WCS is very excited to debut the first of the Balaena Chamber Series of classical music. The first in the series is Brahms: 21 Hungarian Dances, from the piano duo of Valrie Kantorski & Ann Almond Pope, the mother of Mike Pope (wcs 014,017). Now, some notes on this collection of music.
Among the four sets of piano duets that Johannes Brahms wrote, are the Ungarische Tänze-Hungarian Dances. The 21 pieces that make up the 2 volumes of Dances are varied in style with the first 10 being the most well known. Brahms orchestrated Nos. 1, 3 and 10. Several others were orchestrated by Antonin Dvorák. The violinist Joseph Joachim, Brahms's close friend, arranged the Dances for violin and piano. Versions for a range of other instrumental combinations exist. The Hungarian Dances found immediate popularity. In the first set of dances, Brahms mimics the cimbalom by the use of tremolo. In addition to this evocation of “gypsy” instruments, Brahms notates music that is highly improvisatory, rhythmically flexible and is characterized by frequent mood shifts. These elements are particularly evident in the earlier group of dances. The later dances contain more “Brahms” and less “gypsy.” In fact, the 17th Dance is a wholly original composition. The first performance of the Hungarian Dances was in 1868 at a house concert in the home of Albert Dietrich in Oldenburg. Brahms and his beloved friend Clara Schumann played the Dances from his manuscript. One of Brahms's biographers, Florence May, a student and friend, quotes the host: “Frau Schumann and Brahms played them [Hungarian Dances] with an inspiration and fire that transported everyone present.” Just imagine the vision of Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann, two pinnacles of German classicism, seated together, elbow to elbow, performing this most impassioned music. Improvisatory. Exotic. Fiery. Reckless. By turns, explosively energetic and melancholic. The experience could have been not only an artistic one, but a personal catharsis for the two renowned Germans. The Kantorski-Pope Duo is a three-time recipient of First Prize in the Graves Duo Piano Competition. Valrie Kantorski is the principal keyboardist of the Toeldo Symphone Orchestra. Ann Almond Pope has studied piano with Edward Kilenyi and repertoire with Ernst von DohnĆnyi. Enjoy!