## 1 -7 rec. December 17&31 1959
## 8-11 rec. June 10-12, 1970
============ from the cover ==========
Artur Rubinstein's musical studies had hardly begun seriously when Johannes Brahms died in 1897, yet he had a strong, direct line to the composer's own preferences in the performance of his works. This came about, in the first instance, from the interest shown in Rubinstein by Joseph Joachim, the celebrated violinist-composer and pedagogue (a friend of Brahms for 45 years, and the man for whom he composed his Violin Concerto), when the pianist went to Berlin as a gifted child in the mid-'90s. And through Joachim's interest Rubinstein (as he has written) became acquainted with "associates and pupils of Brahms, Schumann and Mendelssohn. I bathed in the tradition of their music. " The music, if not new, came to him first-hand from those who had known it when it was. From such intimate knowledge comes the capacity to make emotion out of thought, thought out of emotion - to comprehend each as part of the totality that makes up so sizable a work as the Sonata, Op.5. So far as size per se is concerned, the nearly 140 years that have passed since it was written have produced nothing comparable for the piano. With the exception of Liszt's В Minor Sonata (a product of practically the same time), it stands alone in its field - a portent of the concertos and symphonies to come from Brahms. Though he was only 20 in the year he wrote the sonata, Brahms was already master not only of a strongly personal idiom but of a massive musical craft. This was not acquired solely in the effort that went into the two preceding sonatas (C Major and F-Sharp Minor, Opp. 1 and 2). There was a sheaf of others, discarded then and since destroyed.
Like these, the F Minor clearly derives from the last half-dozen sonatas of Beethoven in largeness of scope, dynamic breadth and disdain for display. But it adds to Brahms's earlier sonatas a Schumannesque surge of poetic impulse, not only in the literary text attached to the slow movement but embedded in the musical materials themselves.
The first movement substantially follows orthodox sonata form but with a degree of freedom that more than once recalls the Schumann Fantasia in С For the reverie, Brahms appended a reference from Sternau:
Der Abend dammert, das Mondlicht scheint
Da sind zwei Herzen in Liebe vereint
Und halten sich selig umfangen ...
The eve is falling, the moonbeams rise
And light two lovers who mingle their sighs
And commune in happiness together...
Well before Tristan, long before Verklarte Nacht, it evokes the atmosphere, conveys the mood of which music alone can speak. The impulse flows on through two themes of mounting intensity, varied and alternated, culminating in a third, with a phrase that bears a surprising likeness to a part of Hans Sachs's "Fliedermonolog" in Die Meistersinger. Here, it makes the same "point" psychologically, and in almost the same notes that Wagner set just a few years later to the words "Dem Vogel, der heut' sang, dem war der ' Schnabel hold gewachsen" (Sachs's recollection, in Act II, of Walther's trial song).
The Scherzo is characteristic of the later Brahms, but it has somewhat more lightness of foot, a wholly agreeable swing to the Trio. In the Schumann Fantasia spirit, the Finale is preceded by an Intermezzo labeled Ruckblick (Retrospect), in which there are clear references to the opening of the Andante, the Trio of the Scherzo, elements of the first movement, etc. Its purposefulness is enhanced by the grand scope of the Finale, which carries the ideas of the Ruckblick forward in a section that, intentionally or not, brings together thematic elements from the earlier movements in a triumphant fulfillment.
In later life, Brahms wrote no work for solo piano on the scale of the F Minor Sonata, but he delighted in putting together recurrent pensees into essay like sequences. Outstanding in his early output were the Op. 10 Ballades (1854), which for all their nominal suggestions of a title that Chopin also used were quite distinctly Brahms's own.
The first was described by the composer as "After the Scottish ballad "Edward" which is to be found in Bishop Percy's "Reliques of Ancient English Poetry." What begins as an Andante, in the oratorical mode of a folk ballad with the mother addressing her son, "Dein Schwert, wie ist's von Blut so rot?" (Your sword, why is it so red with blood?) to which he responds, "O ich nab' geschlagen meinen Qeier tot." (I have beaten my vulture to death.) - turns to an Allegro of decidedly more dramatic character. The piece ends with a variation of the opening Andante - Edward's father is his victim.
The second ballade also begins Andante but takes another turn in its Allegro non troppo and rises to a 6/4 molto staccato a leggiero, more elaborate technically, before returning to the lyric opening Andante. The third, subtitled "Intermezzo," turns away from the dramatic suggestion of ballad. An Allegro in 6/8 leads to a cantabile central section in the piano's upper register and a sempre pp, molto leggiero return of the opening. Decidedly most elaborate of the ballades is По.4, in which Brahms does not hesitate to display his command of imitative devices (between the two hands or interchanging running figurations), which he and Rubinstein elaborate to an ever broadening conclusion.
The intermezzo and romance heard here date from 1892, and are among Brahms's last works for piano. "In his final years," wrote Rubinstein, "Brahms produced serene and nostalgic music that was ever more inward in mood."