Rediscovering Brahms

As many of you know, I tend to gravitate in preference toward the music of French and Slavic composers. Debussy, Ravel, Messiaen, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, etc… I could go on for a while! It’s not that I don’t love the music of the great Germanic (and Austrian) School (Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert etc…). Indeed, I do love these composers. But if I had to generalize, I would say that I feel a particular ease and comfort with the former.

When I was a teenager, however, I could not get enough of the Germanic (and Austrian) greats. Brahms, in particular, was a favorite of mine during those years. I steeped myself in his music; the Symphonies, Chamber Music, Piano Music, Concerti, and of course the Requiem were all extremely important to me; I COULD NOT get enough of these pieces. Day after day, year after year, I would constantly play and listen to Brahms. Somewhere along the line, I started to “burn out” on this music and shift my focus toward the composers mentioned at the beginning of this post. Debussy, Ravel, and Chopin especially took precedence, and I felt as if the weight of Brahms had been lifted from my musical life. Although I still loved his music, Brahms just seemed too thick, dense, and somewhat academic to me.

This Spring, I had the extraordinary opportunity to play Brahms’ great C Major Piano Trio Op. 87. with the Atlanta Chamber Players. As I was preparing the work, I realized that it had been TEN YEARS since I last performed Brahms! I couldn’t believe it! My last performance of Brahms was as a Master’s student at the Cleveland Institute of Music playing the gorgeous Intermezzi Op. 117 (my all-time favorite solo piano work of his). Somehow, this respite rejuvenated my love of his music and as I worked on the trio, I began to feel waves of the same passion that I had for his music when I was a teenager. It was a phenomenal experience, and I have since found myself yearning to play and listen to more Brahms. I may still identify more closely with the French and Slavic composers; we all have composers that we feel closer to than others,and those composers may change throughout our lives. However, I can be sure that Brahms is not likely to take a ten-year hiatus from my repertoire ever again!

Maybe my next post will explain why I love French music so much!

Please leave a comment if you like…

Comments 3

  1. What do I, Janos Starker, Condoleezza Rice, and Arthur Rubinstein have in common? Brahms is/was our favorite composer.
    I’m so glad that you came back to him with renewed freshness. The last 2 variations of the 2nd movement of the Brahms C Major Trio Op. 87 as well as the middle section of the 3rd movement are to DIE for!! (in a positive sense!)

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