Johannes Brahms

Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25

    Description by John Keillor

    Johannes Brahms completed his Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor in 1861. Though this work received mixed reviews by friends and critics alike, it has remained alive in the concert world. Throughout the twentieth century, its popularity continued to grow as the listening public came to recognize Brahms as perhaps the quintessential master of Romantic chamber music. His first quartet for piano, violin, viola, and cello harkens back to the music of Schubert, one of Brahms' favorite composers, as well as forward with inventiveness that inspired composers in the next century, especially Schoenberg. While his contemporaries were writing music that was an obvious break with the past, particularly Wagner, Brahms wrote in the old forms, which hung together with a pleasing and deceptive looseness, as did the works of Schubert. Scratching the surface of Brahms' first piano quartet reveals that the themes and textures do not hang together loosely at all. Everything is built out of thematic material, which is without precedent in chamber music. It is the kernel of what Schoenberg described as "developing variation" and prepares the way for atonality, which coheres only when all the material is in reference to itself. The G minor quartet is pure clarity in a way that did not exist before Brahms. This quartet was also the first chamber work of Brahms' that he played in public.

    The first movement of the G minor quartet has the sweetness of heroic themes in repose, but it also simmers, at least in a good performance. In bad renditions of this work, the tension is ignored in favor of an empty niceness, which is certainly to be avoided. The second movement, an Intermezzo, is introspective and full of musical inquiry among the strings. Themes spread out searching for something, with a beautiful and mysterious effect. The Andante third movement has a dreamy grandness, which is normally an effect reserved for orchestral forces. The Hungarian, Rondo finale is pure fire, blasting through rousing themes with a concerted vigor.

    Many generations after the work's inception, it has withstood the public's initial reservations. It should also be pointed out that other influential musicians thought it was pure genius. One great violinist regarded it as proof that Brahms was Beethoven's musical heir. There were many such reactions. Schoenberg liked it enough to orchestrate it. He gave his reasons for doing so as follows: "1. I like the piece. 2. It is seldom played. 3. It is always played very badly; the better the pianist, the louder he plays and you hear nothing from the strings. I wanted to hear everything...."

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Intermezzo. Allegro, ma non troppo
    3. Andante con moto
    4. Rondo all Zingarese. Presto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 B Records LBM 011
    2017 Oehms Classics OC 449
    2017 Champs Hill Records CHRCD 129
    2017 Erato 0190295869212
    2017 Centaur Records CRC 3384
    2017 Eudora EUDSACD 1701
    2016 Solo Musica SM 248
    2016 Harmonia Mundi HMG 501915/16
    2016 Naxos 8572798
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon B002436502
    2016 Harmonia Mundi HMU 807668
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88985321742
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796018
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646019311
    2015 Warner Classics 2564607517
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794609
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Sony Classical 88843061362
    2015 Warner Classics 552758
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794647
    2014 Quartz QTZ 2105
    2014 Nimbus Alliance NI 6279
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002210
    2013 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290840108
    2013 MDG
    2013 EtCetera Records KTC 4041
    2012 Onyx / Onyx Classics ONYX 4093
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon / Universal
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 4790359
    2012 Genuin GEN 12246
    2012 Sony Classical 88697556382
    2012 Universal
    2012 Sony Classical 88691912562
    2011 RCA Red Seal 886919369120
    2011 MD&G (Dabringhaus & Grimm) / MDG MDG 94317126
    2011 Collins Classics RETR0005
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099945781520
    2011 Avie 2203
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 476 6323
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 001387102
    2010 Con Brio 21041
    2010 Prima La Musica / Zebralution
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778847
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Sony Classical 752307
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 477 818-3
    2009 Dorian 90908
    2009 EMI Classics 13251
    2008 Arte Nova Classics 391150
    2008 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099922836
    2008 Onyx ONYX 4029
    2008 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099951931
    2008 Marquis Records 81377
    2008 Camerata Records 28146
    2008 Harmonia Mundi HMA1951062
    2008 Hyperion 44331/42
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93554
    2008 CPO 777356-2
    2008 CAvi-music 8553100
    2007 Querstand 0724
    2007 Urania 335
    2007 Melodiya MELCD 1001010
    2007 Brilliant 93181
    2006 Harmonia Mundi HMC901915/6
    2006 Sanctuary 3079
    2006 Brilliant Classics 93040
    2006 Pentatone 5186151
    2006 Hyperion 67471
    2006 Document 223012
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946371492
    2006 Andromeda 5046
    2005 Archipel / Archipel Records 0331
    2005 Erato
    2004 Naxos 8 554412
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 463700
    2004 Brilliant 92392
    2004 Centurion Classics 2111
    2003 Brilliant 99800
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal
    2003 Hungaroton 11597/98
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 557377
    2003 Virgin Classics
    2003 Artemis Classics 1228
    2003 Camerata Records 20CM666/67
    2002 Legacy 89856
    2001 Summit Records 199
    2001 Bridge 9110
    2001 BIS 1140
    2001 Virgin 59248
    2001 Musicaphon 56845
    2001 Doremi Records 7785
    2001 Rca Red Seal 63003
    2001 Rca Red Seal 63065
    2000 Claves 509701
    2000 Vox 5052
    2000 Arabesque 6740
    2000 Erato / Virgin 7243561615
    2000 Delta Distribution 14538
    2000 Arion 268205
    1999 Berlin Classics 0021582BC
    1999 The Piano Library 233
    1999 NY Philomusica Records 30006
    1999 Delta Distribution 15818
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 447398
    1999 RCA Red Seal 63000
    1998 Vanguard 97
    1998 Eroica Classical Recordings 3009
    1998 Eroica Distribution 3009
    1997 Sony Music Distribution 63380
    1997 Arte Nova 74321 39115-2
    1997 ASV 6194
    1997 BMG 68658
    1997 Biddulph Recordings LAB027
    1996 Philips 454 073-2PB11
    1996 Decca
    1996 Philips 454017
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 449611
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 447407
    1996 Ondine ODE843-2
    1996 Harmonia Mundi HMT790 1062
    1995 Sony Classical 67195
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 64520
    1995 Testament SBT3063
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 565190-2
    1994 Dorian 90194
    1993 Cala Records 1006
    1992 Chandos 8825
    1991 CBS Records / Sony Music Distribution SX11K-48153
    1990 Sony Classical 45846
    1990 CBS Records 42361
    1989 Chandos CHAN8809/10
    Collins Classics 11752
    Arte Nova 46485
    Vox 9016
    EMI Music Distribution 47300
    Dynamic 71
    FNAC Music 592094
    Pavane 7303
    Brilliant 99800/1
    Brilliant 92392/7
    Brilliant Classics 93554/10
    Brilliant 93181/16
    RCA 5677
    MCA 29843
    Arte Nova 46483
    Querstand 9813
    Archiphon 114/15
    Excelsius 730272
    Paula Records 108
    Vox 8196
    Koch 7701
    Rca Red Seal 6205