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Double Concerto (Brahms)

Double Concerto
by Johannes Brahms
The composer in 1889
KeyA minor
Composed1887 (1887)
Performed18 October 1887 (1887-10-18): Cologne
  • violin
  • cello
  • orchestra

The Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102, by Johannes Brahms is a concerto for violin, cello and orchestra. The orchestra consists of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings.

Origin of the work

The Double Concerto was Brahms' final work for orchestra. It was composed in the summer of 1887, and first performed on 18 October of that year in the Gürzenich [de] in Cologne, Germany.[1] Brahms approached the project with anxiety over writing for instruments that were not his own.[2] He wrote it for the cellist Robert Hausmann, a frequent chamber music collaborator,[3] and his old but estranged friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. The concerto was, in part, a gesture of reconciliation towards Joachim, after their long friendship had ruptured following Joachim's divorce from his wife Amalie.[4][5] (Brahms had sided with Amalie in the dispute.)

The concerto makes use of the musical motif A–E–F, a permutation of F–A–E, which stood for a personal motto of Joachim, Frei aber einsam ("free but lonely").[6] Thirty-four years earlier, Brahms had been involved in a collaborative work using the F-A-E motif in tribute to Joachim: the F-A-E Sonata of 1853.


External audio
Performed by Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra under Yakov Kreizberg
audio icon I. Allegro
audio icon II. Andante
audio icon III. Vivace non troppo

The composition consists of three movements in the fast–slow–fast pattern typical of classical instrumental concerti:

  1. Allegro (A minor)
  2. Andante (D major)
  3. Vivace non troppo (A minor → A major)

Performance and reception

Joachim and Hausmann performed the concerto, with Brahms at the podium, several times in its initial 1887–88 season, and Brahms gave the manuscript to Joachim, with the inscription "To him for whom it was written." Clara Schumann reacted unfavourably to the concerto, considering the work "not brilliant for the instruments".[7] Richard Specht also thought critically of the concerto, describing it as "one of Brahms' most inapproachable and joyless compositions". Brahms had sketched a second concerto for violin and cello but destroyed his notes in the wake of its cold reception.[citation needed] Later critics have warmed to it: Donald Tovey wrote of the concerto as having "vast and sweeping humour".[8] Its performance requires two brilliant and equally matched soloists.

Scholarly discussion

Richard Cohn has included the first movement of this concerto in his discussions of triadic progressions from a Neo-Riemannian perspective.[9] Cohn has also analysed such progressions mathematically.[10] Cohn notes several progressions that divide the octave equally into three parts, and which can be analyzed using the triadic transformations proposed by Hugo Riemann.



