Author Topic: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)  (Read 263669 times)

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Offline Spotted Horses

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1280 on: July 28, 2022, 04:26:54 AM »
In any case, I've decided I will listen to the Brahms Violin Sonatas for the first time, and it will be Isabelle Faust/Alexander Melnikov. I came across the pairing when listening to their recording of the Horn Trio with Teunis van Der Zwart.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1281 on: July 28, 2022, 06:38:01 AM »
In any case, I've decided I will listen to the Brahms Violin Sonatas for the first time, and it will be Isabelle Faust/Alexander Melnikov. I came across the pairing when listening to their recording of the Horn Trio with Teunis van Der Zwart.

I look forward to your report.
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Offline Spotted Horses

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1282 on: July 28, 2022, 08:59:25 AM »
I look forward to your report.

I will put my impressions here, I don't know when that will be.

I first got the disc with the horn trio then I noticed it had the first violin sonata. Sometime later I searched for Faust recordings of the violin sonata and there was a release with only 2 and 3 and some Schumann. That's odd, what about number 1? Then it dawned on me...

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1283 on: July 28, 2022, 09:03:51 AM »
I will put my impressions here, I don't know when that will be.

I first got the disc with the horn trio then I noticed it had the first violin sonata. Sometime later I searched for Faust recordings of the violin sonata and there was a release with only 2 and 3 and some Schumann. That's odd, what about number 1? Then it dawned on me...

I shan't pretend I've not done similarly be times.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Madiel

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1284 on: July 28, 2022, 03:24:55 PM »
I will put my impressions here, I don't know when that will be.

I first got the disc with the horn trio then I noticed it had the first violin sonata. Sometime later I searched for Faust recordings of the violin sonata and there was a release with only 2 and 3 and some Schumann. That's odd, what about number 1? Then it dawned on me...

I worked out the same thing recently when I catalogued all the Faust, Melnikov and Queyras collaborations.

Arguably a neat way of getting you to purchase 2 albums!

I shall try Faust/Melnikov eventually. I own Osostowicz/Tomes on Hyperion.
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Offline Brian

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1285 on: July 28, 2022, 03:48:21 PM »
They also did that with their Schumann series of the three concertos, each coupled to one piano trio.

Offline Madiel

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1286 on: July 28, 2022, 04:42:09 PM »
They also did that with their Schumann series of the three concertos, each coupled to one piano trio.

Even earlier, the Dvorak violin and cello concertos came paired with piano trios 3 and 4. In fact I’ve just finished listening to the violin concerto album.

For Faust and Melnikov the Dvorak albums were their first with Harmonia Mundi.
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1287 on: July 28, 2022, 04:53:36 PM »
They also did that with their Schumann series of the three concertos, each coupled to one piano trio.

I was this close to asking, which cellist? when a light shone upon me.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Madiel

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1288 on: July 28, 2022, 05:06:47 PM »
I was this close to asking, which cellist? when a light shone upon me.

Violin sonatas discussion: now with added cello!  :laugh: :laugh:
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1289 on: July 28, 2022, 05:13:26 PM »
Violin sonatas discussion: now with added cello!  :laugh: :laugh:

(* chortle *)
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Brian

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1290 on: August 01, 2022, 10:13:25 AM »
[nerd alert - what follows is a discussion of only five seconds of music]

I finally figured out the first 5 seconds of Brahms' Symphony No. 3. This whole time, I've been confused by several things. First, why the introductory chords that come before the main melody begins? They're not as declamatory or attention-grabbing as the chords at the beginning of, say, Beethoven's Third, or Brahms' First. Sometimes, they have a clear momentum, and the second chord particularly sometimes is given a crescendo. Other times, they're flat and limp and lame, and all they say is "the music has started." Second, how should they be balanced? The woodwinds, horns, and trumpets are at total odds in the voicing of those chords - depending on the performance you hear, you might hear little to no trumpet (Klemperer), a lot of trumpet (Levine), or ALL trumpet (Toscanini).

Thanks to Christoph von Dohnanyi's Cleveland performance on Teldec, I've finally heard the solutions.

First: as you know if you've studied the score or played in a performance, there aren't two chords. There are three. The third one is "hidden" because it's played at the same time that the violins are beginning the main melody. The fact that I've been listening to this symphony for years without understanding the importance of chord #3 is because most conductors bury it. The violins come in and wipe out the winds/brass. I've just listened to the first 5 seconds from about a dozen different competing versions, and only one gets it right, apart from Dohnanyi/Cleveland: Jochum/London Philharmonic on EMI. Even Dohnanyi/Philharmonia from later in his life does not succeed.

What distinguishes these two performances is that the three wind/brass chords are fully audible as a complete phrase. Some of the others, you can hear the trumpet or even other instruments, but it's an abrupt, perfunctory accompaniment to the violins. Brahms was not making life easy for conductors or orchestras here. Having his two main motifs overlap, so that you have to listen for both at the same time, is some tricky s@#t.  ;D Bruno Walter is a good example of a brilliant conductor who makes chord #3 get out of the way of his violins. But when you hear the full three-chord phrase expressed at the beginning of the symphony, it is very easy to hear all its echoes through the rest of the movement, starting in the French horns a few seconds later.

