Brahms' Piano Style

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ichiro
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Brahms' Piano Style

Post by ichiro » Sat Mar 04, 2006 2:46 pm

I'm writing a paper about Brahms, and I wanted to know if anyone can comment on the style of his piano writing.

Essentially, what i would like to know is: are there any features that distinguishes his piano style? ( say, as opposed to Schumann or Chopin for example), and how did his style change from his early twenties (sonatas, ballades) to the late piano pieces?

Thanks, I'd appreciate any feedback

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Re: Brahms' Piano Style

Post by Lance » Sat Mar 04, 2006 5:13 pm

ichiro wrote:I'm writing a paper about Brahms, and I wanted to know if anyone can comment on the style of his piano writing.

Essentially, what i would like to know is: are there any features that distinguishes his piano style? ( say, as opposed to Schumann or Chopin for example), and how did his style change from his early twenties (sonatas, ballades) to the late piano pieces?

Thanks, I'd appreciate any feedback
I would like to respond to this most interesting question but it's a big question with responses that cannot be uttered lightly. I would have to think a while to put something in words. In the meantime, I'm sure others here, such as Karl Henning or Maestro DJS already have something to say on the tips of their tongues!
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Wallingford
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Post by Wallingford » Sat Mar 04, 2006 5:26 pm

THis is a slightly oblique response, but:

It seems Brahms wanted to further develop the purely ORCHESTRAL sonority that Beethoven initiated: mainly in the use of full block chords, particularly at the bottom of the keyboard. Brahms' works are oozing with many examples herein, both in his earlier AND later periods. In the final, crashing, tragic chord of the Scherzo of his Second Concert, he has the soloist play a D-minor chord in the bottom two octaves where it can be executed fully. (I believe, also, that the same chord forms the ending of the First Concerto's opening movement.)

Brahms had some interesting ways of instructing the pianist to finger a full chord: the B-minor Intermezzo of Op. 119 has a final chord which has the two hands interlock on a two-octave-span B-minor chord. It has a decided change of effect from that if the pianist had fingered it one-chord-to-a-hand.
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SueCan
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Post by SueCan » Tue Mar 07, 2006 11:55 pm

I spent a happy 3 years playing nothing but Bach and Brahms. I sensed a strange consonance betwen the two composers -- in their love of inner voices and resultant wondrous harmonies. Born a whole generation after many of the Romantic ‘whiz kids’ , this quiet, sober Viennese composer also found inspiration in the more restrained, formalist style of the Classical period.

Emotionally, Brahms has a strange melancholy, a contained Romanticism that asks us for something entirely different than Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Liszt. While Brahms' harmonies and suspensions might remind us of Rachmaninoff, his emotional palette is more limited, less “Russian”.
While his lyricism might remind us of Chopin, there is an interior, yearning, unfulfilled quality in his writing, an achingly poignancy. He reaches for a climax and backs off his own ecstasy every time. While Chopin declares, “I LOVE YOU” and can break your heart saying it. Brahms is too busy breaking his own heart.

I love to play Brahms, but he’s less exhilarating to play than Chopin. Sometimes I feel I can’t breathe because of his searing pathos and self-imposed restraint. I feel as if I’m accompanying an unseen singer when I play Brahms. Chopin needs no such singer, only his piano!

In sum, I like Brahms music, his quiet pathos ... and all people like him.
(Postcards from a book, Sue)

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Mar 08, 2006 12:35 am

SueCan wrote:I spent a happy 3 years playing nothing but Bach and Brahms. I sensed a strange consonance betwen the two composers -- in their love of inner voices and resultant wondrous harmonies. Born a whole generation after many of the Romantic ‘whiz kids’ , this quiet, sober Viennese composer also found inspiration in the more restrained, formalist style of the Classical period.

Emotionally, Brahms has a strange melancholy, a contained Romanticism that asks us for something entirely different than Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Liszt. While Brahms' harmonies and suspensions might remind us of Rachmaninoff, his emotional palette is more limited, less “Russian”.
While his lyricism might remind us of Chopin, there is an interior, yearning, unfulfilled quality in his writing, an achingly poignancy. He reaches for a climax and backs off his own ecstasy every time. While Chopin declares, “I LOVE YOU” and can break your heart saying it. Brahms is too busy breaking his own heart.

