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Podcast

Brahms’s Quartet in A minor for Strings, Op. 51, No. 2

December 6, 2022

On this week's lecture, resident lecturer Bruce Adolphe discusses Brahms' Quartet in A minor for Strings, Op. 51, No. 2. Featuring a performance by The Calidore String Quartet (Jeffrey Myers, Ryan Meehan, violin; Jeremy Berry, viola; Estelle Choi, cello).

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TRANSCRIPT:


Welcome to the Inside Chamber Music Podcast presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I'm Bruce Adolphe, resident lecturer at CMS, where I started the lecture series in 1992. In 2011, we began livestreaming the lectures on our website. The audio for this podcast comes from the ever growing archive of videos made available live and on demand at ChamberMusicSociety.org


We look at the music from a compositional perspective and find parallels in novels, plays and poetry. Plus, we explore historical context and with live musicians in the studio during the lectures, we experiment with performance issues. Today's Inside Chamber Music podcast was recorded on Wednesday, October 27, 2021. It features Brahms Quartet in A minor for Strings, Opus 51 Number two played by the Calidore String Quartet.


Hello and welcome again to the Rose Studio at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. And today's topic is Brahms String Quartet, Opus 51. Number Two in A minor. We're looking at the slow movement, which is in A major. There are many names in music history that we know simply because someone dedicated a piece to them. I mean, who would have heard of Mescal or Kreutzer or maybe even the Archduke Rudolph or Prince Linkowski had they not had a relationship with Beethoven who dedicated works to them?


But in the case of Brahms, Opus 51, both Number one and Number two, they're dedicated to someone who is famous in his own right. His name is Theodor Billroth, and he was a very important surgeon in Germany. The most important surgeon of the 19th century, perhaps in Europe.


He invented many surgeries that are still performed in more modern ways today. He was the inventor of resections of certain abdominal surgeries. He performed the first successful gastrectomy. He was also an excellent pianist, a very good violinist and violist and a composer and a very close friend of Brahms. In fact, Billroth and Brahms used to play four hand piano together quite a lot.


And they would read through Brahms' new pieces at the piano together. In the dedication to this quartet, typically, Brahms was both very nice and a little rude because Brahms generally was charming and rude at the same time. That was his personality. So in the dedication, he made reference to the fact that there was a performance in Billrothh's house of Brahms B-flat major sextet in which Bill wrote got so nervous that he didn't want to play, was playing violin, and they had to get someone else to do it.


So Brahms made a reference to that in the dedication. It's right there saying, "Perhaps you would rather have piano pieces dedicated to you. But no such luck." Basically, this is a string quartet, sorry. Because Billroth was more comfortable at the piano. Brahms dedicated his Opus 67 string quartet to a friend of Billroth's, another physician named Engelmann.


And Billroth wrote to Engelmann, "Perhaps you and I will become better known. And our names will last longer because of dedications from Brahms rather than our own work." Which turned out to be true for Engelmann, but not for Billroth. In fact, Brahms also received dedications occasionally, and it often worked the other way. There's a composer, quite an excellent composer, who's only suffered really because his music was so much like Brahms.


Many people in that period wrote exactly like Brahms, as close as possible. And this composer is Décisif Otto Felix Dessoff And we will hear a little bit of that later when we get to know more about this piece by Brahms. By the way, just a matter of interest. Billroth not only had many pieces by Brahms, premiered in his own home, you know, in house concerts, which were very popular in those days.


Sometimes a symphony would be played at four hand piano or a chamber music piece would be read before a public performance. But Billroth's House had been owned by another physician, Johann Peter Frank, who was the physician who tried to help Beethoven with his deafness. Not very successful, but he lived in the same house. So that house that had Brahms' chamber music being read, also had Beethoven in it.


And this same doctor, Frank, was the doctor for Napoleon who summoned him to the side of his bathtub, where Napoleon would be in the bathtub, not feeling well, and describing his symptoms to the same doctor who was treating Beethoven's deafness. It's a very strange fact when you think about Napoleon and the various invasions and what Beethoven suffered. It's amazing.


