Stately young, exuberantly mature and rebelliously old An early, a middle and a late Brahms? Yes and no. I could also say a novel, a letter and an epigram or Goethe, Thomas Mann and Schopenhauer; a symphony, a string quintet and a Lied or a beech, oleander and a bramble bush. Describing and characterizing is a hazardous business, descriptions can never be totally appropriate, clich’s even less so. The pieces are simply too good, they even defy the young, middle and late stigmas. The diversity between the works is too complex and on top of that their inner diversities make any sort of labelling impossible. But they might become just a bit less elusive when placed in each others context. Acting as prisms in a play of emissions and reflections they might reveal some characteristics. So back to young, middle and late. The ‘young’ Brahms lets the first movement of his sonata soberly stroll along, patiently work up to climaxes and in grand and profound style sing out to its conclusion, resulting in a coda that evokes the twilight of a life. Sticking to first movements, in the opening movement of Opus 78 its one inspired melody after another, a real sequence of emotions. Its all superbly structured (as is all Brahms) but somehow the intimacy, tenderness, vulnerability and passion are not too unsimilar to the sentiments of an overwhelming first love experience. The style of the Allegro appassionato of Opus 120 is compact and on a motivic level everything is strictly organized. There is an ‘Ernster Gesang’ feeling, man dies as beasts, but that fatalism isn’t dominant. A more exhilarating ‘Ich grolle nicht’ melody like the first cello line is hard to imagine, except for the Schumann original. And the many lyrical moments that follow are truly heartwarmingDownload booklet
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