Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)

Piano Quartet No.3 in C Minor, Op.60 

 

The Brahms C minor quartet, although it was published in 1875, much later than his Opus 25 and 26, was actually begun several years earlier in about 1855. Most scholars agree that the first and third movements have their origin in a C sharp minor quartet that he put aside after disappointing rehearsals in 1856. In 1874 he returned to it, revising it, changing the key, adding a scherzo and writing a new finale.

The piece was conceived during a very trying time for the composer. His good friend and mentor Robert Schumann had become severely mentally ill and died tragically of the effects of syphilis in an asylum in 1856. The young, perhaps idealistic, Brahms was in love with his friend’s widow, Clara Wieck Schumann, a brilliant musician/composer in her own right and Brahms’s intellectual and musical soul mate. The nature of their relationship has been the subject of much speculation. What is certain, is that the two remained very close until her death in 1896.

Brahms’s frustration at the impossibility of their love almost certainly tempered the mood of this quartet. In a letter to his publisher, years later, at the time of its publication, Brahms himself drew a parallel between the music and the story of Werther, a young man who takes his own life because of his unrequited love for an older, married woman.

The first movement of this quartet is extremely dramatic. It runs the gamut of emotions of the Werther/Brahms character from vehemence to despair. The two themes are combined in an expanded concept of sonata form. The second theme is developed in 5 variations and the recapitulation is set, unusually, in the dominant key of G major rather than returning to the home key of C minor. It ends quietly with no sense of resolution.

The second movement, a scherzo, is vigorous, angry and intense. It is unusual in the fact that it lacks a trio section. The third movement opens with a beautiful, sorrowful cello solo which evolves into a duo with the piano. The other two instruments are added and a second theme is introduced. Again adhering to sonata form, Brahms brings back his opening theme to end this movement softly with special poignancy. The finale is once again full of fury and hurt. Descending figures in the piano and later in the strings recall the cello theme from the previous Andante. Running piano figurations are sustained for most of the movement, supporting the first melody and the second, chorale-like theme.

At the time this work was published, Brahms had completed two string quartets. The piano writing here lays the foundation for his great Piano Concerto No. 2. The inspiration behind this quartet may harken back to his earlier years, but this is clearly the work of a more mature composer.

Program note courtesy of the New Zealand Piano Quartet

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布拉姆斯 (1833 – 1897)

C小調第三鋼琴四重奏

1875年8月,布拉姆斯把剛作好的新作品《c小調第三鋼琴四重奏》(Piano Quartet No.3 in c minor, Op. 60)寄給出版商,且附上一封奇怪的信,內容寫著:「你在封面上要附上一幅畫,畫中的人正把槍口指著自己的頭上,這樣你便可以形成一個音樂概念。我也會把一張相寄給你以達到目的,你可以把他這樣的上色,藍色的大衣,黃色的馬褲和長馬靴。」這大概是德國讓作家歌德(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)成名的小說《少年維特的煩惱》中主角的造型。

年輕的布拉姆斯早已認識舒曼(Robert Alexander Schumann)並‍視之為老師。當布拉姆斯第一次到舒曼家中作客時,舒曼請他彈奏鋼琴。彈奏間,舒曼把他叫停了,然後進入房間,一會兒後,他和太太克拉拉・舒曼(Clara Schumann)便走出客廳,欣賞布拉姆斯的演奏。這也許是克拉拉和布拉姆斯的第一次相遇,也是故事的展開。

《少年維特的煩惱》中的主角維特,在舞會上‍碰上了已有婚約的綠蒂,二人隨後更被彼此的經歷雙雙吸引而愛上對方。當綠蒂的未婚夫回來時, 維特選擇了離開。但又因著種種的原因,又回到綠蒂的身邊。因著維特深知自己不能和綠蒂長相廝守,最終走上了自殺的道路。故事不但是作者歌德的寫照,也是布拉姆斯的經歷。愛上老師的太太,卻又不能在一起,這份的痛苦收藏在布氏的心中,他也只能用樂曲把這份悽惻表達出來。

