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Brahms Piano Quartets

Xiayan Wang and The Amity Players

Johannes Brahms
Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor Op. 25

1. Allegro
2. Intermezzo: Allegro ma non troppo - Trio: Animato 8:13
3. Andante con moto 9:34
4. Rondo alla Zingarese: Presto 8:41

Piano Quartet No.1 in G minor Op.25
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) composed the Piano Quartet No.1 in G minor between 1857 and 1859 while he was employed as Director of Court Concerts and Choral Society for the Prince of Lippe-Detmold in Germany. His close friend and mentor Robert Schumann had died the previous year and Brahms, deeply saddened and affected by his death, continued to maintain along friendship with his widow, the pianist Clara Schumann. She became an emotional focus for Brahms, one that would last throughout his life, and the nature of their relationship became the subject of much speculation. The piano quartet was performed in Hamburg in November of 1861, with Clara at the piano and a select ensemble including the distinguished Hamburg violinist John Boie.

Brahms' opening Allegro movement is powerful and passionate as he stretches the boundaries of the sonata form with his length, expansion and reshuffling of themes. The following scherzo Intermezzo: Allegro ma non troppo - Trio: Animato is specifically titled to reflect Brahms' gentle, introverted nature, and brings a sharp change of sound as the muted strings and sw~ng rhythms in duple and triple meter give the movement a mysterious texture. The Andante con moto begins as a slow full-hearted song and develops into a semi-military 3/4 meter march in C major. In the concluding Rondo alla Zingarese, Brahms alludes to his love and interest in Hungarian music as he saturates the vibrant finale with quick episodes and sudden tempo shifts, extending a musical tradition of 'gypsy' finales that goes back to the days of Haydn.


Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor Op 60
5. Allegro non troppo 10:37
6. Scherzo: Allegro 4:13
7. Andante 8:30
8. Finale: Allegro comodo 10:13

Piano Quartet No.3 in C minor Op. 60
Brahms loosely bases the Piano Quartet in C minor on his own personal life and the lives of Robert and Clara Schumann. He worked on the piece between 1854 and 1856, during a tumultuous season in the lives of the Schumanns. In 1854 Robert Schumann attempted suicide by throwing himself off a bridge into a river and soon after being rescued, he asked to be taken to an insane asylum. Schumann became severely mentally ill and died in the asylum in 1856 of the effects of syphilis. During these years, emotional conflict consumed Brahms as he was shaken by the terminal illness and ensuing death of his friend and bothered at the prospect of forsaking loyalry and friendship for love with Clara Schumann. Throughout the quartet he likens his own struggles to those of the protagonist in Goethe's work "Sorrows of Werther" in which the hero kills himself over the unrequited love for his friend's wife. Brahms abandoned the piece in 1856 and did not return to it until 1873. He then modified portions of the quartet by changing the key, adding a scherzo and writing a new finale. He did not, however, abandon its gloomy passion as Brahms is believed to have said to his first biographer to "Imagine a man who is just going to shoot himself, for there is nothing else to do". The sonata was premiered in Vienna on 18 November 1875, with Brahms at the piano, Joseph Hellmesberger on violin, and David Popper on cello.

The dramatic Allegro non troppo opening movement introduces a whirlwind of romantic desperation. The strings play a two-note phrase that seems to speak the name 'Clara', and then immediately lead into a version of Schumann's personal 'Clara-motif'. The Scherzo Allegro in minor resembles the first movement with its restlessness and suggestions of tragedy and the following Andante begins with a song-like cello theme in a rapt duet with violin, bringing an emotional peace and calm. A mood of anxiery and regret pervades the Finale: Allegro comodo and the curt final brings the quartet to a climatic end.


Xiayin Wang, born in China, began playing the piano at the age of five. She arrived in the United States in 1997, after completing her studies at the Shanghai Conservatory and pursued studies at the Manhattan School of Music. In China, Xiayin has garnered an enviable record of first prize awards and special honours for her performances and has been heard in many of China's most prestigious concert halls, and with some of China's leading orchestras.

In April 2007, Xiayin Wang released her debut recording "Introducing Xiayin Wang" on Marquis. During the 2006-2007 season Ms. Wang made her Carnegie Hall concerto debut with the City Symphony under conductor George Manahan at Isaac Stern Auditorium.

Xiayin Wang holds a Bachelor's, Master's and Professional Studies degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and is completing her Doctorate at that institution. She is represented by Gurtman and Murtha Artist Management.


Bela Horvath, born in Hungary in 1982, began studying the violin the age of four under the instruction of his grandfather. He studied at the Bela Bartok Conservatory with Istvan Kertesz and the Franz Liszt University of Music with Miklos Szenthelyi. Throughout his years of study in Hungary he has won numerous competitions and has received critical acclaim for his performances. Bela studied at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City in 2007 under the tutelage of Pinchas Zukerman.


Born in Paris in 1984, Raphael Dube has performed as a soloist, a chamber musician and an orchestra member throughout North America, Europe and Asia. He has studied with renowned cellists Walter Joachim, Carole Sirois and completed his Master of Music Degree with Timothy Eddy at Mannes College of Music in New York Ciry in 2007.

Raphael is a member of the New World Symphony directed by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and is the joint Artistic Director of Ensemble Chorum in Montreal. He also regularly performs with Les Violons du Roy.


Tom Palny, born in Tel Aviv, Israel, is an active soloist, ensemble and orchestra player and graduate of Manhattan School of Music. Tom began playing the violin at the age of nine and at sixteen began playing the viola. He has recorded many concerts for broadcast by the National Israeli Radio, and was privileged to playing his solo debut on a live broadcast to commemorate Israel's 52nd Independence Day.


Executive Producer: International Performing Artists, LLC
Recording and Mixing Engineer: Leszek Maria Wojcik
Cover Design: 12thirteen - Randal Boutilier
Photography: Sarah Shatz

Recorded on March 19, and May 1, 2007, at the Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, State University of New York, Purchase, New York.





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