Remembering Radu Lupu

The great Romanian pianist, Radu Lupu, passed away earlier this week. According to his manager, Lupu “died peacefully in his home in Switzerland from numerous long-term illnesses.” He was 76 years old. In 1966, Radu Lupu was awarded the first prize at the second Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He went on to win first prizes at the George Enescu International Piano Competition and the Leeds International Piano Competition. Lupu’s playing was filled …

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Brahms’ Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major: From Youth to Maturity

Johannes Brahms’ Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Op. 8 exists in two versions. The first was published in 1854, only months after the 21-year-old Brahms met Robert and Clara Schumann for the first time. Thirty-six years later, Brahms returned to the work during the summer of 1889 with the intention of trimming its “youthful excesses.” That September, he wrote to Clara Schumann, You cannot imagine how I trifled away the lovely …

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1963 Telecast: Hindemith Leads the CSO in Music of Hindemith, Bruckner, Brahms

In 1963, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was in transition. The French conductor, Jean Martinon, was beginning his five-year tenure as music director following the death of the legendary Fritz Reiner. Over the preceding ten years, the fierce and autocratic Reiner had turned the CSO into what Igor Stravinsky called, “the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world.” We hear the ensemble Reiner built in all of its glory in this April 7, …

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Brahms’ Handel Variations, Op. 24: A Monument Built on Baroque Foundations

George Frideric Handel’s Suite in B-flat Major, HWV 434, published in 1733 as part of a collection of keyboard works entitled Suites de Pièces, concludes with an Aria con variazioni in which five ebullient variations spin out of a sunny galant theme: This endearing music provided the seed for Johannes Brahms’ monumental Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, composed nearly 130 years later in 1861. Here, the original theme is followed by 25 adventurous …

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Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto: An Intimate Colossus

I don’t mind telling you that I have written a tiny, tiny pianoforte concerto with a tiny, tiny wisp of a scherzo. This is how Johannes Brahms jokingly described the newly completed Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major in a letter to his friend and former student, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, dated July 7, 1881. In another letter, written around the same time, he referred flippantly to “some little piano pieces.” In fact, …

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Remembering Nelson Freire

Nelson Freire, the acclaimed Brazilian pianist, passed away earlier this week at his home in Rio de Janeiro. He was 77. Born in Boa Esperança, Freire began playing the piano around the age of four. One of his earliest teachers, Lucia Branco, studied with a student of Franz Liszt. At the age of 12, Freire performed Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and was a prizewinner at the Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition. Shortly thereafter, he …

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Brahms’ String Quintet No. 2 in G Major: A First Farewell

Johannes Brahms intended for the String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111 to be his final piece. In a December, 1890 correspondence with his publisher, Simrock, the 57-year-old composer slipped in the message, “With this note you can take leave of my music, because it is high time to stop.” Around the same time, Brahms told a friend that he “had achieved enough; here I had before me a carefree old …

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