Understanding this as a phrase also tells you how to conduct it. This is where studying the score clearly does not solve the problem for most people, because so many conductors completely fail to understand that those three chords are a phrase, let alone voice them properly. You can't just have all the wind instruments play their notes at the same volume. The trumpets are going up an octave, some of the winds are standing still, and the second chord in particular is full of straight-up weird harmonies. Almost Wagnerian. The key, I think, is to follow the French horns. I dinged Bruno Walter earlier for how quickly he cuts off the final chord, but his instrumental balance is perfect. He produces the sound that I think Brahms wanted.

The three chords should step sharply upwards one-two-three, rather than sounding like a static muddle or a short step that's cut off by the violins. The trumpets, however, are. going upwards too fast and cannot be the primary voice. And I do think the whole phrase should be a crescendo - each note should get louder individually as it's played, and in sequence compared to the note before it. That way it feels like a runner tensing and kicking off the starting blocks. Or a swimmer kicking off the wall of the pool to start the race. You need these upward-moving chords to build immense potential energy which the downward-moving main melody then helps to release. You need tension.

The third chord must be loud because it is the punch in the face which causes the violins to start falling down.  ;D

And that is what Dohnanyi and Jochum have taught me about how to conduct the first 5 seconds of Brahms' Third Symphony.

Offline LKB

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1291 on: August 01, 2022, 10:42:20 AM »
[nerd alert - what follows is a discussion of only five seconds of music]

I finally figured out the first 5 seconds of Brahms' Symphony No. 3. This whole time, I've been confused by several things. First, why the introductory chords that come before the main melody begins? They're not as declamatory or attention-grabbing as the chords at the beginning of, say, Beethoven's Third, or Brahms' First. Sometimes, they have a clear momentum, and the second chord particularly sometimes is given a crescendo. Other times, they're flat and limp and lame, and all they say is "the music has started." Second, how should they be balanced? The woodwinds, horns, and trumpets are at total odds in the voicing of those chords - depending on the performance you hear, you might hear little to no trumpet (Klemperer), a lot of trumpet (Levine), or ALL trumpet (Toscanini).

Thanks to Christoph von Dohnanyi's Cleveland performance on Teldec, I've finally heard the solutions.

First: as you know if you've studied the score or played in a performance, there aren't two chords. There are three. The third one is "hidden" because it's played at the same time that the violins are beginning the main melody. The fact that I've been listening to this symphony for years without understanding the importance of chord #3 is because most conductors bury it. The violins come in and wipe out the winds/brass. I've just listened to the first 5 seconds from about a dozen different competing versions, and only one gets it right, apart from Dohnanyi/Cleveland: Jochum/London Philharmonic on EMI. Even Dohnanyi/Philharmonia from later in his life does not succeed.

What distinguishes these two performances is that the three wind/brass chords are fully audible as a complete phrase. Some of the others, you can hear the trumpet or even other instruments, but it's an abrupt, perfunctory accompaniment to the violins. Brahms was not making life easy for conductors or orchestras here. Having his two main motifs overlap, so that you have to listen for both at the same time, is some tricky s@#t.  ;D Bruno Walter is a good example of a brilliant conductor who makes chord #3 get out of the way of his violins. But when you hear the full three-chord phrase expressed at the beginning of the symphony, it is very easy to hear all its echoes through the rest of the movement, starting in the French horns a few seconds later.

Understanding this as a phrase also tells you how to conduct it. This is where studying the score clearly does not solve the problem for most people, because so many conductors completely fail to understand that those three chords are a phrase, let alone voice them properly. You can't just have all the wind instruments play their notes at the same volume. The trumpets are going up an octave, some of the winds are standing still, and the second chord in particular is full of straight-up weird harmonies. Almost Wagnerian. The key, I think, is to follow the French horns. I dinged Bruno Walter earlier for how quickly he cuts off the final chord, but his instrumental balance is perfect. He produces the sound that I think Brahms wanted.

The three chords should step sharply upwards one-two-three, rather than sounding like a static muddle or a short step that's cut off by the violins. The trumpets, however, are. going upwards too fast and cannot be the primary voice. And I do think the whole phrase should be a crescendo - each note should get louder individually as it's played, and in sequence compared to the note before it. That way it feels like a runner tensing and kicking off the starting blocks. Or a swimmer kicking off the wall of the pool to start the race. You need these upward-moving chords to build immense potential energy which the downward-moving main melody then helps to release. You need tension.

The third chord must be loud because it is the punch in the face which causes the violins to start falling down.  ;D

And that is what Dohnanyi and Jochum have taught me about how to conduct the first 5 seconds of Brahms' Third Symphony.

I'm a bit puzzled that you'd refer to a fairly run- of- the- mill diminished-seventh chord as " weird ".
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Offline VonStupp

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1292 on: August 01, 2022, 11:19:40 AM »
Thanks to Christoph von Dohnanyi's Cleveland performance on Teldec, [...]

