I was delighted to be invited back to play viola for another group last Saturday and even more so when I found out that we would be working on the Brahms Bb Sextet. As with much Brahms the work is challenging. It is not just challenging to play the notes but to work together to pass the tunes from one to the other. For me Brahms is all about communicating effectively and producing one sound from the whole group together; no one player produces the tune or harmonies at any one time, it involves two or three of you every time to produce a rich and thick sound.
Pal was our first tutor and worked on ensuring that the lines continued through the piece and effectively sounded as though one player was creating the tune even when there were several of us. This required all the members of the group to listen carefully to what was going on around them and this definitely developed their ability to hear and react to another player’s interpretation.
In our second session we had the viola player, Martin, from the Elias Quartet. He patiently looked at the final movement – we were all sight-reading! The movement is incredibly intricate with every member flowing in and out of the tune and the complex harmony lines. He helped the group to identify where they had important lines and how to hide their sound to produce exquisite harmonies. The piece really shows off Brahms’ ability to write for a chamber ensemble, giving everyone a chance to play a tune and enjoy working on the harmony line with every member of the group. It shows just how chamber music should be played, not just for an audience’s pleasure but for the pleasure of those in the group to enjoy working together to make great music.