"The work is splendid, but it cannot be called a sonata. Rather it is a work so full of ideas that it requires an orchestra for its interpretation. These ideas are for the most part lost on the piano. The first time I tried the work I had a feeling that it was an arrangement. So please remodel it once more!" Clara Schumann to Brahms, July 1864.
The history of Brahms’s
great Piano Quintet op. 34 is unusual: Brahms was not sure
which orchestration would suit the work best. He first
wrote the piece as a String Quintet. But Clara Schumann and
Joseph Joachim disliked that version and encouraged Brahms
to rework it. Joachim, in particular, thought it was too
dense and complicated. Brahms remodelled the work for two
pianos, and destroyed the string quintet version. Still,
Clara Schumann was dissatisfied. She famously concluded
that the work was “so full of ideas that it needs an
orchestra for its interpretation.”
Brahms did not follow Clara’s suggestion. He chose a
compromise between the string quintet and two pianos: the
piano quintet (piano, two violins, viola, cello). But what
if he had followed her idea? The present orchestration of
the Scherzo and Finale, realized as much as possible in the
style of Brahms, explores that tantalizing avenue.
The orchestration can be performed in full, or with two
movements only (Scherzo and Finale). The full duration is
about 43 minutes; the Scherzo and Finale last about 20
minutes. It is scored for two flutes (2nd also plays
piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets (Bb), two bassoons, four
horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani and strings.
Parts are available for rental.