again, I find myself intrigued.  It is all so pretty.

And I enjoy the feeling of never knowing what I am going to hear next.

As playful as it is brooding, as light and airy as it is dense and heavy – it almost sounds like schizophrenia might feel.  The switchbacks and sonic reversals ensure that the piece is constantly interesting, with a warm inviting sound making it a pleasure to sit back and let composer and performer take you where they will.

I wish I better understood what I have been listening to for the last month or so.  Brahms has a sound that appeals to me, but as with almost all of the Classical composers to date (certainly all except those behind a handful of pieces I knew well before embarking on the list) I do not have any real context in which to place him, no real objective way of comparing one piece to another, even within my own head.

So I will have to settle for “I like what I like”, without necessarily knowing why.

Next Week: Anthony Braxton – For Alto

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 126 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 126 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (104 of 126 = 83%)

[125] Johannes Brahms – Violin Sonatas, Opp. 78, 100, 108

28 Aug

When it comes to Brahms, it seems my preferences lie along “less is more” lines.

Here, as with the Sonatas for Cello and Piano, I am able to focus on the fragile melody and precise playing in a way I was not with the big Symphonies.  Once again there is an almost extrasensory connection between the two performers, driving and pushing each other to ever greater heights, yet always remaining firmly under control.

The violin is more clearly, and appropriately, the star here.  It soars and swoops within the framework provided by the piano, winding and creeping like a vine, engulfing and beautifying the structure.

The swell of the music makes me smile, spontaneously, unexpectedly, repeatedly.

Really, what more could you possibly ask for?

Next Week: Johannes Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 125 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 125 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (103 of 125 = 82%

[124] Johannes Brahms – The Four Symphonies

21 Aug

I listened to these pieces for 14 hours yesterday.


And while I did at times notice moments of elegance and interest, at the end of the day the whole thing just washed over me unlike waves on a beach.

Yes, unlike – the beach is gradually changed by the water.  I was not.

Perhaps, once more, it is timing.  These large, abstract pieces fare poorly in comparison with the stunning and intimate piano and cello pieces just past.

Or perhaps it is just my mood.  Maybe I’m not feeling symphonies today, or at least not ones which I do not recognize.

And this is the final straw – this lack of recognition, the fact that after hearing each piece half a dozen times and more, I do not find myself humming passages, am not anticipating favorite moments as I did throughout the Beethoven Symphonies, both familiar and new to me.

In picking this Recording for the 1,000 Tom Moon praises the subtlety of the composition and performance.  I guess sometimes I don’t want subtlety.

Sometimes I just want to be hit in the head.

Next Week: Johannes Brahms – Violin Sonatas, Opp. 78, 100, 108

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 124 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 124 = 15%)
Recommend? No. (102 of 124 = 82%)

[123] Johannes Brahms – Sonatas for Cello & Piano, Opp. 38, 99, 108

14 Aug

This may have been exactly what I needed right now.


In the midst of a hectic and at times overwhelming summer, these contemplative and compassionate tones are literally music to my ears.  Both piano and cello are beautiful in tone and melody, interacting playfully and mournfully – sometimes simultaneously.

For Classical pieces, they sound decidedly modern, the interplay seeming almost Jazz-like.

All here is grace and fluidity which clearly must be a good thing.  It is never obvious who has the lead – the two instruments, the two instrumentalists share the stage equally and effortlessly, revealing a give and take that evokes a powerful sense of balance and harmony.

And the melody!  Each tune tells a story, expressive and enveloping, with enough depth to withstand endless exploration and examination.  I may still be faking it when it comes to the Classics, but I certainly do know what I like when I hear it.

If you believe that you don’t like Classical music, if you have no idea where to start, you could do far worse than taking a listen to these accessible and hugely enjoyable tunes performed with a warmth and comfort which, to my mind, make them essential.

Next Week: Johannes Brahms – The Four Symphonies

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 123 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 123 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (102 of 123 = 83%)


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