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The Young Brahms - Piano Sonata N.3 op.5 - Ballades op.10


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Editorial Reviews

Johannes Brahms Piano Sonata N.3 in F Minor op.5

Even though they may seem the continuation of the late style of Beethoven, the three Sonatas by Brahms, composed between 1851 and 1854 display an amazing, genuine individuality.

At the age of 20, the composer embarks in this monumental musical form, injects in it his strong individuality and then, he leaves the "piano sonata" form for ever.

Right from opus one, where the manuscript title reads "Fourth Sonata", Brahms will inject in this majestic beethovenian form a fully romantic breath of life.

The images of the North Germany, cherished by the composer will show up straight away.

All three Sonatas display a clear connection with the symphonic, orchestral way of thinking music. Schumann, when he meets Brahms in 1853, will notice that first.

He would write in his famous article published in the NeueZeitschrift für Musik: "He (Brahms) transforms the piano into an orchestra with exulting and moaning voices. Those are the Sonatas or, rather, disguised symphonies .."

Apart from their orchestral ecriture, the three Sonatas have other common aspects. A personal layout of the classical form, slow movements more or less like variations in the choral style, "cyclic-form"-like connections between movements, richness of the contrapuntal craft, the extend of the development sections.

Johannes Brahms Piano Sonata N.3 in F Minor op.5

With this work, dedicated to the Comtesse Ida von Hohental, Brahms leaves the piano-sonata form to never return to it

The second and fourth movements were composed first, in the summer of 1853, the remaining ones during the fall of the same year, he was just 20.

It is the only composition Brahms showed to Schumann during its elaboration. Commentators discerned a kind of self-portrait in it and it is very diversified in its integrity. Brahms displays a very well-established personal style. Five movements, instead of the usual four in the classical sonata, a cyclical, symphonic-poem like setting and a compact ecriture relying heavily on block chords, disregarding any "light" embellishments which are typical of the piano ecriture of the epoch are some of its striking aspects. Interestingly, a similar ecriture will also show up in his most late works particularly the Clarinet (or Viola) Sonata op.120 and partly in his piano pieces op.119.

The Four Ballades op.10

Originally, the musical "Ballade" is inspired by Anglo-Saxon literary sources. Those poems draw from legend-like sources and develop them in romantic settings.

Put into music by Zelter, Neefe, Zumsteeg and mostly Loewe, the "Ballade" is very strong in the Opera field too. Since the "Ballade of Senta" in "The Flying Dutchman" by Richard Wagner, a legendary ghost ship that can never make port and is doomed to sail the oceans forever; the Ballade will be strongly present in Chopin's piano music.

The Four Ballades op.10 are the only inclusion of literary sources in the music by Brahms. In the spring of 1854, the composer discovers a folkloric compilation: the "Stimmen der Wolker" by Herder which includes the poem "Edward" previously set to music by Schubert and Loewe. It is a very old Scottish text that Brahms will process in a very dramatic way, almost as a melodrama.

While the poem which narrates a parricide is strongly connected to the first piece, it, nevertheless, influences the entire work.

The main characteristic of those pieces is that they do not have a proper melodic development. The motives are exposed, connected without any elaboration of the "ecriture", almost in a "naive" way which fits perfectly the orally transmitted legends based literary style.

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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Four Ballades op.10: I. D Minor: Andante
  2. Four Ballades op.10: II. D Major: Andante
  3. Four Ballades op.10: III. B Minor: Intermezzo: Allegro
  4. Four Ballades op.10: IV. B Major: Andante con moto


Product details

  • Audio CD (March 30, 2017)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: LMO-Records
  • Run Time: 70 minutes
  • ASIN: B06XXP27ZG
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