Composers Anecdotes
Brahms on the Road
A Trip to Transylvania with Piano and Violin III

romania hungary mapAfter their mountainous trip of over 760 km between Arad, Sighişoara, Braşov, and Sibui, Brahms and Joachim closed the tour in Cluj (now Clug-Napoca).

Their final concert, in Cluj, was an outstanding success. Their arrival was attended by a distinguished committee and a boisterous crowd. After presentations of various sorts, Brahms wowed the crowd by saying ‘Köszönöm’ (thank you in Hungarian). A line of carriages followed Brahms and Joachim to the National Hotel. In a separate ceremony at the hotel, Brahms was elected an honorary member of the Cluj Conservatory, as Joachim had been the year before, and both were presented with their ceremonial diplomas. The reception was the grandest of the tour and Brahms mentioned it in a letter to Clara Schumann after returning home. The dinner at the hotel that night (their concert was the following night) again included Hungarian folk music, ending with the Rákóczy March. The march is more familiar to us now through Berlioz’ and Liszt’s versions.

Marosi: Rakoszi March (after F. Liszt) (Hungarian People’s Army Brass Band)
The programme included Spohr’s Violin Concerto No. 8, and works by Bach, Gluck, Brahms, and Schumann, closing with Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. Joachim’s performance of his arrangement of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances received the greatest applause.

Brahms: 21 Hungarian Dances, WoO 1: No. 1 in G Minor (arr. J. Joachim) (Tasmin Little, violin; Piers Lane, piano)

Brahms: 21 Hungarian Dances, WoO 1: No. 5 in G Minor (arr. J. Joachim) (Tasmin Little, violin; Piers Lane, piano)
The reviews of the concert were ecstatic as they had been in every city. The reviewers focused most of their attention on Joachim, with one reviewer declaring that the moment Joachim raised his violin to his shoulder, the hall fell silent and the public’s attention was riveted by sounds so beautiful, so perfect, one could pray to them. Brahms also came in for notice, not only for his playing but also for his new Violin Concerto, which, it would appear, puzzled many of the reviewers due to its unfamiliarity.

At the post-concert party, the wine flowed freely, doubtlessly expressing the end of the duo’s concertizing trek, and Joachim finally exposed his Hungarian roots, saying that, to his regret, he had lost his mother tongue. However, he said that, despite his absence since age 5, his heart and soul remained with Hungary. One reporter, drunk not only on wine but also his proximity to the two great men, closed his review apologizing for his incoherence, but it was now 2 am and they had just finished offering toasts to everyone in the room!

A mere 468 km more and they were back to Budapest. Unlike their travels on days there were concerts, their departure by train from Cluj to Budapest took place in the afternoon, after the previous evening’s celebrations had worn off.

No programmes for these concerts survive, but most works to be performed were mentioned in the newspapers in the days leading up to the concert and in the post-concert reviews, so we have an idea of the repertoire. These reports, however, may not have mentioned all the works performed in the concert. Scholar Styra Avins, who traced this concert series, has proposed this as the repertoire:

 

 

Arad

Timişoara

Sighişoara

Braşov

Sibui

Cluj

Bach

Chaconne from the Partita in D Minor, BWV 1004

 

Y

 

 

 

 

Bach

Suite for Violin: Preludio, Sarabande, Gavotte en rondeau, Menuett I and II, Bourrée, probably from the Partita in E Major, BWV 1006, except for the Sarabande

 

 

 

Y

Y

Y

Bach

Adagio, Fugue and Gigue for piano, not otherwise identified

Y

 

 

 

 

 

Beethoven

Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major, Op. 30, No. 3

 

Y

 

 

 

 

Beethoven

Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, Op. 47, ‘Kreutzer’

 

 

 

Y

 

Y

Beethoven

Romanze in F, Op. 50

Y

 

 

 

 

 

Brahms

Variations, Op. 21, No. 1 or 2

Y

 

Y

 

 

 

Brahms

Caprices, Op. 76

 

 

 

Y

Y

Y

Brahms

Violin Concerto, Op. 77

 

Y

 

 

Y

 

Brahms

Scherzo, Op. 4

Y

 

Y

 

 

 

Brahms

Arrangement of C. W. Gluck’s Gavotte in A Major from the opera Iphigénie en Aulide

 

 

 

Y

Y

Y

Brahms

Hungarian Dances

 

 

 

 

 

Y

Joachim

Romanza from Second Violin Concerto, Op. 11

 

 

 

Y

 

Y

Mendelssohn

Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64

Y

 

 

 

 

 

Scarlatti

Caprices for Piano

 

Y

 

 

 

 

Schubert

Rondo in B Minor for Violin and Piano, D. 895

 

 

Y

 

Y

 

Schubert

Andante, Scherzo, and March for Piano

 

Y

 

Scherzo

March

March

Schumann

Paganini Etudes [Caprices] for Piano, perhaps from Op. 10

 

 

Y

 

Y

Y

Schumann

Novelletten for Piano

Y

 

Y

 

 

 

Schumann

Fanstasiestücke, Op. 73

Y

 

 

 

 

 

Spohr

Violin Concerto No. 8 in A Minor, Op. 47 (In Form einer Gesangsszene)

 

 

Y

Y

 

y

Spohr

Adagio for Violin, probably from the 9th Violin Concerto

 

Y

 

 

 

 

Tartini

Sonata in G Minor for Violin and Piano, ‘Devil’s Trill.’

Y

 

Y

 

Y

 

When we look at this repertoire, it’s big, it’s demanding, and for Brahms, who hadn’t toured in 10 years, it was his way reclaiming his youth when he felt that he really had the talent to be a virtuoso. As a way of brushing up his performing skills, the tour was entirely successful. His Piano Concerto No. 2 would appear 3 years later, with himself as soloist at the premiere, and was a complete success.

Styra Avins: ‘In the Land of Seven Fortresses. Johannes Brahms and Joseph Joachim in Transylvania: An Unpublished Letter,’ Newsletter of the American Brahms Society, Autumn 2017

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