As I have been settling into the new place, I have been very neglectful of the blog – so to the regular readers, I apologise. Mind you, having seen this week’s Q and A, not much is changing in the blockheaded Australian political landscape. Joe Hildebrand makes his ironically recycled jokes about inner city trendy Greens. Liberal politicians continue with the deception that the BER was a blow out disaster – this aided and abetted by the News Ltd papers that propagated it. That really annoys me as I drive by on budget, successfully completed independent school projects. The ones News Ltd papers never refer to. As does the stupidity surrounding the carbon tax and the line I hear from those educated only by Sunrise and the Daily Telegraph – that the Greens are running the country and we’ll all be rooned.
But here is the unstupid. The music to escape to when you just can’t get away quickly enough. Brahms. The man was said to have had a tragic life to an extent – falling in love with Clara Schumann – a much older woman – but it never happening, then spending his days writing renowned, widely loved music after drinking coffee at his local coffee house every day. Hmmm…
I’ll start with an Intermezzo – the Op. 117 No.1 – which is as close to pure calm as I can imagine. I always image children sleeping when I hear it.
But then you have the more brilliant, younger, passionate Brahms in his Paganini Variations. This is a more impressive virtuoso piece than most of Liszt’s output. There’s heart amongst all those notes, especially when Emil Gilels plays it.
But then there is the more public Brahms. This he wrote as an overture to an Academic Overture. I’ve always imagined putting it in a video advertising the academic establishment I work in – but I’m not sure it would quite work. Here is Leonard Bernstein – always worth watching.
The reason I was thinking of Brahms tonight was because of hearing a Sydney ABC radio program featuring the retiring Bon Vivant of the NSW Art Gallery, Edmund Capon. He chose Brahms’ German Requiem as a favourite. It is a beautiful, stirring work that speaks to humanity as much as it does about God. In this performance we see Claudio Abbado conducting – who always reminds me of Paul Keating.
There’s plenty more outstanding Brahms to feature, but I’ll finish with my two favourite pieces of Brahms. First is the sexually frustrated (or, sexually descriptive, depending on the nature of his relationship with Clara) First Piano Concerto, written with Clara in his mind -
And finally, a work that never fails to stir my emotions, the Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 6. I remember foolishly comparing this to a crush of mine when I was a much younger man. Little did I realise that great music is a thing of itself, incomparable. I do now.