Brahms Piano Quartet in G Minor (+Schoenberg!)
Today I’m going to be talking about one piece, but in two different ways. I’m going to start today with an in-depth look at Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G Minor, an early piece of his that reveals an incredible sense of drama, drive, and creativity. This is very different music than I’ve talked about before with Brahms as this is decidedly the work of a young composer, without all the burnished maturity of Brahms’ later music. This is also a great opportunity to revisit the bedrock of the Classical and Early Romantic eras, Sonata Form, a form that makes so many pieces from those eras intelligible and clear.
But I’m also going to be talking about another piece. Well, it’s the same piece, but to some people, it sounds so completely different that it constitutes a completely new piece entirely. To some others, myself included, it almost constitutes an entirely new Brahms symphony. What I’m talking about is the composer Arnold Schoenberg’s arrangement of Brahms’s Piano Quartet for a massive orchestra, filling the stage with instruments that Brahms never would have even conceived of! You don’t often think of Schoenberg and Brahms in the same breath, but Schoenberg was a devotee of Brahms’ music, and often defended him against those who called him a crusty old conservative composer. But Schoenberg was still Schoenberg, and this arraangement of the quartet reflects that in a lot of ways. So along with an exploration of Sonata Form, I’ll save a look at the Schoenberg arrangement for the end of th show, since this is a great chance to look at orchestration and how a composer takes a piece written for 4 people and transforms it into a piece for 100. So today we’ll dive into this vast and complex piece, and along they way we’ll visit Schoenberg’s fascinating and sometimes downright wacky arrangement. Join us!
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