Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Brahms and friends

The crew of the fine Art Music Company 

performs Brahms'  Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor 

Op. 25 Sunday at the Ethical Society in Philadelphia. 

Playing are, from left, Jonathan Moser, violin;  Kasia 

Marzec-Salwinski, piano; Adelya Shagidullina, viola; 
and Michal Schmidt, cello. Rollin Wilber does 
a yeoman's service turning pages. 
I can't let too much time go by before I post something about the music I heard over the weekend. On Sunday, my friends at the Fine Art Music Company presented yet another well-thought-out and captivating program of chamber music -- this one consisting of works by Robert and Clara Schumann and their discovery Johannes Brahms. Then, on Monday night, I was invited to Opus Piano, on Ridge Pike, Philadelphia, where violist Adelya Shagidullina, who also appeared in Sunday's program, and pianist Kasia Marzec-Salwinski (whose husband, Piotr, owns the piano store) ran through a program they'll be playing Wednesday at the Rutgers campus in Camden.    
I don't want to get bogged down "reviewing" either event. I want to say only that I feel musically sated at the moment, as well as grateful, and that it's been only in the past few years that I've learned to appreciate early Brahms. Over the years, whenever I've been on the mood for Uncle Johannes -- which I am, frequently -- I usually choose something middle to late, say from the symphonies onward. Over the weekend, I was reminded just why that is. Fine Art wrapped  up its concert Sunday with a fiery performance of the early Piano Quartet in G Minor Op. 25, and on Monday, Kasia and Adelya played his E-flat Viola Sonata Op. 120 No. 2. Now, Brahms is always recognizably Brahms. He's one of those composers who, like Bach, did not radically alter their language in the course of their careers, but as a young man, he stuffed his scores like sausages. There's so much going on, and the textures are so thick, I often feel the need to come up for air. Sunday's Piano Quartet was certainly exciting, and it brought the sizable audience to its feet, but the sonata Monday evening let me breathe.

The young firebrand impresses me more and more, but it's the bearded, portly and dirty old man who warms my heart.

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