Praised by The Boston Globe as “tight and energetic,” period instrument ensemble Grand Harmonie will present a program of German Romantic music in a program titled Through The Looking Glass. The performance will include a premiere of a new reconstruction of the Brahms Serenade no. 1, op. 11 by Grand Harmonie members Yoni Kahn and Thomas Carroll on Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 8pm at Distler Performance Hall at Tufts University, 20 Talbot Ave, Medford, MA 02155.
Tickets are free and open to the public and may be reserved online at grandharmonie.org.
The program will highlight Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll in the original chamber instrumentation, Brahms’s Serenade no. 1, a set of French dances for wind instruments by German composer Heinrich Scherrer, and a period arrangement for string quintet of Brahms’s Liebeslieder waltzes.
The Brahms reconstruction, by Grand Harmonie members Yoni Kahn and Thomas Carroll, is the first to incorporate new scholarship concerning the creation of the Serenade, as reflected by Brahms scholar Michael Musgrave’s critical notes in the Johannes Brahms Gesamtausgabe. It is guided by the technical capabilities of mid-19th century instruments, in particular the woodwinds and the horn. The premiere of this new reconstruction will introduce audiences to the music which later became Brahms’s earliest orchestral work, using instruments with which Brahms was familiar.
Both the Siegfried Idyll and Brahms’s Serenade no. 1 are known as staples of the orchestral repertoire, but began life as chamber works: the Idyll as a surprise birthday present to Wagner’s second wife Cosima, and the Brahms Serenade as a nonet for winds and strings. Grand Harmonie will use the exact instrumentation for the Siegfried Idyll which was used in the premiere of the piece at his house in Triebschen. Rarely heard on historical instruments, the winds and brass will be playing on original instruments, and these works highlight the masterful tone colors wielded by the two titans of opposing schools of Romanticism. The programming places Brahms’s music in historical context, allowing the audience to explore the contrast between the Brahmsian and Wagnerian conceptions of performance practice.
Yoni Kahn, Grand Harmonie member and natural hornist who co-led the reconstruction with Mr. Carroll, says, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to premiere this new reconstruction of Brahms’s Serenade op. 11 with Grand Harmonie. Completing the reconstruction collaboratively with Thomas Carroll and other Grand Harmonie musicians has given me numerous insights into the composer’s thought process, and I am excited to share these with our audience using instruments Brahms would have known.”
Brahms originally conceived the Serenade as a mixed chamber work in the model of Beethoven’s Septet or Schubert’s Octet. At the urging of violinist Joseph Joachim, the chamber version was expanded for small orchestra, and finally abandoned in favor of the full orchestral version known today. Grand Harmonie’s reconstruction aims to rediscover the earliest version of the piece – for flute, two clarinets, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello, and bass, in four movements – which was rehearsed in Göttingen in 1858 but never performed.
Since the small orchestra version grew out of the nonet, questions regarding the orchestration of the earlier versions of the Serenade can be resolved by examining the revisions in the autographed score. Brahms’s own 4-hand piano arrangement of the Serenade was completed before the final orchestral version, and any differences between the two point to earlier versions of passages which were later changed during Brahms’s reorchestration. The Grand Harmonie reconstruction is the first to incorporate this new research.
In addition, the keystone to the nonet version of the Serenade is the horn part, which Brahms intended for a natural horn. Brahms himself played the horn early in life and his horn writing reflects an intimate knowledge of the instrument. Kahn, a natural hornist and composer, has reconstructed a horn part which is entirely native for natural horn, taking into account the idiosyncrasies of instrument design and playing techniques of the period. Similarly, clarinetist, musicologist, and instrument builder Thomas Carroll has used his knowledge of 19th-century woodwind instruments to ensure that the wind parts are representative of contemporary woodwind writing.
Heinrich Scherrer: Altfranzösische Tänze (Old French Dances)
Brahms arr. Hermann: Liebeslieder-Waltzer
Brahms reconst. Kahn/Carroll: Serenade no. 1 op. 11
About Grand Harmonie:
Grand Harmonie brings vibrant, historically-informed, period-instrument performances of Classical and Romantic music to audiences across the Northeast. Founded in 2012 by a group of wind players interested in exploring the repertoire of Harmonie bands of the 18th century, the scope of the ensemble includes Harmoniemusik, salon concerts, mixed chamber music, full symphony orchestra, and both concert and fully-staged opera.
A key player in the arts community, Grand Harmonie enjoys collaborations with numerous organizations and universities, and appears on multiple concert series in both Boston and New York. Recent collaborations include performances with Harvard University Choir, Boston Opera Collaborative, Lorelei Ensemble, Bach Vespers NYC, GEMS Midtown Concerts, Met Museum Gallery Concerts and more. The ensemble, a proven educational resource, has been invited to give performances and master classes in historical performance practice at Harvard University, The Longy School of Music of Bard College, NYU, the University of Washington, and Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Grand Harmonie is supported by a George Henschel Community Award grant from the Harvard Musical Association, and the Princeton Friends of Opera.