Please wait...

Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Track(s) taken from APR5503
Recording details: August 1942
HMV, United Kingdom
Release date: July 1994
Total duration: 24 minutes 57 seconds

Variations and Fugue on a theme by G F Handel, Op 24
composer
completed in Hamburg in September 1861; dedicated to Clara Schumann on her birthday, 13 September 1861; the theme is from Handel's

Aria  [0'57]  recorded August 1942
Variations 1 to 3  [2'03]  recorded August 1942
Variations 4 to 6  [2'39]  recorded August 1942
Variations 7 to 9  [2'49]  recorded August 1942
Variations 10 to 12  [2'05]  recorded August 1942
Variations 13 to 15  [2'58]  recorded August 1942
Variations 16 to 18  [1'38]  recorded August 1942
Variations 19 to 21  [2'39]  recorded August 1942
Variations 22 to 24  [2'30]  recorded August 1942
Fugue  [4'39]  recorded August 1942

Other recordings available for download
Seta Tanyel (piano)
Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The climax of Brahms’s activities as a composer of piano variations came with the Variations and Fugue on a theme by Handel, Op 24. Completed in Hamburg in September 1861 and dedicated to Clara Schumann on her birthday, this is one of the summits of his entire keyboard output, showing him at the height of his powers. It was also—and hardly by coincidence—Brahms’s first major compositional statement following his 1860 ‘Manifesto’ against the composers of Liszt’s ‘New German School’, who were advocating the literary tone-poem and Wagnerian music-drama as the ‘Music of the Future’. Brahms’s Op 24 is a systematic summation of the mastery he had gained through intensive study during the previous decade. The choice of a Baroque theme, the strictness of the variations, the richness and scope of the piano technique, and the lavish display of contrapuntal learning in the concluding Fugue, all combine to present Brahms in the role of preserver and representative of tradition. Even Wagner saw its significance when Brahms played it to him, commenting grandly that it showed what could still be done with the old forms by someone who knew how to use them.

The theme is the Air from Handel’s B flat major harpsichord suite, published in 1733 (Brahms, the passionate bibliophile, owned a first edition). This dapper little tune has the balanced phraseology, the structural and harmonic simplicity, of an ideal variation subject. Brahms’s twenty-five variations confine themselves to the key of B flat, with occasional excursions into the tonic minor. But this apparent constraint, while imposing a powerful structural unity, provides Brahms with a framework on which to establish and explore a kaleidoscopic range of moods and characters. Several of the variations form pairs, the second intensifying and developing the characteristics of the first, while the last three create a climactic introduction to the concluding Fugue, on a subject derived from Handel’s theme. This continues the variation process in an altogether more ‘open’ form in which Brahms reconciles the linear demands of fugal form with the harmonic capabilities of the contemporary piano. The grand sweep of the structure, however, is never lost sight of, and the Fugue issues in a coda of granitic splendour.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2010


Other albums featuring this work
'Beethoven & Brahms: Variations' (CDH55201)
Beethoven & Brahms: Variations
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDH55201  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service  
'Brahms: The Complete Variations' (CDA67777)
Brahms: The Complete Variations
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 CDA67777  2CDs for the price of 1  

Show: MP3 FLAC ALAC
   English   Français   Deutsch