Brahms intermezzi, op. 117, Radu Lupu

During last weekend I attended the masterclass by Prats that I described in a previous post. I thought of writing about the pieces played there (Beethoven sonata no. 30, Schumann’s symfonic etudes), but I posted already twice about Beethoven, and Schumann will require a lot of work to say something about it.

Yesterday afternoon I arrived in a white Trondheim, Norway, where the silenced world created by the snow formed the ideal match with the world that Brahms creates in his three Intermezzi, opus 117. “Intermezzi”, traditionally pieces to be played “inbetween” other pieces, were transformed by Brahms into independent compositions, “character pieces”. Wikipedia says:

The Brahms piano intermezzi in particular have an extremely wide emotional range, and are often considered some of the finest character pieces written in the 19th century.

The pieces are meant as lullabies and at the start of the score the following is written:

Schlaf sanft mein Kind, schlaf sanft und Schön!
Mich dauert’s sehr, dich weinen sehn.

Today I want to discuss the first intermezzo, recorded by Radu Lupu. About two years ago I went to a concert of Radu Lupu in Amsterdam, where he played Schubert. It was one of the best concerts I ever visited. I would not be able to tell you anymore what he actually played, but I still remember the atmosphere that he created while playing. There was an absolute silence in the concert hall, as if a dense fog had resided, absorbing all sounds, except for the piano. His emotional play was so intense, it was as if the piano and Lupu had dissolved into something new. He makes mistakes, he looks like a beggar, his body is distorted behind the piano – but does that matter? – the music he creates is poetry:

The piece is structured as follows (for more, go here):

  1. (until 1:57) Andante moderato: the theme of the piece, in E flat major. Ends with a modulation to the dark E flat minor.
  2. (1:57 – 3:42): Piu adagio (slower), and in minor key. Pianissimo, ma molto espressivo (but very expressive), is what the sheet music indicates.
  3. (3:42 – 5:35): Back to the main theme, the lullaby, but now richer. First, the melody is not played as single notes, but rather as octaves. And then, from 4:00 onwards, the melody is enriched with a second voice, singing, beautifully decorating the main theme.

What a fantastic piece!

 

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