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List: The Piano Quartet / Quintet. Smallman
Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Nationality: German
Born: May 7, 1833, Hamburg Died: April 3, 1897, Vienna (age 63)

Piano Quartet No. 3 in c minor, Op. 60, "Werther"

(for violin, viola, cello and piano)
10:33 I. Allegro non troppo
4:12 II. Scherzo. Allegro
9:25 III. Andante
9:57 IV. Finale. Allegro comodo
Duration: 35 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1855-1875 (age 21-42)
Premiere: November 18, 1875. Vienna. Brahms and members of the Hellmesberger Quartet
Published: 1875, Berlin: N. Simrock (age 41-42)
8 recordings, 29 videos
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11:15
Domus
I. Allegro non troppo
4:24
Domus
II. Scherzo. Allegro
9:32
Domus
III. Andante
9:12
Domus
IV. Finale. Allegro comodo
9:02
Jascha Heifetz, Sanford Schonbach, Gregor Piatigorsky, Jacob Lateiner
I. Allegro non troppo
3:58
Jascha Heifetz, Sanford Schonbach, Gregor Piatigorsky, Jacob Lateiner
II. Scherzo. Allegro
8:11
Jascha Heifetz, Sanford Schonbach, Gregor Piatigorsky, Jacob Lateiner
III. Andante
9:05
Jascha Heifetz, Sanford Schonbach, Gregor Piatigorsky, Jacob Lateiner
IV. Finale. Allegro comodo
10:34
Anton Barakhovsky, et. al.
I. Allegro non troppo
4:12
Anton Barakhovsky, et. al.
II. Scherzo. Allegro
8:52
Anton Barakhovsky, et. al.
III. Andante
10:08
Anton Barakhovsky, et. al.
IV. Finale. Allegro comodo
11:06
Renaud Capuçon, et. al.
I. Allegro non troppo
4:14
Renaud Capuçon, et. al.
II. Scherzo. Allegro
9:25
Renaud Capuçon, et. al.
III. Andante
10:13
Renaud Capuçon, et. al.
IV. Finale. Allegro comodo
10:52
Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax
I. Allegro non troppo
4:11
Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax
II. Scherzo. Allegro
9:09
Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax
III. Andante
10:55
Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax
IV. Finale. Allegro comodo
11:40
Quarto Quartet, Vassileva
I. Allegro non troppo
4:24
Quarto Quartet, Vassileva
II. Scherzo. Allegro
11:04
Quarto Quartet, Vassileva
III. Andante
12:25
Quarto Quartet, Vassileva
IV. Finale. Allegro comodo
37:19
Gallardo, et. al.
10:07
Beaux Arts Trio
I. Allegro non troppo
4:03
Beaux Arts Trio
II. Scherzo. Allegro
9:56
Beaux Arts Trio
III. Andante
9:47
Beaux Arts Trio
IV. Finale. Allegro comodo
From Kai Christiansen

Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60, "Werther", 1875

When Brahms submitted the score of his third piano quartet to his longtime publisher, he wrote that the cover should show picture a man holding a gun to his head, such was the black melodrama of the music and the quartet's eventual nickname after Goethe's young, suicidal Werther. C-minor is a favorite of both Brahms and Beethoven, a key Brahms also used for his first string quartet and his first symphony. The "Werther" quartet vies with the first piano quartet in g minor and the massive piano quintet in f minor for its thrilling intensity, its relentless rhythms and its delicious severity.

Suspense and surprise attack characterize much of the music beginning with the opening movement's brooding introduction and the startling crash of the main theme pounding with thunder and ominous rumblings in the pulsing base ostinato. A number of obstinate rhythmic reiterations course through this practically violent music. Still, the illuminated, lyrical Brahms shines through the second theme in poised, majestic sweeps and a new glittering ostinato. The dramatic contrasts of sonata form reprise the tragic theme in gigantic strides of fully realized might, countered yet again by a richly expanded second theme almost suggesting that light will triumph over dark. But an underlying tension erodes the lyricism as rich romantic sweeps, like a whirlpool, draw the music into down into the deep gravity of C-minor ending with a chilling death knell.

The apparent prevailing severity ensues with a madly driving scherzo, again, featuring a pulsing, persistent rhythm that trails a boiling wake of eddies and currents in the form of complex textures and rhythms. A very brief trio-like section only slightly stalls this ominous momentum. In a one-two punch, the first two movements seem to seal the fate of this deadly quartet. Yet, finally, the third-movement andante brings soothing relief as the cello sings a limpid, long-limbed melody in the manner of a lied or late intermezzo. The violin joins creating an exquisite duet with Brahms' characteristic harmonies in 3rds and 6ths warmly supporting two lovers rapt with song.

The finale begins with the tensile lightness of Mendelsohn and a sinuous, spinning theme only slightly worried by the return of C-minor. Eventually, mighty quartet textures restore a stormy gravity worth of matching the dense weight of the first two movements. Suspense and latent tension continually undermine even the most flowing lyricism of passing chorales while muscular scoring for piano and string trio ratchets the sound into epic proportions. The conclusion presents a magical transformation of texture, color and mood that keeps you hanging until the very last, unexpected note.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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