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Brahms Piano Works


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Posted on Oct 27, 2010 10:24:17 AM PDT
A Pilgrim says:
Okay, where to go next: I'm leaning toward the piano sonatas, particularly no. 3. Recommendations please? What would be the top three recordings?

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 11:05:15 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 27, 2010 11:10:04 AM PDT
You make a good point, Donna Elvira. I too am hesitant to recommend recordings with poor "historical" mono sound to someone who is just beginning to explore a composer or genre of music for the first time, even if, as is often the case those performances are unequalled today. However, I am grateful to Piso, Mandryka, and others for so often mentioning them, as otherwise this forum would be a much more one-dimensional and lesser place to visit.

And yes, for some strange reason I had never considered Artur Schnabel for Brahms, even though I have and love all his Schubert and Beethoven recordings. So, thanks, I am now keenly interested to hear these recordings: especially since I remember from reading Schnabel's autobiography that in his younger years he knew Brahms.

As for Wilhelm Kempff, I must say I don't especially care for his Brahms. For me, Kempff's Brahms playing is too straight laced, too brisk or continually in forward motion, too much about finding a cohesive structure, and not enough about the more ruminative, autumnal aspects of Brahms' piano works--which pianists like Richter, Michelangeli, and others bring out so beautifully. In this respect, both Kempff and his former student Biret, whose approach to Brahms seems to be modeled after Kempff, are at the very opposite end of the spectrum from the more inward approach taken by pianists such as Pogorelich and Valery Afanassiev.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 11:14:12 AM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
A Pilgrim et al

Recorded in 2001 I find this to be beautiful Brahms's playing with a top notch Sonata # 3 Op5

Earl Wild Plays Johannes Brahms
Label: Ivory Classics
ASIN: B00006LI28

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5
Composed by Johannes Brahms
with Earl Wild

Intermezzo for piano in B flat minor, Op. 117/2
Composed by Johannes Brahms
with Earl Wild

Ballade for piano in G minor, Op. 118/3
Composed by Johannes Brahms
with Earl Wild

Intermezzo for piano in C major, Op.119/3
Composed by Johannes Brahms
with Earl Wild

Intermezzo for piano in A major, Op. 76/6
Composed by Johannes Brahms
with Earl Wild

Intermezzo for piano in E minor, Op. 119/2
Composed by Johannes Brahms
with Earl Wild

Rhapsody for piano in G minor, Op. 79/2
Composed by Johannes Brahms
with Earl Wild

Variations (28) on a Theme of Paganini, for piano, in A minor, Op. 35
Composed by Johannes Brahms
with Earl Wild

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2010 3:05:00 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 29, 2012 2:59:25 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2010 5:04:38 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Many beauties there, John. I just remembered a gorgeous B-flat minor Intermezzo by Solomon, perhaps with another one. Brahms's piano music has fared pretty well.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2010 5:07:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 27, 2010 5:08:33 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
For un-straight, un-laced Brahms, Pogorelich's elegant recital on DGG goes about as far in that direction as is possible. Some extremely beautiful playing, modern recording, and the most gorgeous C# minor Intermezzo Op. 117/3 there could ever likely be. I think Brahms might have dreamt it would sound like that one day. That's to take nothing away from Maria Yudina, Rubinstein, Gould, and even Kempff, whom I like very much in Brahms, especially Opp. 116-119, but also the E-flat min or Scherzo, Op. 4 and other things. Brahms himself must have been a bear of a pianist.

As experiment, try hearing Chopin's "extra" Prelude in C# minor, Op. 45, or the second of his Trois Etudes Nouvelles, and thinking they're by Brahms instead. Don't have to stretch the imagination too far.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 12:45:34 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 28, 2010 4:08:02 AM PDT]

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 5:06:56 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 29, 2010 11:09:07 AM PDT
So many recordings of the Op.5 Sonata - Bauer, Grainger, Edwin and Annie Fischer, Kempff, Etelka Freund, Gieseking, Solomon, Arrau, Rubinstein, Zimerman, Perahia etc etc.

It seems like this piece has fascinated pianists by its demands of large-scale structure and sonority, power and beauty, granite and romantic ardor. Each pianist brings his/her insights to bear but when when all is said and done there needs to be a deeply felt dramatic intensity and momentum running through this 5 movement sprawling narrative - it can't get too bogged down in detail or struggle in the thickness of orchestral-like sonority while attention to the intensity of the moment must also be present. The command over sonority is an aspect of technique and virtuosity that not every pianist who tackles this piece has the firmest control over.

