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Classical Notes

Brahms: Newly Performed, From the Past

Posted at 12:29 PM on January 19, 2012 by Samuel Kjellberg

tumblr_lmr2awKVcS1qeu6ilo1_500.jpgThink back to your time in high school, to middle school, or even grade school. Now accompany that thought with a comparing mind.

When you reach these moments in your past take out the stacks of old papers, assignments and arts and crafts projects and look at them. How do you feel about these now that all this time has past? Did you know anything then that you don't know now? Or did you NOT know anything that you DO know now?

Well, a young Johannes Brahms did something quite similar to this. Brahms began composing as early as age 11, writing what we can guess were short piano works. Upon revisiting these pieces later in his life and deciding they weren't worth saving — perhaps even a little embarrassed by his boyish compositional techniques — Brahms threw out most of these works.

However, as Brahms turned 20 he gradually started to save his boyish musical compositions after receiving notable recognition for his performing and compositions while on a concert tour with violinist Eduard Reményi where Franz Liszt read through one of his works. Later that year meeting Robert Schumann, who was impressed by his work, Brahms created a lifelong friendship with the musical duo, Robert and Clara.

Recently, while leafing though old Brahms manuscripts in the United States, British conductor and scholar Christopher Hogwood discovered a short unpublished piano work by the 20-year-old Brahms. The piece is titled Albumblatt, meaning "Album Leaf".

BBC Radio 3 has dibs on the world premiere performance, which will be broadcast on the Tom Service show sometime next month. Pianist Andras Schiff has been asked to take on such an honor while Hogwood was asked to discuss his finding.

This is significant for the obvious reason that we are talking about Johannes Brahms here, a composer with a widely performed catalogue list of grueling length! His name has been engrained in our minds as one of the foremost composers of the Western world.

This new piano piece is short, lasting only a mere two minutes in length, but will soon be a prized work amongst concert pianists.

Perhaps Brahms never intended this work to be seen, performed or published. Regardless, let us welcome this new work into the world, a work written by Brahms almost 160 years ago!