Clues to play Brahms string quartet No.1

We practiced the first quartet by Brahmas today. When I was unable to attend this quartet group last time, they practiced this work by 2nd violin, viola, and cello. Maybe because of their effort, we have successfully played this work from 1st movement to 4th movement without any trouble in ensemble.

For amateur quartets, Brahms No.1 is quite tough to play since it has several difficult points to play together. I would like to pick up some and offer you clues to enjoy playing.

1st Movement


The problem is cross rhythms between Cello and 2nd Violin. First and biggest problem may be a decision to practice this part by 2nd Violin and Cello. It looks a good and natural idea. If you use Metronome may be much better. I do not agree with this method because it eventually forces the first violin to follow 2nd Violin and cello which are not playing melody. So, how to practice this part?  First violin and cello should practice to play snugly. Then, 2nd violin and viola join. This is quite simple and ordinary way. Here 2nd violin is just playing compensation rhythm.When a trouble occurs during the performance, 1st violin just look at cello and play with his rhythm, then you can avoid a break up.

In the actual performance, the most difficult part is the beginning.

Brahms SQ1-1-3


Cello has a clue. Cello must have a good spirit of soloist here, and he or she should play with maximum confidence to play this simple piano passage. And first violin has to pick up the tempo of cello and put his note on the 4th eighth note of cello.

I know that it is very difficult in the stage performance for various conditions of the stage. But we should try this to be a good quartet.

2nd Movement

The below is famous for its difficulty.



I think this portion may be one of the most difficult parts of all the quartets in classical and romantic area. Confusing thing in the confusing part is that more you have a good sense of harmony; more you get into a trouble.

If you play your melody comfortable on cello’s GisGisGis/AAA/HHH/CisCisCis. All wrong.
You should play your melody on GisGis/GisAA/AHH/HCisCis/Cis.

I remember that I practiced this passage for my pride in the past. What I did is that I played the cello part with piano and recorded it. And I practiced until I fully satisfied with the result.
When I achieved, I came to find the real and a bit strange beauty of this passage.

This string quartet requires a lots of ensemble technique based on the firm sense of rhythm and one of the best quartet to improve your quartet. Please challenge this beautiful work.


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