I love to play Brahms, but he’s less exhilarating to play than Chopin. Sometimes I feel I can’t breathe because of his searing pathos and self-imposed restraint. I feel as if I’m accompanying an unseen singer when I play Brahms. Chopin needs no such singer, only his piano!

In sum, I like Brahms music, his quiet pathos ... and all people like him.
(Postcards from a book, Sue)
Was that last thought intended as a double entendre?

Welcome to the board, and same to Ichiro. I hope you realize that he is going to plagiarize this word for word. :)

BTW Lance, neither KarlHenning nor MaestroDJS is a pianist.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Harvested Sorrow » Wed Mar 08, 2006 1:07 am

jbuck919 wrote:
SueCan wrote:I spent a happy 3 years playing nothing but Bach and Brahms. I sensed a strange consonance betwen the two composers -- in their love of inner voices and resultant wondrous harmonies. Born a whole generation after many of the Romantic ‘whiz kids’ , this quiet, sober Viennese composer also found inspiration in the more restrained, formalist style of the Classical period.

Emotionally, Brahms has a strange melancholy, a contained Romanticism that asks us for something entirely different than Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Liszt. While Brahms' harmonies and suspensions might remind us of Rachmaninoff, his emotional palette is more limited, less “Russian”.
While his lyricism might remind us of Chopin, there is an interior, yearning, unfulfilled quality in his writing, an achingly poignancy. He reaches for a climax and backs off his own ecstasy every time. While Chopin declares, “I LOVE YOU” and can break your heart saying it. Brahms is too busy breaking his own heart.

I love to play Brahms, but he’s less exhilarating to play than Chopin. Sometimes I feel I can’t breathe because of his searing pathos and self-imposed restraint. I feel as if I’m accompanying an unseen singer when I play Brahms. Chopin needs no such singer, only his piano!

In sum, I like Brahms music, his quiet pathos ... and all people like him.
(Postcards from a book, Sue)
Welcome to the board, and same to Ichiro. I hope you realize that he is going to plagiarize this word for word. :)
To be fair, it seems like cutting and pasting quotes out of something of that level of eloquence and beauty would be utter bastardization of the source material. Let's just hope he uses it word for word and cites the author. :wink:

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Post by erinmr » Wed Mar 08, 2006 10:06 am

SueCan wrote:I spent a happy 3 years playing nothing but Bach and Brahms. I sensed a strange consonance betwen the two composers -- in their love of inner voices and resultant wondrous harmonies. Born a whole generation after many of the Romantic ‘whiz kids’ , this quiet, sober Viennese composer also found inspiration in the more restrained, formalist style of the Classical period.

Emotionally, Brahms has a strange melancholy, a contained Romanticism that asks us for something entirely different than Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Liszt. While Brahms' harmonies and suspensions might remind us of Rachmaninoff, his emotional palette is more limited, less “Russian”.
While his lyricism might remind us of Chopin, there is an interior, yearning, unfulfilled quality in his writing, an achingly poignancy. He reaches for a climax and backs off his own ecstasy every time. While Chopin declares, “I LOVE YOU” and can break your heart saying it. Brahms is too busy breaking his own heart.

I love to play Brahms, but he’s less exhilarating to play than Chopin. Sometimes I feel I can’t breathe because of his searing pathos and self-imposed restraint. I feel as if I’m accompanying an unseen singer when I play Brahms. Chopin needs no such singer, only his piano!

In sum, I like Brahms music, his quiet pathos ... and all people like him.
(Postcards from a book, Sue)
Thank you for that SueCan! For some reason, when I try to describe Brahms I just end up stuttering like a school girl with a crush.

There is just something about Brahms for me... I love how thoughtful and intelligent his music feals, especially his short piano works. I appreciate the fact that it sounds and feels like he put time and thought into his music, (in contrast to Chopin's "impromptu" style) but not at the expense of emotion and passion, albeit often times restrained. His use of meter is brilliant and this, layered with everything else mentioned just leaves me more infatuated with Brahms every time I experience his music.

~Erin

ichiro
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Post by ichiro » Wed Mar 08, 2006 1:11 pm

Yes, I plan to plagarize this egregiously! No, not really, but SueCan your words are very well-put, and it gives me some great ideas of where I need to go. Thanks very much.

