Brahms: Sonata for Two Pianos, Variations on a Theme by Haydn

Brahms: Sonata for Two Pianos, Variations on a Theme by Haydn

by Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman



Hearing a composer's first thoughts on a work that we know well in its final form can be uncanny: The music is familiar yet vaguely unfamiliar at the same time. Such is the case with the two compositions by Johannes Brahms performed here in duo-piano versions by Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman. Brahms's Sonata in F Minor for Two Pianos was recast -- at Clara Schumann's urging -- as one of his most masterful chamber works, the Quintet for Piano and Strings. The interplay among instruments in the final version seems so innately suited to the musical substance that the all-keyboard texture of the original produces a shock. But once you stop waiting for the strings to come in, you can appreciate how the abstract musical ideas are distilled to their essences. The unadorned opening theme sounds just as mysterious on two pianos, the Scherzo just as diabolical, and the concluding Presto just as fulfilling a culmination, thanks in large part to Ax and Bronfman's intensely charged performance. (Martha Argerich and Lilya Zilberstein's recent live recording, however, is even more exciting.) The Variations on a Theme by Haydn provide a different sort of revelation. Best known in Brahms's later orchestral version, the Variations lose little when performed on two pianos and can actually gain in clarity and spirit. (Instrumental color is hardly the strongest suit of Brahms's symphonic scores, anyway.) The Variations sound luminous in Ax and Bronfman's hands, and this music provides a perfect foil to the weighty Sonata, answering its highly emotional drama with sheer joyful ingenuity.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/01/2005
Label: Sony
UPC: 0696998986824
catalogNumber: 89868


  1. Sonata for 2 pianos in F minor, Op. 34b

    1. I. Allegro non troppo  (15:04)
    2. II. Andante un poco Adagio  (08:42)
    3. III. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio  (07:21)
    4. IV. Finale. Poco sostenuto - Allegro non troppo - Tempo I - Presto non troppo  (10:32)
  2. Variations on a Theme of Haydn, for 2 pianos in B flat major (St. Anthony Variations), Op. 56b

    1. Thema. Chorale St. Antoni  (02:03)
    2. Variation 1. Andante con moto  (01:18)
    3. Variation 2. Vivace  (00:58)
    4. Variation 3. Con moto  (01:39)
    5. Variation 4. Andante  (02:06)
    6. Variation 5. Poco presto  (00:54)
    7. Variation 6. Vivace  (01:14)
    8. Variation 7. Grazioso  (02:47)
    9. Variation 8. Poco presto  (00:56)
    10. Finale. Andante  (03:50)

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