Antonin Kubalek, Piano
Tempestuous disagreement has characterized much of what has been written about Johannes Brahms and his music: some have dismissed him quite mercilessly, while others have ensconced him in the pantheon reserved for the likes of Bach, Beethoven and others.
Why the doubt, hesitation and missunderstanding of the 1880s and 1890s? Why this feeling that Brahms was an inaccessible, barren intellectual - a recluse of the mind who dwelt in solitude? The answer is a simple one. Unexpectedly, in the midst of the swirling vortex of Romanticism with its unbridled passion and glowing poetry, there appeared this serious, sober-minded artist who insisted on restrained expression, as well as the preservation of the sonata form and other structures that were the staples of the classicists. And because of the masterful intellectual control exhibited in his writing, he was accused of abjuring imagination and feeling. It was at just this time that the structural and harmonic foundations of music were under attack from the Liszt-Wagner camp, and the arts were beginning to embrace a virtual cult of Unreason. An artist such as Brahms whose works achieved a noble dignity of expression precisely because they blended intense passion with equal measures of reason and control, was bound to draw fire - to be pilloried in the most "progressive" musical circles as a regressive throwback.
- Antonin Kubalek
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