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Joshua Bell Wants You to Hear Brahms's Original, Passionate Piano Trio

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Johannes Brahms, the perfectionist, destroyed many of his early works. Yet he kept his first published piece of chamber music, even after revising it 35 years later. WRTI’s Susan Lewis talked with violinist Joshua Bell, who has recorded the Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8 that Brahms wrote when he was just 20 years old. 

Violinist Joshua Bell talks with WRTI's Susan Lewis about the friendships behind the works on his new CD, FOR THE LOVE OF BRAHMS.

Pianist Jeremy Denk, violinist Joshua Bell, and cellist Steven Isserlis

Radio script:

[MUSIC: Brahms, Piano Trio in B Major, For the Love of Brahms]

Susan Lewis: In 1853, 19-year old composer Johannes Brahms met 21-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim, who introduced him to the older, more established musical couple, Robert and Clara Schumann. Soon after, Brahms wrote his Piano Trio in B Major, for piano, violin, and cello.

Joshua Bell: The early trio was clearly influenced by his love for Clara.

SL: In 1889, Brahms revised the Piano Trio, writing to Clara that it would not be "as wild" as before. While the latter is the one most often performed today, Joshua Bell has become fascinated with the original.

The early trio was clearly influenced by his love for Clara [Schumann].

JB: When you hear it, especially if you know the later version, it starts out okay, and you think, this is the opus 8 trio, and then it suddenly starts to take some turns, shocking turns, and themes that are not existing at all in the revised version...and I started to fall in love with this version. It is more heart on sleeve, very impulsive, and raw in a lot of ways. But it really gives you a sense of the young Brahms.

SL: A young Brahms whose passion the composer himself didn’t want forgotten. In an unusual move, Brahms allowed both the old and new versions to be published. Joshua Bell performs Brahms' original piano trio in B Major with cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Jeremy Denk on the CD, For the Love of Brahms.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.