Museum Series Will Feature Brahms Chamber Music

On January 19, from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert in the auditorium featuring pianist Jeremy Samolesky, baritone Matthew Hoch, soprano Anne Duraski, violinist Guy Harrison, and clarinetist David Odom. The program will feature chamber music by Johannes Brahms. Thanks to anonymous friends of the series for helping to make this performance possible.
Thursday’s program will include three pieces by Johannes Brahms, one of the defining composers of western music’s Romantic Period. Brahms lived from 1833 to 1897. Samolesky said he began playing Brahms’ music in undergraduate school. He said he was struck by the melodies, how expressive and singable they are.
“It’s incredibly satisfying to play, physically as well as emotionally,” said Samolesky. He said he has experienced everything from extreme fragile intimacy to full-blown passionate drama in Brahms’ music.
Samolesky has played all of Brahms’ solo piano music and much of his chamber music. Thursday’s program will highlight the composer’s chamber music. Featured will be a set of vocal duets, a violin sonata and a clarinet sonata.
“All of these pieces are extremely difficult,” said Samolesky, adding that everyone’s part is equally hard to perform. He said this is true not only in a technical sense, but also in communicating the musical essence. But he said with Brahms, the virtuosity always serves a musical purpose, and doesn’t exist only to show off a performer’s talent.

Pictured: Jeremy Samolesky

“All of his chamber music is musical conversations between all the instruments,” said Samolesky. He contrasted this with earlier works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose trios are melodically dominated by the piano and whose string quartets showcase the first violin. In Brahms’ music, Samolesky said each voice carries the same importance.
The conversational aspect of the music is most evident in Brahms’ “Vier Duette (Four Duets), Op. 28,” for soprano, baritone and piano. In this set of four pieces, each scene is a conversation between two characters. And Samolesky said even in this relatively short piece, the emotions range from bright and joyful to tragic despair.
Samolesky said Brahms wrote three very different violin sonatas and two very different clarinet sonatas. But he said the violin and clarinet sonatas they will perform Thursday happen to be very similar. He said that in a way, they represent Brahms’ later style of writing, which was more subdued and reflective. He said they are not without passion, however, including long, rich melodies that are singing and beautiful.
Samolesky said Brahms’ chamber music has left an indelible impression on him, and colleagues have expressed the same. “I do remember every single time I played Brahms chamber music,” he said. “I remember where I was and who I played it with.”

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