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#408648 - 12/12/07 12:09 AM I started a new piece tonight...  
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pianojerome Offline
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Isn\'t it nice?

I've decided to take a musicology course on Brahms's music next semester, so I asked my piano teacher tonight for some suggestions. He recommended I play one piece from each of the sets, Opp. 76, 116, 117, 118, and 119, and pretty much any of them are fair game. Though he warned me to maybe shy away from a few in particular, he said it's okay if I pick one that's a little beyond my technique at this point, and really dig into it.

And then there are the waltzes, Op. 39. I like those, too, so I guess I'll be busy. laugh

Which ones are your favorites from Brahms? Which ones would you pick if you were asked to choose one from each opus of klavierstucke?


Sam
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#408649 - 12/12/07 12:14 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Cheeto717 Offline
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i love his ballade in g minor, opus 118 i think

also his 2nd capriccio, not sure what opus number.

I really enjoy his waltzes as well. Oh, and his hungarian dances, especially his second one.


"I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well."

J.S. Bach
#408650 - 12/12/07 12:19 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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pianojerome Offline
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Oh yeah, the ballade. I love it, too.

I was playing around with Op. 117 No. 3 this afternoon. It seems like it would be tricky to play well, with all of those legato octaves switching between the hands...

Helene Grimaud is better than me.

(but look what she does with her knuckles ... doesn't seem to hinder her playing too much, though!)


Sam
#408651 - 12/12/07 12:26 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Take the time and learn all of op. 76 when you can. It's a very manageable set, is heard less frequently than the others, and is rewarding to work on. Great stuff for a junior or senior recital!

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#408652 - 12/12/07 01:00 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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What a tough problem, to choose only one from a set and have to set aside the others. I'm in the fortunate position to be learning all of 117 and 118 as a long term project.

If I could choose only one:
Op. 116 #2
OP. 117 #2
Op. 118 #1 or #5 (couldn't bear to neglect either one!)
Haven't played any from the other sets.

Thanks for the link - I've always liked Grimaud's Brahms, but never saw video until now.

#408653 - 12/12/07 03:38 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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I would go for the Ballade in g minor. I think it is op 118 no 3. The only Brahms I ever studied well.


Robert Kenessy

.. it seems to me that the inherent nature [of the piano tone] becomes really expressive only by means of the present tendency to use the piano as a percussion instrument - Béla Bartók, early 1927.
#408654 - 12/12/07 11:21 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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I've been working on Op. 117 #1 (Intermezzo in E-flat major) for a while now, and I'd say it's a nice gateway piece - a short mid-tempo piece wherein the challenge isn't so much technical (although it's plenty technically challenging for li'l ol' me) but interpretive. It's kept me interested for the last few months (especially trying to master the chordal melody and left-hand arpeggios in the E-flat minor middle bit).


"Music is a proud, temperamental mistress. Give her the time and attention she deserves, and she is yours. Slight her and there will come a day when you call and she will not answer."
- Patrick Rothfuss
#408655 - 12/12/07 04:25 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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118 no. 2 is gorgeous, and good to learn for weddings and such. I really like the Rhapsody 119 no.4, but I'm not quite ready to play that yet. So far I've been working on the Rhapsody op 79 no. 1, and that seems much more manageable. 116 no. 6 is a nice easier Intermezzo too - that was my first Brahms piece, actually.


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#408656 - 12/12/07 06:05 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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The prof’s comment about certain of the Brahms Intermezzos being beyond the ability of a 3rd year musicologist student ... raises questions about the keyboard compositional style of JB .

What is it about the format of the Intermezzos that labels Brahms as a "heavy" ... and makes the playing of even the smaller works ...
something short of rocket science?

IMHO ... in looking firstly at 117/1 and the haunting 118/2 ... Brahms fails to submit to the poetic discipline (a la Chopin) of a balance between the two voices (hands) ... one chordal and the other single-note outline ... Brahms tends to get "muddy" with heavy chords in both hands.

Perhaps the most important law in composition is to provide a clearly discernable rhythmic pulse ... so as to ensure forward flow ... Brahms
ignores this fundamental basic and barges along with lashings of dark chordal note patterns tenuously tied together with large bass leaps and
thin scraps of jumpy single note patterns (often octave plus intervals) ... not the most user-friendly of styles.

It’s just as though Brahms puts on the paint "too thick" ... and had never subscribed to the "less is more" school.

It will be interesting to hear why the prof thinks that some of the Brahms works are beyond the present abilities of pj.

