Johannes Brahms - Brahms Piano Quartet No.3
César Franck - Franck Prelude Choral & Fugue
Dmitri Shostakovich - Shostakovich Sonata for Cello & Piano
Piano Quartet No.3 (Werther Quartet)
C MINOR, OP.60
The great C minor Piano Quartet, op. 60 shows the art of a lion tamer and is easily one of Brahms’ finest achievements. He began the piece while living with Clara Schumann and helping run the Schumann household while Robert was in the mental asylum. Brahms was candid that the brooding quality of the piece was a direct reference to Werther. Goethe’s Romantic hero of unrequited love eventually commits suicide because of his anguish over a married woman whose husband he admires (the parallel with Brahms’s situation with regard to the Schumanns is obvious). The work, which took Brahms 20 years of revisions to complete it, was originally in C# minor, based on Schumann’s own musical motto for Clara—C#-B-A-G#-A. He then transposed it in C minor . This may seem overly technical, but there is a poetic idea behind it. C# minor was the key that represented for Brahms the suicidal unrequited lover. C minor was Beethoven’s key that represents heroic struggle. Brahms used the fusion of these two harmonic centers as a device to represent the powerful music drama of this piano quartet.
I. Allegro non troppo
II. Scherzo: Allegro
IV. Finale: Allegro comodo
Prelude Choral & Fugue
B MINOR - B MAJOR, OP.21
Franck's original plan, according to his pupil Vincent d' Indy, was to write a plain Prelude and Fugue, the venerable form made immortal by Bach and neglected since Mendelssohn, a visibly serious alternative to the plethora of virtuoso pieces which were so popular at that time. Not until the spring of 1884 did Franck come to grips - in an era contentiously preoccupied with Wagner and just beginning to appreciate Beethoven's later works - with the task of reviving the forms which had moved Bach. With the confidence and experi-ence of passing years he turned again to the solo piano and wrote what was to be the most deeply felt and serious work for the instrument to come out of France in the nineteenth century - the Prélude, Choral et Fugue. A work of tremendous unity and a feeling of magnetic inevitability which concludes in an elabo-rately figured, chromatically inflected and texturally rich essay. Doubt and faith, darkness and light, oscillate until the final ecstatic resolution. The 20 year old Mlle Poitevin, to whom the Prélude, Choral et Fugue is dedicated, gave the work its premiere at the Salle Pleyel, under the auspices of the Société National de Musique on January 24, 1885.
Sonata for Cello & Piano
D MINOR, OP.40
Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Cello Sonata in D minor op. 40 in 1934, when he was nearly 28. Its naturalism and radicalism caused some of Shostakovich’s greatest problems with Stalin’s Soviet authorities. The Cello Sonata reveals the rejection of the futuristic intensity of the composer’s early works. This rejection was to lead him to a more moderate style, which was related directly to the Classic- Romantic heritage that will strongly determine Shostakovich's post-1936 works, above all Symphony No. 5. Sonata in D minor was written for Victor Kubatsky, the excellent concertmaster of the cello section of Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre and the founder of the Stradivarius Quartet, Shostakovich’s frequent duet partner in that period. Its expression is determined by the composer’s typical conflict between deep and meditative lyricism, with a multitude of hidden codes and meanings and piquant grotesque, full of dazzling sound effects.
I. Allegro non troppo