“Sonnez cors et trompettes!” (Sound the horns and trumpets). This French expression came to my mind when I listened to Johannes Brahms Serenade No. 1 in D, Op. 11, especially to the jubilant first movement. It has been recorded by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, back to back with Schumann’s Cello Concerto that I have presented in a post two days ago. I never had really cared to listen to Brahms’ serenade in D consciously before I began to study Schumann’s piece. An omission I later regretted! Because… because it is incredibly beautiful, rich, melodious – very much a reverence to Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. It displays an overall sunny, optimistic mood, a piece that requires no effort to listen to and has no deeper meaning thant to give the audience 55 minutes of pleasure.
Johannes Brahms’ music has made it into more than one novel of worldwide fame. The obvious one is “Aimez-vous Brahms?” (English title: Goodbye Again) published by the French author Françoise Sagan in 1959. In 1987, the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami highlights in his novel “Norwegian Wood” both Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 and his Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83. Sagan and Murakami wrote love stories, very different in style, set in a different social context but with a common subject: sexual desire, moral conventions and unfulfilled love, topics linked to Brahms, his biography and his music.
Almost every morning our garden is my first encounter with the outer world. I have to cross it to get to my car. It is as silent as a graveyard at this time of the year and at the time I usually leave. Most of the birds are gone or still asleep. The cat is too lazy to leave its cozy corner in the shed. When it’s not foggy, the silence at sunrise let’s me admire the beauty of dawn without any distraction. I usually allow for a minute of contemplation or two before getting into the car. It is one of the defining moments of day. It is the moment of self-interrogation. Am I upset? Happy? Nervous? Serene? And how will I deal with the answer I get?
Is this an obsession? D minor. Many of the classical compositions I truly love are written in D minor: Schubert’s String Quartet no. 14 “Death and the Maiden”, Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 “Reformation”. And Johannes Brahm’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 15. Aimez-vous Brahms? Oh, oui! I actually discovered this composer precisely through the novel “Aimez-vous Brahms?”, published by Françoise Sagan in 1959.