Archive for January, 2010

Romantic Bliss

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

10 minutes of transcendent romantic bliss. (If you can handle it). It requires a certain undistracted devotion. Try it at least twice. :-) listen

Schumann, String Quartet in a minor, Op. 41, No. 1

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Robert Schumann, 1810-1856

String Quartet in a minor, Op. 41, No. 1

Robert SchumannIn 1842, Robert Schumann turned his intense if not manic focus to the daunting genre of the string quartet. In what has been called his “year of chamber music”, he voraciously studied the masters that preceded him and produced a set of three quartets, Op. 41 that he dedicated to Mendelssohn. Of the masters before him, Schumann had to contend with Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn. Compared to his chamber works including the piano (a quintet, quartet and three trios), Schumann’s string quartets are less frequently programmed and almost certainly less appreciated or celebrated. Nonetheless, the quartets bear testament to Schumann’s diligent studies and his unique gifts as a composer; they stand as worthy offerings in the literature. They are particularly engaging as “missing links” between the quartets of Mendelssohn and Brahms some thirty years hence. In between, Schumann simultaneously evokes Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn while, in moments, suggesting the future voices of Brahms and early Schoenberg, both of whom admired Schumann’s music. (more…)

Hindemith, Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet, Op. 30

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet, Op. 30 (1923)

Paul HindemithPaul Hindemith was one of the most complete musicians of all time. A great 20th century instrumental composer, he was also a multi-instrumentalist, professional violist, professor (including a tenure at Yale) and master theorist who wrote several texts based on his own comprehensive worldview of musical meaning. While much of his music explores a diversity of 20th century techniques, Hindemith’s music is largely tonal, melodic and artfully crafted. A huge body of excellent works for an astonishingly broad range of instrumental ensembles characterizes Hindemith as, first and foremost, a composer of chamber music. (more…)

Schumann, Piano Trio No. 1 in d minor, Op. 63

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Robert Schumann, 1810-1856

Piano Trio No. 1 in d minor, Op. 63, 1847

Despite his frustrated and aborted attempts to become a concert pianist – he permanently injured his fingers in an overzealous attempt to practice using mechanical invention of his own faulty design – Schumann retained an instinctive and idiomatic genius as a composer for the instrument making him one of the most important of the central romantic composers for the piano. Schumann’s greatest music generally comprises his compositions involving the piano: the vast array of distinctive music for solo piano, art songs and the chamber works featuring the piano quintet, piano quartet and three piano trios. Of the three piano trios all composed between 1847 and 1851, the first in d minor is the most well known. As Schumann was the quintessential romantic composer, so this composition might well be regarded as one of the definitive romantic trios. (more…)

Brahms, Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78, “Regensonate”

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78, “Regensonate”, 1879

Johaness BrahmsBrahms’ three violin sonatas are all extraordinary masterpieces that occupy their own rarefied world of elegant construction, romantic sweep and exquisite beauty. The designation of “Sonata for Piano and Violin” significantly expresses the equal partnership of both instruments in this chamber music for two. While the violin often sings first and foremost, Brahms frequently switches the parts giving theme and accompaniment a deeper sounding through new sonorities and “inverted” textures. The two parts generally imitate, echo and intertwine for a balanced chamber unity with ample lyricism and virtuosity for both players. Brahms published his first sonata for piano and violin in 1879 at the relatively advanced age of 46, though, typical of his history, it seems that he may have consigned at least three previous sonatas to the fire of unremitting self-criticism. The Sonata in G Major, Op. 78 thus emerges as an astonishing “first” sonata by any standard; it is a magical work full of graceful tenderness, nobility, bursting intensity and sacred repose with a wealth of cyclic interconnections. It is a romantic sonata in the truest sense: there are literary and musical allusions to rain throughout and the prevailing serenity often gives rise to poignant reflection and nostalgia. It is revealing to touch upon each of its movements backwards, starting with the finale.