There are many transcriptions and
paraphrases available to pianists, and one might legitimately question
whether there is a need for more. However, it is always good to explore new
things and there are many wonderful musical gems that remain inaccessible –
perhaps these free arrangements can provide both new material to discover
and new melodies for our instrument.
The Paraphrases came about from a deep love for the songs of Brahms,
specifically his folk songs and waltzes. There are few examples in music of
such beautiful intimacy of feeling expressed with such lightness and
originality. Here was truly a composer who never abandoned his desire to
express his feelings, no matter how doomed they were. As a pianist one is
fairly ill equipped to perform these songs alone, and in any case they are
often vanishingly brief. To a degree they pose a similar challenge as the
Dances of Schubert, where small gems can either be assembled in long chains
or left as minute moments of beauty – unless one remembers the solution
provided by Liszt in his Soirees de Vienne, i.e. that of concentrating on
one or two of them but expanding and developing them into a longer piece. It
was this example that I embraced, feeling free to add and enlarge, whilst
hopefully not straying too far from the spirit of Brahms and the sense of
longing so inherent in much of his music. It was not my intent to make as
faithful a piano arrangement as possible but to find a setting that will
make these miraculous songs feel like piano pieces, and, once removed from
their original context of a song cycle, to explore whither they might lead.
Wenn so lind dein Aug mir
Und so lieblich schauet –
Jede letzte Trübe fliehet,
Welche mich umgrauet.
Dieser Liebe schöne Glut,
Laß sie nicht verstieben!
Nimmer wird, wie ich, so treu
Dich ein andrer lieben.
When your eye turns to me
so gently and so tenderly,
every last sorrow flees
that dimmed my being.
The wondrous glow of this love,
let it not fade nor dwindle,
Never shall a man
love you so truly as I.
Nein, Geliebter, setze dich
mir so nahe nicht!
Starre nicht so brünstiglich
mir ins Angesicht!
Wie es auch im Busen brennt,
dämpfe deinen Trieb,
daß es nicht die Welt erkennt,
wie wir uns so lieb.
No, beloved, do not sit
so near to me!
Do not gaze at me
with such yearning eyes!
However strong your heart burns
hold your longing back,
that the world may never see
how deep our love is.
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