Brahms the Progressive

Two composers who, in terms of pure sound, you might think belong on different aesthetic planes, yet who were both deeply pre-occupied by the musical tradition they inherited, and sought in their own way to absorb and renew it; this program brings them together in a fascinating evening of complementarity and juxtaposition. 

In his essay Brahms the Progressive, Schoenberg described his predecessor as ‘a great innovator in the realm of musical language,’ and in Brahms’ Op. 56 Variations you hear him ringing the changes on a theme attributed to Haydn, a composer he deeply revered. But Brahms had a special affection for Schubert, and once told a friend: ‘My love for Schubert is a very serious one, probably just because it is not a fleeting fancy. Where is genius like his, which soars aloft so boldly and surely?’ The sequence of little waltzes you hear in this concert – also for four hands at one piano – takes the spirit of the Schubertiade by the hand, sometimes tenderly, sometimes boisterously, on a journey to some unexpected harmonic locations.  If it seems odd to you that Brahms would write waltzes at all, the dedicatee of Op.39, the critic Eduard Hanslick, thought so too, and said: ‘The earnest, taciturn Brahms, the true disciple of Schumann, the North German, as protestant and as unworldly as Schumann, composing waltzes? The solution to the riddle is given in one word: Vienna.’

While, in his technique – in which form and material are often modified by variation – Schoenberg showed himself to be a successor to Brahms in particular and the Viennese tradition in general, there can also be uncanny synchronicities of mood between the two composers, as you’ll hear in the second half of this concert, in which two keyboard masterworks are presented in parallel. Schoenberg’s Suite Op. 25 helped revolutionise the language of music, yet it contains many references to its musical past and even, at times, a gentle romantic yearning.


Johannes BRAHMS Sixteen Waltzes, op.39 (1866)  

Johannes BRAHMS Fantasies, op.116 (1892) 

Johannes BRAHMS Variations on a Theme by Haydn for 2 pianos, op.56b, ‘St. Antoni Chorale’ (1873)


Arnold SCHOENBERG Drei Klavierstücke 


ANAM Pianists

This performance will last 2 hours and 8 minutes with a 20 minute interval.


For this event, tickets booked in advance are offered on a "pay what you wish" basis. In addition to a Standard price, we offer the option of paying A Little Extra for those who would like to contribute a little more, as well as the option of paying A Little LessRead more about the change here.

If you are booking over the phone, simply tell us your preferred ticket price. Tickets purchased at the door will be available at the Standard price and are subject to availability.

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