Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Returns

It's that time of year again, boys and girls.  Today is the 177th birthday of the most humane, and the most human, composer I know, Johannes Brahms.  Have a strong coffee or a pint of Saint Pauli Girl in his honor while you listen to Artur Rubinstein playing the Intermezzi op. 117, nos. 1 and 2, the pieces that Brahms called "cradlesongs of [his] sorrows."

Rubinstein, best-known for his virtuosic performances of Chopin, was born during Brahms's lifetime, in 1877, and became the protégé of Brahms's great friend and recital partner Joseph Joachim, so it's safe to assume that his playing is close in style to the performance practice that Brahms, himself a virtuoso pianist, had intended.  I love his straightforwardness and simplicity of expression -- in effect, his anti-virtuosity -- in these pieces.

(By the way, whenever I remember to, I pray that my beloved Brahms is in heaven.  In fact, one of my intentions for the Advent Novena last Christmas was the repose of his soul.)

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