Imagine working in radio in 2012, and being able to announce a world premiere by Brahms! This is the privilege that has befallen BBC presenter Tom Service as he brings to the world the very first performance of a recently discovered work for piano Albumlatt for piano in A minor by Johannes Brahms (Hamburg, 1833 – Vienna 1897).
Service says: ” They are words I never thought I would say as a presenter: “So now, let’s hear a world
premiere – by Brahms …”.
Music lovers will have the opportunity to hear the world premiere of this piece,thought to have been written in 1853, in Tom Service’s programme Music Matters, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on January 21st 2012 at 1215 GMT. Following this broadcast the BBC will post a behind the scenes podcast of the project on their website.
Just 2 minutes long, conductor, musicologist and keyboard player Christopher Hogwood chanced upon this
extraordinary find when he was searching through a music archive in the library at Princeton. In the archive was a book that belonged to the director of music in Göttingen from 1855 to 1860, Julius Otto Grimm. Grimm was a close friend of Brahms whom he is thought to have met in Leipzig in 1853. It was a busy year for the 20 year old Brahms. He travelled to Hanover and Göttingen where he met German violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim; thence to Weimar,
where he met Franz Liszt and to Düsseldorf where he met Robert and Clara Schumann. Brahms then went to Leipzig (where he met Grimm) before returning to Hamburg.
As a result of their friendship, Otto was the recipient of numerous letters from Brahms as well as several of his manuscripts. In the book searched by Hogwood, were signatures of the famous musicians with whom Otto had dined, including Liszt, Mendelssohn, and Schumann – and this cameo by Brahms. The work is apparently
complete with the composer’s markings and it has been authenticated by Dr Michael Struck of the Johannes Brahms Gesamtausgabe in Kiel.
Hungarian pianist Andras Schiff will deliver this historic performance; both he and Hogwood will be interviewed during the programme. Hogwood believes the melody of Albumblatt is one that Brahms used again in a
different key, 12 years later in the Trio section of the 2nd movement of his Horn Trio op.40. Coincidentally, Hogwood, was editing an upcoming revised edition of this Horn Trio when Albumblatt was discovered.
Brahms scholars are gleeful about the added understanding of Brahms’ early piano writing brought by this discovery. Grimm’s possession of this manuscript was probably its salvation as Brahms is believed to have disposed of any of his writing with which he may not have been satisfied.
If you can’t wait to play this piece, Barenreiter will be publishing it very soon.