Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897
When Brahms submitted the score of his third piano quartet to his longtime publisher, he wrote that the cover should show picture a man holding a gun to his head, such was the black melodrama of the music and the quartet’s eventual nickname after Goethe’s young, suicidal Werther. C-minor is a favorite of both Brahms and Beethoven, a key Brahms also used for his first string quartet and his first symphony. The “Werther” quartet vies with the first piano quartet in g minor and the massive piano quintet in f minor for its thrilling intensity, its relentless rhythms and its delicious severity.
Suspense and surprise attack characterize much of the music beginning with the opening movement’s brooding introduction and the startling crash of the main theme pounding with thunder and ominous rumblings in the pulsing base ostinato. A number of obstinate rhythmic reiterations course through this practically violent music. (more…)