Well, back to Brahms. Brahms had many theories about music and ideas about music, which he shared with Billroth and they wrote back and forth to each other. And Brahms respected him so much that he often asked him to look at a score, just like he would ask Clara Schumann or Joachim to look at a score and ask him what he thought.


And Billroth developed his own theories of music, which we'll get into a little bit. But Brahms, we know a lot about what he thought because he had a few students. And one of his students, Georg Henschel, wrote down what happened at his lessons with Brahms. And here's a quote from Georg Henschel, quoting Brahms. Brahms said about a piece of music, "Let it rest and keep going back to it.


And working at it over and over until it is completed as a finished work of art, until there is not one note too much or too little, not a bar you could improve upon. Now, here's the main thing. Whether it is beautiful is an entirely different matter, but perfect it must be." Well, he went on to say, "I am rather lazy."


That's Brahms talking. "I am rather lazy. But I never cooled down over a work once begun until it is perfected, unassailable." Well, we're going to look at that in this movement, the second movement. What does it mean? It's a beautiful piece of music. But Brahms wasn't necessarily concerned with beauty. He was concerned with perfection, with not a note too much or a note too little of an unassailable technique.


And of course, when something is perfect like that, it's kind of beautiful. Does that relate maybe to science? Billroth thought so. He said that science and music spring from the same source, and they're both about imagination. And there's more to that. And by the time this lecture is over, I hope I can relate surgery and composition to you.


Let's hear the first eight bars of this piece. (music) Nice. Now, there's something right at the beginning that is already suggestive of where the piece is going to go. Let's hear the first two bars, not exactly as Brahms wrote it. It's going to have no F naturals. We'll take them away. This is what the piece would sound like without F natural.


So hold that thought and we'll get back it. (music)


Okay, great. What we were hearing (music) is written by Brahms this way. (music) F natural. Let's hear that again played correctly. Just the first two bars with the F natural. (music)


All right. Thank you.


Thank you. Yes. Now, I point this out because the f natural is not part of the key. We're in A major and we should have an F sharp. There's the F sharp. And also we only have the bass line in the tune at this point. And so the F natural really stands out. (music) Creating a reference, actually, to something strange, which is a minor key.


But this is typical of Brahms because Brahms' relationship of major and minor, the way he puts them together, is as a spectrum. I mentioned in the Schubert that we talked about last time, the juxtaposition of major and minor right at the beginning. But with Brahms, very often it's not a juxtaposition or a conflict between major and minor.


It's a spectrum. Major and minor co-exist, and it's really a very important aspect of Brahms' technique, which his imitators all pounced upon and used. So, for example, that first opening section, if it were to go to the second chord in the key of A major, it would be. (music) But instead it's got an F natural. Now, Brahms didn't invent this idea, but it's very controlled throughout and it's complete.


The idea that the major key and the minor key, where this chord comes from (music), that's the second chord in minor and here in major. That Brahms uses the entire major minor continuum as one idea. Now, there's something else about this, which is that F natural, because Brahms is a perfectionist, is not only a reference to the minor key, because other composers did that. Even Bach did that occasionally and certainly Mendelssohn.


But technically speaking, if Brahms makes a reference to even one note that doesn't belong in the key. That note will come back greater, fuller, richer, and in some way take over, which is exactly what happens. I've said it before, and it's a very well-known phrase from Chekhov that if there is a gun on the mantelpiece at the beginning of Act One, it should go off before the end of the act.


That's often quoted to mean that if you, as a composer, put something in a piece that suggests something you should follow through, which Beethoven always did, and Brahms, learning from Beethoven, took that very seriously. In fact, you could say that what Brahms' technique is about is not only the spectrum of major and minor, but of pursuing every possible idea from the ideas he sets up at the beginning.


That's why it's unassailable, as he said. What makes it perfect? That he looks at it from every angle. He doesn't let it rest. He keeps rewriting until everything that is suggested by the opening happens. So maybe I'm giving it away. I don't want to give you a spoiler, but you're in A major and this piece at a very crucial part of the structure will be in F major, which is not a typical place to go.