See also


  1. ^ Cheltenham Symphony Orchestra: program notes
  2. ^ He disguised his reservations with joyless joking in his letter to Clara Schumann: "...I have had the amusing idea of writing a concerto for violin and cello. If it is at all successful it might give us some fun. You can well imagine the sort of pranks one might play in such a case," he wrote, adding "I ought to have handed on the idea to some who knows the violin better than I do." Litzmann, Schumann/Brahms Letters 8/1887, quoted by Jan Swafford, Johannes Brahms: a biography 1997:539.
  3. ^ For Hausmann he had written the Second Cello Sonata the previous summer.
  4. ^ "This concerto is a work of reconciliation— Joachim and Brahms have spoken to each other again for the first time in years", Clara Schumann noted in her journal after a rehearsal in Baden-Baden in September 1887.
  5. ^ Schwartz, Boris (Autumn 1983). "Joseph Joachim and the Genesis of Brahms's Violin Concerto". The Musical Quarterly. LXIX (4): 503–526. doi:10.1093/mq/LXIX.4.503.
  6. ^ Musgrave, Michael (July 1983). "Brahms's First Symphony: Thematic Coherence and Its Secret Origin". Music Analysis. 2 (2). Music Analysis, Vol. 2, No. 2: 117–133. doi:10.2307/854245. ISSN 0262-5245. JSTOR 854245.
  7. ^ Wollenberg, Susan (February 1993). "Reviews of Books: Beiträge zur Geschichte des Konzerts: Festschrift Siegfried Kross zum 60. Geburtstag (eds. Reinmar Emans and Matthias Wendt". Music & Letters. 74 (1): 77–81. doi:10.1093/ml/74.1.77. ISSN 0027-4224. JSTOR 735204.
  8. ^ Stein, George P. (October 1971). "The Arts: Being through Meaning". Journal of Aesthetic Education. 5 (4). Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 5, No. 4: 99–113. doi:10.2307/3331623. ISSN 0021-8510. JSTOR 3331623.
  9. ^ Cohn, Richard (March 1996). "Maximally Smooth Cycles, Hexatonic Systems, and the Analysis of Late-Romantic Triadic Progressions". Music Analysis. 15 (1). Music Analysis, Vol. 15, No. 1: 9–40. doi:10.2307/854168. ISSN 0262-5245. JSTOR 854168.
  10. ^ Cohn, Richard (Spring 1997). "Neo-Riemannian Operations, Parsimonious Trichords, and Their Tonnetz Representations". Journal of Musical Theory. 41 (1). Journal of Music Theory, Vol. 41, No. 1: 1–66. doi:10.2307/843761. ISSN 0022-2909. JSTOR 843761.
  11. ^ HMV DB1311-1314/Victor V-8208-8211.
  12. ^ HMV/Victor 78rpm:Naxos CD
  13. ^ Music and Arts MACD 108
  14. ^ Decca 78rpm AK2025-2028: Archipel CD ARPCD 0301
  15. ^ Cellist of the Barylli Quartet, Brabec was teacher of Nikolaus Harnoncourt at Vienna.
  16. ^ Dynamic IDIS Hist. CD IDI 6554
  17. ^ Naxos CD 8.111051
  18. ^ Fournier and Janigro played together with Paul Badura-Skoda in a trio ensemble.
  19. ^ Westminster LP WLP 5117.
  20. ^ Student of Camillo Oblach's at the G.B. Martini School of Music, Bologna, Baldovino was cellist with the Trio Italiano d'Archi and the Trio di Trieste: see [1] here.
  21. ^ HMV BLP 1028
  22. ^ HMV/EMI SXLP 30185.
  23. ^ Philips LP ABL 3139/3289.
  24. ^ "Samuel H. Mayes". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
  25. ^ Music and Arts, West Hill Radio Archive WHRA 6017.
  26. ^ Columbia ML 5493.
  27. ^ BBC CD L4149 2.
  28. ^ Schneiderhan succeeded Georg Kulenkampff as violin in the trio ensemble with Mainardi and Edwin Fischer after Kulenkampff died.
  29. ^ Orfeo CD C 359941B.
  30. ^ RCA LD(S)2513
  31. ^ Palm was a pupil of Mainardi's, and a President of the European String Teachers' Association: see interview [2] here.
  32. ^ Movimento Musica srl Milano (WEA Italiana) 01.017 33/30 DP
  33. ^ DG 139126
  34. ^ Vanguard SRV-136 SD.
  35. ^ Supraphon LP SUA ST 50573.
  36. ^ BBC CD L41972
  37. ^ HMV ASD 3312
  38. ^ Testament CD SBT 1337.
  39. ^ BBC CD L4252 2
  40. ^ Leslie Parnas
  41. ^ Doremi CD DHR 7844
  42. ^ Philips 6500 137
  43. ^ BBC CD L42362.
  44. ^ Philips 9500 623.
  45. ^ HMV ASD 3905; EMI CDC 7 49486 2.
  46. ^ DG 410 603-1.
  47. ^ SEFD 5023 (Sefel Records)
  48. ^ DG 410 031-1; DGG DVD 000983409.
  49. ^ EMI EG 27 0268 1.
  50. ^ CBS Masterworks Mk 42387.
  51. ^ Teldec – 0630-13137-2.
  52. ^ Teldec 0630-15870-2.
  53. ^ CD DG 4695292.
  54. ^ PTC 5186 066 (PentaTone Classics).
  55. ^ Virgin Classics 00946 395147 2 4.
  56. ^ CD DG 4777470.
  57. ^ cpo 555 172-2.
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Double Concerto (Brahms)
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