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12 - 16 FEBRUARY 2020


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Friday, 15 February 2019 - 8 p.m.
February Festival 2019

A Scholarly Perfectionist

Alban Berg Ensemble Wien, Simone Lamsma, Rob van de Laar, Thomas Beijer, Ishay Shaer, Animato Quartet

Perfectionist Johannes Brahms regularly destroyed works that, in his opinion, failed to satisfy the lofty demands he imposed on himself. What remained was an oeuvre of highly innovative chamber music works. Using only the minimum of thematic material, he was able to create masterpieces on the grandest possible scale. Continually surpassing himself with the lyrical dialogues and harmonic tours de force that are so typical to his compositions, Brahms was able to translate his profound understanding of the emotions he was feeling into music in such a way that the listener cannot help but be deeply moved.



Bach: Chaconne
Dvořák: a selection from Cypresses
Brahms: Clarinet Trio, Op. 114
Röntgen: Ballade, Op. 6
Brahms: Horn Trio, Op. 40


Four descending notes form the pillars of Bach’s famous Chaconne. Can it be any simpler? Bach constructed a cathedral around this that would intimidate all composers of subsequent generations. He did not add any performance markings, thus allowing the performer substantial liberty in terms of interpretation. Thursday, 14 February’s programme will feature Brahms’ arrangement for left-handed piano of this piece.

The Cypresses (1887) are string quartet versions of 12 of his 18 love songs from 1865. The composition of this song cycle was a response to the young composer’s rejection by the actress Josefina Cermáková (Dvořák later married her younger sister Anna).

Another beautiful swan song for clarinet: Brahms’ Trio for clarinet, cello and piano. In Brahms’ later works for clarinet the essential qualities of his music – his heroic resignation, his autumnal colours, his unspeakable longing – is distilled into its true quintessence.

During one of Brahms’ visits to the Netherlands, Dutch-German composer and pianist Julius Röntgen was the soloist in Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto. This was a tremendous honour for him, as he was a great admirer of Brahms. In addition to the influence of Brahms, you can also hear traces of César Franc and Max Reger in Röntgen’s music and it is clear that he was a lover of folk music, just like his good friend Edvard Grieg.

Another masterpiece in Brahms’ chamber music oeuvre is his Trio for piano, violin and French horn. Brahms actually played the French horn in his youth, just like his father. In 1865, the year from which his Horn Trio dates, Brahms’ mother died. The slow movement of can be interpreted as an elegy for his mother.

* Programme is subject to possible changes.

Concerts in the Nieuwe Kerk