It's not unbelievably unusual either, but the point is that it's set up and pursued throughout. So the question now is how does the F keep manifesting itself until it blooms into a key? Well, I'll just say one more thing about that opening first. It's a little strange that we only have the soprano voice, the first violin and the bass played in the cello and the viola.


Except, I mean, why isn't it fuller and richer harmonically like it becomes in a moment? Brahms said to his student Georg Hensel, looking at a piece by Henschel. He covered the inner voices and said, "I only look at this and this." All Brahms needed to look at, in his opinion, was the soprano and the bass.


Whatever was in the middle should naturally flow from that. So if the baseline weren't as good as the soprano or didn't have something in it of importance, he didn't like it. And this was an important lesson. And so Brahms is actually in some ways just practicing what he preaches here. And he's starting with the soprano and the bass only.


And then it starts to gradually open up. And as it opens up and becomes richer, the rhythms, the harmonies, the texture gets richer and blooms. The piece is actually blossoming from a seed, and he deliberately does that. It's very likely that in his sketches, Brahms wrote a fuller version of this first and worked backwards to to the simplest possible version with just the soprano and bass line like a chorale.


In fact, if it were a chorale as an exercise, it might be something like this. (music) That sounds like Brahms, because it's his chords and his tune, but he never gives it to us that simply and that straightforward. Because as the harmonies appear, so does rhythm appear in a way that sets you slightly off balance from pulse. Now again, before we explore the F, the tune itself is a very Brahms-ian kind of tune that is really unlike anybody else's music.


That's just the first half of the tune. What makes it very Brahms-ian is its kind of following its own tail. It keeps giving us little phrases, and then the phrases expand and contract in various ways. And what he seems to be doing is writing about intervals, not just harmony. He's concentrating on intervals. Here you have a scale which comes back and then he takes the last two notes and then he goes back down (music) and then starts again.


Back up. Repeated back down again. So it's kind of repetitive and swirling in a circle. It's very circular. Now, this was very appealing to Arnold Schoenberg, who wrote a lot about it. In fact, he singled out this melody as being an example of developing variation, meaning it develops in various as it goes. Now, what if you were to take the opening notes and write a more simple romantic tune?


You don't want to do that. All right, I'll do it. Here is an example of a simple romantic tune that could have been, based on the first few notes, something in this piece. But it's not. (music)


Instead, we do a sequence moving up. That kind of sounds like Brahms too, because I used Brahms-ian things, but I simplified it. It's much simpler because it doesn't keep breaking into little pieces and following itself. Brahms was doing something very modern, it turns out. It took Schoenberg to realize it. That he was composing by interval, something Stravinsky pointed out as well. That he was composing in small units, which eventually became a way in the 20th century of people thinking of composition, especially because of Schoenberg, of composing, not by phrases, but really by note to note intervals.


Now, I could make a catalog of all the things that are going to happen to this note, F. Let's hear a little bit more of the music starting from where we stopped. Starting at bar nine and you will hear that the note F or E sharp, which is the same note. (Music) That's an F, it's also an E sharp here.


It's also an F here and an F here and an F here. Depends what happens. Here, it's in E sharp. Going to F sharp. Here, it's an E sharp. All of these things happen until Brahms has done almost everything you can do. Not everything, but everything that's pertinent that he can do with that sound and that note.


So, let's continue starting at bar nine. (music) Okay. Great. Now, probably in the quartet, you were hearing all your Fs and E sharps in a weird way, right? I actually saw your face doing that. That's great. Well, because they are there and they're changing their meaning all the time. This is what Brahms means by working on the piece and perfecting it.


He's not just sitting there, emoting it at the piano and writing it out for strings or something like that. Not at all. He is thinking through to create an unassailable structure which has a purpose. It's a plot. Classical music, certainly through to the 20th century and maybe beyond for sure, I would say, forget the maybe, beyond for sure, is often a story.