How does each movement fit into the overall scheme? The most successful performance will not necessarily be one that has the most moving slow movement or dramatic opening movement, but more likely one that puts all the music in an intentional overall context which is very difficult to bring off with complete consistency. It can be very revealing how Pianist A makes certain transitions within a movement, or even from movement to movement compared to Pianist B.

If pushed to name one favorite, I would probably favor Solomon Piano Sonata 3 for grabbing my attention from the outset and taking me on a journey which successfully unravels the mysteries and problems of this score and is genuinely exhilarating from start to finish. It helps that through a wide tonal palette and skillful use of the pedal he is able to layer sounds and structural blocks but always in an instinctive way which makes his own view of the work an organic one. He makes it sound like the great piece which Brahms conceived and not one which other pianists conceptually struggle to achieve. That opinion is not to take away from what anyone else does, just stating a personal preference. The Testament CD is early 1950s sound but clear enough to convey the general idea and the ear fills in most of the blanks.

I become convinced yet again that a negative view of a piece is often the result of a sub-par performance than what potential value of a work can be achieved through a searching heart, mind and technique.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 6:40:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2010 6:42:45 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
Kocsis for Op 5 I would say, Charles.

You need someone who can play percussively or it sounds like a romantic effusion.

Kocsis is particularly compelling in the second half of the Andante. Very great piano playing.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 7:38:06 AM PDT
Can't say I've heard Kocsis in the Brahms but he is a great pianist, no doubt. That is an early Hungaroton recording isn't it?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 7:48:57 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2010 7:50:05 AM PDT
K. Bowersock says:
Emanuel Ax made a wonderful recording of the op. 5 sonata, I listen to it often. My favorite will always be Rubinstein's '59 recording - and along with the 4 ballades and two intermezzi on there, it's one of my favorite Brahms records in general.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 8:31:06 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2010 8:34:23 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
Yes Charles.This one

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sonata-No-3-F-Minor/dp/B000027CAS/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1288279633&sr=8-5

There's also Zimerman. It sells for big money now because it's so rare.

There's a story that KZ is fussy about sound quality. He didn't like the sound on the DG recording and so discourages the rerelease of the recording. Crazy really, because the sound isn't bad and the interpretation isn't bad either.

But Kocsis is better!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 8:35:52 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 6, 2011 10:33:20 AM PDT
Edgar Self says:
But doesn't Kocsis play everything too fast? A sort of smoother Barere? Edwin Fischer is incomparable on the arpeggi that end the Andante. First Rubinstein my Oshkosh overall favourite. But I did hear mad Ervin Nyiregyhazi play it, and I think there's now a CD out of it. Agree it's a crazy beautiful work, that Brahms himself played for the Schumanns before falling asleep over the followiing pianist, Franz Liszt. Richter carefully avoided it in favour of the first two sonatas. I have Zimerman still on LP but can't remember just how good it is.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 8:38:31 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
Actually not in this one Piso. We could check times if you want, but my impression is that it's quite a slow reading. I played it this morning.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 8:54:33 AM PDT
Edgar Self says:
.Kocsis must have recorded it under some weird form of anaesthetic or Hungarian sedation. Unbelievable. I wouldn't have thought it possible.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 9:44:22 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
No -- just a nice big plate of goulash in the restaurant near the studio before making the recording.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 11:07:47 AM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Ah, that's it then. Not hypnotism from Lugosi Bela after all.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 1:40:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2010 2:09:27 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
I have tried to find as many of the "Brahms Sonata No. 3, Op. 5" mentioned or not on this thread as I could. I have posted at least the 1st movement. The entire performances are on YT. I hope you enjoy,

Maria Yudina plays Brahms Sonata No. 3, Op. 5 (1/4)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pm34AFWN9e4

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
I do not own this - I own most of Solomon but now I have it.
Solomon plays Brahms Sonata No.3 in F minor Op. 5 (1/4)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZr8XKMF5Bg

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Walter Gieseking plays Brahms Sonata No. 3 in F minor Op. 5 - I. Allegro maestoso
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmnDfHOCO3M

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Annie Fischer plays Brahms Sonata in F minor Op.5 (1/4)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZWM4DZI92E&feature=related

------------------------------------------------------
Elly Ney plays Brahms Sonata No.3 in F minor Op. 5 (1/4)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Exn8hoGeVCU

-------------------------------------------------------------
Harold Bauer plays Brahms Sonata no. 3 (1/5) { How beautiful - the warm velvety tone and variations of dynamics and rhythm }
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09KgvKg8M7Y

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Brahms Piano Sonata No.3 in F Minor, Op.5 Mvmt.I { Rubinstein }
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8yVQsw5Pf8

-----------------------------------------------------------------
If "Morpheus" visits me late tonight I have some great music to hear.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 2:00:13 PM PDT
K. Bowersock says:
Thank you John for posting these, I am enjoying the Solomon as I type!

