Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Summer Love Affair with Brahms

by Kathryn Lockwood

There are moments when I'm playing Brahms that I feel my toes curling with a delicious sensation of pleasure. Does that sound too racy for a blog? Perhaps it is, but isn't that the response music elicits in you? There are scientific studies proving the affects of music for helping reduce pain and anxiety, lower blood pressure and stress levels, and studies to prove that music can heighten and arouse emotions. 

For me, really good music elicits excited and pleasurable responses and keeps us coming back for more. This is why when the voices of doom say that classical music is dying, I think they are wrong. When audiences are exposed to great music and have the chance to become familiar with it, they're hooked. 

Johannes Brahms
The German composer Johannes Brahms who lived from 1833-87, the composer who was such a perfectionist that he would destroy some of his writings and left others unpublished, the man who never married, and the man that I suspect I wouldn't particularly like if I'd ever had a chance to meet him, is my current summer beau.

When I'm playing his music, I feel a huge amount of admiration and awe. The way the he crafts his music is truly amazing and takes us on an emotional journey of happiness, passion, grandeur, sadness and despair. 

This past May, I was lucky enough to perform the Brahms Viola Quintet in G Major with my Lark colleagues and Toby Appel, and it reawakened my love for the great romantic composer. 

Take this example of a personal "toe curling" moment:

Excerpt from Brahms' Viola Quintet in G Major.

At the piano espressivo, a gorgeous rising line of anticipation begins and we feel fully gratified at the release and the subsequent forte - this is where the toes curl!!!  Ahhhhhh...

Then there are the other precious moments that one can practice and play over and over again, never growing tired of trying new ideas in an effort to fully honor the writing. Take the opening of the second movement.  Big yum.

Excerpt from Brahms' Viola Quintet in G Major.
My next delicious Brahms experience is his B-flat major sextet that I play for a festival in Australia. Life is good.  

Kathryn Lockwood - Violist of the Lark String Quartet

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