円熟のブラームスのピアノ作品
Piano Works by Brahms – Ripe Maturity of His Lifetime
    三船文彰
By Bunsho Mifune

  ブラームスの音楽について考えてみる。
  他の作曲家よりも秘めたる熱い思いを、ブラームスの音楽に抱いている愛好家と演奏家が多いのはなぜだろうか?
  ブラームス(1833~1897)の生涯をつぶさに回顧する時、われわれは彼の芸術を生み出すもととなった家庭環境、出会い、恋愛(一度も成就しなかったが)、交友関係、時代背景、もちろん彼自身の気質、性格と才能が信じられないくらいの最善の形で整えられたかを知り、驚嘆するであろう。それは、あたかも見えざる力がブラームスを通して人類に得難い歓びをプレゼントするために采配したかのようである。
ブラームス   ブラームスの音楽の特徴の一つは、激しい情熱を内包しながらも気品を失わない美しい旋律とリズム、豊かな和声、そして対位法など厳格な作曲技法で裏打ちされた作品の完成度、つまり本物の芸術すべてに共通する、最高度の霊感と窮められた職人芸を併せ持っていることである。しかし、それでもそれ以上の魅力を人々がブラームスの音楽に感じてきた。
  貧しいコントラバス弾きの息子として、20歳までハンブルクの貧民街で育ったことは、ブラームスの音楽に観念的にならない粘り強いどっしりした土台を与え、20歳の時、ヨアヒムの紹介でシューマン家のドアを敲いたその日に、シューマン夫妻に認められたことで、瞬時にして二人の本物の芸術家の息吹を胸一杯に吸収し、その直後にシューマンの悲惨な最期を見届けたこと、そしてクララ・シューマンという、芸術家の卵があこがれとして望みうる最高の女性に抱いた一途な恋心と、夫亡き後のクララとその家族(7人の幼い子供!)への数年間の献身的な尽力のなど、早熟な人生の哀歓の体験が若いブラームスに人生の機微を感じとる豊かな情感を育てたに違いない。
  しかし運命はブラームスに、早くから世の中が認めてくれるような道を与えなかった。階段を一歩ずつ昇るごとく、彼に試練を克服させながらさらに自らを鍛え上げさせた。好奇心と知識欲旺盛なブラームスは、宗教、哲学、美学、歴史、政治、文学などの膨大な書物を読み、バロックからの多くの大作曲家の自筆譜をコレクション、写譜、改訂を出版するなど、綿密に先人たちの作品をも研究し、西洋音楽芸術の正統にして、偉大な後継者として、自他ともに認められるだけの大作曲家として、能力を早くから身に着けていた。
  その上、幸運なことに、一生を通じてクララ・シューマンやヨアヒムはじめ、多様なジャンルの一流の演奏家、芸術家、学者や愛好家たちとの家族のような親交が、ブラームスの独身生活に彩りと心の安定感を与え、創作は途中から友人たちと分かち合うことによって(特にクララ・シューマンにはほとんどの曲の最初の計画が知らされ、彼女の助言、意見、感想、批判をもとめた)、作品が推敲、厳選されていった。
  しかし、ブラームスの作品をさらに魅力的にたらしめているのは、それだけではない。
  恩義を重んじる一方、乱暴な言葉を場所もわきまえずに吐き、人々を辟易させる。自然や子供を愛し、純粋な状態を汚す俗悪への嫌悪をあからさまに示すのに、社会的地位の高い職を望んだ。しかし、お金には執着がなく、社会や後輩、友人に惜しまない援助をする。見知らぬ人の前では、気難しく振舞うのに、気心の知れた仲間の中では天真爛漫で、思いやりがあり、ユーモアと知性に溢れた人間として、慕われる。
  われわれがブラームスの音楽にさらに心惹かれるのは、天からもたらされた霊感と作品の職人的な完成度だけではなく、恐らくその中に滲み出る人間ブラームスの生きる営みの純真さ、ひたむきさをも無意識的に感じ取っているからではないだろうか。
  作品が彼の人生おりおりの景色(しかも他の作曲家よりも、曲の中に人生の春夏秋冬の移ろいを感じさせる)を反映している点では、ブラームスのピアノ音楽も同様である。
  ブラームスが友人に語ったのが冗談でなければ、「小さい時にコントラバス奏者の父の影響でチェロを弾いていたが、先生が僕のチェロを持ち逃げした」からピアノを弾くようになった、と。10代の時、ピアノを酒場で弾いて家計を助けた。20歳の時、シューマン家を訪問した時には、自作のピアノ・ソナタ第1番を弾いて、シューマン夫妻を驚かし、病身のシューマンが数年ぶりに筆を取り、「新音楽時報」に「神様が遣わした人がついにやってきた」と熱狂的に書いたことで、ブラームスがいち早く作曲家として世に知られることとなった。しかし、その後20年以上もブラームスは作曲家よりもピアニストとして生計を立てていた。
  36歳の時にたまたま編曲したピアノ4手連弾の「ハンガリー舞曲」が大ヒットし、楽譜の印税の収入だけで生涯生活できる作曲家のさきがけとなった。そして、自作の管弦楽曲や室内楽は出版社の要求もあり、そのほとんどをピアノに編曲するなど、ピアノによって自分を最も表現できるだけでなく、ピアノが人生のすべてだったと言っても過言ではないにも拘らず、ブラームスのピアノ作品は思いの他少ない。大作のピアノ・ソナタ3曲はいずれも23歳までの若書きで、そのあとの10年間に変奏曲や編曲が十数曲ばかり続いたあと、いわゆる本当のブラームスらしいピアノ曲が作られたのが、そのさらに10数年後の45歳の時(作品76 と79の計10曲)と20年後の59歳の時(作品116、117、118、119の計20曲)まで待たなくてはいけなかった。もちろん、その間に作られた夥しい室内楽や歌曲には、ピアノが常に考え抜かれた形で作品の中心として存在していたが、その時代のブラームスの溢れる曲想と漲る創造意欲を表現するには、ピアノ・ソロでは不十分だったとも考えられる。
  しかし、他の分野の曲と同様、ピアノにおいても、ブラームスはたゆまぬ推敲と変遷、そして数十年に渡る作曲技法の研究の積み重ねを、慎重に作品76から作品119の30曲で展開したとも考えられる。この30曲は、バッハ、ハイドン、モーツァルト、ベートーヴェン、シューベルト、メンデルスゾーン、シューマン、ショパンの諸先輩の作品を吸収消化した上で、それらのエッセンスを取り入れながら、ブラームスは独自の世界を築きあげるのに成功している。ここに西洋のピアノ音楽が一つの最も高い終着点に辿り着いただけでなく、次に始まる20世紀音楽の兆しをも含んでいる(例えば作品119の第1曲)。
  そして、これらの曲集が、有名作曲家の世間向けの業績として作曲された多くの大曲(もちろんそれらの曲がこの世に存在しているだけでも神様に感謝したくなるくらいだが)の裏に、隠されていたブラームスの内面世界がいかに深く、美しく、豊かであることを知らしめてくれている点において、さらに意義深いものとなっている。
  言うまでもなく、作品に命を与えるのは演奏家である。そもそも琢磨されたテクニックと詩人のような繊細なイマジネーションなくして、いい演奏というものは成り立たないが、一曲ずつが宝石のようなブラームスのこの30曲を表現するには、それ以上のものがピアニストに求められる。つまり、音楽的には諸先輩の巨匠の音楽へのオマージュとも言えるこれらの曲を表現するためには、まずピアニストがブラームス以前の作曲家の音楽をも熟知しなくてはいけないし、曲に込められたブラームスの心象世界が19世紀ロマン主義の最善のエッセンスとなれば、西洋の人文文化についての深い理解も必要だ。
  ルース・スレンチェンスカが84歳にして、自分の演奏芸術の集大成として挑んだ今回のブラームスの録音がそれ以上に貴重なのは、シュナーベル、バックハウス、コルトー、ラフマニノフなどの巨匠から19世紀の音楽の伝統を直接に受け継ぎ、20世紀のピアニズムの進化にも寄与した彼女が、ブラームスのこれらの曲集の演奏を通して、21世紀の人間にとって、ピアノ音楽の本当の存在価値とは何かを示唆してくれたことだろう。


