Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Busoni also has a Hammerklavier-like Sonata; Dohnanyi's lat 2nd Symphony brings back world of Mahler

I’ve written recently about the Beethoven Hammerklavier Sonata and a similar work by Brahms (Sonata 1), but I found a Piano Sonata in F Minor by Ferruccio Busoni, performed by Bruce Wolosoff, in 1986, on a Japanese Columbia Sony (Music and Arts Programs of America) CD at home.

The work runs about 31 minutes and has three movements.  The opening Allegro Risoluto starts with a rising rocket theme and  takes us on an adventure. The Andante is really more like a big romantic Adagio. The Finale, after a slow introduction, presents us with an episodic  fugue in the spirit of the Hammerklavier, then brings back the rocket theme and builds to a stunning conclusion.  F Minor is usually not my favorite key for this kind of work, as the Picardy close leads to a major key seeming to be pastoral in nature.  The work sounds a bit like Brahms and is much more German than Italian in character.  (Brahms made F Minor work as the key for this Third Sonata, remember.)

Busoni is known for his Piano Concerto in C Major, which has a male chorus in the finale and is one of the longest in the literature (except for Furtwangler’s). 

Also, try the 1996 Chandos recording of the Symphony #2  in E Major of Ernst von Dohnanyi.  The composer is known for his postromantic youthful masterpieces (the Piano Quintet and sprawling Piano Concerto #1 are both teenage works). The Second Symphony is late, composed in the WWII years when he was in his sixties, but it sounds youthful – but also penultimate. The work spans 50 minutes, and is almost like a middle Mahler symphony. The 20 minute finale is a theme and variations followed by – again – a colossal fugue.  It’s back to Bach on steroids.

Note: On rehearing the Sonata Dec. 30, 2013, I added these notes:

For a little more to review today, I played a 1988 Denon CD recording by pianist Bruce Wolosoff of the early Piano Sonata in F Minor, Op. 20a, composed in 1883 by a then seventeen year-old Ferruccio Busoni.  I don’t know why there is an “a” on the opus number, but the manuscript was rediscovered in 1925 and published in 1983. 

The work is a three-movement, ambitious late romantic work, running a half hour.  The first movement (Allegro Risoluto Vivace ed energico) seems to resemble the young Brahms, with a rising theme that often modulates by half-steps.  The exposition itself comes to a climax on that theme, that anticipates the triumphant close with a Picard Third. The slow movement, Andante con moto, improvises episodes around a tender theme in B-flat.  The Finale (“Nella guesa d’un improvviszione  [attempt at]”, Allegro fugato). It starts out with more improvisatory gestures (like the finale of Brahms’s Second Sonata) then settles on a marcato fugue subject, which Busoni builds into a grandiose double fugue, before returning to the opening subject of the subject, now as a even more grandiose chorale.  This piece seems to want to be a symphony.  F does not seem like the best tonality for such a progression, because of its pastoral personality. Busoni is well known for counterpoint and transcriptions of Bach, and here his writing reminds one of the grandiosity of some fugal writing of a teenage contemporary, Eugen d’Albert, who provided a fugal cadenza to his first piano concerto.

Busoni wrote once that “Improvisation would come closest to the essential nature of art if only it were within man’s power to master inspiration extempore.”  I’ve always heard that jazz is based on improvisation, even from a coworker who was a great exponent of it in the 1970’s. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Boswell Memorial Lecture at William and Mary traces and shows evolution of older ideas about marriage and family values, especially for southern women

On  Oct. 21, 2011, William and Mary GALA started uts 25th Anniversary Celebration with a Boswell Memorial Lecture (named after the famous historian on the subject of homosexuality and Christianity) with speaker Susan Cahn, Professor of History from the State University of New York at Buffalo, titled “Reading, ‘Riting, Rhythm and Romance: Southern Girls and Sexual Politics”.  

The lecture was held in Washington Hall, the languages department, on Jamestown Rd at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA.  The room was a typical stadium lecture hall, but I can recall taking English 101 in a smaller room in that Hall in that lost semester of fall, 1961, when we read T.S. Eliot and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", with the instructor's saying frankly that it was a poem about sexual impotence (greatly dreaded in that era), and later "The Art of Loving" by Erich Fromm, with all that criticism of psychological "symbiosis" (no mention yet of "polarities").

