Christopher Hogwood is one-part world renowned musicologist and one-part Indiana Jones. Last fall he was digging through the shelves of the library at Princeton University in New Jersey when he discovered a book which contained a piano solo by the iconic 19th century composer and pianist Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). He immediately dusted off the sand, dashed through the canyon of venomous cobras, and climbed his way out of the giant pyramid before it collapsed — but not before rescuing Kate Capshaw from the the clutches of evil cult leader Mola Ram and what would have been a certain death by fire. All Harrison Ford references aside, in order to appreciate Hogwood’s find it’s first worth appreciating Hogwood’s impressive resume:
☛ Founder of the Academy of Ancient Music
☛ International Professor of Early Music Performance at the Royal Academy of Music
☛ Honorary Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge
☛ Visiting Professor at King’s College London
☛ Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge
☛ Honorary Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge
☛ Appointed as a Commander of the British Empire in 1989
☛ Appointed Professor of Music at Gresham College, London in 2010
☛ Serves as a member of Lowell House‘s Senior Common Room at Harvard University
☛ Author of Handel: Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks (2005), Handel (1988), The Trio Sonata (1979), Music at Court (1980)
Well done, Mr. Hogwood. Well done indeed. It would have been amazing to see the expression on Hogwood’s face when he opened up that book and discovered the Brahms. I’m guessing it would have been similar to that scene in Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark when Harrison — OK, enough. The book itself was actually a guest book belonging to a music director acquaintance of Brahms’ when Brahms himself was a just a young pup of 20-years-old in 1853. When he was wrapping up a visit at the director’s house one evening, Brahms signed the guest book with the full page composition as a kind of Thank You card to his friend. After more than a century and a half, the book found itself in the library of Princeton University. Just last week London’s BBC Radio 3 got ahold of the piece and had pianist Andras Schiff take it for a spin. Apart from the lovely little 2 minutes of music, what’s equally fascinating is what the music reveals about Brahms compositional process. Brahms experts quickly noticed that this 1853 work bared a striking resemblance to a major work from 12 years later that actually did get published in his lifetime: his 1865 Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano. Brahms had kept this melody in his head for a full 12 years after that visit one night at his friend’s house, and in the BBC video below you will hear Schiff’s performance of the original guest book piano piece composition, as well as the more mature “enhanced” version as part of Brahms’ Horn Trio.
The German music publisher Baerenreiter has announced plans to publish the piano solo next month, in an edition that pairs it with the Horn Trio. As CBC’s Katherine Duncan writes: “If you’re an amateur pianist, you might want to pick up a copy — it doesn’t sound all that difficult — and I bet it would be a thrill to be among the first to play it. As an update, music journalist and blogger John Terauds has tracked down an Urtext edition of the sheet music for the new piano solo, titled ‘Albumblatt in A Minor’ offered online for free, thanks to the people at PianoStreet.com.” As Indiana Jones once told his students in The Last Crusade: “We do not follow maps to buried treasure and X never, ever marks the spot.” Such is the case with Hogwood’s Princeton find, which as you will hear below, truly does hit the spot. For all things Christopher Hogwood be sure to visit his website at Hogwood.org. For more great stories from the world of classical music be sure to visit Classical Music on FEELguide.