Johannes Brahms — Klavierstücke, Op 118

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  • Pina Napolitano photo Nikolaj Lund


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Video: Tommaso Tuzj Recorded at The Spheres, Montesilvano, Italy Notes by Hugh Collins Rice From the CD “BRAHMS the PROGRESSIVE”. Brahms’ late sets of piano pieces are an excellent place to consider him as ‘progressive’: their density of material, fluidity of form and subtlety of harmony are perfect examples of what Schoenberg found interesting. Both Opp. 118 and 119 were written in 1893 and are thus among Brahms’ final works. Although they comprise pieces called Intermezzo, Ballade, Romanze and Rhapsodie, Brahms gives the sets the more neutral title of Klavierstücke – nomenclature that Schoenberg was to use later for his own works for solo piano. Each of the pieces of Op. 118 is strongly and individually characterised, but overall they are strikingly difficult to categorise. They are at once both simple character pieces and complex distillations of Brahms’ larger works. As Schoenberg clearly felt, they are both windows into the future but also melancholic echoes of a past soon to be replaced by a new century. We can marvel at the way in which Brahms combines an apparently effortless charm with the most intricate of motivic constructions, particularly in the second and fourth pieces, where everything seems to be related. The final E-flat minor Intermezzo of the collection is music of great mystery and fragility, frequently sotto voce and often with an ambiguous sense of harmony.