Johannes Brahms (1833 -1897)
Sonatas tot Clarinet and Piano
Sonata in F minor for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 120,No.1
Sonata in E flat major for Clarinet and Piano, Op.
Sonatensatz: Scherzo (arr. KalmanBerkes)
Lieder, Op. 91 (arr. Kalman Berkes)
Johannes Brahms was born on 7th May 1833 in the Gangeviertel district of Hamburg, the 50n of Johann Jakob Brahms, a double-bass player,and his wife, a seamstress seventeen years his senior. As was natural, he wasat first taught music by his father, the violin and cello, with the intentionthat the boy should follow his father's trade, but his obvious interest in thepiano led to lessons on the instrument from an inspiring teacher and his firstmodest appearance on the concert platform at the age often. From this timeonwards he became a pupil of Eduard Marxsen, who gave him a firm grounding inclassical technique, while he earned money for his family by playing the pianoin establishments of doubtful reputation in the St Pauli district of the port, frequentedlargely by sailors and others in search of amusement. By the age of fifteen hehad given his first 5010 concert as a pianist.
In 1853 Brahms embarked on a concert tour with theHungarian violinist Eduard
Remenyi, during the course of which he visited Liszt in Weimar,to no effect, and struck up a friendship with the violinist Joseph Joachim,through whose agency he met the Schumanns then established in Dusseldorf. Theconnection was an important one. Schumann was impressed enough by the musicBrahms played him to hail him as the long-awaited successor to Beethoven, andhis subsequent break-down in February 1854 and ensuing insanity brought Brahmsback to Dusseldorf to help Schumann's wife Clara and her young family. Therelationship with Clara Schumann, one of the most distinguished pianists of thetime, lasted until her death in 1896.
Further concert activity and his association with Joachimand Clara Schumann allowed Brahms to meet many of the most famous musicians ofthe day. In 1857 he took a temporary position at the court of Detmold as aconductor and piano teacher, duties that he briefly resumed again in thefollowing two years, continuing all the time his activity as a composer andspending much of his time in Hamburg, where his ambitions were always tocentre.
Brahms first visited Vienna in 1862, giving concertsthere and meeting during the course of the winter the critic Eduard Hanslick,who was to prove a doughty champion. The following year brought appointment asconductor of the Vienna Singakademie for the season and in 1864 he again spentthe winter in the city, a pattern repeated in the following years until hefinally took up permanent residence there in 1869. For the rest of his life heremained a citizen of Vienna, travelling often enough to visit friends or togive concerts, and generally spending the summer months in the country, wherehe might concentrate on composition without undue disturbance. He came in someways to occupy a position similar to Beethoven in the musical life of the city,his notorious rudeness generally tolerated and his bachelor habits indulged byan admiring circle of friends. He died in Vienna in 1897.
In the music of the second half of the nineteenth centuryBrahms came to occupy a position in direct antithesis to Wagner. The latter hadseen in Beethoven's great Choral Symphony the last word in symphonicmusic. The music of the future lay, he claimed, in the new form of music-dramaof which he was the sole proponent. His father-in-law Liszt similarly found theway forward in the symphonic poem, an alloy formed from the musical andextra-musical. Brahms, largely through the advocacy of Hanslick, found himselfthe champion of pure or abstract music combined neither with drama nor anyother medium. The distinction was in some ways an artifical one. NeverthelessBrahms, whose background, like Beethoven's, was less literary than that ofWagner or of Liszt, did significantly extend the range of the symphony and washailed by many contemporaries as the successor to Beethoven, a future Schumannhad prophesied for him 23 years before the first symphony was written. Brahmsmade important additions to the repertoire of German song and to chamber music,in both respects continuing a tradition to which Schumann had notably contributed.
In all his music there is a remarkable combination of traditional form and anew originality of musical language that enabled Schoenberg to sense in him avery different kind of music of the future.
The two Clarinet Sonatas, Opus 120 were written in1894 for the clarinettist Richard Muhlfeld, who had first served as a violinistin the Meiningen Court Orchestra, before his appointment in 1879 as principal clarinettistthere, his work involving also some assistance to the conductor Hans von Billowin sectional rehearsals. In 1890 Muhlfeld became music director of the courttheatre and it was during a visit by Brahms to Meiningen in March the followingyear that von Billow's successor Fritz Steinbach persuaded him to hear Muhlfeld'sclarinet playing. The result was the Clarinet Trio and ClarinetQuintet, written during the summer, the first performed by Muhlfeld withthe composer and Robert Hausmann and the second with the Joachim Quartet in Berlinin December. Brahms first performed the two sonatas with Muhlfeld in Vienna on7th January 1895, following this with further performances from which hederived considerable pleasure.
The Sonata in F minor, Opus 120, No.1, isintroduced briefly by the piano, after which the clarinet states the principaltheme, before adding characteristic arpeggio figuration to the piano version ofthe melody. The autumnal mood continues with the introduction of furtherthematic material, its development and recapitulation, and an expressive coda.
The full piano textures and prevailing poignancy suggested by the timbre of theclarinet itself carry into the slow movement, Andante un poco adagio,after the shaft of sunlight that had marked the end of the first movement. Nowthere is a gently descending melodic contour at the outset, the pianofiguration introducing semiquaver broken chords, as the mood brightens, throughthe mist of the season. The relative major key is continued in the delicate Allegrettograzioso, with its F minor trio section exploring the lower register of theclarinet against piano syncopation, before the A flat major opening materialreturns. The piano starts the final F major Vivace, a rondo thatincludes a minor second episode, after a first episode in contrasting tripletrhythm, which returns immediately after the second episode, followed by theprincipal theme.
The Sonata in E flat major, Opus 120, No. 2,offers immediately a theme the character of which is explained in the directionAllegro amabile, a mood that continues with the second subject, materialduly developed and allowed a recapitulation in a closely woven texture of song.
The movement ends gently, with a final unobtrusive recurrence of thosecross-rhythms that are such a feature of Brahms's writing. There follows an Allegroappassionato<