The presentation-lecture was accompanied by many historical still photographs, like those in a Ken Burns documentary, particularly of old animations or cartoons that showed the animus toward desegregation in the South before and throughout the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. (So, no this was not a lecture about Miss Scarlet – how she had it, lost it and got it back, and then lost Rhett—again.) 

 These pictures reminded one also of the old “filmstrips” that used to be shown in elementary schools in the 1950s to teach social studies.  One cartoon in particular, dated around 1950, showed a woman saying she saw nothing wrong with integration in public schools, and then traced the “argument” to “inevitable” mixed dating and mixed marriage, and mixed grandchildren, and then a final frame about “our enemies”.  The cartoon had originated in Union County, NJ.  

But there were also other slides of high schools, such as  school buses and proms, in the segregated south in the 1950s. 

Women worked during the WWII effort, of course, but for a while after WWII returned to homemaking. But in the early 1950s, employment opportunities gradually expanded for women, as they had even during the industrial revolution. Some families (both white and black) feared that they would not have grandchildren as daughters slowly returned to the workplace, even before Betty Friedan.  Families got fussy about demanding loyalty of their kids to family goals, and both the lack of marriage or marrying the wrong “kind” (race), or premarital sex—all of these were seen as sinking families. 

I can recall a Ladies Home Journal article around 1957 that complained that too many women went to college and asked the question, “whom would you rather have a college degree, you or your husband?”  Sputnik could change that attitude real fast.

The lecture demonstrated a problem with our use of "logic" in social issues. We assume a result is bad based on ideas that have no grounding in science. Furthermore, we assume that a harmless action by a single person will, if permitted, lead to a situation where others copy the action and the end result is the "harmful" collective situation. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MSN video documents value of music education with a school in FL


MSN, on a site called "Mom's Homeroom", offered a 5 minute video this morning on the value of music education for other academics. The school at hand was a middle school in Davenport, FL.  A voice teacher   Mary Anne Suggs said, “the human voice is the most important musical instrument. A male teacher said that music performance teaches 100% accuracy, which certainly translates to math skills.

Here is the video link (not embeddable).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thomas Pandolfi: review of two CD's

At the Thomas Pandolfi concert Sunday, I did buy a couple of his new CD’s, on his own label.

One of them (new, dated 2011) has a cardboard cover and no program notes, but introduces Pandolfi as a composer.  That is with Pandolfi’s “Improvisation on Six Gershwin Melodies” (about 13 min). He starts with the Rhapsody in Blue in the 1927 solo piano version. He follows with Earl Wild’s “Etude #2 on Gershwin’s ‘Oh Lady Be Good’”, then Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag”, and Pandolfi’s arrangement of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “All I Ask of You”.

The other disc (2006) starts with the familiar Piano Concerto in F Major, with the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Peter Schmelzer.  The performance (and recording) is brilliant, as is the orchestral playing. The overall effect of the performance struck me as a bit Ravel-like. The setting in F Major has always seemed curious to me; I'm used to thinking of F as a "pastoral" key (maybe because of Beethoven's Sixth and Brahms's Third symphonies.)  Keys, properly tempered, have real personalities. 

He follows with his Song Medley, which he lists here as an “arrangement” rather than a composition, and there are seven tunes here, but the psychological effect is the same as the impromptu on the other disc.  It’s typical in the music world to list “variations” or “fantasies” on themes by others under the actual “composer” of the derivative work than the original theme (as compared to transcriptions; with Liszt, the differentiation can become difficult).

He concludes the CD with “Three Songs from The Gershwin Songbook” as Gershwin himself transcribed them for solo piano.

The emotional language of Gershwin, at least in these interpretations, seems to me a bit muted, but in line with a major part of the musical world from the 1920s through WWII.  I had a friend early in my career who (a computer programmer and mathematician with professional articles published somewhat related to Navy and subsequent Univac employment) played jazz quite well as an amateur pianist and was quite into the improvisation art. 

Pandolfi also has a CD in which he plays the Paderewski A Minor Concerto in a passionate reading (comparable in effect to the Grieg concerto), again with the Moravian Philharmonic, along with works by Godowski, Labunski and Chopin. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Nasseri performs music of Haskell Small on Naxos

Thursday night, at Strathmore, I picked up an “American Classics” Naxos CD of the music of Washington DC composer Haskell Small, played by pianist Soheil Nasseri, who had given a concert that evening.

