Masterclass: Richard O’Neill on Brahms’ String Quartet no.3 op.67


The Takács Quartet violist looks at the first and third movements of this well-loved B flat major work, where his instrument is thrown into a rare spotlight

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Brahms was such a passionate person and his music is gorgeous, but there’s a sense of lonely desolation in some of his string quartet writing that breaks my heart. For me, his three quartets give a glimpse into his character in a way that none of his other compositions do, and op.67 in particular shows what a master he was. While he was progressive as a composer, he was always looking back to earlier music, including the traditions of Bach and Beethoven. I don’t think that he ever tried to sound ‘new’ – he just took old music and honoured it. His quartets are very Beethovenian in that sense, with an allegro first movement, followed by a slow movement and scherzo or minuet and trio, and then a rondo or other type of finale. At the same time, they are very Brahms!

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