Double Concerto (Brahms)

The Double Concerto in A minor (Op. 102) by Johannes Brahms is a concerto for violin, cello and orchestra. Composed in 1887, it was Brahms' final work for orchestra. Brahms wrote it for the cellist Robert Hausmann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. The concerto was, in part, a gesture of reconciliation towards Joachim, after their long friendship had ruptured following Joachim's divorce from his wife Amalie. Brahms had sided with Amalie in the dispute, and this led to the estrangement between Brahms and Joachim. The Double Concerto acted as a form of musical reconciliation. The concerto also makes use of the musical motif A-E-F, a permutation of F-A-E, which stood for a personal motto of Joachim, frei aber einsam ("free but lonely").

The composition consists of three movements in the fast-slow-fast pattern typical of classical instrumental concertos:

  1. Allegro (A minor)
  2. Andante (D major)
  3. Vivace non troppo (A minor → A major)

Clara Schumann reacted unfavourably to the concerto, considering the work "not brilliant for the instruments". Richard Specht also thought critically of the concerto, describing it as "one of Brahms' most inapproachable and joyless compositions". By contrast, Donald Francis Tovey wrote of the concerto as having "vast and sweeping humour".

Richard Cohn has included the first movement of this concerto in his detailed discussion of various composers' use of triadic progressions. Cohn has also analysed such progressions mathematically.



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