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Brahms, Schmucke dich


davidh
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As an elderly beginner, I would welcome some advice about a few problem passages. I have read Barbara Owen's book, "The Organ Music of Johannes Brahms", and she recommends that it should be played on a single manual, without pedal.

 

My first problem is in bar 3, where there is a semibreve G# and the semiquaver decoration in voice 2 rises as far as the G#. One option is to interrupt the long held note so that the second voice is heard, and the other is to treat the second voice at that point as a rest - in which case it sounds as though it has dropped out rather than rising to the G#. Similar problems also occur later.

 

I can manage the G# - d# stretch in bar 2, but bar 15 defeats me. d# is sounded with b, and then the b drops an octave, which is more than I can stretch. Would it be permissible to simply repeat the first b in the same octave, or is there another way to do it?

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As an elderly beginner, I would welcome some advice about a few problem passages. I have read Barbara Owen's book, "The Organ Music of Johannes Brahms", and she recommends that it should be played on a single manual, without pedal.

 

My first problem is in bar 3, where there is a semibreve G# and the semiquaver decoration in voice 2 rises as far as the G#. One option is to interrupt the long held note so that the second voice is heard, and the other is to treat the second voice at that point as a rest - in which case it sounds as though it has dropped out rather than rising to the G#. Similar problems also occur later.

 

I can manage the G# - d# stretch in bar 2, but bar 15 defeats me. d# is sounded with b, and then the b drops an octave, which is more than I can stretch. Would it be permissible to simply repeat the first b in the same octave, or is there another way to do it?

Hi David,

 

As no one else has come forward I'll put in my 2d-worth.

 

Your first point concerns a held note in one voice coinciding with the same pitch in another voice. I would play the note again in your bar 3 example, in other words change the minim g# into two crotchets. Generally that's probably the way to go, but there are probably some situations where another solution is appropriate.

 

Your second point concerns wide stretches in legato playing. The bar I think you mean is bar 12 (counting the first incomplete bar as bar 1). Take the low b with the left hand; you'll then have to do a very quick change from 5 to 4 or 3 on the bottom b to avoid a gap between the b and the low G#. Alternatively, as the piece has no pedal part you could couple the pedals to the manual with no pedal stops drawn and play the low b and g# on the pedals. Some might call that cheating but I say if it helps to produce a musical performance just do it, and I guess that Brahms had larger hands than you.

 

Good luck, it's a beautiful piece.

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Hi David,

 

As no one else has come forward I'll put in my 2d-worth.

 

Your first point concerns a held note in one voice coinciding with the same pitch in another voice. I would play the note again in your bar 3 example, in other words change the minim g# into two crotchets. Generally that's probably the way to go, but there are probably some situations where another solution is appropriate.

 

Your second point concerns wide stretches in legato playing. The bar I think you mean is bar 12 (counting the first incomplete bar as bar 1). Take the low b with the left hand; you'll then have to do a very quick change from 5 to 4 or 3 on the bottom b to avoid a gap between the b and the low G#. Alternatively, as the piece has no pedal part you could couple the pedals to the manual with no pedal stops drawn and play the low b and g# on the pedals. Some might call that cheating but I say if it helps to produce a musical performance just do it, and I guess that Brahms had larger hands than you.

 

Good luck, it's a beautiful piece.

 

That's true, Brahms' "handspan" was legendary and is a challenge for many pianists. Think of the E major Chorale by C. Franck, the opening section forces some players to use pedal coupler, too.

Some of my fellow students where not able to play without those aids, and one girl was very disappointed to be unable to play Messiaens' Pentecost mass, as the problems occur in the right hand, with no possible pedal cheating...

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My thanks to innate for his suggestions, to kropf for assuring me that Brahm's large hands have also created problems for others, and to one person who sent a private message.

The other option is to turn it upside-down and play the melody on a 4ft. Pedal stop - for example, a reed (perhaps under expression) or a good full-bodied flute. If you are using a flute on the Pedals, the rest of the clavier parts played on a string with an undulating rank (if available) can work quite well. If using a reed, then perhaps an 8ft. Stopped Diapason and a quiet 8ft. flute together can work well.

 

Whilst this will neccesitate re-learning it, this method can result in a rather beautiful performance, since it enables the performer to feature the melody - which would otherwise simply form the upper part of the texture - and with the same timbre.

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