#408657 - 12/12/07 07:17 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Op. 118, No. 6 is extraordinary. I've played 1, 2 & 3 and hope one day to perform the complete set.


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#408658 - 12/12/07 08:44 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Quote
Originally posted by btb:
The prof’s comment about certain of the Brahms Intermezzos being beyond the ability of a 3rd year musicologist student ... raises questions about the keyboard compositional style of JB .

What is it about the format of the Intermezzos that labels Brahms as a "heavy" ... and makes the playing of even the smaller works ...
something short of rocket science?

[...]

It will be interesting to hear why the prof thinks that some of the Brahms works are beyond the present abilities of pj.
I'm not as good as most of his other students, 3rd year or not. I'm sure he wouldn't hesitate to assign any of them to most of his other students; in fact, I've heard several of his students in the past play entire opera.

He did say I could pick one of the few that might be beyond my technique, as a stretch piece; but since I am going to be playing maybe 5 of these, and also my Mozart concerto, and my own music that I compose, and I'm also now playing with a klezmer band... plus I want to be much more serious with my musicology studies next semester... I don't want to pick one that's going to require too much time.


Sam
#408659 - 12/12/07 08:53 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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BDB Offline
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I have worked on the b-minor Capriccio from Op. 76, playing it as written, except that I like to use the sostenuto pedal in the next to last measure instead of the damper pedal. That is the first measure that has any pedal: if you use the pedal before then, you lose the contrast between the staccato and legato which is the essence of the piece. Playing it that way is a real finger-twister, and for that reason, most pianists, even good ones, play it fast and with pedal, and the wrong articulation as a result.


Semipro Tech
#408660 - 12/13/07 05:34 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Betelgeuse, baby!
My favorites from each set:

Op. 76: Capriccio in C# minor (#4?)
Op. 116: Capriccio in G minor (#3), though the Capriccio in D minor (#7) is a close second, a very intense coda (especially those last few bars!) to the entire set;
Op. 117: Intermezzo in Eb major (#1) -- Brahms called it a "lulluby of my griefs"
Op. 118: Intermezzi in A minor/major (#1-2) -- I tend to think of these as a pair, the first a passionate prelude to the second;
Op. 119: Rhapsody in Eb major (#4)

As an avid Brahmsian, I've sightread all of them and performed a few, and they're all wonderful -- and the late pieces (Op. 116 onwards) I cosider almost as highly as the late Beethoven sonatas. I consider Op. 118 #2 to be my signature piece -- love at first listening for me! My favorite set is Op. 118 (very effective in performance), followed closely by Op. 119. Just read through them and find out what fits your ears and fingers.

P.S.: The B minor Rhapsody Op. 79 #1 that Morodiene is learning is also a great piece and another favorite of mine (more so than #2 which is performed much more often), and not too difficult. It helps that the second A section is a simple written out da capo (without repeat) of the first, so really one only has to learn the two contrasting sections and a one page coda. It's the sort of piece one can put together at short notice if one is familiar with Brahms's piano writing (and as Morodiene noted, it's easier than the Eb major Rhapsody Op. 119 #4).


Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.
#408661 - 12/13/07 04:52 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Opus 119 #3 is short and sweet and very fun to play. If you are learning one piece from each set, I'd steer clear of the Rhapsody (No. 4) just because it is technically the most difficult piece of Op. 119 and the longest. (As you can tell from my 'name' - I LOVE Johannes and esp. Opus 119!)

#408662 - 12/13/07 08:28 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Quote
Originally posted by btb:
[...]questions about the keyboard compositional style of JB .

IMHO ... in looking firstly at 117/1 and the haunting 118/2 ... Brahms fails to submit to the poetic discipline (a la Chopin) of a balance between the two voices (hands) ... one chordal and the other single-note outline ... Brahms tends to get "muddy" with heavy chords in both hands.

I will interject MHO here and say that I very rarely see Brahms as "muddy" with heavy chords in both hands, although Brahms can be played that way by someone who has no understanding of the structure and texture of many of the Intermezzi.

Where is it dictated that the "poetic discipline" requires a chordal (voice) in one hand and a single-note outline in the other? If you play the Op 118/2 with any sensitivity, you will surely see that its melody line is as lyrical as anything Brahms wrote, and that the accompaniment - whether in a single line of two-note phrases or chords - highlights the harmonic changes that give the melody both its charm and its forward movement. As often happens in Brahms, the section beginning at measure 49 has almost canonic responses in the LH to the RH's statement. If you look closely at the chordal sequence starting at measure 57, you'll see that the top line of the right hand is repeated two beats later in the top notes of the left hand chords. It's the challenge to the pianist - and his/her job, if s/he knows Brahms - to bring out these echos, and not just play solid, meaningless chords.
Quote

Perhaps the most important law in composition is to provide a clearly discernable rhythmic pulse ... so as to ensure forward flow ... Brahms
ignores this fundamental basic and barges along with lashings of dark chordal note patterns tenuously tied together with large bass leaps and
thin scraps of jumpy single note patterns (often octave plus intervals) ... not the most user-friendly of styles.

