Brahms

The Shape of Brahms: Looking at His Music

Brahms the Architect One of the keys to understanding the music of Johannes Brahms is through his use of shapes and sizes and the manipulation of them in building his architectural forms. He was always stretching motives and phrases, making them overlap, go in and out of sync, hiding the bar-line and bringing it in sight again. Irregular phrase lengths, hemiolas, working with conflicting slurs in order to make us unsure where the strong beat is - he had many tools to confuse us. What this playing with blocks of material means for us performers is that one should not fall in love with only one line and its details, everything is always part of a larger picture and while detail is important it always relates to larger structures. I [...]

By |2019-03-09T23:45:14+00:00March 9th, 2019|Categories: In the Practice Room|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Beneath the Surface of Brahms — by Brant Taylor

Brahms' 3rd Symphony Cello Excerpt A successful audition performance involves showing many different sides of yourself, musically, in a condensed period of time. Therefore, it is useful if not imperative to conceive each excerpt on a list in its own distinct world of character and color. Despite being works from the same composer, the well-known cello audition excerpt from Brahms’ Second Symphony, which we previously discussed, and the cello audition excerpt from Brahms’ Third Symphony, which is the subject of this post, present quite different opportunities. While these suggestions are not the only solutions to the challenges presented by this excerpt, they are a starting point for practice and discussion and illustrate some of the details that must be carefully considered in any successful performance. Sound Production In thinking about [...]

What Makes a Baroque Cellist — by Guy Fishman

I was once accused of playing like a baroque cellist. It was most certainly an accusation, and I don’t know what the coach was hoping to achieve by framing her opinion of my playing in such terms. Suffice it to say I was insulted, and the funny thing is, I don’t even know why. Okay, I was playing Brahms’s F major sonata, on a cello that had an endpin and two steel strings (the other two were wound gut). My partner was playing a Steinway M. Furthermore, and perhaps most revealing, is the fact that by the time I was being coached on this piece, during my second year of doctoral studies at New England Conservatory, I had already won a position with Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society, the nation’s [...]

Playing Audition Excerpts: Yes, the Devil’s in Them — by Brant Taylor

Although the collection of excerpts on an audition repertoire list may seem arbitrary, each one has a purpose: giving the audition candidate an opportunity to demonstrate certain things about his or her playing and artistry. Audition success involves showing a command of certain basic elements—such as rhythm, dynamics, intonation and articulations—as well as conveying a nuanced understanding of the music and the composer. A well crafted audition list will include excerpts that emphasize each of these elements, and a candidate’s ability to demonstrate control and understanding of them will determine his or her chance for success. Let's put these goals into concrete terms using a common cello audition excerpt as an illustration—the opening of the second movement of Brahms' Symphony No. 2:   Brahms Second Symphony, 2nd Mvt. [...]

Stage-dreaming — by Mickey Katz

A few days ago I was on the Symphony Hall stage, playing Brahms’s A German Requiem in concert.  While playing the second movement, I started thinking about what I was going to make for dinner the following night. The last time I cooked it, I thought, it came out a little dry. Maybe this time I should… But wait a second, I was playing one of my favorite pieces in one of the world’s best halls, with a great orchestra and a great conductor, how could I not be completely absorbed in what I was doing? Was I the only one on stage whose mind was wandering, and if not—did anyone in the audience notice? I was aware that I was a part of a great concert, and the audience [...]

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