Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Brahms Romance

Two Sundays ago my partner and I hosted a Sunday afternoon musical/social at our home on Twin Valley Rd. in Middleton Wisconsin.  I decided to record two of the pieces I played that I have not yet put on YouTube.  In this post I pass on the Brahms Romance,  as well as the program and program notes for that afternoon.

F.  Chopin
 Nocturne Op. 27 no. 2  
Prelude Op. 28 no. 17
Polonaise Op. 26 no. 1

E. Grieg
 Lyric Pieces
Op. 43, no. 5 Erotic Piece 
Op. 47, no. 5 Melancholy 
Op. 54, no. 4,  Notturno  

J. Brahms
 Capriccio, Op. 76 no. 8
Romanze, Op. 118 no. 5
Intermezzo Op. 119 no. 3

C. Debussy
Minuette from Suite Bergmanesque
Valse Romantique 

The music this afternoon is a brisk tour of  four 19th century composers,  Chopin, Brahms, Grieg, and Debussy, playing  three short pieces composed by each.  Each of these romantic pieces has rich emotional content. 

I'll start with Chopin, born in 1810, died in 1849. He  was a child prodigy and a child of privilege. When he was 21, he was traveling to Paris at the time of the 1831 polish uprising which was suppressed by Russian troops. He stayed in Paris.  He was praised by Robert Schumann and befriended by the Rothschild banking family. He knew Franz Liszt, and  in 1836, about a year after he had written the Nocturne and Polonaise I'm playing, and a year before the Prelude,  he met George Sand at a party given by Franz Liszt's mistress.  He was with Sand from 1837 to 1847,  and died at age 39 .  The bulk of his music, virtually all for piano, was written in the 1830s. 

Next,  I jump ahead to Edvard Grieg (1843 to 1907)  to do three of his lyric pieces, composed in 1886 to 1891.  These lyric pieces were among his most popular works, each trying to elicit a specific mood or emotion,  obvious from their titles.  He knew and was influenced by Franz Liszt, who praised these pieces.     

Then back to Brahms, 1833 to 1897, who also knew Liszt and considered him a great pianist.  However, Brahms led a crusade against what he considered some of the wilder excesses of Wagner and Liszt,  and in 1860 wrote a manifesto against them  in what is called the war of the romantics.   The Capriccio I'm going to do was composed in 1878, at the height of his popularity.  In 1890, when he was 57,  Brahms resolved to give up composing, but could not, and a number of masterpieces followed. The Romanze and Intermezzo I'm going to play were composed in 1893. 

The Debussy pieces I'm going to do are selections of  his early work,  written in this period,  around 1890.  Debussy was influenced by Cesar Franck, Wagner, and Massenet, and in this early period was developing his own musical language independent of their styles.  The minuet is like an impressionistic baroque dance,  and the reverie and valse romantique have very sonorous halo effects that foreshadow the more mature Debussy works between 1900 and 1915.    Debussy lived from 1862 to 1918. 

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