1854年,舒曼跳河自殺未遂,被關進了精神病院兩年之多。其中布拉姆斯探望舒曼的次數眾多,也把克拉拉照顧得十分妥當。而他們的愛情也到達不可自拔的地步。同時間,《c小調第三鋼琴四重奏》也在這時候開始在布拉姆斯心中醞釀。隔年,舒曼於1856年過身,帶給布拉姆斯很大的打擊。但布拉姆斯沒有因此和克拉拉一起,後期更分隔兩地,一對戀人始終都沒走在一起。

Allegro non troppo (不太快的快板)
兩組以八‍度組成的C音,在鋼琴的高低音域分別被強而有力地彈出,第一樂章正式展開。在琴聲的餘韻尚未結束‍之時,弦樂已經在其上奏出悲慘的樂句。然後鋼琴又彈出兩組八‍度的D音,這次弦樂的回應比之前更進取。值得注意的是布氏一開始在小提琴中使用了兩度下行動機,然後以Bb-D-C-B-C的動機‍承‍接,這個動機像是把舒曼常常用的「克拉拉動機」(C-B-A-G #-A)引隱其中,把樂曲連接到克拉拉上。緩慢的序奏過後,小提琴飛快地以音階下墜,然後作為伴奏。此時,鋼琴成為主角,把情緒向上推進。曲調在第二主題中變成了大調,氣氛隨次也變得平靜‍。如歌似般的旋律由鋼琴抒情地彈出,再以變奏的方式復出現。中段部份樂曲鋼琴先先作為伴奏,兩度下行的動機再次由提琴奏出,樂曲聲音高高低低來轉數回後,整個室樂團把力度聚集起來,讓樂曲推至到本章最具動魄最激昂的部份。隨著開首的第一主題出現,布拉姆斯以悲聲結束‍‍第一樂章。

Scherzo: Allegro (詼諧曲-快板)
第二樂章開首承‍接了第一樂章中的二度下行動機。由鋼琴開始奏出主題,然後和弦樂一對一答,鋼琴以大調作出的回應像是把問題暫時解答。但很快又進入緊凑的情節,弦樂和琴音雙雙爭出,讓第二樂章到達最抒情的樂段,把心中所有的悲情和哀傷傾訴出來,讓世人感受‍著相同的悲哀。第一主題再度出現,下行音階鋼琴再次奏出。弦樂和鋼琴對答過後,樂曲進入尾部,小提琴以尖銳的長音,伴隨著帶有曙光的琴音結束。

Andante (行板)
抒情的旋律先先由大提琴纏綿地奏出,柔情似水。小提琴的加入和大提琴互相呼應,優美的旋律使人內心平靜。樂章看似簡單,旋律也不是由什麼復雜的結構組成,但音樂所帶出的意境如夢境般,且有著淡淡的優傷,慢慢地靜靜地褪去。

Finale: Allegro comodo (舒適的快板)
鋼琴的伴奏快速地上下穿梭,小提琴奏出帶著懊悔的旋律。中段突然出現緊張的氣氛, 小提琴奏出的三連音令人想起貝多芬的《c小調第五交響曲》,像是控訴著自身的命運,其後小提琴的衰鳴把第一主題推到高峰並‍把所有的壓力釋放。然後出現一陣子的平靜,不同的樂器重覆著主題的開首。這次高潮過後,安靜的音樂帶有舒曼作品《童年之景》(Kinderszenen, Op. 15)中的旋律,先由大提琴以撥弦的方式奏出舒曼的動機,然後由中提琴接續。平靜過後,音樂一步一步的把人逼到透不過氣來。樂曲進入尾部,鋼琴再一次彈出舒曼的影子,聲音由柔弱突然加強結束,令人印象深刻。

1896年,克拉拉去世了,闊別了多年的布拉姆斯坐了四十多小時的車趕到克拉拉的葬禮。結束後,布拉姆斯在墳前一言不發,演奏了小提琴四個多小時之久。不到一年後,布拉姆斯也與世長辭。也許布拉姆斯沒有擁有克拉拉本人,但卻擁有了愛情。雖然沒有在一起,但布拉姆斯卻用自己的方法愛她。愛上不應該愛的人是殘酷的,布拉姆斯也只能寄情於音樂,讓音樂把最真摯的感情獻給克拉拉。

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