The first and main work is a six-movement  (29 minutes) piece for narrator and  solo piano, “Lullaby of War”, 2007, actually commissioned for Mr. Nasseri, with Martin Rayner, Narrator.  The six poem s are by Stephen Crane (“War Is Kind”  -- the author is familiar for “The Red Badge of Courage”), Joy Harjo (“No”), Yvan Goll (“Recitative”),  Uri Zvi Greenberg (“Naming Souls”), Walt Whitman (“Look Down, Fair Moon”), Paula Tatarunis, “Guernica Pantoum”.  The pieces are linked by a blocked-chord but dissonant “prayer theme” reminiscent of Ives.

The second suite (27 minutes) is “Renoir’s Feast” (2005), in sixteen miniatures, which sound like a mix of Poulenc and Ives. It’s  called “A Musical Celebration of The Luncheon of the Boating Party” and was commissioned by the Phillips Collection, near Dupont Circle, whose chamber and solo recitals I sometimes attended in the 1960s, in the days before my own military service, when the draft hung over the heads of young men as an obligation to be escaped from, obliquely.

The last composition is “Three Etudes in Sound” (1993): “Layers”, “Swirls and Spikes” and “Sustained”.

The website for the album on Naxos is here

Here is a video of Haskell Small performing “Fur Alina” by Arvo Part.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Thomas Pandolfi gives major concert to honor Franz Liszt

Sunday, October 9, pianist Thomas Pandolfi  gave his annual fall concert at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC.

When I arrived (by slow Metro, with DC having so much transportation shut down this Columbus Day weekend), a piano tuner was working on the Steinway, because some keys were not releasing fully, after the piano was moved and apparently had been exposed to more humidity. I thought about the movie "Piano Mania" (Aug. 26, 2011 on my Movies blog).

The program honors the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt (Oct. 22, 1811).

Pandolfi introduced each composition with some brief remarks.

The program opened with the Piano Sonata  in E-flat, K282, of W. A. Mozart, which has the unusual form of starting with the slow movement (like the better known A Major), a practice that Beethoven would sometimes adopt. The Sonata has a pre-romantic feel. 

Next followed the Intermezzo in A, Op 118, #2, by Brahms.  Pandolfi mentioned the way Brahms started his career with larger sonata-like pieces, and compared the Op. 1 Brahms Piano Sonata to the Beethoven Hammer-Klavier.  I’ve discussed both pieces here recently.

He then played the A-flat Impromptu, Op. 90, #4, by Franz Schubert.  It actually starts with A-flat minor arpeggios.  I remember learning this piece from the Sherwood course when I took piano.

The rest of the program involved Liszt.  Before intermission, he played three Liszt transcriptions. First, a Schubert song “The Miller and the Brook”.  Next, a song by Robert Schumann, “Dedication” (“Widmung”).  And then the slow-motion E-flat Etude after Paganini, which I have heard played as encore at the Kennedy Center without name.  Pandolfi said that Paganini was to the violin what Liszt was to piano.   (I do recall the G# minor etude after Paganini.)

After intermission, he started with the Consolidation #3 in D-flat.  I played this a senior in high school. He compared it to a Chopin nocturne, but it is not quite as sentimental.  After all, this is Liszt.

He followed with the massive “Funerailles”, the 7th of the Poetic and Religious Harmonies, in F Minor.  It pays homage to the “Heroic” Polonaise of Chopin, and has the general structure of a Chopin Ballade, but rather dies away at the end instead of ending violently.  It also bears a slight relation to the Chopin F Minor Fantasy (previous post).  The piano sonorities were overwhelming.

Then he played the famous Liebestraum #3 in A-flat (the first two are rarely played).

There followed the Valse Oubliee (“Forgotten Waltz”) #1, in F#, 1881, which, as it progresses, becomes so chromatic that it approaches atonality.  Liszt was looking ahead, almost to Schoenberg, late in life. The work ends on a single note without harmony.

He concluded with the Hungarian Rhapsody #12 in c# Minor. He picked “which” rhapsody at the last moment, preferring one that uses heavy black keys to avoid problems with the piano.

