The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (93): Brahms, put me to sleep

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (93): Brahms, put me to sleep


norman lebrecht

June 16, 2020

The first intermezzo, op 117, inscribed by Brahms as a lullaby.




  • E says:

    This is heaven. Thank you for posting it.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    Radu Lupu: on his day, as here, the supreme poet of the piano.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    This exquisite jewel of an intermezzo is one of Brahms’ greatest works in any genre. It is the first music that comes to my mind when Brahms’ name is mentioned.
    I’ve adored it since the first time I heard it, and I own all three of the recordings displayed above. To them I would add Rubinstein’s recording of 1941 (surprisingly, his only recording of the work).

  • Gus says:

    Always reminds me of Peter Maxwell Davies’s Farewell to Stromness.

  • Steven van Staden says:

    I remember Clifford Curzon’s Brahms, including this intermezzo, more than these. His recording of the F minor sonata was great.

  • Paul Randall says:

    Didn’t Brahms late works – the clarinet quintet, the ‘music at the close’ organ works, the four serious songs and the wonderful piano pieces op 116–119 reposition him from being a great composer to one of the greatest composers? They did for me.

    • John Borstlap says:

      They did.

      But unnecessarily so, since the 4 symphonies and the concertos hade already done that.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Very oddly, Claudio Arrau disliked Brahms’s late works and wouldn’t play them. I’d have thought they suited his poetic temperament.

  • Edgar Self says:

    It’s true, Brahms wrote the E-flat Intermezzo as ninna-nonna for friends’ newborn, and called Op. 117 the graves of his sorrows. The minor mid-section of this E-flat prepares the heart-ache of the C# minorm with its final augmentation. I first heard them from Rubinstein, and the B-flat minor from him and Solomon.

    Rubinstein recorded Op. 117 including an ideal C# minor full of world-sadness, but Ivo Pogorelic(h) on DGG plays them as Brahms might have dreamt, taking the C# minor twice as slow. I admire Kempff’s restraint, Edwin Fischer’s E-flat, and Solomon’s B-flat minor.

    I second Greg Bottini and Paul Randall, who mentions Brahms’s last music, Eleven Chorale Preludes after J. S. Bach for organ, ending with “O world, I must leave thee.” His last piano piece is the defiant, almost triumphant Rhapsody in E-flat, as if to shake off all this melancholy with its delicate “B” section requiring careful handling. Ervin Nyirighazi was earth-shaking in it, and Elly Ney almost, while Rubinstein offers balance.

    Not to b missed is the light, brief little Intermezzo in C that rubinstein does to perfection,and Glenn Gould, who finds a hidden melody in the C# minor that even Brahms didn’t know was there.

    Great music, exquisite pieces, and a good end. “Death, where is thy sting, Grave, thy victory?” as in the “Deutsches Requiem”,giving Death a “sticker, or Stachel” in place of the sting, and awaiting the last trombone, not trumpet. Brahms was a great Bible reader and chose his texts well.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Katchen is incompatable with Brahms, and his recording of the 2nd concerto at the top of possible interpretations:

    • Peter San Diego says:

      I presume you mean “incomparable” and not “incompatible”! ;-))

      • John Borstlap says:

        Sure… sorry about that! Of course incomparable. It’s her again passing-by with her banner that distracted me.

  • Bruce says:

    Listened to the Katchen and Lupu recordings. Lovely. Thank you.

    (I bought a Wilhelm Kempff CD of these pieces years ago, because I wanted to get to know them better, and with Kempff I thought I’d be in good hands… but I’ve been disappointed every time I’ve given that recording a try. Maybe it’s time to start seeing other people.)