ClassicsOnline Home » BRAHMS, J.: Piano Pieces, Op. 76 / Rhapsodies, Op. 79 / Fantasies, Op. 116 (Biret)
"Another clear winner from this distinguished Turkish pianist"
"a snip at budget price"
"there is much to enjoy in the physical and dramatic delivery of the two Rhapsodies"
Brahms (1833 - 1897)
Pieces / Morceaux pour piano / Klavierstücke Op.76 / Two
Rhapsodies / Deux rapsodies / Zwei Rhapsodien Op. 79 Fantasies / Fantaisies / Phantasien
Brahms was born on 7th May 1833 in the Gängeviertel district of Harnburg, the son of
Johann Jakob Brahms, a double-bass player, and his wife, a seamstress seventeen years his
senior. As was natural, he was at first taught music by his father,the violin and cello,
with the intention that the boy should follow his father's trade, but his obvious interest
in the piano led to lessons on the instrument from an inspiring teacher and his first
modest appearance on the concert platform at the age of ten. From this time onwards he
became a pupil of Eduard Marxsen, who gave him a firm grounding in classical technique.
while he earned money for his family by playing the piano in establishments of doubtful
reputation in the St. Pauli district of the port, frequented largely by sailors and others
in search of amusement. By the age of fitteen he had given his first solo concert as a
1853 Brahms embarked on a concert tour with the Hungarian violinist Eduard Remenyi, during
the course of which he visited Liszt in Weimar, to no effect, and struck up a friendship
with the violinist Joseph Joachim, through whose agency he met the Schumanns then
established in Düsseldorf. The connection was an important one. Schumann was impressed
enough by the music Brahms played him to hail him as the long-awaited successor to
Beethoven, and his subsequent break-down in February 1854 and ensuing insanity brought
Brahms back to Düsseldorf to help his wife Clara Schumann and her young family. The
relationship with Clara Schumann, one of the most distinguished pianists of the time,
lasted until her death in 1896.
concert activity and his association with Joachim and Clara Schumann allowed Brahms to
meet many of the most famous musicians of the day. In 1857 he took a temporary position at
the court of Detmold as a conductor and piano teacher, duties that he briefly resumed
again in the following two years, continuing all the time his activity as a composer and
spending much of his time in Hamburg, where his ambitions were always to centre.
first visited Vienna in 1862, giving concerts there and meeting during the course of the
winter the critic Eduard Hanslick, who was to prove a doughty champion. The following year
brought appointment as conductor of the Vienna Singakademie for the season and in 1864 he
again spent the winter in the city, a pattern repeated in the following years until he
finally took up permanent residence there in 1869. For the rest of his life he remained a
citizen of Vienna, travelling often enough to visit friends or to give concerts, and
generally spending the summer months in the country, where he might concentrate on
composition without undue disturbance. He came in some ways to occupy a position similar
to Beethoven in the musical life of the city, his notorious rudeness generally tolerated
and his bachelor habits indulged by an admiring circle of friends. He died in Vienna in
the music of the second half of the nineteenth century Brahms came to occupy a position in
direct antithesis to Wagner. The latter had seen in Beethoven's great Choral Symphony the
last word in symphonic music. The music of the future lay, he claimed, in the new form of
music-drama of which he was the sole proponent. His father-in-law Liszt similarly found
the way forward in the symphonic poem, an alloy formed from the musical and extra-musical.
Brahms, largely through the advocacy of Hanslick, found himself the champion of pure or
abstract music combined neither with drama nor any other medium. The distinction was in
some ways an artificial one. Nevertheless Brahms, whose background, like Beethoven's, was
less literary than that of Wagner or of Liszt, did significantly extend the range of the
symphony and was hailed by many contemporaries as the successor to Beethoven, a future
Schumann had prophesied for him 23 years before the first symphony was written.
eight piano pieces that form Opus 76 were
written fifteen years after the Paganini Variations,
the last work Brahms had written for the piano. Published in two books, the pieces include
four Capriccios and four Intermezzi and were completed in 1878 during summer months spent
in the country at Pärtschach. The work was published the following year and given its
first performance in Leipzig in 1880. The F sharp minor Capriccio that opens the first
book, marked un poco agitato, offers a characteristic melody, from a texture of arpeggios,
and the second, in B minor, a sprightly contrast. The A flat Intermezzo and the following
Intermezzo in B flat are in a graceful mood, broken by the agitation of the C sharp minor
Capriccio. The two following Intermezzi again offer a relaxation of tension, a mood
continued in the busier textures of the final Capriccio of the set.
Two Rhapsodies, Opus 79, were among the
works Brahms w rote during another summer at Pärtschach in 1879. They were published in
1880 and dedicated to Elisabet von Herwgenberg, wife of an aristocrat of French ancestry,
settled in Leipzig, where their house served as a centre for a circle of admirers of
Brahms. While the texture and passion of the first Rhapsody may breathe the spirit of
romanticism, the form is one of classical clarity, a rondo, in which the opening theme
re-appears to frame more lyrical episodes, which finally predominate. The second of the
pair, in G minor, is in classical sonata form, its passionate first theme contrasted with
a second, marked misterioso.
Phantasien, Opus 116, include seven pieces,
three Capriccios and four intermezzi, and were written and published in 1892 during summer
months spent at Ischl. The year had brought unhappiness, with the death of Elisabet von
Herzogenberg in January and of his eider sister Elise, two years his senior, in June The
set opens with an energetic D minor Capriccio, relaxing into an A minor Intermezzo. The
third of the group, a G minor Capriccio, provides a passionately felt outer frame for a
central E flat section, where, as so often in Brahms, contrasting rhythms are
superimposed. The fourth piece is a slow E major Intermezzo, its E major conclusion
leading to a graceful E minor companion- piece, and a third Intermezzo gently set in E
major. Opus 116 ends with a stormier D minor
in Ankara, Idil Biret began piano lessons at the age of three. She displayed an
outstanding gift for music and graduated from the Paris Conservatoire with three first
prizes when she was fifteen. She studied piano with Alfred Cortot and Wilhelm Kempff, and
composition with Nadia Boulanger.
the age of sixteen she has performed in concerts around the world playing with major
orchestras under the direction of conductors such as Monteux, Boult, Kempe, Sargent, de
Burgos, Pritchard, Groves and Mackerras. She has participated in the festivals of
Montreal, Persepolis, Royan, La Rochelle, Athens, Berlin, Gstaad and Istanbul. She was
also invited to perform at the 85th birthday celebration of Wilhelm Backhaus and at the
90th birthday celebration of Wilhelm Kempff.
Biret has received the Lily Boulanger Memorial Fund award (1954/1964) , the Harriet
Cohen/Dinu Lipatti Gold Medal (1959), the Polish Artistical Merit Award (1974) and was
named Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite (1976).