Auer Hall was quiet Sunday afternoon as the rows filled gradually with devoted students and chamber music fans alike. They came to hear Jacobs School of Music faculty perform three of 19th-century composer Johannes Brahms’ famous pieces of work: “Trio in B Major,” “Piano Quartet in C Minor Op.6,” and “Strings Sextet in G Major Op. 36.”
The performance was part of a new series, “Brahms: An Intimate Portrait,” sponsored by Jacobs. Performing in this series were professors of violin, viola, cello, piano and chamber music.
According to the brochure, critics have compared the work of Brahms to predecessors like Beethoven. The text said Brahms spent a good portion of his life trying to live up to the success of not only these composers before him, but peers like Robert Schumann, who helped bring his Brahms’ works to prominence. However, Simin Ganatra, professor of chamber music and violin, said she thinks Brahms can be an accessible and relevant musician, even for younger people today.
Ganatra, string department chair, said this relevance is due to the universal quality of the music of Brahms.
“The wonderful thing about Brahms is that you don’t really need to know anything about the music to just sit back and let yourself take it in,” Ganatra said.
While knowledge of the composer’s life history and how it coincided with his compositions may be interesting to some students, Ganatra said such an understanding is unnecessary. She said she compares classical music to fine literature, which has no expiration date or end to its value.
“Not only is it enjoyable to listen to, but you get a lot out of it,” she said. “This music involves almost every single human emotion.”
Brahms was known to incorporate allusions to his love interests into his composition, as was demonstrated with published letters in a July 1957 issue of the Musical Quarterly.
An example of these allusions lies in the notes A-G-A-G#-E, which were used in “String Sextet.” According to the letters, the notes reference Agathe von Siebold, with whom Brahms broke off an engagement around the time of the composition.
While there were few students in the audience at the first installation, Ganatra said she urged more people to attend the the series, which will continue at 4 p.m. Nov. 13 in Auer Hall.
“There is so much of this music that anybody can relate to, so my advice is always to not try too hard to understand it,” she said. “Just sit back and let the music come to you.”
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