Tuesday, November 13, 2018

An all-Brahms concert at the Eden-Tamir Music Center Ein Kerem, including Symphony No.3 played on two pianos

Dror Semmel,Ron Trachtman (photo:Shirley Burdick)
Under the direction of pianist Dror Semmel, the first of the Brahms series titled “Four Symphonies for Two Pianos Four Hands and Four Quartets” took place at the Eden-Tamir Music Center, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem on November 10th 2018.


The event opened with Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quartet No.2 in A-major Op.26, performed by Dima Pocitari-violin, Gili Radian-Sade-viola, Hillel Zori-’cello and Dror Semmel-piano. Completed in 1861, when Brahms was 29, the work, with its natural, easeful linking of phrases and formal perspective, attests to the composer’s profound study of Schubert’s chamber music in the late 1850s. It also marks Brahms’ taking up residence in Vienna, the musical capital of German music and the city of Beethoven and Schubert, a move encouraged by Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim. In the Op.26’s over fifty minutes of music, Brahms’ longest work; the artists’ wonderfully fresh and sculpted playing, however, drew the listeners at the Eden-Tamir Center into its extensive melodic content with some splendid solo playing, the highlighting of motifs and Brahms’ subtly rewarding mix of textures. In the opening movement (Allegro non troppo), the main theme, initiated by the piano alone, provides the two motives from which the movement is largely constructed. Throughout the work, Semmel wove the piano part in- and out of the limelight, soloing or amalgamating subtly with the strings, as dictated by the text. In the nocturne-like second movement (Poco adagio), with its arching melody, the sweeping, mysteriously ruminating arpeggios on the piano and ‘cello comments came together in luxuriant, songful tranquillity.  As to the third movement, enigmatically labelled Scherzo and furnished with a somewhat dramatic trio, it is followed by a vigorous finale, coloured by references to gypsy- and folk dance music; the players gave expression to its abundance of themes and moods and to its masterful structure.


The second work on the program was Brahms’ version of Symphony No.3 in F-major Op.90 for two pianos. We heard it performed by Dror Semmel and Ron Trachtman. Semmel spoke of the practice of writing the first draft of a symphony for piano four hands as the basis for planning and orchestrating the work. Brahms, however, having a sharp business sense, was also aware of the remunerative sheet-music market, with works for four hands popular for domestic use. Semmel  also mentioned that Alexander Tamir and Bracha Eden had played this work in concerts worldwide. On February 11, 1884, after hours of playing through the work in its two-piano version, Clara Schumann wrote to Brahms: “All the movements seem to be of one piece, one beat of the heart” and, in her picturesque use of language, that “one is surrounded from beginning to end by the secret magic of the life of the forest”.  Indeed, Brahms's Symphony No.3 is one of his most poetic, evocative works, with eloquently defined themes and their subsequent transformations. The work opens with the work’s rising F, A-flat, F motif in the top voice, Brahms’s monogram for “frei aber froh” (free but joyful); the motif makes itself heard again and again in the work.  Semmel and Trachtman’s playing reflected deep enquiry into the symphony's contrasting, transformative and pensive narratives, with the first movement emerging bold, at times tragic, and lyrical, its different melodies presented with a variety of pianistic textures. Both the second and third movements are introspective, with long sections that never rise above piano. In their “semplice” approach to the (underlying sophistication of the) Andante movement, the artists accorded it songful, personal expression. As to the beguiling Poco allegretto (third movement) with its lush, sensuous melodies, if the listener is able to detach himself from Brahms’ silken orchestration of it, here is the quintessential Romantic piano, with the artists’ rendition also reminding the audience of the artistic finesse proffered by strategic timing.


A chamber music concert to appeal to Brahms- and chamber music aficionados.


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