Much of the music in this program was what my father would have called "tuneful".  Liszt was my late mother's favorite composer.

Thomas Pandolfi is on YouTube.   Here is his video of his playing three Etudes by Chopin.


One other note today: On Piers Morgan, on CNN, the remark was made that Michael Jackson actually was a student of classical music. I've never heard that before. 

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Strathmore presents recital by Soheil Nasseri, featuring Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata

On Thursday, Oct. 6, the Mansion at the Strathmore in Rockville, MD presented pianist Soheil Nasseri. Apparently in his early 30s, he has developed the reputation of one of New York’s most prolific pianists in terms of repertoire played, with a heavy emphasis on Beethoven. He has pledge to perform all of Beethoven’s music involving piano by 2020, the 250th birthday year for the composer.

The concert was performed on a 19th Century Broadwood piano, manufactured in England, with only 85 keys (ending in the highest A), with a sound more authentic to the 19th Century. The sonority is thick by modern standards, and it is hard to play the piano softly.

The program opened with four of the Novelletten from Op. 21 (1, 4, 5, 6)  by Robert Schumann.  The pieces are varied and a bit episodic, and it was sometimes difficult to tell where one piece ended.

The program continued with the Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 49, by Frederic Chopin.  The piece starts with a funeral theme that does not return; like the B-flat Minor Scherzo, it ends in the relative major, which is not totally convincing. (But Mahler did that with the first movement of his Third Symphony, and the tonality progression works perfectly).

The highlight of the program was the Hammerklavier Sonata, #29, Op. 106, in B-flat, by Ludwig van Beethoven.  The last movement fugue has been called “Bach on steroids” .  The F# minor Adagio, as played, creates a leaden effect in a few places that I now realize I was trying to recreate in my own Third Sonata, which I wrote at age 18 as my father recovered from a “mild heart attack” related the emotional upheaval of my 1961 William and Mary expulsion (discussed elsewhere in my blogs).  I remember composing that passage sitting in the living room near a backyard picture window in the late winter of 1962, as then I could no longer play records at normal volume in the basement because they disturbed father as he rested in the bedroom above.   But I probably didn’t have a recording of the work until I was working.

There is something else I noticed during the sonata: the tension and harmonic variety comes from the counterpoint and motives, not from deliberate using of varied chords. Otherwise, the harmonic scheme on its own could have sounded perfunctory.  I also remember when taking piano that at first I didn't accept the idea that "many melodies" or simultaneous melodies could "make sense", the way it enriches an adult's musical ear. 

Mr. Nasseri played an encore, a transcription of a familiar Bach aria, "Jesu, Joy of man's desiring". 

We had a  discussion with the artist after the concert (most of the audience remained), and he said that the “talent” (almost in the Biblical sense of the Parable of the Talents) of a performer and of a composer can be very different gifts. He described the way he memorizes music as he prepares it, and he says it took almost a year to learn the Hammerklavier. (Back in the 1960s, I had a friend who said no one should play Beethoven until he was 30!)

Here is Mr. Nasseri's website link.

Here’s a quirky video by “Hardest Piano Pieces” of a “takedown” of the Hammerkavier fugue, whatever that means.


I’ve mentioned before that the first Piano Concerto by a teenage Eugen d’Albert has an incredible fugal (almost atonal) cadenza just before the climax of the whole piece, that somewhat recalls the mood of the HammerKlavier fugue. 

Note: The Mansion at Strathmore has a small art museum, with a display about the Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery in the "Arab Sector" of Israel. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Episcopal High School sponsors chamber music concert of unusual Schubert, Brahms; did Schubert write a concerto?; a note on musicians' hearing

Last night (Oct. 4), the Episcopal High School in Alexandria VA presented the National Chamber Players in a free concert preceded by a reception. Here is the basic link for the event.

The high school is a large (private, parochial) boarding school at Braddock Road and Quaker Lane in Alexandria, with a huge campus; some professors actually live on campus.   (I noticed an HRC blue-yellow equality sticker on the sill of a doorway to a nearby dorm, very visible from the sidewalk.)  The Reception was in an area with a small museum and a convincing exhibition of the arts education at the school. 