 

Let us now consider Brahms' music carefully. Why are there a fine lot of devoted lovers and players of Brahms' music?

Johannes Brahms (1833– 97), you will be astonished by the brilliance how every element of his life had been woven in the very best way when a retrospective review in detail is concerned. His family environment, encounters, love (It was never reciprocated.), his relationships with others, the historical background, his own temperamental traits, personality and his blessed talent – all of them improved an amazing harmony for his unique art. It is as if invisible power took command of his life in order to give humankind celestial bliss.

The works by Brahms have these characteristics as follows: the beautiful melodies and rhythm that include extreme passion and noble elegance, rich harmony, and high-quality finished form lined with perfectly accurate technique of composition (i.e. counterpoint and so on). The real art of music always has both supreme afflatus and polished craftsmanship. And yet it is deeply true that a lot of people have been enchanted by his music.

As a son of the father who played contrabass for making a living, Brahms grew up in a slum quarter of Hamburg until he reached 20 years old. The poor surroundings of his childhood bestowed not abstract but persevering foundation upon his music. Being introduced by Joachim, Brahms knocked the door of the Schumanns when he was 20 years old. On that day he was recognized by both the Schumann couple. Therefore, Brahms could immediately absorb outstanding artists' influence into himself fully. Very soon he was by Robert's bedside when he tragically passed away. It was Clara Schumann who became the cherished object of his yearning with a depth. And it was Brahms who devoted himself heart and soul to take care of Clara and seven children(!) for several years when her husband passed away. In this way Brahms had already experienced feelings of joy and grieving in his young days. At the same time this fact must have enabled him to understand the subtleties of emotion.

