Brahms Centennial Chamber Music Festival | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Brahms Centennial Chamber Music Festival



Brahms Centennial Chamber Music Festival

A hundred years after his death, the bulk of Brahms's oeuvre--his symphonies and concerti--is firmly ensconced in the standard repertoire; these works confirm the long-held image of him as the last great classical stylist, who ignored the romantic excesses of his time to carry past forms to their logical, grand conclusions. Though largely valid, this view ignores the romantic streaks and autobiographical revelations that are more evident in his two dozen or so pieces for chamber groups and in his songs and piano solos. Over the next three weekends, Northwestern University is offering a timely six-concert sampler of this work; and organizer Blair Milton, a violinist who plays for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and teaches at Northwestern, has recruited star power such as pianists Daniel Barenboim and Ursula Oppens, the Vermeer Quartet, and violinist Rachel Barton for the occasion. Attending the entire series--which surveys Brahms's career from the Piano Trio in B (1853) to the Viola Sonata in E-flat (1894)--one is likely to come away with an appreciation of how much an heir to the romantic tendencies of Chopin and Schumann Brahms was in the contour and feeling of his themes. One caveat: while most of his chamber pieces are deftly crafted and colorful, Brahms's rambling can be a bit annoying; it was for this sin that George Bernard Shaw called him the Leviathan Maunderer. Featured performers in these two recitals include Barton, pianist Sylvia Wang, clarinetist Russell Dagon (from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra), and mezzo-soprano/contralto Karen Brunssen. Hour-long discussions led by musicologists on various aspects of Brahms's career will precede the recitals. Friday and Sunday, 7:30 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 1977 South Campus Dr., Evanston; 847-467-4000. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Blair Milton photo.

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