There were two works. The first was the Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano, D. 821, “transcribed” for cello and piano, played by James Lee, cellist, and Robert De Silva.  The arpeggione was a hybrid of cello and guitar, used in the early 19th Century.  The three-movement work sounded very low key, compared to the grandeur of some of Schubert’s later chamber works. I had trouble telling where the “slow movement” ended and the finale (Allegretto) started – the finale sounded like it was taking off as a variation of the slow movement. The final chords died away, which sometimes happens in conducting Schubert’s symphonies (even the C Major), but I do not like the effect.  (Yes, it naturally happens if you hit a fortissimo chord on the piano and hold it.)

The Sonata is sometimes transcribed as a “concerto”, even though it is said that Schubert wrote no concerti. But even that isn’t quite true. There is a violin Concertino, D. 345, 11 minutes, and a 2001 New York Times letter in 2001 mentions it (played by the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston).  There is a YouTube link by “gfisg”, link here (two parts).  A Teldec CD is shown, which I couldn’t find on Amazon now.

The second part of the program (no intermission) was the Piano Quartet #3 in C Minor, Op. 60, by Johannes Brahms (not to be confused with a similar-sounding  C Minor string quartet which I do have on Teldec). Brahms supposedly composed this when infatuated with Clara Schumann, about the time of Robert’s tragic demise in a mental institution. The work is dark and dense. The first movement is epic, the second is a brief scherzo with temporary triumph, the andante has a famous melody, and the finale is marked “Allegro commodo” (comfortable), and unusual marking (I used it in my own second sonata in the first movement), but becomes triumphant, holding the listener in his seat for the “ending”.  I’ll give the spoiler. The work starts to die away, before two final C Major fortissimo chords (the supposed "Picardy Third", as explained in Wikipedia here as "tierce de picardie"; the string quartet does not use this device at the end.) Brahms apparently wrote this work shortly before tackling his triumphant Symphony #1 in C Minor, with the famous finale. 

Benny Kim and Abigail Evans joined as violins. 

Also:

Here is an important sidebar from p E3 of the Washington Post Tuesday Oct. 4, by Linda Searing, a column called “Quick Study”. Link. I’ve reported before my concerns about possible hearing loss of musicians whone perform and are exposed to nearby instruments, but a recent study suggested that musicians have a superior ability to understand speech in a noisy background environment. See earlier posting Sept. 17, 2008.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Nico Muhly's "A Good Understanding" (and four other compositions)

On Saturday, I wrote (on my main “BillBoushka” blog) a posting about recent comments by composer Nico Muhly and others that composers cannot get recordings from performing groups of initial recordings of their own works.

I needed to sample his music, so I ordered his 2010 Decca (i.e. London) CD of “A Good Understanding’, which sounds like one of those “moral philosophy” composition names, number  “B0014741-2”.

Actually, “A Good Understanding” (with marquee print in reverse on the CD jacket) is the fourth of five compositions on the disk, all with mostly female and child voices and limited instrumentation, especially organ and brass. The first is “Bright Mass with Canons” (4 movements), followed by “First Service” (“Magnificat & Nunc dimittis”, 2 movements), “Senex puerum portabat”, then “A Good Understanding”, and then the 3-song “Expecting the Main Things from You”.  Members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale are conducted by Grant Gershon.  Kimo Smith plays the organ; there are parts for trumpets, horn, trombones, horn, violins and viola, and soprano and mezzo-soprano, with the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus in “Understanding.”

Generally, the music is quiet and modal and somewhat archetypal to my ear. But the two shorter one-movement pieces (“Senex” and “Understanding”) seemed to exhibit the post harmonic (sometimes polytonal) tension.  In the first movement of the last song cycle, there is a repeating figure that sounds like an amalgam of Arnold Schoenberg and Philip Glass, if one can imagine that.  Of the five compositions, only “Understanding” ended loudly.

It’s interesting that Muhly uses the word “Understanding” as a piece title. The liner notes discuss a religious, sacramental context for the piece (and all others but the last, based on Whitman). But I can’t help but wonder if there is a hidden reference to Dan Fry’s group in Arizona called “Understanding” back in the 1970s, and the process called “The Area of Mutual Agreement”.   But my experiences with that New Age group occurred just before Muhly’s advent; born in 1981, he would be about 30 now.  That’s old enough, according to one past friend of mine in that lost semester at William and Mary back in 1961, to start playing Beethoven.

