Martha Argerich Plays Brahms: The Rhapsodies, Op. 79

The title, “rhapsody,” suggests free and improvisatory music in which raw emotion supersedes formal structure. Johannes Brahms’ two Rhapsodies, Op. 79 for solo piano only partially conform to this definition. While both are passionately Romantic, they unfold with a clearly defined sense of structure—ternary or “ABA” in the first movement, and sonata form in the second.

Brahms wrote the Op. 79 Rhapsodies during the summer of 1879 at the Austrian resort town of Pörtschach am Wörthersee. He dedicated them to the pianist and composer, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, a close friend, confidant, and former student. Initially, Op. 79 was given the generic title, Klavierstück. Eventually, after discussions with von Herzogenberg, Brahms reluctantly agreed to the title, “rhapsody.” In the end, he suggested humorously that they qualified as rhapsodies “in nebulous garb.” Both pieces evoke an orchestral sense of color.

The Rhapsody in B minor, Op. 79, No. 1 is marked Agitato. Its opening is expansive and tempestuous, with a dialogue between voices. The tender nocturne which emerges in the middle section, foreshadowed earlier, moves to a world far-removed. Following a recapitulation, the haunting final notes trail off with a sense of longing for the intimate nocturne melody.

The Rhapsody in G minor, Op. 79, No. 2 is marked, Molto passionato, ma non troppo allegro. Amid the storminess and quiet melancholy is an ominous, ghostly march. More than once, we are reminded of the chilling atmosphere of Schubert’s “Erlkönig” song.

These concert recordings feature the young Martha Argerich:

Rhapsody in B minor, Op. 79, No. 1:

Rhapsody in G minor, Op. 79, No. 2:


  • Brahms: Rhapsodies, Op. 79, Martha Argerich Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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