Monday, January 30, 2023

I Concerti dell'Aula Magna - Absolute Brahms - 01/28/23

Johannes Brahms: Piano Quartet No.1 in G Minor, Op. 25 
Johannes Brahms: Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34 
Giorgia Tomassi: Piano 
Gabriele Pieranunzi: Violin 
Fabrizio Falasca: Violin 
Francesco Fiore: Viola 
Danilo Squitieri: Cello 

A couple of days after my return from Venice, and one day before my mom’s arrival, I was keeping busy trying to fall back into my routine, get things ready for her visit, and keep up with a demanding work load, so I was not sure that going to an all-Brahms concert at La Sapienza’s Aula Magna was such a good idea. But then again, since when hearing the music of my beloved Brahms live could be a bad idea? It might even be the break that I needed for all I knew, so I decided to go. 
The concert revolved around Giorgia Tomassi, eminent pianist and professor at the Conservatorio di musica L. Perosi in nearby Campobasso, and a few musician friends of hers who were getting together for an exciting program officially named Absolute Brahms. Needless to say, that immediately picked my interest and quickly won me over. 
Even better, her academic position, and probably the fact that it was an atypical gray and cold winter afternoon in Rome, clearly helped fill up the auditorium with not only the music-loving regulars, but also plenty of students accompanied by their friends and families. And that made for a warm atmosphere, and an encouraging sight, indeed. 

The first work of the program was Brahms’ Piano Quartet No.1, which incidentally was premièred in Hamburg in 1861 with no less than prodigious pianist and close friend Clara Schumann. Steadily unfolding over 40 minutes, it is an intrinsically complex and yet naturally accessible composition, which was expertly performed by the ensemble and eagerly taken in by the audience. 
Of note, the musicians made a point of keeping the always tricky balance between the various instruments throughout the entire piece, all the way to the famous, and famously difficult, Rondo alla zingarese, which in their highly capable hands became a memorable feat of dare-devil speed, exacting precision, and pure, boundless exhilaration. 
After the well-deserved intermission, we fearlessly moved on to Brahms’ even more ambitious Piano Quintet in F Minor, a bona fide masterpiece that many consider the crown achievement of his chamber music œuvre. After hearing it performed by such dedicated musicians, I certainly could not disagree. 
Ever the punctilious perfectionist, Brahms toiled long and hard on the composition, which originally took the form of a string quartet and then a two-piano sonata, before finalizing it. And the wait and the efforts were all justified when the end result turned out to be nothing short of miraculous in scope, brilliance, poise, and sheer beauty, as was superbly demonstrated to us on Saturday afternoon. 

Once the official performance was over and we were loudly asking for an encore, I was wondering what the extra treat would be at a Brahms concert. Well, a movement from a quintet by Robert Schumann, of course, and not just any movement, but the achingly gorgeous funeral march of his Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, which ended the concert on a delicately melancholic but also somehow peaceful note.

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