Friday, March 23, 2012

Brahms' Brevity

I have been auditioning the fourteen CDs in the Kathleen Ferrier Centenary Edition box of all the recordings she made for Decca (which used to be called “London” in the United States).  I was reminded of how much I enjoy listening to the two sets of Liebeslieder waltzes by Johannes Brahms.  There are so many examples of what Brahms could do with extended duration that it is easy to forget what a master of brevity he could be.  For this we have to turn to the vocal side of his catalog, where we often encounter pieces that are almost Webern-like not only in duration but also in how much is packed into that short duration.  On the instrumental side we also encounter it in his other major set of waltzes, the Opus 39.  Perhaps I have Brahms to blame when I feel that many of the performances of waltzes by Frédéric Chopin that I have encountered tend to sound so long-winded!

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