Something sweet today: a bit of magic from Brahms.
These late Brahms pieces — same with the first recording in this blog — are amazing to me as a composer. They sound lush, but the writing is actually quite spare and elemental. The structures are at once formal and organic, like Bach preludes. And the incredible emotional intimacy, their sense of being so personal, is like no other music I know.
This was the first Brahms I ever learned to play. It looked to me like a relatively easy piece, simply because it doesn’t have all that many notes — but I was wrong: never having played Brahms, I didn’t recognize the difficulty that was there. Brahms doesn’t always divide his music into clear layers of melody and accompaniment; he’ll have bits of melodic thread appearing in different voices, different layers. None of these threads is complete in itself, but they form a complete whole that doesn’t emerge from any single place. Much like Renaissance polyphony, the “foreground” of the music emerges from a delicate interplay of layers.
So yes, not many notes, but this piece turned out to require a great deal of care in fingering and voicing, to give just the right weight to each note, and the right shape to the many parts. After I “got it” with this one, I found it much easier to work my way into other Brahms. Playing music requires a certain empathy with the composer; it is much like making friends.
Though it proved a bit tricky to learn, it’s certainly not tricky to listen to: the music is pure bliss, and though it passes through many landscape-changing shades of light and dark, nothing breaks the floating bubble between the first note and the last.