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Happy Birthday, Johannes

Jayson Kerr Dobney
May 7, 2015

Carl Bechstein, Grand Piano
Carl Bechstein (German, 1826–1900). Grand piano, ca. 1893. Wood, metal, various materials. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Schonberger Family Foundation, 1993 (1993.292)

«The German composer Johannes Brahms was born on May 7, 1833, in the city of Hamburg. In addition to being a virtuosic pianist, Brahms also composed for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles of various combinations, and solo instruments. He was friends with many of the leading musicians of the nineteenth century, and was particularly close to composer Clara Schumann and to Joseph Joachim, the famed violinist to whom Brahms dedicated many of his works for that instrument.»

One of Brahms's most-beloved piano pieces is the Intermezzo in E-flat major, Op. 117. It was the first of three intermezzi written in the summer of 1892, and inspired by Johann Gottfried von Herder's German translation of the Scottish ballad "Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament." The opening two lines of the song's text appeared in the first edition at the beginning of the work:

Schlaf sanft mein Kind, schlaf sanft und Schön!
Mich dauert's sehr, dich weinen sehn.

Sleep, sleep my child, in sweet repose,
It grieves me so to see thee weep.

The pianist Ruth Laredo recorded this intermezzo on the Museum's Carl Bechstein piano, which was built in 1893, shortly after the composition of this piece.

Johannes Brahms (German, 1833–1897). Intermezzo in E-flat Major, Op. 117, no. 1. Ruth Laredo, pianist. Recorded at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998

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Read more about other pianos in the Met's collection in the Celebrating National Piano Month series.

Jayson Dobney

Jayson Dobney is the Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge in the Department of Musical Instruments.