Schumann described Brahms’ music as “poetry one would understand without knowing the words …” and his playing as “transform[ing’ the piano into an orchestra”.
The Op.52 and 52a Liebeslieder waltzes fit within the description quite well.
Straight after the works’ publication in 1858, the well-known Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick wrote: “Brahms and the Waltz! One is stupefied by the elegance of the page on which these 2 words are written together. Brahms the serious, the taciturn, the true younger Brother of Schumann, writing waltzes! And yet, he is so northern, so protestant, so unworldy … Some of these appear to be melodic Viennese waltzes, but many more possess the spontaneous equilibrium of the Landler. In these we find the distant echo of Schubert and Schumann”.
It is also perfect chamber music. A beguiling set of 18 pieces, each relatively short and encompassing a range of musical moods set to witty texts full of energy, irony and humour, the waltzes (literally, love-song dances) were written quickly and the composer referred to them as “pretty concert pieces” to his publisher. There are simple stories, passionate outbursts, brooding melancholy, and songs of deep devotion.
There are 2 versions – the 4-hand version is performed much less often than the 4-hand-plus-SATB-ensemble version, so come and be inspired by the internationally recognized twin-sister piano duo on the evening of 2 September!
In the meantime, listen to this great interpretation with singers (including the rather incomparable Kathleen Ferrier).