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Post by Cyril Ignatius » Wed Mar 08, 2006 4:47 pm

I am not a pianist, but SueCan captures Brahms style well. His piano concertos No.s 1-2 represent a remarkable artistic power and complexity. And I guess I would add - complexity for the sake of art, not for its own sake. The piano parts, the orchestration, and the inteaction between piano and orchestra - are all first rate. Very few composers, before or since, can match the power of these concertos.
Cyril Ignatius

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Post by SueCan » Wed Mar 08, 2006 9:53 pm

Yes, Brahms is simply one of the best! Thanks for all the feedback. Feel free to use whatever you like. No words equal the notes. I have to go off for about ten days, but will watch you eloquent listeners converse with the Muse whenever I can. I'll bring back something to chew on, I'm sure. Imagine, we're spread all over the world discussing music that spans hundreds of years -- there's something truly 'classical' about that thought. A bientot, Sue

val
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Post by val » Thu Mar 09, 2006 3:00 am

In his youth Brahms composed the extraordinary Sonata n. 3 opus 5. In my opinion it is one of the greatest Sonatas composed since Beethoven and Schubert (with Schumann's first Sonata and Liszt Sonata in B minor).

The Händel Variations, composed some years later, are, with Schumann's Etudes Symphoniques, the greatest variations set composed since Beethoven. The work has an extraordinary beauty and diversity.

In his last years Brahms composed very touching little pieces, such as the Intermezzi opus 117 or the Klavierstücke opus 118 and 119.

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Post by Jack Kelso » Mon Mar 13, 2006 9:17 am

My favorite Brahms works for solo piano are the beautiful little Rhapsodies, opus 79 (especially the 2nd). Here he shows some remarkable invention!

His sonatas have never really captivated me.

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by IcedNote » Wed Apr 05, 2006 9:10 am

SueCan wrote: I feel as if I’m accompanying an unseen singer when I play Brahms. Chopin needs no such singer, only his piano!
Interesting way of putting it.

But in response to that, I would simply suggest that you either go listen to, or play, his Intermezzo in C# Minor, Op 117 No 3. Absolutely stunning little diddy ;)

-G
Harakiried composer reincarnated as a nonprofit development guy.

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Post by lmpower » Wed Apr 05, 2006 10:19 pm

Brahms piano sonatas are very early works before he had really found himself. The late pieces, opus 116 through 119, are fully Brahmsian and marvellously rewarding to listen to repeatedly.

val
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Post by val » Thu Apr 06, 2006 2:55 am

lmpower
Brahms piano sonatas are very early works before he had really found himself.
Perhaps it is true concerning the first two. Bur certainly not regarding the opus 5, an extraordinary masterpiece. In fact, it seems to me that the style of Brahms piano didn't change much between the 3rd Sonata, the Händel Variations, the Rhapsodies opus 79.

The late pieces, opus 116 through 119, are fully Brahmsian and marvellously rewarding to listen to repeatedly.
The late pieces are indeed wonderful. But not more mature than the previous ones. Only different, because Brahms, in his late years, became even more introspective, and not only in his piano: the clarinet Sonatas, the clarinet Quintet, the Chorals, the 2nd string Quintet.

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Post by SueCan » Sat Apr 08, 2006 11:15 pm

Yes, opus 79 is wonderful. I actually love the first Rhapsody. I studied it with Karl Ulrich Schnabel who expressed the essense of the Agitato like this -- wanting to move forward, but resisting it. KUS related the haunting D minor section to an incident in his own life. He lay so sick in a hospital bed in South America that Artur and his mother were summoned from Europe to say goodbye to their son. He wanted to let them know he was aware of their presence, but hadn't the strength to raise even a finger. He thought, "If I survive this illness, I want to put this into my piano playing: streaming emotion and no strength".

I sometimes feel this is the essence of Brahm's piano miniatures -- unlike Liszt or Chopin who rise to their climaxes with such sure-handedness. I particularly feel it in that lovely C#- Intermezzo, opus 117. What an underplayed treasure! Thanks for mentioning it. It's a "Dare I eat a peach" kind of piece -- so hesitant to move beyond a semitone. Followed by stark bleak octaves and ravishing romanticism in the middle. Do I sense some pianists here?

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