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CDs > Historical String Recordings > 80212 Joseph Szigeti play Brahms 1 CD Set

80212 Joseph Szigeti play Brahms 1 CD Set


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80212 Joseph Szigeti play Brahms 1 CD Set
80212

Programme and Recording details: 

1) Brahms Violin Sonata No. 1 in G, Op. 78

with Mieczyslaw Horszowski (piano)

2) Brahms Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60

with Milton Katims (viola), Paul Tortelier (cello)

and Myra Hess (piano) 

total timing: 65:27

transfer engineer: David Hermann

booklet notes: Eric Wen

Booklet notes

Although the three violin sonatas by Brahms are among the masterpieces of the violin literature, it is now known that the composer wrote five other works in the genre, but destroyed them due to his uncompromising critical standards. One movement, however, is preserved from Brahms?s earlier years: a Scherzo from a sonata made up of four different movements composed by Schumann, Brahms and Dietrich that was given as a surprise birthday present to the Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim in 1853.

Brahms?s ?First? Violin Sonata was composed over a quarter of a century later in 1879, soon after writing his Violin Concerto. Brahms usually spent his summer months away from Vienna, and on this occasion he chose to be by the lake in Pörtschach. Although he was still in the process of revising the Concerto with Joachim, there was ample inspiration in this lakeside setting for him to compose. The result was a violin sonata that he was finally satisfied enough with to be published as his ?first?. At the end of that summer, he presented this work to Joachim. 

Dubbed the ?Rain? because of the quotation in the work?s last movement of Brahms?s own song settings of Klaus Groth?s two poems Regenlied and Nachklang, this sonata projects a reflective mood. Despite its lyrical quality, there are dark clouds lurking in the background. This wistful atmosphere is clearly apparent in the last movement cast in the parallel minor. Brahms?s close friend

Elisabeth von Herzogenberg was extremely taken by the work, and especially the composer?s treatment of the dotted rhythm figure that permeates the outer movements. She marveled at how fresh the work sounded, and wrote, ?It is as if you had only just discovered that a quaver can be dotted!? 

Brahms?s Piano Quartet No.3 in C minor was brought out four years before the First Violin Sonata in 1875. With the completion of his masterly ?Haydn? Variations and the two string quartets of Op.51 in the previous year, Brahms was at the height of his maturity as a composer. He was at last internationally recognized, and his monumental First Symphony was to follow the year after. As it turns out, however, the Third Piano Quartet actually took two decades to be completed. It was originally conceived in the key of C-sharp minor, and many musical ideas, especially in the first and third movements, originated in Brahms?s Düsseldorf years in the mid 1850s when the composer was in his early twenties. This was a catastrophic period in the young composer?s life. His mentor Robert Schumann had attempted suicide by throwing himself in the Rhine, and ended up in a mental asylum. Furthermore, the young composer found himself falling deeper into an unrequited love for Schumann?s wife, Clara. 

In recalling the period of despair in which the work was initially conceived, Brahms himself described the first movement as ?an illustration to the last chapter of the man in the blue frock-coat and the yellow waistcoat,? clearly a reference to the principal figure in The Sorrows of the Young Werther by Goethe. When the work was finally offered for publication in 1875, Brahms wrote to his publisher Simrock: ?This Quartet is both old and new ? and so the whole fellow is good for nothing.? He added, ?On the cover you must have a picture, namely a head with a pistol to it. This will give you some idea of the music. I?ll send you a photograph of myself for the purpose!...Let it remind you of one who is on the point of shooting himself and to whom no other way remains open.? 

As expected, an atmosphere of despair permeates throughout this self-confessional four-movement work. The opening of the first movement sets a desolate mood, but leads into a stormy, passionate outcry that is continued in the turbulent Scherzo in 6/8 which follows. The E-major slow movement with its gorgeous opening cello solo offers some relief, but it leads directly into the unsettled agitation of the Finale which begins with a haunting solo violin melody. The dark mood of the entire work ends abruptly with two short final chords, perhaps symbolizing Werther?s pulling of the trigger.

Szigeti recorded all three Brahms violin sonatas with the pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski, but over a period of a decade. Their 1951 recording of the G-major Sonata issued by American Columbia was the first Brahms sonata they made together, followed by the D-minor Sonata six years later (the violinist had recorded this work earlier in the 1930s on 78 rpm discs with Egon Petri on the piano). Thecomplete cycle of Brahms sonatas with Horszowski was finished with the recording of the A-major Sonata made in the stereo era for the Mercury label. The recording of the Brahms C-minor Piano Quartet was done at the famous Casals Festival in Prades during the summer of 1952. Myra Hess and Szigeti had first played together over 40 years earlier while the violinist was in his teens living in London. Happily, their musical reunion at Prades resulted in several other chamber music recordings by Brahms and Schubert as well.
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