As I approach the second anniversary of this blog, I am conscious – and a little chagrined – that I have not yet featured any music by Brahms. This is surprising on at least two levels. First, Brahms was one of the first composers I came to know and love. His two piano concerti, the Violin Sonata No. 3, the sonatas for viola and piano, the Paganini and Handel variations, numerous other solo piano works – these are all pieces that I have known and loved since my salad days. Second, Brahms is such a great composer; how could I have neglected him until now? In my opinion, no one beats Brahms – and few can equal him – when it comes to noble. There is a grandeur to Brahms’ music, a profundity, that is ennobling to the listener. At the conclusion of a piece by Brahms, we feel like better people. We think grander, loftier thoughts, and are more forgiving of our enemies.
The Horn Trio was one of the first pieces of classical music that I came to know. During my sophomore year in high school, my friend Andy Rangell often invited me to listen to him practice the piano during our lunch hour. This trio happened to be one of the pieces he was working on, and I came to know it intimately as Andy played the piano and sang the horn and violin parts.
As familiar as I am with this piece, however, I woke up one morning recently with the ebullient theme from the fourth movement running through my head, but could not for the life of me identify it. I knew the music so well, though, that I just continued to let it play, confident that I would soon recall what it was. When its identity still eluded me, I decided that it might help if I sang it out loud. I began to sing, “ba ya ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba…” in strict 6/8 time, and immediately knew what it was. Something about singing it that way reminded me of the French horn, and that was all the help I needed.
This glorious performance dates from 1993, and features Itzhak Perlman on violin, Daniel Barenboim on piano, and Dale Clevenger on French horn.