Aleksandr Polyakov

10/14/23 – Cherry Street Concert (Newton, MA)

Table of Contents

Welcome to the Cherry Street Concert’s season-opening event, “Love – Classical with a Twist.” I am thrilled to collaborate with esteemed colleagues Sarita Kwok (violin), Amadi Azikiwe (viola), and Cherry Street Artistic Director, Allison Yoshie Eldredge (cello). This unique program intertwines the romantic allure of classical music with the evocative power of poetry, with verses penned and recited by poets Grey Held and Carol Hobbs. While the central piece of our concert is the captivating Brahms op.60, I assure you, there’s so much more in store. Join us on a musical journey that promises to engage both your heart and intellect. Secure your spot now: [Purchase Tickets Here].

Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 60 “Werther

Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 60, affectionately dubbed “Werther,” is a stirring testament to the intertwining of life, literature, and music. This work, which Brahms painstakingly refined over a span of approximately 20 years, stands as a testament to the composer’s dedication to artistic perfection. Remarkably, in terms of the sheer duration of its creation, the quartet holds the distinction of being Brahms’ longest compositional endeavor, even surpassing the decade-long gestation of his First Symphony.


The nickname “Werther” is derived from Goethe’s tragic novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” a tale of unrequited love culminating in the protagonist’s suicide. Brahms’ deep identification with Werther’s pain and passion can be traced throughout the quartet. Though Brahms himself didn’t publicly christen the piece “Werther,” the emotional turmoil mirrored in the music paints a vivid portrait of the tormented literary figure.

1. Allegro non troppo

Opening with a motif dense in yearning and melancholy, the first movement sets the stage with a sweeping narrative evoking the tumultuous emotions of love and loss. The dialogue between the instruments is intense, reflecting the novel’s internal struggles.

2. Scherzo: Allegro

By contrast, the Scherzo is robust and rhythmic. Yet, beneath its vitality lies an underlying tension, perhaps alluding to Werther’s outward attempts at joviality, masking an inner tempest.

3. Andante

This movement possesses a serene beauty. The heart-rending melodies evoke a sense of resignation and reflection, as if Werther is reminiscing about moments of fleeting happiness amidst his sorrows.

4. Finale: Allegro comodo

The finale brings forth Beethovenian influences unmistakably. The “motive of fate” threads its way through, punctuated by textural and rhythmic soundscapes reminiscent of the final movement of Beethoven’s “Appassionata.” The nervous, running 16th notes in the piano’s right hand, juxtaposed with terse interjections in the left, create an atmosphere of urgency and unrest.

Brahms’ reverence for Beethoven is evident not just in the quartet’s key of C minor, a favorite of Beethoven’s, but also in its thematic and rhythmic structures. While Brahms undoubtedly stands as a colossus in his own right, the homage to Beethoven’s legacy in this quartet is a touching tribute to the master who so profoundly influenced him.

Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C minor is more than a musical composition; it is a poetic dialogue between literature, past musical giants, and Brahms’ own soul. In the intertwining motifs and melodies, we hear the echoes of Werther’s tragedy, Beethoven’s genius, and the timeless narrative of human emotion.

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