Brahms Ensemble Berlin (photo: Alessandro Cappone)

Chamber Music

From duo to quintet

For this concert, the Brahms Ensemble Berlin has invited two eminent guests: Radek Baborák, former principal horn player with the Berliner Philharmoniker, and the pianist Martin Helmchen. Together with the latter, the ensemble performs the famous piano quintet by Robert Schumann, which Schumann’s wife Clara enthusiastically described as “a work full of power and freshness!” Radek Baborák plays the horn part in the trio that Johannes Brahms composed under the shadow of the death of his mother. The concert opens with Joseph Haas’ horn sonata in F major.

Brahms Ensemble Berlin

Martin Helmchen piano

Radek Baborák fernch horn

Joseph Haas

Sonata for Horn and Piano, op. 29

Johannes Brahms

Horn Trio in E flat major, op. 40

Robert Schumann

Piano Quintet in E flat major, op. 44

Dates and Tickets

Mon, 28 May 2018, 20:00

Chamber Music Hall | Introduction: 19:00

Serie Q


2018-05-28 Brahms Ensemble_Helmchen_Baborak – MSS_engl. IW

“I want to smash my piano,” Robert Schumann once wrote in the diary he kept together with his wife Clara – an unmistakable testimony to the underlying tensions which accompanied the first years of the Schumanns’ marriage. Not only did the composer envy his wife’s success as a pianist because it was not in keeping with his own self-image, but just one of Clara’s concerts brought more money to the household budget than half a year of his own work as a journalist and composer. The diary also tells us that the “thin walls” of the marital home made it impossible for the couple to pursue their work at the same time.

Imagine the following scene: Robert sits in one room and wants to compose – but because Clara is practising in the next room, he can’t come up with any musical ideas for the noise of the scales and chord sequences. He has only two options: either put down his pen until Clara has completed her etudes and returns to her role as housewife (in Robert’s opinion, her “real job”) – or make a virtue out of necessity and turn the cascades of sound from the next room into a composition. When he was working on the third movement of his Piano Quintet op. 44 in the autumn of 1842, Schumann clearly decided on the latter: after all, does it not sound like an affectionate dig at Clara’s playing that the theme of this scherzo is based on a rhythmic E-flat major scale that is sent back and forth through various keys in endless sequences?

Schumann’s Piano Quintet, dedicated to Clara, forms the second part of the programme of this concert by the Brahms Ensemble Berlin, founded by the orchestra’s string players in 2010; the piano part is played by guest performer Martin Helmchen, born in Berlin in 1982. Before the interval, Helmchen, together with the Philharmoniker’s former principal horn player Radek Baborák, also plays the Sonata op 29 by Joseph Haas, plus – with Baborák and Rachel Schmidt on the violin – the Horn Trio op. 40 from 1865 by Schumann’s friend Johannes Brahms.

Brahms Ensemble Berlin (photo: Alessandro Cappone)