View RSS Feed

Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Brahms “In Camara” at the Gardner Museum

Rate this Entry
En français

Today's post is the first of three that I have planned for this series that uses material from the Gardner Museum's Music Library, a place we have turned to consistently in past chamber series.

Brahms' attitude toward the importance of the string quartet as the ultimate expression of the composer's craft can be understood when it is considered that he reputedly sketched and destroyed some 20 quartets before creating one worthy of publication.

Also, when it is considered that Haydn produced 68, Mozart 23 and Beethoven 16 quartets, Brahms' three quartets stand as a testament to his own harsh standards.

The publication of the Quartets, Op. 51 represent for Brahms a milestone in his career similar to the publication of his First Symphony: he had taken on the masters of the past and now deemed himself worthy of comparison.

These first two quartets were completed just before Brahms seriously embarked upon his almost exclusive engagement with orchestral works and as such represent not only a culmination of everything he had learned to this point, but as models for all that was to follow. Brahms' greatest accomplishment as a composer was his "developing variation" technique in which an entire work was generated from a single motive or group of motives. In the two quartets of Opus 51, Brahms' gives no clearer nor more pervasive an example of this technique.

Brahms' relationship with Agathe von Siebold, a singer in Göttingen for whom he had composed the iieder, Opp. 14 and 19, had reached a point of such intensity that both she and her friends assumed an engagement was imminent. Brahms was intent on continuing to see Siebold, although he did not wish to "wear fetters," as he put it in a letter to her. Siebold broke off the relationship, leaving Brahms despondent. The Sextet, Op. 36, is really dedicated to her. Three times near the end of the first-movement exposition the first and second violins, together, spell "Agathe" by playing the pitches A-G-A-D-H-E ("H" is the German designation for B natural). After the composition of the Sextet, Brahms noted to a friend, "Here I have freed myself from my last love."


Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 51, no. 1
Borromeo String Quartet

String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51, no. 2
Jupiter String Quartet

String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36
Borromeo String Quartet, with Liz Freivogel, viola and Daniel McDonough, cello

July 12 2013, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Rachmaninov Festival (Part 1 of 4)" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more July 12 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Jul-12-2013 at 11:36 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Concerts , Recorded Music


  1. itywltmt's Avatar
    We are featuring the music from this post as part of our ongoing “222 day Binge Challenge” on the For Your Listening Pleasure podcast September 23, 2021. The following notes are an update with useful links we have created or discovered since the original post.

    Over the next few months, I will be creating archive pages for our posts featuring music from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. So far, none of the links found on these old posts have disappeared; the ISGM music library portal itself has changed however, with more fine-grained filters.

    ISGM Music Portal page –

    Archive page for this ISGM share -

    Happy (further) listening!