How can you not sense the gentle but discernable rhythmic pulse in the "Lullaby" that is Op 117/1? how can you not feel the almost relentless foward drive of Op 117/2 with its alternating descending and ascending arpeggio figures? The Op 118/2 needs forward momentum to make it sing, and it sings beautifully when one observes the two-note phrase accompaniment figures that add a gentle impetus to the Andante teneramente of the melodic line.

Still sticking with the Op 117/118/119, there are other more obvious examples of real forward drive in Brahms' writing in the Ballade, Op 118/3, the gently agitated A sections of Op 119, No 2, the rather bombastic but dramatic opening to the Rhapsody of Op 119/4, both the A and B sections of the C# minor Op 117/3.

You may not like Brahms and that is an individual taste which others need to respect but to dismissively characterize his piano writing as muddy chords having no sense of rhythm suggests to me that you don't know Brahms.
Quote


It will be interesting to hear why the prof thinks that some of the Brahms works are beyond the present abilities of pj.
Might it be possible that pj's experience in piano literature has not yet reached a level where his professor feels he has the skills to handle the complexities of Brahms' writing?

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190
#408663 - 12/13/07 11:32 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Sorry to have stood on your Brahmsian shoes BruceD,

The object of the exercise was to discover how it was possible that a bright 3rd year musicologist like pj should be considered by the prof. not to have the keyboard skills to attack a Brahms Intermezzo ... out of respect for the chappie’s sincere involvement in his music I took the liberty of questioning Brahms’ keyboard batting style.

You concede that Brahms can get "muddy" ... the rest of the world regards him as "heavy" ... the Forum seldom carries his works ... so we must conclude that by comparison with Chopin (please excuse an apples comparison) ... there must be something about the Brahms format which does not follow in the footsteps of the paragons.

Must leave you to delight in your Brahms Intermezzos ... my jaundiced eye had earlier listed the weaknesses in the Brahms style ...
my own contention is that Brahms could not find enough "colour" (variety of orchestral voices) in the keyboard compass ... and shot himself in the foot by throwing in too many scattered voices
... which works brilliantly in his symphonies (lava-like outpourings)... but become leaden when stretching the limits of the pianoforte.

In not wanting to offend the Brahms elite ... anybody who tackles an Intermezzo (we all like 118/2) needs to be warned ... “gird your loins” ... you’re in for a rough ride!!

#408664 - 12/14/07 02:35 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Alexander Hanysz Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by pianojerome:
I've decided to take a musicology course on Brahms's music next semester, so I asked my piano teacher tonight for some suggestions. He recommended I play one piece from each of the sets, Opp. 76, 116, 117, 118, and 119...
Personally I think you'll get more out of doing one opus as a complete set, and I'd recommend op 118. If you go trawling through books and journals, you'll find some interesting discussion as to whether the late intermezzi were intended as independent pieces, or whether each opus should be treated as a single multi-movement work--I don't think there's a consensus on that issue yet!

#408665 - 12/14/07 02:47 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Alexander Hanysz Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by btb:
...
Perhaps the most important law in composition is to provide a clearly discernable rhythmic pulse ... so as to ensure forward flow ... Brahms
ignores this fundamental basic and barges along with lashings of dark chordal note patterns tenuously tied together with large bass leaps and
thin scraps of jumpy single note patterns (often octave plus intervals) ... not the most user-friendly of styles.
Well, if you want user-friendly style, then you need to be looking at Telemann, Moskowski, Field...

No, seriously, concerning "clearly discernible rhythmic pulse" as a fundamental of composition--I think that Wagner, Debussy, Schoenberg and many others would not agree with that. I find it endlessly fascinating how great composers can be different from each other in such "fundamental" ways; it doesn't mean that any of them necessarily got it "wrong"!

Quote
Originally posted by btb:

It’s just as though Brahms puts on the paint "too thick" ... and had never subscribed to the "less is more" school.
Have you ever had the chance to play on a 19th century piano? You'll find that the bass is much clearer, and that Brahms's sound world makes a lot more sense (as do some of Beethoven's famous long pedal markings). Once you've experienced this, you'll have better ideas about how to meet the challenge of playing Brahms on a modern instrument.

