All tagged Brahms

Starting from an unused funeral march he’d written years before, Brahms began his requiem after the death of his mother in 1865, an event that added timely weight to his longstanding desire to memorialize his friend and mentor Robert Schumann. It all tied together, at least for writers, when Brahms bumped into Clara Schumann (widow to Robert and friend to Brahms’s mother — and around when Brahms had thought up the funeral march while trying to write piano music) outside the Bremen cathedral on the way into that first performance.

Written on a personal impetus during the romantic period (virtually defined by the concept of personal narrative), the Requiem is not liturgical. Its full title translates as “A German Requiem, after words of the Holy Scriptures.” There are only two soloists: a soprano singing of consolation on behalf of Brahms’s mother, and a baritone whose “Behold, I tell you a mystery” solo anchors a movement so searching, emotional and yet historically learned that it simply must be a musical conversation with Schumann.

Johannes Brahms may have accepted the dedication of Dvorak’s String Quartet in d minor, op. 34 (1877), but (in rather gentle manner for Brahms, when in a critical mood) wrote to Dvorak that when filling in the sharps and flats in his music he should take another look at the notes themselves, and noted (with implicit criticism) how quickly Dvorak composed. Is this criticism fair?
Brahms allows the gypsy caravan on stage for the finales of his Piano Quartet, op. 25, Violin Concerto, op.77, and Double Concerto, op. 102. But in his symphonic finales, Romany is no longer spoken. Why? Even Beethoven has “folk music” (it’s actually spurious. All the better! Mussorgsky took the same theme) in the finale of one of his op. 59 quartets, if not a symphony. Mendelssohn allows a saltarello as a symphonic finale. And Haydn and Dvorak are perfectly willing to have folk style music in many finales, including those in the symphonic sphere.