Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Sunday, October 6

Brahms and Rzewski for amateurs

Synopsis

The first performance of the “Liebeslieder — or the “Love Song” Waltzes — for piano four-hands by Johannes Brahms took place on today’s date in 1869. The performers were two distinguished soloists: Clara Schumann, widow of composer Robert Schumann, and Hermann Levi, a famous conductor of his day. But in fact, the “Liebeslieder Waltzes” were intended for amateur musicians to play. These popular scores provided Brahms with some steady income, certainly more than he earned from performances of his symphonies, which some of his contemporaries considered difficult “new” music.

Brahms wrote to his publisher: “I must admit that, for the first time, I grinned at the sight of a work of mine in print. Moreover, I gladly risk being called an ass if our ‘Liebeslieder’ don’t give more than a few people pleasure.”

Some much more recent piano music designed for amateur performers was collected into a volume titled “Carnegie Hall Millennium Piano Book.” This volume was conceived by composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and the artistic director of Carnegie Hall, Judith Arron. They were concerned about the lack of contemporary piano works that intermediate-level piano students could perform, so commissioned ten composers to write suitable piano pieces from composers ranging from Milton Babbitt and Elliott Carte to Chen Yi and Tan Dun.

Music Played in Today's Program

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Liebeslieder Waltz No. 18, Op..52a Silke-Thora Matthies and Christian Köhn, piano Naxos 553140

Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938) The Days Fly By Ursula Oppens, piano companion CD to Boosey and Hawkes"The Carnegie Hall Millennium Piano Book" ASIN: B003AG8IUK

Additional Information

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