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12 - 16 FEBRUARY 2020


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Thursday, 14 February 2019 - 8 p.m.

Butterflies In Your Stomach

Alban Berg Ensemble Wien, Thomas Beijer, Renate Arends, Deirdre Angenent, Peter Nilsson, Ishay Shaer, Hawijch Elders, Nikola Meeuwsen

Having been dubbed ‘the new Beethoven’ and in the throes of a turbulent relationship with Clara Schumann, the young Brahms was under considerable pressure. A relentless quest for the right melody and fitting harmonies prompted him to study folk music and compositions from the Renaissance and the Baroque. Thus, the music of Bach came to have a great impact on him, as well as that of his contemporary Johann Strauss Jr., whom he admired for the spontaneity with which he crafted an infinite cornucopia of melodies. The product of this is the passionate and sincerely moving chamber music that is so typical of Brahms. Perhaps this was his way of making amends for clumsily chosen words and unrequited romances?



Bach/Brahms: Chaconne
Brahms: Five Songs, Op. 72
Beach: Theme and Variations, Op. 80
Beach: Three Browning Songs, Op. 44
Brahms: Three Duets, Op. 20
Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 3, Op. 108
Johann Strauss jr./Schönberg: Kaiserwalzer


Anyone hearing the Chaconne from the Bach’s Second Partita for solo violin is instantly sold. So was Johannes Brahms, who was a fervent lover of Bach’s music. He composed a version for left-handed piano. Tip: the original version for solo violin will be played on Friday, 15 February.

Of course, nobody knows exactly how intimate they were, but Clara Schumann was certainly the muse of Johannes Brahms – and probably also the love of his life. This love was reciprocal. Nevertheless, it was never able to flower. The tragedy, the longing, and also the beauty of this love can be heard in these selections of love songs.

Amy Beach (1867-1944) was a child prodigy on the piano and would later become one of America’s first successful female composers of classical music. Her song ‘An Indian Lullaby’ was used as the theme for her quintet; a rarely performed work and a true gem within the repertoire for flute and string quartet.

The Three Browning Songs, commissioned by the Browning Society of Boston, have proven to be Beach’s most popular and enduring songs. The ‘Year’s at the Spring’ was a staple of vocal recital repertoire in the early twentieth century. Often, the audiences’ enthusiastic response caused it to be repeated several times.

It is believed that Brahms actually composed eight violin sonatas, of which he destroyed five. The three that were able to live up to his extremely high requirements are of a superlative quality indeed. The third and last sonata is his crowning work in this genre: great yet intimate, and filled with an autumnal melancholy.

Brahms was a great admirer of Johan Strauss Jr. The two were close friends. Arnold Schönberg created a marvellous arrangement of Johann Strauss’ Emperor Waltz for flute, clarinet, string quartet and piano.

* Programme is subject to possible changes.

Concerts in the Nieuwe Kerk