Program:

  • Variations on a theme of Schumann for Piano Duet, opus 23
  • Sonata #1 in F Minor for Viola and Piano, opus 120 #1
  • Sonata #2 in E-Flat Major for Viola and Piano, opus 120 #2
  • Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel for Piano Solo, opus 24

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Dual Duos and a Duet - Brahms on the Bluff

Sunday, February 26 at 3 p.m.

The last chamber music Brahms wrote, near the end of his life, are his two sonatas, opus 120 for clarinet and piano. Brahms sanctioned their performance on the viola, and the mellow, rich sound of this instrument matches the valedictory nature of this music to perfection. The two sonatas are a study in contrasts, the Sonata #1 being dark and agitated, while the Sonata #2 is peacefully resigned and wistful.

Randolph KellyWehr's collaborator in these works is Randolph Kelly, Principal Violist of the Pittsburgh Symphony since his graduation from the Curtis Institute. One of the world's great violists, Kelly also teaches at Duquesne University.

In 1863, Brahms wrote a set of Variations on a Theme of Schumann for piano duet, opus 23. Robert Schumann had been a mentor of the eighteen-year-old Brahms, and a tireless promoter of his music. During Schumann's confinement in an insane asylum, Brahms lived with the Schumann family, becoming very close with the older composer's wife, Clara, herself one of the greatest pianists of her time. Brahms dedicated this very rarely heard piece to one of Schumann's daughters, Julie, for whom Brahms secretly harbored a deep passion. He was heartbroken when Julie married another man abruptly, but one can imagine the two of them playing these variations side by side at the piano.

Natasha SnitkovskyWehr is joined for this novelty by Natasha Snitkovsky, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, and adjunct professor of piano at Duquesne University. Snitkovsky is also the Artistic Director and Chair of the Piano Department at City Music Center, a community music school based at Duquesne.

Perhaps Brahms's masterpiece for the piano is the monumental Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, opus 24, for piano solo, which closes this season. Lasting twenty-five minutes, the work demands the utmost in physical stamina, intellectual understanding and musical insight from the performer. Brahms revered Handel, the great master of the earlier Baroque era, and composer of "Messiah". His inspiration is at its peak as he lets his imagination go wild in transformations of Handel's catchy trumpet tune.

Concerts will take place at 3 p.m. in the PNC Recital Hall on the first floor of the Mary Pappert School of Music. Join us for a 2:15 p.m. informative talk and complimentary public reception after each performance. A $10 donation is suggested. For more details, call 412.396.4632 or return to the Brahms on the Bluff section of this website.

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