I really like Dohnányi's Cleveland Brahms cycle!  :)

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Offline Spotted Horses

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1293 on: August 01, 2022, 07:00:42 PM »
[nerd alert - what follows is a discussion of only five seconds of music]

I finally figured out the first 5 seconds of Brahms' Symphony No. 3. This whole time, I've been confused by several things. First, why the introductory chords that come before the main melody begins? They're not as declamatory or attention-grabbing as the chords at the beginning of, say, Beethoven's Third, or Brahms' First. Sometimes, they have a clear momentum, and the second chord particularly sometimes is given a crescendo. Other times, they're flat and limp and lame, and all they say is "the music has started." Second, how should they be balanced? The woodwinds, horns, and trumpets are at total odds in the voicing of those chords - depending on the performance you hear, you might hear little to no trumpet (Klemperer), a lot of trumpet (Levine), or ALL trumpet (Toscanini).

Thanks to Christoph von Dohnanyi's Cleveland performance on Teldec, I've finally heard the solutions.

First: as you know if you've studied the score or played in a performance, there aren't two chords. There are three. The third one is "hidden" because it's played at the same time that the violins are beginning the main melody. The fact that I've been listening to this symphony for years without understanding the importance of chord #3 is because most conductors bury it. The violins come in and wipe out the winds/brass. I've just listened to the first 5 seconds from about a dozen different competing versions, and only one gets it right, apart from Dohnanyi/Cleveland: Jochum/London Philharmonic on EMI. Even Dohnanyi/Philharmonia from later in his life does not succeed.

What distinguishes these two performances is that the three wind/brass chords are fully audible as a complete phrase. Some of the others, you can hear the trumpet or even other instruments, but it's an abrupt, perfunctory accompaniment to the violins. Brahms was not making life easy for conductors or orchestras here. Having his two main motifs overlap, so that you have to listen for both at the same time, is some tricky s@#t.  ;D Bruno Walter is a good example of a brilliant conductor who makes chord #3 get out of the way of his violins. But when you hear the full three-chord phrase expressed at the beginning of the symphony, it is very easy to hear all its echoes through the rest of the movement, starting in the French horns a few seconds later.

Understanding this as a phrase also tells you how to conduct it. This is where studying the score clearly does not solve the problem for most people, because so many conductors completely fail to understand that those three chords are a phrase, let alone voice them properly. You can't just have all the wind instruments play their notes at the same volume. The trumpets are going up an octave, some of the winds are standing still, and the second chord in particular is full of straight-up weird harmonies. Almost Wagnerian. The key, I think, is to follow the French horns. I dinged Bruno Walter earlier for how quickly he cuts off the final chord, but his instrumental balance is perfect. He produces the sound that I think Brahms wanted.

The three chords should step sharply upwards one-two-three, rather than sounding like a static muddle or a short step that's cut off by the violins. The trumpets, however, are. going upwards too fast and cannot be the primary voice. And I do think the whole phrase should be a crescendo - each note should get louder individually as it's played, and in sequence compared to the note before it. That way it feels like a runner tensing and kicking off the starting blocks. Or a swimmer kicking off the wall of the pool to start the race. You need these upward-moving chords to build immense potential energy which the downward-moving main melody then helps to release. You need tension.

The third chord must be loud because it is the punch in the face which causes the violins to start falling down.  ;D

And that is what Dohnanyi and Jochum have taught me about how to conduct the first 5 seconds of Brahms' Third Symphony.

For as long as I can remember I have thought of the opening of the symphony as as primordial statement of the F-A flat-F motto that pervades the movement. It is somewhat obscured by a voicing in which the various instruments are moving in contrary directions, but the F-A flat-F is in the highest register in the flutes. Even putting aside the flutes, the high F in the entrance of the first violins also completes the F-A flat-F motto . (Beginning in the third measure, the same F-A flat F motto appears in the bass, accompanying the violin melody.) I think your claim that most conductors "fail to understand that those three chords are a phrase" is rather presumptions. Brahms notated it as three forte chords, the first two dotted whole notes, each filling a measure, and the third chord a single staccato beat, abruptly cut off as the strings launch into the main melody. Every version I can remember plays it basically as written, although a lot of conductors like to emphasize voices buried in the sustained chords and/or to shift the balance of the instruments as the two initial chords are held. But I can't recall listening to a version that didn't honor Brahms specification of three forte cords, the first two sustained and the third abruptly cut off.

You do make a good point that Dohnanyi/Cleveland is a very good cycle.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2022, 07:05:58 PM by Spotted Horses »

Offline Jo498

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1294 on: August 01, 2022, 10:29:18 PM »
Admittedly, the 3rd was a piece I got a score for very early on, so maybe this is one reason but I don't remember ever not hearing the 3rd chord or the three as  connected and then comes all that Spotted Horses writes above with the motto etc. because any commentary will point that out. Probably a case of "you hear what you know and cannot unknow it, so will hear it even if brought out not as clearly as desirable".
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I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
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