I think that Brahms' music is less "robust", in the sense of being more easily spoiled by a bad performance, than many other composers. So maybe you've been put off by hearing a poor rendition of something.

#408666 - 12/14/07 07:16 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Betelgeuse, baby!
It is true that Brahms's textures do tend to be rich -- not just in terms of chord-chord bang-bang (as some simpletons like btb may say), but also in terms of harmonic movement, counterpoint/part writing, and rhythmic interplay (hemiolas, cross rhythms, etc.). However, this tempts many performers to underline the richness of texture by making things sound muddy aurally, hence getting bogged down in the rich chordal constructions, not letting the melody come out, ignoring strands of counterpoint, having no variety of articulation, etc. There's a difference between muddiness of sound and richness of sound -- think of Herby von K.'s icky-sticky recordings of the Brahms symphonies versus, say, Mackerras's or Berglund's, or Gardiner's recording of Ein Deutsches Requiem (all of which embody what I think of as the ideal Brahms sonority, combining richness and radiance of sound). It is performers in general (and hence audiences have picked up on this) that confuse Brahms's richness of texture as justification for muddiness of sound. A great pity, methinks.
I think the reason why Brahms's solo piano works are not performed as often (and sometimes not as highly regarded) as, say, Chopin and Liszt, is the fact that Brahms's piano writing feels somewhat awkward to the hands, i.e. not "pianistic." Someone coming from a Chopin nocturne to a Brahms intermezzo for the first time probably will find it "heavy going" at first. But I find that this is simply a matter of getting used to the pianistic idiom. Brahms has characteristic pianistic figurations, for example, arpeggios that seemed conceived by the handful rather than by individual finger motion (common in the capriccios and rhapsodies), frequent doubling of a line in thirds, sixths, and octaves, and so on, that seem strange at first. But when one grasps the pianistic idiom, it really is no more difficult or more "muddy" than any of the "pianistic" composers. I admit that I come to this with a rather odd point of view, having learned many Brahms solo piano works (amongst them the late pieces, the Op. 10 Ballades, and the F minor sonata) before turning to more traditionally "pianistic" composers.
Besides, when played with a secure grasp of the idiom, Brahms's solo works sound as ravishing as anything in the repertoire -- and isn't making the piano sound well (no matter how strange the figuration may be to the hands at first) the very heart of being pianistic?


Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.
#408667 - 12/14/07 07:58 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Betelgeuse, baby!
Quote
Originally posted by Alexander Hanysz:
Quote
Originally posted by pianojerome:
[b]I've decided to take a musicology course on Brahms's music next semester, so I asked my piano teacher tonight for some suggestions. He recommended I play one piece from each of the sets, Opp. 76, 116, 117, 118, and 119...
Personally I think you'll get more out of doing one opus as a complete set, and I'd recommend op 118. If you go trawling through books and journals, you'll find some interesting discussion as to whether the late intermezzi were intended as independent pieces, or whether each opus should be treated as a single multi-movement work--I don't think there's a consensus on that issue yet! [/b]
Well, I think both apply. Brahms apprently conceived the pieces seperately over a number of years, but the way he grouped them suggests he wanted each opus to be self-contained as well (much like his song sets published under one opus, which he called "bouquets"). It doesn't do harm to perform pieces individually, but each set seems to be governed by its own laws of unity, hence suggesting a single multi-movement work.
Op. 116 begins and ends in D minor, and many of the pieces are dominated by descending thirds. Also, #4-6 form a kind of large-scale ABA movement (E major-minor-major).
Op. 117 is perhaps the one opus that I would tend to regard as a trio of seperate pieces rather than as a multi-movement work, but the key progression works very well when performed as a group.
Op. 118 is organized by tonalities that descend by whole steps, and as I noted above, the brief first intermezzo acts almost like a prelude (to the whole set, or to the second, which is in the parallel major).
Op. 119's key progression is again highly satisfying, and the pieces accelerate in terms of tempo.
I tend to think of each opus as a "bouquet" of songs (without words) -- using organizational methods that suggest unity while not always adhering to the traditional organizational methods of multi-movement instrumental works.


Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.
#408668 - 12/14/07 10:12 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Quote
Originally posted by btb:
[QB] The prof’s comment about certain of the Brahms Intermezzos being beyond the ability of a 3rd year musicologist student ... raises questions about the keyboard compositional style of JB .....
This is a joke, right? Or flamebait? If not, perhaps Mr. btb should take a musicology course or two himself.

