1 sept. 2011

Brahms

I'm on the Berliner Philharmonic now. Brahms is surprisingly hard to get through. It's beautiful, mellifluous music, but somehow I don't feel a personal connection to Brahms the way I do to Mahler or Beethoven.

15 comentarios:

Vance Maverick dijo...

There's a Bukowski poem somewhere in which he mentions listening to Brahms -- "Brahms first movement". (Point being, there is variation among his works.)

For myself, I do care strongly about Brahms's music. Not sure about a "personal connection", exactly, but some things, like the first movement of the Fourth Symphony, are, to me, about as good as music can get.

And (less importantly) as I've aged, I've grown more impressed with the way he faced the massive example of Beethoven. The other day I heard some kids playing a wind arrangement of the main theme of the last movement of the First Symphony -- which both does and does not resemble the main theme of the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth. This blend is so carefully judged as to leave no doubt of his meaning.

Jonathan dijo...

I do love that Beethovenesque theme. It clearly resembles the main theme of Ode to Joy, but it is clearly a different theme. I think I enjoy symphonies more in the symphony hall than recorded.

Vance Maverick dijo...

So you're listening in order by "artist"? And the artist is in this case the orchestra? (This is a point where the conventions of classical music really misalign with the world at large.)

In any case, who's the conductor? The last time I heard these symphonies, it was Berlin conducted by Simon Rattle -- broad, warm, echoey, but pretty effective. (Abbado/Berlin was a bit crisper, as I recall.)

Jonathan dijo...

It is Herbert van Karajan. It is kind of funny how that misalignment works. I can't wait until I get to the Chicago Symphony. Most of my Mahler is there, because Chicago has, traditionally, the best brass section.

Jonathan dijo...

von Karajan...

Jim Murdoch dijo...

Took me a while to think of Brahms in his own right and not simply a poor man's Beethoven. It was probably the Fourth Symphony that did it for me.

Vance Maverick dijo...

I don't think I ever thought of Brahms in those terms. Apart from the general sound cues that he's later in the 19th century, there's something Brahms never does -- to hit you over the head with something simple. Beethoven can do this brilliantly, but even Brahms's simple ideas (the chaconne in the Fourth) are richly elaborated.

(The hammering triple beat of the introduction to the First Symphony is an exception, but of course is in part a reference to Beethoven.)

Jonathan dijo...

A friend of mine is heavily intro Bruckner. I guess I see Mahler and Bruckner and composer like that as more interesting and less bland than Brahms. I haven't listened to enough Bruckner, yet, since he will be under C for Chicago or W for Vienna.

Vance Maverick dijo...

Different, sure. I'm a big fan of Bruckner's, though I think there's less of his best music. (If all but the last three symphonies were lost, I would hardly feel the difference.)

What do you make of Wagner? Say, Goetterdaemmerung?

Jonathan dijo...

I'm not a big Wagnerian simply because I don't listen to opera much if at all. Wagner is a huge influence on the Bruckner / Mahler direction that Viennese music would take, right?

Vance Maverick dijo...

Yes, and also on French music (Franck, Chausson, Debussy), and even Italian. The love-motif in Otello is as clear an acknowledgment of musical indebtedness as the hymn-theme of Brahms's First.

Vance Maverick dijo...

And Wagner's innovation in form -- the way the music just keeps opening forward into the future -- is something you can't really find either in Mahler or Bruckner. The familiar orchestral excerpts are good, but the endings are jarringly arbitrary.

Jim Murdoch dijo...

I'm afraid I have never been able to get into opera of any kind, perhaps a little Gilbert and Sullivan maybe, so Wagner is quite beyond me. I do have a CD somewhere of The Ring sans vocals.

Vance Maverick dijo...

Not sure I can help you there. I got into opera rather late, by attending a whole season of the Bologna opera. But even before that I made an exception for classical music's most personally loathsome major figure.

Vance Maverick dijo...

OK, to correct a mismemory above: the line is from "Erections, Ejaculations, ...":

I was listening to Brahms in Philadelphia, in 1942. I had a small record player. it was Brahms' 2nd movement. I was living alone at the time. I was slowly drinking a bottle of port....