Brahms trio Op. 40

Brahms trio Op. 40
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Recording of Brahms Op. 40

Michael Gutierrez,violin

Antho­ny Mill­ner, horn

Chan­da Van­der­Hart, piano


Music score is pub­lic domain and avail­able from IMSPL





Pho­tos of Brahms Horn trio record­ing with Michael Gutier­rez, vio­lin, Antho­ny Mill­ner, horn and Chan­da Van­der­Hart

The Horn Trio in E flat major, Op. 40, by Johannes Brahms is a cham­ber piece in four move­ments writ­ten for nat­ur­al horn, vio­lin, and piano. Com­posed in 1865, the work com­mem­o­rates the death of Brahms’ moth­er, Chris­tiane, ear­li­er that year. The work was first per­formed in Zurich on Novem­ber 28, 1865, and was pub­lished a year lat­er in Novem­ber 1866. The Horn Trio was the last cham­ber piece Brahms wrote for the next eight years.

Brahms chose to write the work for nat­ur­al horn rather than valve horn despite the fact that the valve horn was becom­ing more com­mon. The tim­bre of the nat­ur­al horn is more somber and melan­cholic than the valve horn and cre­ates a much dif­fer­ent mood. Nine­teenth cen­tu­ry lis­ten­ers asso­ci­at­ed the sound of the nat­ur­al horn with nature and the calls of the hunt. Fit­ting­ly, Brahms once said that the open­ing theme of the first move­ment came to him while he was walk­ing through the woods. Brahms also learned nat­ur­al horn (as well as piano and cel­lo) as a child, which may be anoth­er rea­son why he chose to write for these instru­ments fol­low­ing the death of his moth­er.

The work is divid­ed into four move­ments:

  • I. Andante
  • II. Scher­zo (Alle­gro)
  • III. Ada­gio mesto
  • IV. Alle­gro con brio

In the first move­ment, Brahms empha­sizes the sim­plic­i­ty of the open­ing theme by aban­don­ing the struc­ture of sonata form. Instead, he intro­duces three slow sec­tions off­set by two short­er, more rhap­sod­ic seg­ments. Brahms devi­ates from the clas­si­cal style of open­ing a work with a fast move­ment and con­tin­u­ing with a slow move­ment, a scher­zo, and clos­ing with a live­ly finale; instead, he uses the church sonata form from the ear­ly Baroque and orders the move­ments slow-fast-slow-fast.

The Scher­zo rep­re­sents a lighter side of grief. Since the work as a whole sim­u­lates the stages of mourn­ing, the Scher­zo serves as the reminder of hap­py mem­o­ries. As in the first move­ment, Brahms uses the pitch­es of the E‑flat over­tone series to estab­lish the theme. (This theme is found in some vari­a­tion in every move­ment, most direct­ly in the Finale.) The play­ful­ness that the tem­po sug­gests offers a break from the slow and somber sur­round­ing move­ments.

The Ada­gio mesto opens with four mea­sures of solo piano in the low reg­is­ter of the instru­ment; this sets up the solemn, con­tem­pla­tive mood of the move­ment that is empha­sized by the entrance of the vio­lin and horn. The Ada­gio from the Horn Trio is said to be one of Brahms’ most impas­sioned and heart­felt slow move­ments.

The Finale con­tains the main theme that is present in the pre­vi­ous three move­ments, but it is promi­nent­ly dis­played in E‑flat major in a live­ly tem­po. The joy felt in the Finale sym­bol­izes the recov­ery at the end of mourn­ing.

 Source: Wikipedia

Pho­tos: Mitch Ranger