There's no point arguing taste here. Personally, I much prefer Brahms to Chopin. But it really is beyond nuts to disparage Brahm's compositional skills simply because his style doesn't fit btb's ideal of "poetic discipline." And why does btb's idea of "poetic discipline" remind me of what one hears from a cocktail pianist with a fake book?

As for those "heavy chords" that upset btb so much - here's a clue: Whether Brahm's music sounds heavy or not depends on the pianist and the balance he/she brings to it. Brahms' music is definitely full of counterpoint and chromaticism. But if you look carefully, you'll find that the "heaviness" is not in the writing, but often in the perfomance. Look at Op 118, No. 3. All those "thick" and "heavy" chords jumping around in the opening measures - they're marked staccato. No pedal indications at all until the contrasting "piano" section. (And yes, Mr. JB was very careful in marking in pedal indications in his first editions - they are not just editor's marks.) How many pianists actually play it that way? Maybe if btb actually studied this music,and tried rising to it's technical and interpretive challenges his time might be more fruitfully used than spouting of his personal taste masquerading as "poetic ideals"

I guess i took the flamebait.

#408669 - 12/14/07 11:31 AM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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John Citron Offline
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Sam,

You might want to get this recording to listen to. These were performed on a piano similar to Brahms'. It's something like one serial no. off from his piano, which was destroyed in WWI.

(cover pic)
http://www.centaurrecords.com/show_cover.php?crc=2850

Link to order page: (Scroll down)
http://www.centaurrecords.com/searc...=5&search_string=&category=piano

I purchased it from the Frederick Collection for the same price, and even played on that piano myself.

What is interesting about these insturments is what we consider "muddy" on our pianos today, come out nice and clear on these instruments. We have to go through a lot more work to produce the melodic lines that Brahms as buried within the music.

John


Nothing.
#408670 - 12/14/07 12:55 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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gmf001 Offline
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I once had a teacher who described Brahms as the best 4-part writer since Bach. While his music is thick and complex, it is generally not muddy, especially if you think of it in contrapuntal terms, rather than harmonic.
Studying Brahms takes effort and careful analysis . you have to move past the obvious melody lines with their harmonic accompaniment and find all of the contrapuntal, contrasting lines that makes Brahms the great composer he truly is. This is what makes it difficult for a student, especially on first exposure.

#408671 - 12/14/07 12:58 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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pianojerome Offline
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One of my theory teachers this semester loved to talk about Brahms as a model composer.

"Remember what Brahms always said: write a good bass line first, and then a melody, and then work from there.


Sam
#408672 - 12/14/07 01:01 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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gmf001 Offline
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and hidden in those bass lines are some of Brahms' best melodies. Check out 118.2 for some good examples...

#408673 - 12/27/07 04:10 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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fnork Offline
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I'm learning op 119 at the moment - a fantastic opus.

In general, I've found it more rewarding to work on Brahms chamber music rather than solopiano works - sonatas, trios etc...there is of course a great deal of good solo piano music, but the biggest treasures are to be found in his chamber music IMO. WIth that said, I think that op 79 is a good starter if you haven't played any solo works yet, it was the first piece that I learned by Brahms. The g minor rhapsody is easier (and more repetetive) than the first one which has some uncomfortable spots.

#408674 - 12/27/07 05:49 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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hopinmad Offline
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There's one, an intermezzo or a capriccio I'm not sure, but it's the second piece of the op 116 I think, which is absolutely charming.


Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin
#408675 - 12/27/07 05:58 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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hopinmad Offline
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No the G minor is much harder than the B minor


Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin
#408676 - 12/27/07 08:13 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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Pathbreaker Offline
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Is that really the case hopinmad? I have played the g minor but always thought the b minor would be a much more difficult task. At least technically I'm pretty sure the b minor would be harder for me. Maybe you meant the g minor is more difficult to pull off convincingly.

As for the original topic, I would stick to the shorter pieces from 76,116,117,118,119 to satisfy your specific needs.

I've played 76/1, 116/3 and 118/2 with 76/1 being the most difficult.

I think some of the best ones to choose from are:
117/1,2,3 and 119/1,2

#408677 - 12/27/07 10:52 PM Re: I started a new piece tonight...  
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currawong Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by hopinmad:
No the G minor is much harder than the B minor
I wouldn't agree at all - I think the G minor is quite a bit less demanding technically (I've played them both). I suppose it depends on where you are technically and what particular things you have issues with.


Du holde Kunst...
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