Johannes Brahms: Escaping Beethoven's Shadow

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

The piano meant everything to Johannes Brahms, and he used it in almost every genre he composed in. A formidable pianist, he performed a massive literature, often in public, and was said to be able to make an orchestra of a piano.

Brahms settled in Vienna in 1863, a city blessed with the traditions of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Brahms was the heir of Beethoven and did not have the nerve to write his first symphony until he was 43, feeling the tramp of Beethoven's mighty footsteps at his heels. Vienna was also the home to a thriving musical life with the Vienna Philharmonic, many chamber and choral organizations as well as all the important soloists giving concerts, including Liszt's greatest pupil, Carl Tausig, from whom Brahms asked his advice on many figurations and technical problems in his Paganini Variations.

As Brahms created in Vienna one masterwork after another, the great pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow dubbed him, "the third 'B'" in the triumvirate of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.


Capriccio for Piano in F sharp minor, Op. 76 No. 1 / Wilhelm Kempff

Variations (28) for Piano on a theme by Paganini, Op. 35 / (Book I - No. 10; No. 11; Book II - No. 10; No. 4; No. 14) / Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

Ballades for Piano, Op. 10 No. 4 / Artur Rubinstein

Intermezzo for Piano in B minor Op. 119 No. 1 / Stephen Kovacevich

Hungarian Dances for Piano solo, No. 1 / Julius Katchen

Intermezzo for Piano in E Flat Major, Op. 117 No. 1 / Emmanuel Ax

Sonata for Piano in F minor, Op. 5 No. 3 - Scherzo / Emmanuel Ax

Intermezzo for for Piano, Op. 118 No. 2 / Frank Levy

Waltz for Piano 4 hands, Op. 39 / Dinu Lipatti & Nadia Boulanger

Comments [6]

Silversalty from Brooklyn

00:49 David Dubal

".. And what a world it is. So many wonders. Who could be bored? Especially if you have a piano. Start taking lessons. Any age will do."

Listen through to 1:19 for more encouragement.

Mar. 23 2014 10:12 PM
suzy doob

I played piano 45 years ago and quit, as most kids do, to pursue teenage activities. Now I want to play again, if only to play a few of the most beautiful measures ever written in Brahms's Intermezzo for Piano, Op. 118 #2. "Mysteriously, he enters my innermost sensitivities." Do you think it's possible?

Mar. 20 2014 08:58 PM
Robert from Branford, CT

Dear David Dubal,
Thank you! You gave me a renewed appreciation of Brahhms!
Very sincerely.

Mar. 03 2014 09:31 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Dubal could provide an added dimension to his broadcasts if he had "live" performances by pianists. Discussions on the pieces and the interpretations would greatly add to the insights on piano playing Dubal's programs already present. Unfortunately this would probably mean a much higher budget for the broadcasts. WQXR sometimes has this with pianists that play in the Greene Space but the interviews are by regular "hosts" rather than experts in the field. Of course Bill McGlaughlin does this on his program.

Imagine if the anecdotes Dubal tells of his conversations with greats of the past could be a real part of WQXR broadcasts with greats of the present and future.

Regarding Brahms, to my unlearned ear Brahms often avoids repeats and in that way I think of some of these pieces as tone prose, with little predefined structure but instead a progression from one 'riff' to the next as a story teller might progress through a story. The repeats aren't repeated but modified, expanded and then transformed into the next melodic phrase.

Jun. 23 2013 10:11 AM
Janet in NYC from Manhattan

What a pleasure to listen to David Dubal discuss Brahms and his music! In one hour of programming I learn more than I would from reading a dozen books. My appreciation for all the romantic composers and the recorded artists presented grows every week. I will miss this series when it ends. I am also grateful that each program is available as a podcast.

Jun. 22 2013 11:28 AM
Margarita Mitrov from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Wonderful, tasteful program. Enjoying it very much — thank you, Mr. Dubal!

Jun. 20 2013 07:44 PM

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