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 2:34:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 29, 2010 3:52:05 AM PDT
D. M. Ohara says:
In Bryan Crimp's Biography of Solomon -'Solo' - he mentions that his recording of the Brahms Op. 5 was being broadcast by the BBC as 'Solo' lay dying. It was a pure 'coincidence' - but Solo's wife Gwen just happened to tune in and heard it.
It was the last music Solomon heard.

Another much admired recording of the sonata - at least in the UK - was by Clifford Curzon. I think it was the first recording of the work I owned. At that time, Solo's LP was deleted, and it was not re-issued on CD in the UK until it appeared from Testament [which I now have].

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 3:23:08 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
Like his 2 Piano Concerti and with many other great pieces of music Brahms' Sonata # 3 Op 5 seems to have endless possibilites for different understandings each with its own magic. Unfortunately that is one of the things which contributes to my owning @ 15 - 20 performances each of the Concerti and @ 7 of the Sonata - attacking my wallet and not having a second home in Hawaii.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 7:45:50 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
Enjoy these performances which have been mentioned with favor on this thread.

Brahms - Michelangeli, Ballade Op.10 No. 1 in D minor
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDvWFcJJjgo

Artur Schnabel (1882-1951) Brahms Intermezzo op.117-1 rec.1947 06
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzOvuXZc7GE

Edwin Fischer plays Brahms Variations on a Original Theme,op.21,no1 1/2 { A few seconds and WOW what poetry }
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1W3Qo-TScOo

Backhaus Wilhelm plays Brahms Waltz op. 39 no. 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uBbVk5BWC8

Arthur Rubinstein - Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118, No. 6, in E flat minor
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3jatzunJNs

Ivo Pogorelich Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2 { I could not find the piece mentioned - but this is beautiful }
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFhlIhdNGjg&feature=related

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 11:13:28 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2010 11:20:26 PM PDT
Mandryka says:
A couple of questions for the Brahms people.

1. The opus 9 Schumann Variations seems to me as good a bit of Brahms as any. Someone sent me today in fact a transfer of Beveridge Webster's recording, which happens to be on youtube, and is very nice. But is that the best we can do?

2. The Op 5 sonata is pretty cool in the first two movements. But the final three I'm less sure about. I wonder if you guys know any recordings which are particularly special in the Scherzo, Intermezzo (actually Kocsis is VG in that) and Finale.

3. Does anyone know any good performances of the Op 1 sonata? I only know it through Richter and I must say I don't much care for it. But maybe someone is more convincing.

4. Just a point. Listening to Op 5 and Op 9 over the past few days I kept hearing pre-echoes of the late music. There clearly is quite a bit of development between Op 1 and Op 119, but still, there's a family resemblance.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 11:33:45 PM PDT
D. M. Ohara says:
I have an original LP pressing of Christian Zimmerman in the first two sonatas: I used to play it a lot, but have hardly played any LPs in the last 10+ years, so my memory of the performances is not fresh.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 11:37:58 PM PDT
William Yate says:
I would say more than just a family resemblance. The fact is all the Brahms we have is mature Brahms. This is one of the reasons that he is the Champ.

Which is not to say that all extant Brahms pieces were created equal. As the god-man himself said:

"...keep going back to it and working at it over and over again until it is completed as a finished work of art; until there is not a note too much or too little, not a measure you could improve upon. Whether it is _beautiful_ also is an entirely different matter, but _perfect_ it must be. You see I am lazy, but never cool down over a work once begun, until it is perfect, unassailable. One ought never to forget that by actually perfecting one piece one learns more than by beginning or half-finishing ten."

That's the best I could come up with on a google search. I've never been able to track down the German, so if anyone knows it I'd be eternally grateful.

One of the interesting things about that famous quote, aside from its distillation of the Brahmsian quintessence, is the notion that you get more from working out a weak idea rigorously than you do from pottering around trying to find a good idea. I think this probably applies to all creative ventures.
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  19
Total posts:  81
Initial post:  Oct 26, 2010
Latest post:  Dec 25, 2012

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