Brahms: Inside the Composer’s Workshop
“It is not hard to compose, but what is fabulously hard is to leave the superfluous notes under the table” wrote the composer Johannes Brahms. Birdfoot Festival’s Artistic Director Jenna Sherry and pianist Dániel Löwenberg spent a week delving into the notes that Brahms kept in his Sonata in F minor Op. 120 no. 1. And what notes they are! One of two sonatas written for clarinet near the end of the composer’s life, Brahms also revised this eloquent and direct music to be played on both viola and violin.
Brahms’ Sonata Op. 120 no. 1 in F minor was at the heart of Birdfoot’s 2016 Fall Artist Residency, alongside Ernö Dohnány’s rarely heard, but masterful Sonata for Violin and Piano Op. 21, and Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances. Dohnányi was a young composer when Brahms championed his first piano quintet and arranged its premiere in Vienna, and the influence of Brahms is clear in the lush material of his Violin Sonata. Brahms and Bartók, although from different generations, share a love of folk and popular music—not unlike the “Hungarian Dances” which Brahms heard in cafés and transcribed for piano, Bartók “collected” and loosely transcribed folk songs into concert pieces, as in this lively set of Romanian Folk Dances.
Audiences joined the artists curbside Downtown for a series of pop-up concerts in an outdoor pavilion designed by architects Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, APC during PARK(ing) Day on October 21, the Classically Algiers community concert on October 22, and for a Brahmsian edition of Birdfoot Backstage in partnership with WWNO 89.9 FM on October 22 at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center.