SATURDAY, October 17, 2020 – 7:27 AM
Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, age 20
(Brahms completed this in January 1854, when he was not yet 21 years old. It was premiered on 13 October 1855 in Danzig. Brahms produced a revised version of the work in the summer of 1888. This of course brings up the question of how much he changed his teenage composition. I heard this in my car, on the radio, and I immediately knew I liked it and wanted to hear it again. So now I want to know what he changed.)
It got shorter…
The revised edition is only about three quarters the length, depending on whether you are considering play length or number of measures. Either way Brahms cut a lot of it, and his two versions are hugely different.
Here are both versions…
I found the score to both and studied the 1st movement, and I’ll return to this later to get a more thorough picture.
The first movement
- 0:01 I. Allegro con brio — Tranquillo — In tempo ma sempre sostenuto , B major: This long version got shortened from 494 bars to 289 bars, so he cut around 40%. Why? The original is just just longer. It might not be as tight. It wanders a lot, but there are a lot of interesting things, including a short fugue. By the way, there is a phrase over and over again that sounds just like “A whole New World”. I vastly prefer the original.
- 0:01 I. Allegro con moto — Tempo un poco più Moderato — Schnell (494 bars), B major: This is the revised, shorter version. Is this another example of an older composer “improving” his earlier work, in self-doubt, but to the detriment of the music? My impression is that this is slicker, more condensed, but I miss some of the exploration of his earlier version. I found this boring compared to his original.
- 19:28 II. Scherzo: Allegro molto — Meno allegro — Tempo primo , B minor – B major: This was shortened from 460 bars to 459 bars, so it’s virtually the same in length. That’s misleading. Among other things, the ending is very different from the revision. It’s around 7 minutes long. Very interesting to me is that his trio is a waltz, in absolutely contrast to the beginning and end.
- 25:46 Listen to how this ends: This may be the most unusual ending I’ve every heard to anything Brahms wrote. It’s intensely original, unique.
- 15:12 II. Allegro con moto — Tempo un poco più Moderato — Schnell (494 bars), B minor – B major: It appears Brahms liked his earlier music and left it along. Not true. It’s different, and again I much prefer the earlier version. It’s close to 6 minutes long. By the way, this group absolutely does not keep a steady beat, although they all play together, which I find intensely annoying, so I’d find another group except I don’t really like this version.
- 21: 10 Listen to how this ends in comparison: It’s a good ending if you didn’t hear the other one, but it’s more safe, more typical and takes no chances
- 26:30 III. Adagio non troppo — Allegro — Tempo primo (157 bars), B major: There is a fast section in the middle. The form is extremely unusual. The first time I listened I did not know what was going on, just that I liked it. This is obviously much longer and is more complex.
- 21: 31 III. Adagio (99 bars), B major: this time he went from 157 bars to 99, so he cut out 37%. Again, why? Obviously he got more conservative, and his idea was that shorter and simpler is better. I just don’t agree.
- 35:18 IV. Finale: Allegro molto agitato — Un poco più lento — Tempo primo (518 bars), B minor: Obviously this is longer, but I have to find out what got cut because it starts the same way. Does it even finish the same way?
- 30:19 IV. Finale: Allegro (322 bars), B minor: This time he shortened it from 518 bars to 322 bars, so he cut 62% of it. Why? What got cut? I only really studied the 1st movement so far, but I definitely prefer his young work.