However, the fate did not befriend him to achieve recognition in the world. Overcoming trials on each stage of his life, he developed himself. He had a strong desire to learn and was curious. On religion, philosophy, aesthetics, history, politics, literature and etc. – Brahms' reading covered a wide range. He collected famous composers' original manuscripts since baroque period, transcribed, revised and published them. It means that he made a profound study of former composers. The potentialities of one of the great and orthodox successors to the Western music art can be discerned.

What is more, he was fortunate enough throughout all his life to have been in an environment where famous players, artists, scholars and fans of the various genres treated him like family. Beginning with Clara Schumann and Joachim, they made his life rich and colorful and provided him a sense of stability, for Brahms remained single. (Especially he told Clara Schumann most of his first plans, and her advice, opinions, response and helpful criticism were welcomed. Therefore, wellspring of his creative works was shared with his friends, polished and carefully selected in due course of time.

There is one more element that makes his works attractive.

Owing a debt of gratitude to those who were close to him, Brahms wearied to death by having a rough tongue without remembering where he is. He loved nature and children. He frankly brought about a feeling of repulsion against vulgarity that pollutes purity. On the other hand, he wished working in the fields of high status. Yet he was not attached to money, so he devotedly helped community, his juniors and friends. He was difficult to strangers, bur he behaved quite natural among his old and trusted friends. Brahms was loved as a man of compassionate understanding, good humor and great intellect.

Not only heavenly bestowed afflatus and experienced craftsmanship but also his genuine heartedness and his dedicated way of living – all of these humane characteristics touch us unconsciously.

Generally speaking, a work of art displays the scenery of one's lifetime. The same is true of Brahms' piano music. (Compared with other composers, especially his piano pieces reflect the impact and changes of his life's four seasons beautifully clear.)

Brahms once said to one of his friends, "Simply because my father was contrabassist, I played on the cello. However, my teacher ran away with my instrument." If it were not a joke, that is why he started playing on the piano. From his teens upward he supplemented the family income by playing on the piano in a bar. When he visited the Schumanns at the age of twenty, both Robert and Clara were surprised at his playing the Piano Sonata Opus 1 (of his own composition). In those days Robert had been sick, yet he enthusiastically wrote in New Journal for Music: "This is the one whom God has sent to us!" Thanks to the article, soon Brahms became widely known as a composer. Nevertheless, he earned his living rather as a pianist, not as a composer.

The Hungarian Dances (piano piece for four hands) was a great success when Brahms arranged it at the age of 36. This enabled him to receive the royalties. As a result he took the initiative for a composer to depend his whole life only on royalty income. Most of his orchestral works and chamber music are arranged into piano works according to the requirement of publishers. Therefore, Brahms expresses himself the very best by means of piano. It would not be an overstatement to say that he spent his entire life in playing on the piano.

His great three Piano Sonatas were composed until he was 23 years old. Since then around 10 variations and arrangements were written for a period of ten years. And after ten more years when he was 45 years old (Opus 76 and 79, total 10 works), 20 years later at the age of 59 years old there are Opus 116, 117, 118, 119; the total up to 20 works – all of them are absolutely unique. Of course a great number of chamber music and songs were composed during those periods. Although the piano lies at the heart of his works, piano solos might have been not enough to cover his unbounded composition initiative, being full of creation drive.

Brahms' piano pieces have been always polished and went through a transition. His technique of composition evolved through the accumulation of further elaboration. In the end the 30 works (Opus 76-119) show us the whole development of his carefulness. Bach, Haydon, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin – they are his seniors. As the result in the absorption and digestion of those great composers, Brahms is successful in creating his own unique world, having inherited the essence of his seniors. Here Western piano music has reached the loftiest pinnacle, and this also includes a sign of the music in the 20th century (the first piece of Opus 119, for instance).

There are a lot of official great works that appeal Brahms as a famous composer. (I am grateful enough to God for the existence of those achievements). It is truly significant how deep, beautiful and rich is the invisible world of Brahms, when we listen to these piano pieces behind his fame.

It is without mentioning that the player gives life to the work. Fine performance consists in polished techniques and delicate imagination like a poet. These 30 works of Brahms require more, for each piece is like a precious jewel. In other words, they bring hommage to his senior masters' work. First of all, it is necessary for the pianist to be well acquainted with composer's works before Brahms. Second, Brahms' melody expresses the very best essence of the Romanticism in the 19th century. Therefore, deep understanding of the Western culture is quite indispensable, too.

84-year old Ruth Slenczynska has challenged Brahms' works as the consummation of her performing arts. What makes very precious to the recordings this time is the fact that she is the very person who has directly inherited the tradition of great masters in the 19th century such as Schnabel, Backhaus, Cortot, and Rakhmaninov. Then we know her as a great contributor to the evolution of pianism in the 20th century. She would readily suggest us what the true value of piano music art in the 21st century is.

translator  Kiyoko Kruzliak

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