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The Clements Blog

Long-lost Brahms music discovered

Sunday, 15th January 2012 | 

An exciting piece of recent news has been the discovery of an unknown piece of music by the great composer Johannes Brahms. The two-minute piece, Albumblatt, for solo piano, was written by Brahms in a visitors book once owned by the director of music at Goettingen University in Germany. It's thought that Brahms wrote the piece in the visitors book to thank his host for dinner! The title means "album leaf" and is a very common title for pieces of solo piano music in the 19th century, traditionally given to short pieces intended for friends and not intended for publication – which explains why this particular Albumblatt remained undiscovered for so long.

Albumblatt was written in 1853, when Brahms was 20 years old. The piece is not just remarkable for having never been heard before, but also because very little of Brahms' early music survives. Brahms was a perfectionist and had a habit of destroying all his early work and allowing only his great masterpieces to survive. Albumblatt gives us an opportunity, therefore, to find out something about how Brahms' music developed over his life. This "new" piece features a very beautiful tune, that might sound familiar when you hear it: Brahms later featured the melody in his much later masterpiece, the Horn Trio (op. 40), which is well worth listening to if you haven't already!

You can hear a snippet of Albumblatt at this page on the BBC News website – the music starts at about 01'27. To hear the whole piece, you will have to wait a few days until the 21st January, when the piece will be broadcast on Radio 3's Music Matters programme.

You can also hear the first movement (Andante) of Brahms' Horn Trio (performed by three absolute masters of their instruments, by the way!) in this Youtube video:

The tune with which the Horn Trio opens is very clearly similar to the haunting melody in Albumblatt. Now that you know that Brahms was remembering his tasty dinner in Goettingen when he wrote the opening movement, it's also well worth listening to the rest of the Horn Trio! The other three movements (played by the same people) are in these Youtube videos:






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