It's often a narrative which is a plot, but how does a plot move in music? What is it about? Well, there has to be an idea. Here, the idea is moving away from major into its minor, major structure and then finding a note from that, exploring everything it can do, and eventually arriving at that note. That sounds like a weird story.


Who would want to hear that story? But it's about intention. Every phrase has a point of view and intention that moves it forward. So we can sense that. We sense that everything has meaning and has intention, even if we're not sure why. We bring all kinds of emotions to it. But they're hard emotions to put words to because we don't even know what it is.


What we're hearing, though, is the changing points of view, because Brahms could see harmony from every angle and kept shifting it. There's a simple word we use and musicians use called inharmonic, and that simply means that an F can also be an E sharp. Like I said before. (music) Here it's an E sharp that has to resolve. Here it's an F that's completely stable.


Here it's an F that needs to resolve down. So it has different purposes. Now, in the passage you just heard. You had an F as an E sharp here (music) pointing to F sharp minor, which comes back later. So the E sharp, which is also an F, points to F sharp minor. We also heard it really powerfully here in the cello and then up an octave.


And when that happens, other instruments take on the F as well. The viola does. (music) There it is. Second violin. Because we have D minor. So it's a lot of F and then finally we get a cadence on D minor on a very weak beat. We don't even notice it stopping really. And he immediately gets rid of it. And that is another one of the important notes, which is a B sharp, which is also a C natural.


And in order to get to F major, we need the F and the C natural. So now he's adding the idea that you can also have a C natural, which could be a B sharp. Now, if you find this technically overwhelming, hang in there because it's actually just an idea. And the idea is that notes that change the word chromatic is what we use, the color of the note.


The notes that change are very flexible and Brahms keeps changing them in different ways until they take over the piece. They blossom. It's like planting something in a garden that grows and grows until the garden becomes all about that. And that's basically what happens. Let's go on a little further, starting at rehearsal letter A, the dolce, do you have that? And we'll see again, right in the cello right away, you'll hear... (music)


The f natural and then eventually you'll hear this gorgeous little moment (music) where the F sharp here and here become F naturals. And we get a hint of going to F but not for long. We're not ready. He's just giving us a glimpse of F major. Let's hear it from there. (music)


Great. Thank you. Thank you. I'm just going to reiterate some of the moments. It's so amazing how he keeps finding a new way of writing F or E sharp in that passage. First, the cello, as I mentioned. Then there's this beautiful moment in the violin where the chord is for everybody, and they're that E sharp is the same note we heard here, but it sounds completely different because of the harmony.


If you want to know what harmony that is, I'll tell you. And if you don't want to know, just wait till I'm finished. So A dominant, seven. (music) Sharp fifth note. One, three, five sharp it. It's a very romantic harmony. It yearns so much for resolution. A dominant seventh yearns anyway to resolve. But to make it more yearning than that, you raise the fifth.


And it has to go. So he does that several times, but then he also does this. (music) Sorry, in the viola, there's another F natural, but this one is not an E sharp going up. It's an F natural going down. And then right after that there's an E sharp going up. (music) They're right on top of each other.


E naturals, I mean, E sharps and F naturals. Right? Opposed to each other. And then you got the moment I mentioned where you really hear how definitive the idea is and we get to F, almost. It goes away. And the last one in the phrase that you heard (music) is one he hasn't used yet. It's just a very dissonant, little passing tone.


Very bittersweet. (music) Sorry. And then it comes right away. There it is again. Over and over. Then it comes by in just a moment, giving us a hint of F sharp minor. Now, the middle section of this piece is in F sharp minor, which is a normal place to go from A major. It's the relative minor. So it's not that it's extraordinary.


It's that Brahms gets there in his own way. I mean, it's a simple, conventional, traditional thing, but he gets there in a very Brahms-ian, personal way by giving us so many E sharps that are not the E sharp of this. (music) So we've heard... and we've heard... and we've heard... and we've heard... But then we want, eventually... And that's what leads us to F sharp minor.


So let's hear the, just going into F sharp minor and then some of that section perhaps starting two before C, which is bar 41. (music)


And then you.


