The Mürzzuschlag (Austria) Brahms Museum's "Brahms Piano"
Following Johannes Brahms’ advice, in October 1881 Richard and Maria Fellinger bought a black grand piano from the celebrated piano manufacturing firm of Emil Streicher.
Brahms was introduced to the Fellinger family by Clara Schumann in 1881. Over the next few years, this acquaintanceship grew into a deep friendship. The Fellingers and Brahms spent the summer of 1885 together in Mürzzuschlag, and Brahms became a regular guest at the Fellinger residence, the Arenberg palais, in Wien Erdberg.
Between 1882 and 1885 Brahms played no fewer than thirty house concerts at the Fellinger’s on the Streicher grand piano with renowned friends and colleagues including cellist Robert Hausmann, clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, violinist Maria Soldat-Roeger, singer Hermine Spies and the Joachim Quartet. In 1889 Brahms recorded the only acoustic record of his playing on the Streicher grand using an Edison wax cylinder acquired by Robert Fellinger.
In particular, Brahms often performed both his sonatas for cello and piano at the Fellinger’s with the cellist of the famous Joachim Quar tet, Robert Hausmann. He even publicly per formed the 2nd Cello Sonata in F Major, Op. 99 on the Streicher grand at the Fellinger’s in a house concert several days prior to its official premiere in the Musikverein of Vienna. In Richard Fellinger’s book, “Memories of Brahms” (published in 1997 by the Brahms Museum Mürzzuschlag and revised by Imogen Fellinger), his relationship with Brahms is described with great feeling. Dr. Imogen Fellinger, the great-niece and last direct descendent of Brahms’ friends, Richard and Maria Fellinger, donated this unique instrument to the Brahms Museum.
Piano builder Gert Hecher (www.hecherpiano.com) skillfully restored the Streicher grand in 2002. The cross strung, 2.4 meter long piano “Nr. 8105″ with Viennese action and a forged iron framework was manufactured in 1880 by the firm Emil Streicher. It is on exhibit at the Brahms Museum, and is played regularly during museum concerts.
In the interest of preserving the overtone-rich sound characteristic of the Streicher grand, recording engineer Ernst Freihoff used an ORTF recording technique and closely placed microphones. Recorded from a single location, this creates a sound experience similar to hearing a live performance while seated in a concert hall. Playing the two Brahms cello sonatas, particularly on this Streicher grand with Viennese action creates an interesting challenge for the pianist.
This challenge, as well as Brahms’ 175th birthday in 2008 inspired these recordings in the “Kunsthaus” in Mürzzuschlag. Ronald Fuchs and Chanda VanderHart play, in addition to the two cello sonatas, six Brahms lieder transcriptions in their original keys. The lieder selected have a special connection to both the Streicher piano and with Mürzzuschlag itself. Brahms played severel of them, including “Wie Melodien zieht es mir” with Hermine Spies, and composed both “Sapphische Ode” and “Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht” during his time in Mürzzuschlag.