Johannes Brahms

Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor ("Werther"), Op. 60

    Description by Michael Jameson

    Brahms composed the first version of the work that would eventually become his Third Piano Quartet, Op. 60 (to which the subtitle "Werther" is often attached), in Dusseldorf in 1855-1856. The first version had emerged concurrently with first drafts for the first two piano quartets, Op. 25 and Op. 26, all received enthusiastically by his close friends, including Albert Dietrich and Joseph Joachim. At this point, No. 3 was in the key of C sharp minor. Even when (a year later) Joachim wrote to Brahms concerning the piece it still comprised three movements only, an opening Allegro, an Andante, and what Brahms' termed a "concise" finale. While its two sister works were completed in 1859 and 1861, Op. 60 was put aside, since neither Brahms nor his associates were satisfied with it. By 1869, he returned to it again and contemplated its publication as his Op. 54. But further extensive revisions followed and the quartet assumed its final shape in the winter of 1873-1874 in Vienna, with minor revisions the following summer. A letter from Brahms, sent with the manuscript to Theodor Billroth includes the following enigmatic comment: "the quartet has communicated itself to me only in the strangest ways...For instance, the illustration to the last chapter of the man in the blue frock and yellow waistcoat." This refers, somewhat obliquely, to Goethe's Werther, which Brahms admired. Meanwhile, he remained deeply dissatisfied with the work, and wrote to his publisher Fritz Simrock "you may attach a picture on the title page, i.e. a head with the pistol before it."

    The definitive version is comprised of the 1855-1856 score's opening movement, a scherzo from 1856-1861, and an Andante and finale (allegro commodo) from 1875. The work, now in the general key of C minor, reflects the turbulent and vacillating self-doubts that Brahms felt so deeply. Indeed, little more darkly oppressive movements than the first exist anywhere else in Brahms' chamber output, while the "new" andante in E major is certainly one of the most beautiful. Above all, however, the work fully deserves its Goethe connections, for neither Brahms nor Werther enjoyed a contented course en route to their respective destinies.

    The C minor Piano Quartet was first performed in Vienna on November 18, 1875, with Brahms himself at the piano, and members of the Hellmesberger Quartet.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro non troppo
    2. Scherzo. Allegro
    3. Andante
    4. Finale

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Naxos 8572798
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88843095342
    2016 Harmonia Mundi HMC 902222
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88985321742
    2015 IDIS IDIS 6700
    2015 Sony Classical 88843061362
    2015 Sony Classics 513074
    2014 Quartz QTZ 2105
    2014 Nimbus Alliance NI 6279
    2014 Genuin GEN 14325
    2013 Sony Classical 755375
    2013 Decca / Eloquence / Universal Music Gmbh
    2013 EtCetera Records KTC 4041
    2013 Ensemble Made In Canada 679444003337
    2012 Onyx / Onyx Classics ONYX 4093
    2012 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Eloquence ELQ 4803523
    2012 Sony Classical 88697556382
    2012 RCA Red Seal 88725451452
    2011 RCA Red Seal 886919369120
    2011 Avie 2203
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon 476 6323
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon 001387102
    2010 Prima La Musica / Zebralution
    2009 Sony Classical 752307
    2009 DG Deutsche Grammophon 477 818-3
    2009 Dorian 90908
    2008 Onyx ONYX 4029
    2008 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099951931
    2008 Marquis Records 81377
    2008 Hyperion 44331/42
    2008 Solo Musica 119
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93554
    2008 CAvi-music 8553100
    2007 Melodiya MELCD 1001010
    2007 Brilliant 93181
    2006 Boheme Music RF002
    2006 Sanctuary 3081
    2006 Brilliant Classics 93040
    2006 Pentatone 5186151
    2006 Hyperion 67471
    2005 Erato
    2004 Brilliant 92392
    2004 Intim Musik 084
    2003 Brilliant 99800
    2003 Sony Classical 90405
    2003 Resonance 3002
    2003 Hungaroton 11597/98
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 557377
    2003 Virgin Classics
    2003 Artemis Classics 1228
    2003 Camerata Records 20CM666/67
    2003 Eroica Classical Recordings / Guelbard Quartett 961101
    2001 Winter & Winter 9100522
    2001 Virgin 59248
    2001 Eroica Distribution 3055
    2001 Rca Red Seal 63065
    2000 Arabesque 6740
    2000 Claves 509701
    2000 Vox 5052
    2000 Erato / Virgin 7243561615
    2000 Arion 268205
    1999 RCA Red Seal 63000
    1998 ASV 6198
    1998 Vanguard 97
    1997 Arte Nova 74321 39114-2
    1997 RCA Victor 61773
    1996 Philips 454 073-2PB11
    1996 Decca
    1996 Philips 454017
    1996 DG Deutsche Grammophon 449611
    1996 Ondine ODE843-2
    1995 Sony Classical 67195
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 64520
    1995 Testament SBT3063
    1995 Dorian 90217
    1993 Centaur Records 2158
    1990 CBS Records 42387
    1990 Sony Classical 45846
    1989 Chandos CHAN8809/10
    Arte Nova 46485
    RCA 7873
    Dynamic 71
    FNAC Music 592094
    Brilliant Classics 93554/10
    Brilliant 92392/7
    Brilliant 99800/1
    Brilliant 93181/16
    RCA 5677
    Denon Records 73536
    Northeastern 244
    Biddulph Recordings 80212
    Arte Nova 46483
    Musical Heritage Society 5169615
    High Definition Classics 030
    Excelsior Recordings 033