Hungarian Afternoon

Wednesday December 29 | 15:00 hr

This afternoon we serve you the Hungarian sounds of Dohnányi and Brahms. Dohnányi wrote his not often performed sextet for piano, strings, clarinet and horn, a wonderful combination in which the multi-colouredness comes to the fore. After that you can enjoy Brahms’ Piano Quintet, called by many ‘the crowning glory of his chamber music’ and that says something since Brahms’ chamber music works have been very popular worldwide for many years. With master pianist Sunwook Kim behind the grand piano and with the phenomenal cellist Pablo Ferrández, the concertmaster of the Berliner and our own Amihai, this will be an unforgettable afternoon in advance.

E. Dohnányi – Sextet in C major, op. 37 
J. Brahms – Piano Quintet in F minor, op. 34 

Clara-Jumi Kang – violin
Guy Braunstein – violin
Daishin Kashimoto – violin
Sara Férrandez – viola
Amihai Grosz – viola
Zvi Plesser – cello
Pablo Férrandez – cello
Wenzel Fuchs – clarinet
Stefan Dohr – horn
Sunwook Kim – piano

On the third day of the festival, master pianist Sunwook Kim joins Amihai Grosz & Friends for two impressive pieces by Dohnányi and Brahms, both not only composers but also pianist. Both in the little-performed Sextet in C by Dohnányi and in Brahms’ favorite Piano Quintet in f, the piano provides an extra rich, sometimes almost orchestral provides an extra rich, sometimes almost orchestral sound.

Ernö Dohnányi, also known as Ernst von Dohnányi, is one of the most influential Hungarian musicians before the Second World War. He wrote highly original compositions, performed all over the world as a virtuoso pianist and was a conductor and teacher at important Hungarian orchestras and institutions. The smooth and successful start of his international career he owed in part to Johannes Brahms and his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. Both recognized early on the talent of their younger colleague from Hungary. Brahms was impressed by the First piano quintet in c, opus 1 from 1894 by the then newly graduated seventeen-year-old Dohnányi. “I could not have done better myself,” Brahms is reported to have said, and he arranged the Vienna premiere of this piece. Joachim helped Dohnányi in turn by offering him a job in 1905 as a
teacher at the high school in Berlin. Dohnányi wrote his impressive Sextet in C during a prolonged illness. Fortunately, he was well again at the premiere June 17, 1935, and he was able to play the piano part himself. Unfortunately the work is not performed very often and that probably has to do with the the unusual instrumentation of piano, violin, viola, cello, clarinet and horn. This unique combination of instruments sounds remarkably familiar and particularly colorful. The music is original and serious, sometimes alienating and at times also funny and playful. Especially in the last movement Dohnanyi’s affi nity with jazz is evident. Also striking are the menacing march in the second movement and the flards of Viennese salon music in the fourth movement, which sometimes abruptly interrupt the swinging jazz chords sometimes abruptly break, as if the strings have momentarily lost their way.

In his famous 1853 article “Neue Bahnen” about the talent of Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann described Brahms’ piano sonatas as of Brahms as “symphonies in disguise. This description fits perhaps even better for the Piano Quintet in f from 1864. Brahms initially wrote it for string quintet along the lines of Franz Schubert’s String Quintet in C with two cellos. Unfortunately, the first manuscript from 1862 has been lost. It is likely that Brahms himself destroyed it, as he often did when he was uncertain about his compositions. On the advice of two of his main advisors, his friend Clara Schumann (wife of Robert Schumann) and the famous violinist Joseph Joachim, Brahms reworked the first version of this string quintet considerably reworked. About the adapted version for two pianos, however, Clara was not satisfied either. She wrote in one of her many letters to Brahms: “What you wrote to me about your quintet I really don’t I really don’t understand! Did you have it performed, and did it fail? And did you therefore turn it into a Duo? Couldn’t you easily change it and maintain it as a Quintet?” Clara emphasized that she definitely found this music suitable for strings even after she herself had played through the new version for two pianos a few times together with the Russian pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein. Brahms took Clara’s advice to heart and thus the final version for string quartet and piano was created. Those who are not familiar with the laborious history will not suspect, when listening to this impressive when listening to this impressive piece, you will never suspect that Brahms had so much trouble completing it. It is an overwhelming, very convincing composition. Partly thanks to the combination of piano and four strings, the Piano Quintet in f is very rich in sound. Sometimes the music is intimate and tranquil, sometimes exuberant and and forceful and then it seems as if a symphony orchestra is playing. Striking are the many contrasting themes and rhythms. In this way the listener is flung back and forth between different moods and emotions, from and emotions, from musing, mysterious and cheerful to sad, angry and heroic.