Okay, great. Thank you. So that's the B section., but if we just had a simple structure, A, B, A, which it kind of is, it wouldn't be enough. It's more than that. It's kind of a subplot. It's an explosion of things that have been planted in the music by Brahms. One of these things is actually kind of amazing, which is this phrase (music) which we've heard many times.


It's the tune (music) because if you speed it up, (music) that's what happens here.


So that little (singing) comes out of the actual tune. (music) How amazing is that? Brahms would think it's not. He wrote about it, not about this piece, but in general, because people were always saying it's it's wonderful how Brahms takes little ideas from a tune and recasts it and rethinks it, reimagines it in another way, in another tune.


And Brahms said, "Well, that's obvious, and you should be able to hear it." And of course, he was a rude guy. And if you couldn't hear it, if it was too mysterious, then it wouldn't be well done. So he was basically saying, "That's no big trick of yours to hear that. It's maybe nice that I do it, but not that you hear it."


So that's that's the basic Brahms attitude. But it is wonderful that it is both about the F natural becoming an E sharp and leading us into F sharp minor. And there are so many more of these E sharps in this passage than you might normally find, and that the motif turns into yet another motif and it splits into a canon.


Now we had a canon in the Schubert, and I had said that they always have meaning. This doesn't mean we can always be sure what the meaning is, but here it seems to me that this music kind of explodes. It's full of tremolos. It's minor and dramatic, and it kind of splits apart. And that to me, it sounds like the counterpoint. The Canonic writing is an emotional split, which is inevitable.


It's like you bang something in the sparks fly in two different directions. So now the tune is existing in two different places. Now, when we come out of that, immediately what happens is we hear the E sharp becoming F naturals gradually in all sorts of interesting ways. So we hear this in the cello. We just heard it. (music)


This is an E sharp becoming F natural. (music) The tune that starts has the E sharp in it, and it's echoed here. And then keeps moving until we get... There is your F natural. (music) But it comes back again as an E sharp and we think, "Wait a minute, what's happening?" Now, this E sharp is part of a C-sharp dominant seventh chord, which should bring us back to F sharp minor.


But we've already had enough F sharp minor. So Brahms does again a traditional, conventional thing. But in his own way, for his own reasons. He gives us a standard deceptive cadence, meaning something we don't expect. But it's familiar because we've heard this kind of deception before.


Now we think, "Wait a minute, this must be the return. We're back to the opening idea." We have the baseline at the top and the tune is now in the cello. But it's not. It's what is sometimes called a false return or a false recapitulation. It's just not really happening. It's going to happen soon. This is in D major.


The recapitulation wouldn't be in D major. But I don't know that Brahms cares about that. Where does it eventually go? We'll see. Let's start right at two before G. Do you have G? Okay. So we're going to go into what seems like a recapitulation, a return to the opening with a pedal point in the cello. The voice is turned around a little bit, but it's not quite a return.


We're going to get there in a moment. (music) Okay, hold it. Now, we get to, ah, yes, a beautiful resolution. This is the return. It's in F major. It happened. He did what we thought he was going to do and what he set up right from the beginning, that F natural has become so important. It was in E sharp.


It was in F natural, then it was in E sharp. But now it comes back as the returning key. We feel like we're home in the tonic, but we're not. We're in F, which is a major third below where we should be. But he gets there by moving from D major and D Major has a bit of D minor in it right from the beginning, like he always does.


That's from D minor. Then he goes actually to D minor with what is the high note of the passage? Guess. F. You're right. The high note of the passage is F natural. (music) And then with a chord that could easily go to D minor. We go to F and we feel like we've returned to the tonic key, which is A major, but we've been tricked and we're in F. Let's hear the return which is in the key that we've been waiting to bloom.


F Major. (music) Okay, thank you. And so basically this is the opening in the key of F major. Brahms is basically changing a lot of our ideas about where we should be. But that's the plot I was talking about. The plot has to do with where we go and how we get there and how we feel when we get there.


