Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) Concerto in A minor Op. 102
Urtext based on the new Complete Edition (G. Henle Verlag) edited by Michael Struck [vl,vc,orch] duration: 34'
solos: vl.vc – 188.8.131.52. – 184.108.40.206. – timp – str
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The publishers Henle and Breitkopf & Härtel are continuing their collaboration, now with Brahms, by publishing the performance material of the double concerto. Brahms's last work with orchestra was published in the new Brahms Complete Edition in 2002, whereby the editor was able to base himself on newly accessible sources. Of particular interest are the additional performance instructions for the solo violin and solo cello, which were gathered from the first edition of the solo parts. These indications were supplied by the soloists of the first performance, Joseph Joachim and Robert Hausmann. No doubt authorized by Brahms, they communicate valuable insights into the performance practice of the time. The new material also contains a part in which the solo violin and cello are notated one above the other. The trio edition for violin, violoncello and piano (EB 6040), which was made by Brahms himself, has proven itself for chamber performances; it continues to be available.
"The full score is a conductor's dream: big, bold, and beautifully laid out on glare-free bluff paper." (Strings)
|3. Vivace non troppo|
The op. 102 – the so-called “Double Concerto” – was written in 1887 during Brahms’s summer vacation at Lake Thun in Switzerland. The compositional work was finished at the latest by mid-July 1887, and the full score was completed by early August. The literature on Brahms frequently repeats a number of speculations regarding the work’s historical background. These speculations, initiated by Brahms’s biographer, Max Kalbeck, must be treated with skepticism. For example, Kalbeck maintained that the Double Concerto emerged “from ideas that were originally symphonic,” namely, from “the material for a fifth symphony.” Yet there is nothing among the composer’s recorded statements, surviving manuscripts or the form of the work itself to substantiate this claim. On the contrary, as far as its character and workmanship are concerned, the thematic material seems to have been designed specifically to suit the double-concerto layout. Equally undifferentiated and overstated is Kalbeck’s claim that Brahms wrote the Double Concerto in order to effect a reconciliation with his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim, after several years of disunion, and that to this end he borrowed themes from a work both men loved: Giovanni Battista Viotti’s . Although there is no denying the thematic affinities between the two works, they have no deeper significance for the compositional fabric of the Double Concerto. Nonetheless, it is quite true that the friendship suffered a breech in 1880, when Brahms took sides with Joachim’s wife, the soprano Amalie Joachim, during the couple’s divorce proceedings. Although this did not alter their mutual artistic admiration, various statements from Brahms indicate that his troubled relations with Joachim even led him at one point to consider abandoning his plans for the concerto. In contrast, one crucial source of inspiration for the origins of the Double Concerto seems to have been the cellist Robert Hausmann. In November 1886 Brahms gave the first performance of his recently composed with Hausmann in Vienna. One year later he wrote the Double Concerto at least partly to honor the cellist’s request for “a concertpiece for myself.” This becomes clear from the composer’s own amusing comments: when Brahms posted the initial hastily written solo parts toward the end of July 1887, he informed Hausmann by way of Joachim that the cellist should “acknowledge his good will;” and later he added ironically that Hausmann “took it amiss and in bad grace” that he had “gone so far as to put a solo violin into a cello concerto.” When Brahms intimated to Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, in July 1887, that he was writing a sort of piece “not to be found in his or anyone else’s catalogue,” the wording betrays his ignorance of earlier concertos for violin, cello and orchestra, such as those by Johann Christian Bach, Louis Spohr, or the cousins Andreas Jacob Romberg and Bernhard Heinrich Romberg.
Kalbeck’s speculations thus can be reduced to the following residue. It was Hausmann’s proposal that led Brahms to the delightful idea of writing a double concerto for violin and cello, an idea that he clung to despite his differences with Joachim. Joachim, at Brahms’s cautious initial inquiry, took such a keen interest in the new work that the resultant discussions, rehearsals and performances indeed lead to a reconciliation between the two men. In June 1888 Brahms wrote a dedication in Joachim’s copy of the first published score: “To the man for whom it was written, with cordial greetings, J. Br.” Above all else this signified that he wrote the Double Concerto, too, with Joachim’s incomparable violin playing in mind. Yet the reconciliation was not the aim of the concerto so much as its consequence.
