Johannes Brahms Piano Quintet Op. 34 11/19/12

November 19, 2012

I had a great time playing Brahms Piano Quintet with amazing musician friends. We performed 2 occasions last week. One anecdote tells how Brahms composed his works. Let me introduce you this story. One evening in Vienna Brahms joined his friends at cafe, and his friend asked him how he spent his day. Brahms answered “I was working on my symphony. In the morning I added an eighth note, and in the afternoon I took it out”. Brahms completed this piano quintet in very slow process. In 1862 he got the idea to compose chamber music for string quintet, with 2 cellos. After he finished the first 3 movements he sent them to his friends, his mentor, Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. They were happy to receive them, but they showed some disagreement. Joachim told him “The details of the work has a great strength, but what is lacking is in a word, charm.” So next year Brahms came up the idea to write this piece for 2 pianos, and premiered with Karl Tausig. Clara heard it and played it, and said “it cannot be called a Sonata. I have a feeling that it was an arrangement… Please remodel it once more!” In following year Brahms got the idea of writing this piece for piano quintet. This time Clara said “You have turned a monotonous work for 2 pianos into a thing of great beauty, a masterpiece of chamber music”. Yes, she is right! I have played those 2 versions, and piano quintet seemed an entirely different accomplishment. We have Op. 34b for 2 piano version now. Brahms’ Piano Quintet Op. 34 is one of the best chamber music ever written, and I am very lucky to observe it.

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