Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Brahms...for Wind Quintet?

This week I am very proud to present a live performance of one of the greatest Romantic chamber works, the Brahms Piano Quartet No. 1 in g minor, op. 25 - for wind quintet and piano! Impeccably transcribed by composer David Plylar, this iconic work of the string chamber repertoire works incredibly well for winds, leaving the piano part unchanged. As anyone who has played in a wind group knows, convincing a pianist to learn something beyond the Mozart and Beethoven quintets, and if you are especially lucky the Poulenc sextet, tends to be next to impossible. And not without reason; we simply do not have the repertoire that string players do and their works happen to be some of the greatest written in general, especially Romantic music. As much we believe that our parts are difficult, the pianist will always have the most labor-intensive music to learn and probably will not have opportunities to perform the said work again like they will for standard repertoire. 

This transcription is done with such reverence for the music of Brahms, as it brings out inner lines and harmonies through the expanded color pallet of the wind instruments. My quintet, District5, had a wonderful time working with our pianist, Dr. Mayron Tsong, a faculty member at the University of Maryland. To collaborate on music of this level was a very rewarding experience and challenged everyone to truly embrace every aspect of this piece. 

The Loboe also makes a wonderful addition to this work. In movement I, at 3:38, the Loboe and clarinet have the unison melodic line, the lowest pitch being the A3. It is a subtle inclusion, but one that is very supportive of the music by not having to have a voice drop out at that pivotal point.

Needless to say, the wind quintet can consider this transcription an olive-branch from the pedestal of iconic Romantic chamber music; winds can not only make an attempt at this kind of music, but through an exceptional transcription, honor the music of Brahms by bringing out new elements of his masterful chamber music.

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