Here’s the Amazon link. Recently, I’ve been noticing that Amazon is using Lasership instead of UPS to ship.

Here's a link to an August posting by Muhly, "World to Come".

Here's Nico speaking on "Contact!" on YouTub:





Monday, October 03, 2011

NBC airs report on making Broadway's "Lion King" suitable for autistic students

Tonight, NBC Nightly News, in its “Making a Difference” series, ran a report on autism-friendly performances of the Broadway adoption of the (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff) Disney film “The Lion King  (lyrics Tim Rice, music, Hans Zimmer).  A 3-D version of this stage musical is re-adapted for film and is to be released soon in theaters by Disney.

The NBC report covered the way a legitimate stage performance is modified for an audience sensitive to sudden changes in stimulation, including sudden loud noises (which I have always disliked) and lights.

In the stage versions, actors wear giant animal costumes, and hollow puppets are also used. 

I saw the original Disney film in 1992 and was quite moved by it. I remember the songs about being oneself. 

I'm reminded of another stage-movie comparison. Universal sells a DVD of the 25th Anniversary "Les Miserables", but Universal is also producing a "real movie" of it directed byTom Hooper. 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

For another "Russian" postromantic, try Taneyev; also some notes on Brahms and Schumann; what is "philistinism"?

With all the popularity of Rachmaninoff as a “Russian” postromantic composer (homage to Tchaikovsky),  I thought I would mention the monumental Piano Quintet in G Minor, Op. 30, by Sergei Taneyev. The other day I played the Arabesque recording with Jerome Lowenthal, piano, and with Paul Rosenthal, Yukiko Kamel, Marcus Thompson, and Stephen Kates playing the two violins, viola and cello respectively, dating all the way back to 1985.

The work runs to about 41 minutes, with the first movement almost half the work, starting with a slow introduction and a rich post-Czarist Sonata movement crashing to a violent close, reminding one of the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Manfred (quote on “Smallville” as I recall).  The scherzo is in E-flat, and the slow movement is in the subdominant C Major. That’s unusual in minor-keyed cyclic works, but I did that with my D Minor Piano Sonata (age 16), and the trouble is that the dominant of the slow movement becomes the tonic of the whole work, maybe tiring the ear. But here the finale shows signs of progressive tonality (like that to be followed with Carl Nielsen later), starting out in C Minor as if a conventional rondo. But it wanders back, as G becomes “Dominant” (pun), and the work overreaches itself with its triumphant “marcatissimo” end in G, which generally hasn’t been a popular key for triumphant closes with romantics (Elgar’s Enigma being the exception).   The triumphant closing theme has a rising line that resembles the American "Star Spangeled Banner", with a Rachmaninoff-like "big tune" feel; I wondered, what 40's film noir was this "obscure" music used for?  ("I did it for the money, and I did it for the woman.") This whole work sounds like it wanted to be, not a piano concerto, but a full-fledged “symphony”.  As Dohanyi  showed, thought, the piano quintet can really get loud.
   
Here’s a recording on YouTube of the finale posted by Gllandyen, peformed by the Artsblooming Ensemble in 2008. The group has a Facebook page in Chinese (link)  which I’m not sure how that works if Facebook isn’t allowed in China (maybe Taiwan, or maybe the ban is easy to get around).


This morning I played through a Teldec CD of the two famous F#-minor Sonatas, by Schumann and Brahms (Elizabeth Leonskaja) somewhat low-keyed performances, and then on Simax, Eva Knardahl playing the Brahms Sonata #1 in C, Op. 1.  Yes, you heard me right. They call this the Brahms “Hammerkavier” (but there is no “grosse fugue”). It’s filled with familiar themes, for such a rarely played work. One time a pianist said, “I will play Brahms. You may not like it, but it will be good for you.”  The Brahms F#-minor sonata is weird, too.

As for the Schumann, it anticipates the world of the Big C Major Fantasy, but the transition between Scherzo and Finale seems abrupt.  I love the frantic passage work in the first movement.   It is said to be connected to Schumann’s opposition to ”philistinism”, which is well explained in Wikipedia.