It's a story without details that you can put into words, but the details are in the notes. So it is a very beautifully structured plot which has to do with intention, the desire to get somewhere, arriving, and then, though, he can't stay in F major. He needs to come back to A major. That's a convention of the time. It would have been very strange to stay in F major, though. It wouldn't have been quite satisfying in terms of balance and symmetry.


So he has to get back there and he does. He writes in F major a lot of the music from the opening, but then he massages it a little bit. He moves it away from where it was and brings us back home to A. Let's hear that starting at 88, bar 88. (music) Okay, thank you. So now you're thinking, "Wait a minute, now we're really home."


Yes. You've been home twice. Remember I said that Billroth's home also had another physician who lived in it? Who treated Beethoven. That has nothing to do with this. It's just interesting. That would be really going too far if I said that Brahms, knowing about the other physician living in Billroth' house, was giving you two homes and one.


Forget that. That's absolutely ridiculous. You can go way too far with analysis. But anyway, he gives you an F major that we have been longing for. But then he gives us something we're longing for more deeply because it's tradition. We need to get back to the home key of A major and he gives us a new statement. So interestingly, the F major version of home sounds almost exactly like, except for the key, the real opening.


So when he gets to A major, which is the right key, things have changed. The voicings are different, the who plays what has changed, but it's in some ways more deeply satisfying because we know we really are back in A major where we belong. Then, just like he foreshadowed all that, he needs to have a moment of reminiscing.


So let's listen to the very, very ending and you'll hear that even though he's in A major (music) and this subdominant chord is D and two, these all have F Sharps and five. Then when Brahms gets to the end, he uses lots of F naturals. They're not just there because he likes the sound, which he does, but they're there also because that's what the piece has been about.


And the ending has a meaning, the feeling of meaning because of the F natural still being present. We hear it differently now. We heard it as foreshadowing. We heard it as blooming and blossoming, and now we hear it as a memory. So let's hear it from one, two, three, four, five, six. Actually, I think we better start at K. (music)


Nice. I hope you heard all those F naturals. He made sure some of them are in the highest part of the violin. There's one. (music) F sharp and then back to F natural. And then here they're everywhere. And in the final cadence, there it is in the cello and it disappears though. I love it. (music) There it is, but it disappears.


So he's giving you a glimpse of that chord with the F. But when it goes away, we still have the expected five one harmony. So it's lurking there. And the fact that it's short and disappears is also extremely beautiful and specific. Whether it's beautiful or not is beside the point. It's unassailable. Now, now that we've got that idea from Brahms, I just want to show you a few other pieces of music that are influenced by this.


One is by Theodor Billroth, the surgeon. He wrote some music, but we only have one piece. It's a beautiful song. It's basically called Death Wish in English. It's in A-flat Major and it does many Brahms-ian things. But the main thing I want to point out, if you're in A flat major and go to E, that's exactly like being in A major and going to F.


Like what Brahms did in this quartet. So he does that here. This is from the song. (music) Going to A-flat minor, and he keeps that B in his mind and goes to E major. So it's a lovely song, but the main thing about it is it does have Brahms-ian key relationships. Now I just want to mention to you also that Bach did something like this. Almost anything you could think of, Bach did, if it's harmonic and contrapuntal.


And of course, Brahms was obsessed with Bach, as were most composers after Bach, starting with Mendelssohn. But this cadence from the Goldberg Variations in D major... (music) That diminished sound with a B-flat gives us the feeling of exactly what Brahms did, which is bringing the minor into the major. And then the movement ends, of course, in G major... (music) And he does it again.


Here's a little bit of music, not by Brahms. I'll tell in a moment who wrote this. (music) Okay. This is by Gernsheim. Have you ever heard of him? Well, of course, you may not have heard of him, but if you look him up, you'll see everything's been recorded. He's an important composer that we forgot about. A close friend of Brahms. Obviously writes in the style of Brahms in certain ways.


But, you know, he was an exact contemporary in the shadow of Brahms, and he came into his Brahms-ian style on his own. Was more influenced in that style when he heard Brahms' music. But he's a very fine composer. I took that moment (music) because we're in A major. That's the dominant of A. And then it goes to F exactly the same thing as Brahms in a different way.


