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Hello Piano World friends! I thought I might share my recent recording of Johannes Brahms very tender and moving Intermezzo in A, Op.118, No.2 - which reflects my time of solace and self-reflection with my family over this past year during the pandemic. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did learning and playing it!
Jason Solomonides - Brahms: Intermezzo in A Major, Op.118, No.2 Live Recording on March 14, 2021 on Mason & Hamlin BB via ProRecord MIDI and PianoTeq 7.1; Digital Audio via VSL Synchron Concert D-274.
This piece epitomizes so much of what I love about Brahms; his deep understanding and ever changing use of harmony and rhythm - he virtually never repeats a melody without further developing it and changing it! It truly is a mark of a humble, brilliant and mature composer, and is representative of why he is considered to be the true “successor” to Beethoven. His works at first may not appear to be “showy” or “pianistic”, but they are satisfyingly very full and passionate.
This has always been one of my favourite Brahms piano pieces.
I very much appreciate your interpretation: nice tempo and good voicing. I do like your use of rubato; it seems right for this piece. One of my teachers claimed that Brahms called these late pieces (Opp. 117 through 119) "children of my old age," but the research I have done including reading through Brahms' letters has never brought up that quote. I like it, however, as it characterizes the nostalgia that so many of these work evoke - for me (in my old age!), at least.
Again, thanks for sharing this; it's a lovely, refined performance.
@BruceD Thank you so much for your kind analysis and background on the late works of Brahms! Whether or not he actually said that about his Op.117-Op.119 works, they certainly do seem like "children of (his) old age"! They are such mature compositions, and so very beautifully crafted; certainly works of a master musician composer. I find that as I get older, there is so much more to learn!
@petebfrance I love this piece as well. I hear elements of so many of his prior melodic phrasings in this piece... from his Lullaby to his 2nd Piano Concerto (which for me also made me take such great interest in Brahms)
@grand_BB_7_1 It truly is heartfelt, nostalgic and introspective as you and BruceD noted. P.S. Looking forward to hearing your "new to you" rebuilt Mason & Hamlin BB! I love both the old an new BBs!
@Pathbreaker Appreciate the feedback and compliments! With twin almost nine year old daughters being schooled full-time from home and a cute 6 month old rescue puppy, producing high quality acoustic recordings from my Mason & Hamlin BB is virtually impossible these days. This recording was done while the twins were taking competitive Irish step dance class upstairs in our bonus room - including hard shoes on a Marley floor... which you can hear in the distance in the iPhone XR video-acoustic recording! Plus it's been about 8 to 9 months since I had the Mason & Hamlin BB tuned... it's not bad with all the DampChasser's and local AirCare humidity control I have going on in that room (which you can also hear in the acoustic recording).
I had ProRecord and PianoDisc installed as part of the prep for delivery, when I purchased my new Mason & Hamlin BB from the Haverhill, MA factory in 2015. I use the ProRecord optical MIDI system to capture the MIDI performance - I feel it does capture they dynamic response fairly well - perhaps because my WNG composite action and carbon-fiber hammers are fairly consistent despite variations in humidity. But I do check it on an annual basis to insure proper calibration with proportional sustain and interpretation of the soft pedal; I've developed a method to use PianoDisc's test mode to produce a consistent strike to each note, and then use this to calibrate each note dynamically relative to one another. Once I did this the first time, I usually do not have to alter it much on my annual check.
I also used PianoTeq 7.1 to record the MIDI performance... as I take advantage of this VST's built-in velocity curve editor to best match the responsiveness of the BB's Kluge keyboard; this involves a non-linear response curve that is shallow for pianissimo (below MIDI values of 25), linear in the mid-range, and steeper for forte/fortissimo (above MIDI values of 75). Velocity = [0, 1, 10, 25, 35, 46, 60, 70, 85, 107, 127; 0, 0, 5, 15, 25, 38, 60, 80, 105, 127, 127]. Many of the new VST's - have this capability, but I still use PianoTeq because of it's near zero-latency and because I nearly always have it on to capture my practicing as well - and sometimes listen to my evening practice with the mute rail on and my headphones on.
I typically do my recordings with no headphones as a straight acoustic performance (with either my iPhone recording or a high quality TEAC digital sound recorder I own and with my AKG mics), while simultaneously capturing the MIDI output. This way I am not compromising my performance as a result of the VST. Once I have a performance that is acceptable, I play this back though VSL Synchron Concert D274's sampled instrument. I also have Garritan Yamaha CFX and Embertone's Walker 1955 Concert D VSTs as well, and have tried acoustically combining them together or with PianoTeq, but typically the most representative sound of the performance is generated with only one of the sampled instruments. When my BB gets tuned post-pandemic, it might be fun to do some further analysis or synthesis of the acoustic performance with the VSL Synchron Concert D274 in Reaper or Audacity...