JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)
Piano Sonata Opus 1

orchestration by Henk de Vlieger, 2017

“His name is Johannes Brahms, and he hails from Hamburg, where he worked in silence and where an excellent professor (Eduard Marxsen) taught him the most difficult rules of his art. He displayed all the outward signs that proclaim: ‘Here is one of the elect’. Sitting at the piano, he began to explore the most marvelous lands. Through the genius of his playing, he led us in ever more magical circles, transforming the piano into an orchestra whose voices by turns exulted and lamented. These were sonatas, or rather, veiled symphonies; songs whose poetry could be grasped even without knowing the words; demoniac piano pieces presented in the most graceful of forms; then sonatas for piano and violin, string quartets, every piece so different from all the others that it seemed to flow from an entirely different source”. 

These lines were written by Robert Schumann in his famous article entiteld “Neue Bahnen” (New Paths), in 1853, shortly after his first meeting with Johannes Brahms, then aged 20. Earlier in the same year, Brahms had finished his Piano Sonata in C major, later published as his Opus 1. Chronologically, it was actually his second sonata, but he chose to publish it first as he found it of higher quality. The first measures of the Sonata Opus 1 sound like a credo of the composer’s youth: a homage to the heritage of Beethoven, more precisely to his Hammerklavier Sonata, Opus 106. Many elements of the sonata appear to be eleborated in the style of Beethoven. At the same time, one may ask oneself why Robert Schumann compared the sonata to a 'veiled symphony' and what would that symphony be like, if once unveiled? In other words: would it be possible to write an orchestral version of this Sonata Opus 1?

Simply for my own pleasure, I decided to take up the challenge. I employed the usual romantic orchestra with double woodwinds, two pairs of natural horns, natural trumpets and timpani. There are no trombones and only for some very high notes the second flutist takes up the piccolo. In July 2017, the orchestration of Opus 1 was complete. In January 2021 it has been recorded by the Orchestre de Picardie, conducted by Arie van Beek. Due to the corona period, the planned first public performance had to be canceled.

Orchestra: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings

Duration: 30 minutes

Published by SCHOTT Music


J. Brahms - Transcriptions

Piano Quintet, Opus 34
Sonata, Opus 1

orchestration Henk de Vlieger

Orchestre de Picardie / Arie van Beek

NoMadMusic NNM103A