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Doesn’t Play Well with Others: Performance and Embodiment in Brahms’s Chamber Music with Piano

Anna Scott (ACPA) contributed to the book Rethinking Brahms, edited by Nicole Brahms and Reuben Philips, with a chapter about performance and embodiment in Brahms’s chamber music with piano.

Oxford University Press, 2022

If we are to rethink Brahms, we must play him differently. In chamber contexts, this means not playing well with others, in the sense of both improperly and asynchronously—an approach that comes naturally to those who have embodied the early-recorded styles of musicians close to Brahms. Unleashing these styles in his Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, Op. 100, and Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34, reveals a conception of Brahmsian identity steeped in risk, potentiality, and variability: qualities that are prized in chamber playing in theory, but often actively discouraged in practice. This coarser, more reckless and individualistic mode of performance destabilizes understandings of how Brahms’s music should sound, and also poses the question of whether the field might benefit from a more discordant ecosystem of thought and practice, with new findings in the latter demonstrating the contingency of the former, and vice versa.

Read the chapter here.

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