Yay for Brahms!

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was a musician's musician and composer. He practiced counterpoint (think Bach Two-Part Inventions) for two hours every day before he put pen to manuscript to compose his own work. I call him the hemiola king. Makes singing interesting. Basically, it's shifting the metric pattern from a 3/4 or 6/8 (triple) time signature to what sounds like a string of duples. In other words, you're banging along 1 2 3 1 2 3 and the accent shifts to 1-2 3-1 2-3. You have to hear it...

At any rate, tonight was first rehearsal of the season for the Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble (AVAE), and we're doing a full program of Brahms, featuring the Liebslieder Waltzes. Brahms' style was Classical Romantic, rather than full-out Romantic. He respected the older forms of music (imitation, canon, fugue, et al) and adapted them to structure his work, as opposed to say, Wagner, who wrote what is known as program music--sometimes called a tone poem--which tells a story, or conjures an image, and may be through composed, which simply means the architecture doesn't divide up into neat sections. Think Prelude and Liebestod--restless movement away from a tonal center, never quite landing on a cadence (think the A-men at the end of most hymns).

Brahms wrote for nearly every genre except opera. His lieder (songs) are de rigeur for any singer, and his piano pieces are difficult, but supremely satisfying--you get to use the full range of the piano, and thunder away all your anger or depression. The symphonies are quite pleasant, but perhaps his best known work is Ein Deutsches Requiem (The German Requiem) for chorus and orchestra, which regularly shows up in every chorus' season. It isn't religious so much as spiritual. His tonalities reach deep inside your psyche and resonate with exquisite passion for the listener and the singer.

If you are in Austin on November 8, come listen. You'll hear lots of hemiola :)