Brahms rehearsed the Double Concerto at the piano with Joachim and Hausmann in Baden-Baden in September 1887, and he played it to friends and acquaintances with the local spa orchestra on 23 September. On 18 October 1887 he conducted the first performance in Cologne’s Gürzenich; the same soloists, Joachim and Hausmann, performed the still unpublished work at concerts in Wiesbaden, Frankfurt am Main, Basel, Leipzig, Berlin and London over the following autumn and winter months, sometimes with Brahms at the rostrum, sometimes with other conductors. The work was then prepared for publication, and it was published in May and June 1888 by N. Simrock, Berlin, in the form of a piano reduction, solo parts, orchestral material and full score.
In view of Brahms’s international prestige at the time, the mixed response that the Double Concerto received from the daily press, professional journals and even the composer’s friends is astonishing. Clara Schumann and the leading Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick gave the work slender chances of artistic survival, whereas Joseph Joachim, toward the end of his life, evidently ranked it above the Violin Concerto. This is why Brahms allegedly abandoned his plans to write a second double concerto. No less contrary than the judgments passed on the concerto, which was said to be stiff and ungrateful to play on the one hand and eminently melodious and idiomatic on the other, were the pronouncements as to whether the work was primarily symphonic or soloistic in conception.
Despite these inconsistencies in its historical assessment, the Double Concerto has been highly regarded by musicians and audiences alike and can boast of an uninterrupted performance history. If it has enjoyed fewer performances than Brahms’s other concertos, the reason is not least of all that it inevitably requires two soloists to be placed under contract – and paid a fee. In the Double Concerto Brahms created a work which, despite its earnest tone and highly focused workmanship, seems at times remarkably extrovert, optimistic, even conciliatory in comparison with its predecessor, the darkhued, tragic, and ultimately pessimistic Fourth Symphony. Perhaps the instrumental concerto was the only genre in which Brahms the orchestral composer was then capable of striking such a mood. As a result, the Double Concerto stands as a wholly orignal and, at the same time, peculiarly moving consummation to his orchestral Oeuvre.
This score follows the Urtext presented in the new complete edition of Brahms’s works (, series I, vol. 10). The principal source for our musical text is Brahms’s personal copy of the first edition in full score (EH). Reference sources consulted for purposes of comparison include Brahms’s autograph full score (A), the manuscript copy (based on that source) that served as engraver’s copy for the first printed score (AB+), the first edition of the piano reduction (E-KAH), the two solo parts (E-VlH/VcH) and the orchestral material (E-St) that appeared during Brahms’s lifetime. No manuscripts of the piano reduction, the solo parts or the orchestral material have survived apart from a presentation copy of the slow movement, in piano reduction, that is irrelevant to the work’s publication history. More information on the origin, early performance history, reception and publication can be found in the introduction to the volume of the Complete Edition; the “Kritischer Bericht” there provides extensive information on the state and evaluation of the sources, on Brahms’s compositional corrections, on the text-critically relevant differences in readings as well as on the many editorial interventions necessitated by the source evaluation. The comments contained in the present edition (see pp. 179ff.) are a radically shortened version of the extensive critical notes contained in the volume of the Complete Edition, which draw attention on the one hand to particularly serious textual problems, and on the other to additional performance instructions in the printed solo parts (and occasionally in the printed piano reduction as well). These instructions are of equal relevance to the work’s execution and to its performance history: they originated with the musicians who played the work at its première, Joseph Joachim and Robert Hausmann, and must therefore be regarded as authorized by the composer. Measure numbers are indicated according to the system explained on p. 179.
We would like to express our thanks to all the libraries and private collectors who kindly placed source material at our disposal and allowed us to consult the material on their premises.
Kiel, Fall 2002
We offer a PDF of the complete text with all notes for download.