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Brahms to Clara Schumann, Nov 25, 1855

March 10, 2012



Sunday, Nov.25

Your letter of yesterday reached me too late for me to be able to write to Berlin, but you must have received a letter from me on Saturday in any case.  How much I love your beautiful letter!  It is lying before me now and I feel as if I cannot answer it.  I should prefer to copy it out….  Let me tell you first of all that everything went well yesterday, even at the second rehearsal as well.  I was loudly applauded, for Hamburg it was quite enthusiastic.  I really did play with both fire and restraint.  It was decidedly better than at Bremen.  Let me give you the programme:  1. Mendelssohn’s Symphony in A minor, the scherzo of which delighted me, though I was bored with the andante.  The first movement pleased me very much, the last less.   2. Aria by Mozart, sung by Frau Guhrau with orchestra.  To my great joy she was accompanied by two basset-horns, which had been procured with great difficulty.  I don’t believe any instrument blends so perfectly with the human voice as the basset-horn, the tone of which seems to come half-way between the cello (bassoon) and the clarinet.

Otten is always rather inclined to go too slowly which was not to the advantage of this Aria.  But it was wonderfully beautiful.  Then followed a Bach suite for orchestra (three trumpets) of which the overture, an aria, a gavotte and gigue were played.  This was the most beautiful of all.  What a marvellous effect, yet how much better it could and ought to have been.  I can’t write to you about it.  I should like to play the score through with you.  Then came the E Flat major Concerto which went with a good swing.

Frau Guhrau sang Das Veilchen and a song by Marschner; I accompanied her and led her along so that some day I may be able to do the same with Chiarina.  After this I played the Canon in B minor by Robert, and then, at Otten’s and Avé’s urgent request, I played Schubert’s March.  They were both equally and quite enthusiastically applauded.  The Euryanthe Overture brought the concert to a close.  The Carnaval would have been too long.  That is why I had to leave it out.  But I should like to play it some day.

I was much more pleased with Frau Guhrau than I have been before.  She is in many respects very different from what she used to be.  And then there is also the fact that one sympathizes with her for her really sad plight.  She told me with some emotion about her time with you, then about her brief marriage, on which she now looks back as on a desert.  She sang beautifully at the concert, particularly Das Veilchen.  I was delighted about the concert in Berlin and about the Heinrich Overture etc.  At the first rehearsal Otten also played Wahner’s Faust Overture, which I disliked exceedingly.  I advised him very strongly to consider whether he ought to have the honour of being produced in Hamburg for the first time.

You know that we once discussed whether one ought to make complementary notes after trills in Bach.  I said that my taste was strongly opposed to it.  Now let me copy out for you a chapter out of my Ph.Em. Bach who, you must acknowledge, was the best of teachers, particularly of his father s works.

2nd Section, 3rd Part, SS13

“Trills above a note which is somewhat long, whether it goes down or up, always means that there must be a complementary note.  When a jump follows the note with a trill the complementary note also follows.  The same also applies in regard to emphasized notes.  When a trill is not followed by any note, at the end for instance, or when it comes over a sustained note etc. there is always a complementary note.

SS14.  Dotted notes followed by a short note going up may also have trills with complementary notes.”

Later on he says “The complementary note must be played as quickly as the tr”.

But we ought in any case to read Bach carefully together.

….A thousand greetings from everybody and above all from me, Your JOHANNES.

I have bought a sonata for two pianos by W. Friedmann Bach (MS) which is certainly very rare, and other things!!

Litzmann, Berthold, Ed., Letters of Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms 1853-1896, Vol. I, Edward Arnold & Co. 1927, pp. 55-57.

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