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Johannes Brahms: Piano Quintet Op. 34 11/19/12

November 19, 2012

I had a wonderful time performing Brahms Piano Quintet with amazing musician friends. We performed 2 occasions last week. One anecdote tells how Brahms composed his works. One evening in Vienna, Brahms joined his friends at cafe, and his friend asked him how he spent his day. Brahms answered “I was working on my symphony. In the morning I added an eighth note, and in the afternoon I took it out”. Brahms completed this piano quintet in a very slow process. In 1862, he got the idea to compose chamber music for string quintet, with 2 cellos. After he finished the first 3 movements, he sent them to his soul mate and mentor, Clara Schumann and the violinist, Joseph Joachim. They were happy to receive his new composition, but they showed some disagreement. Joachim told him “The details of this work has a great strength, but what is lacking is in a word, charm.” So next year, Brahms came up the idea to write this piece for 2 pianos, and premiered with Karl Tausig. Clara heard it and played it, and said “it cannot be called a Sonata. I have a feeling that it was an arrangement. Please remodel it once more!” In following year, Brahms got the idea of writing this piece for piano quintet. This time Clara said “You have turned a monotonous work for 2 pianos into a music of great beauty, a masterpiece of chamber music”. Yes, she is right! I have played those 2 versions, and piano quintet seemed an entirely different accomplishment. We have Op. 34b for 2 piano version now. Brahms’ Piano Quintet Op. 34 is known to be one of the best works in this genre, and I am very lucky to have an opportunity to play it.