Johannes Brahms

Intermezzo for piano in E flat minor, Op. 118/6

    Description by Robert Cummings

    With its gloomy variant on the Dies Irae serving as its main theme, this is one of Brahms' darkest piano works. Composed in the aftermath of the deaths of his sister Elise and his close friend Elizabeth von Herzogenberg, it is a profound work that has prompted more than a few to speculate Brahms may have conceived it first for orchestra, perhaps as a slow movement to a symphony. But no such other evidence seems to support the notion. Curiously, Brahms dedicated the work to his friend (and possible lover) Clara Schumann and presented it as a gift to her. The work hesitantly opens, the theme first heard in the upper register and immediately provoking an unsettling scale rising from the bass to the higher ranges, then falling back down. While the music has a dark cast, it remains rather gentle and emotionally cold. In the middle section, sunlight briefly emerges with a lively, somewhat chipper theme, which then builds toward some seemingly more permanent relief from the gloom. It only manages to yield back to the main theme, however, now heard in a more noble, more dramatic fashion. It soon returns to its original guise and after a final emphatic statement of it, the piece closes in a subdued manner. This Intermezzo typically lasts about five minutes.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Blue Griffin Recording BG 387
    2015 Sony Classical 88875032222
    2015 IBA [Idil Biret Archives] 8508016
    2015 Steinway & Sons STNS 30051
    2014 Estonian Record Productions ERP 7513
    2013 Praga / Praga Digitals PRDDSD 350080
    2012 Sony Classical 88725412902
    2012 Entertainment Group 1560A
    2012 Sony Classical 88691912562
    2012 Sony Classical 88725423932
    2011 RCA Red Seal 886919369120
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Arbiter 158
    2010 Audite 23422
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Regis Records 1302
    2009 Sony Classical Essential Classics 7572992
    2009 Brilliant Classics 8909
    2008 Parnassus Records 96032
    2008 Doremi Records 7940
    2007 Sony Classical / Sony/BMG Classics 88697147602
    2007 Music & Arts 1202
    2007 Delta Distribution 18254
    2007 Vista Vera 72
    2005 Delta Distribution 16322
    2005 Andante 2090
    2004 Denon Records / SLG/Radiance² 17411
    2003 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41142
    2003 Delta Distribution 40040
    2002 Sony Music Distribution 87859
    2002 Legacy 89856
    2002 Columbia/Legacy / Legacy 89906
    2002 Arabesque 6761
    2001 Centaur Records 2813
    2001 Aura Classics 0187
    2001 Nimbus 1739
    2001 Rca Red Seal 63010
    2001 Rca Red Seal 63064
    2000 Rca Red Seal 63034
    1999 Disques du Solstice 159
    1999 RCA Victor Red Seal 63566
    1999 RCA Red Seal 63000
    1999 Pearl 9385
    1998 Eroica Distribution 3008
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 566065-2
    1996 Arbiter 103
    1995 Albany Music Distribution 161
    1995 APR (Appian) 7030
    1992 Chandos 8467
    1992 RCA Victor 60973
    1991 CBS Records / Sony Classical 47181
    Integra Classic 9603
    Brilliant Classics 92150
    CBS Masterworks 42107