And it's a lovely piece. Here's a little bit of music by someone Brahms really liked very much a friend and a composer named Robert Fuchs, who was the teacher at the conservatory there in Vienna. And this also sounds a lot like Brahms. He mostly wrote small pieces not as important as the composer now, as Gernsheim, but it does have, we're in G major. (music)


It does have a reference as it goes to D to that exact same harmonic world of bringing in the minor chord of the keys. (music) Here we go. Again. Again, the two seven chord from minor. Very, very Brahms-ian. Now, even more Brahms-ian, another very fine composer, Felix Otto Dessoff. I may have referred to him earlier as Otto Felix Dessoff, but it's actually Felix Otto Dessoff. We've got to keep that straight.


It may come up in conversation. So he really owed a lot to Brahms. But what I love about this piece, we're going to hear just the end of this piece, which is a quartet in A major that has F naturals in a very interesting way at the end, very similar to Brahms, is that this piece is dedicated to Brahms.


I started off talking about dedications and he knew Brahms very, very well, Dessoff. And he was able to imitate Brahms' style, but also his sense of humor when he wrote Brahms a note and he sent him the score to this piece with the dedication, and he said, "When people hear this piece years from now, they'll say, "Brahms? Wait a minute.


Who's Brahms again? Oh, he's the one who has the dedication from Dessoff in this Opus seven string quartet." Very humorous. So let's hear a little bit of the ending of this quartet by Dessoff. (music) Yes, it does sound quite a bit like Brahms and it does exactly the same F natural thing within the A major. It's not as beautifully done and the piece is not as great, I have to say.


But it is a very fine piece of music. So Brahms looked at this F within the context of A major from every angle. And one way to think of Brahms, which is, again, suggested by Schoenberg, is that he realized all the potential of his ideas within a piece. Something Beethoven also did. It's kind of a tradition in German music.


Bach also did that, and Brahms was maybe the last of the classically minded romantic composers to do this, looking at something from every angle and making sure that every aspect of it was explored so that by the end there's a deep sense of satisfaction. You know, there is a relationship between science and music that I want to mention, because Billroth had said that science and music spring from the same source.


Physicists in the 20th century seem to know something about Brahms and Wagner. Wagner was, in a way, a futurist. He was trying to push music into the future, and Brahms was more of a, somewhat of a conservative, but had a progressive attitude as well, because it was so deeply personal. Well, it so happens that there is a, something called Brahms in the physics world.


The word Brahms is an acronym here for Broad Range Hadron Magnetics Spectrometers. Again, Broad Range Hadron Magnetic Spectrometers. What is the point of these devices? Quote, "To look at a particle from a broad range of angles." Well, that's not enough, because at CERN, where they do nuclear research with particles, there are two accelerators and the particle accelerators are called Tristan and Isolde.


So it seems that there was this accelerator idea that gave names from Wagner, and there was this idea of looking in every angle to a full understanding of particles that got the name Brahms. But I want to tie together even more science and music, which is the idea that a surgeon and a composer have something in common. And I looked for a way to say it, and Stravinsky said it perfectly.


I mean, Billroth, the surgeon, Brahms, the composer, both had this idea that beauty is the result of function. In other words, it has to mean something and be, according to Brahms, perfect. Listen to this quote of Stravinsky and you'll see what I mean. Stravinsky said, "Function justifies an organ, no matter how strange the organ may appear in the eyes of those who are not accustomed to see it functioning."


So Brahms said, "Well, if it's beautiful, that might be beside the point. That's neither here nor there. What matters, is it's perfect." And Billroth, as a surgeon, of course, was looking for success and perfection and understanding the beauty of a properly functioning organ. So there you have it. The two operations that Billroth is famous for are called Billroth one and Billroth two.


And so are these two quartets. I only mentioned the one in A major, but Opus 51, number one in C minor is called Billroth One, and the A minor quartet is called Billroth Two. There you have it. Science and music. Thank you. (music)

 


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