String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18, 2nd movement

String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18, 2nd movement

String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18, 2nd movement

Johannes Brahms

Isabel Charisius's masterclass

Produced by the Saline royale Academy English Music sheet annotated by  Isabel Charisius  is available 36 min Viola

In this masterclass, Professor Isabel Charisius and her five students work on developing a unified sound in the second movement, of Brahms’ String Sextet in B-flat Major.

Produced by the Saline royale Academy

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The masterclass

About this masterclass

A major focus of this class is achieving stable intonation through matching bow strokes and controlling vibrato. She discusses how each player must be aware of the other parts at all times, and know when their part is the main line and when it plays a more supporting role. Thus, each player must fit his or her sound into the group sound, so one cohesive color and musical idea comes through to the audience. Additionally, she addresses moments in which difficult string crossings or shifts slightly delay the music, and encourages each player to be very secure in their own part, so there is always a steady tempo and connection between the different musical lines.

What we learn in this masterclass

  1. Working group intonation.

  2. Matching bow stroke and vibrato.

  3. Creating a unified group sound.

  4. Balancing dynamics by being aware of one’s role.

  5. Connecting parts together with consistency of tempo.

String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18 by Johannes Brahms

Brahms composed his first string sextet in 1860, choosing to write for this uncommon ensemble of two violins, two violas, and two cellos to avoid comparison with Beethoven’s string quartets. The premiere of the work was performed by a group headed by the great violinist Joseph Joachim. The piece exemplifies Brahms’ youthful spirit and style; it follows traditional forms, is substantial, and has a cheerful mood. The addition of an extra violist and cellist to the traditional string quartet ensemble allows for increased expressive opportunities in harmony, texture, and volume.

The lyrical and moderately-paced first movement, Allegro ma non troppo, is in a classical sonata form. It opens with a cello melody accompanied by the second cello’s bass line. The second movement, Andante, ma moderato, is likely the most well-known from the work. Brahms even later wrote a version for solo piano. The only movement in a minor key, this set of variations over a repeated ground bass provides a contrasting, darker mood. The third movement, Scherzo: Allegro molto, is short and jovial with an energetic trio section. The sextet ends with Rondo: Poco allegretto e grazioso, a warm and graceful movement with an animated conclusion. 

  • Date:18 February 2021
  • Producer: Produced by the Saline royale Academy
  • Duration:36 min
  • Spoken language:English

Sheet music

Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this viola masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Isabel Charisius’s feedback and comments.

Sheet music string sextet no. 1 in b-flat major, op. 18, 2nd movement

Isabel Charisius

Isabel Charisius

The prize winners were selected by a jury comprising (Alban Berg Quartet), 1983 to mark the 50th anniversary of Banff Centre.

Isabel Charisius is one of the finest violists and chamber musicians of her generation. As a member of the legendary Alban Berg Quartet, and a regular soloist with leading orchestras, Charisius has appeared regularly at the most prestigious venues in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

She enjoys working in projects with distinguished string quartets, various ensembles and many renowned soloists in international venues. She is frequently invited as a jury member to prestigious international competitions.

For many years, Charisius has been dedicated to developing the journeys of new generations of musicians. She is an internationally recognized teacher of viola and chamber music. Her prolific teaching activity at the Universities of Cologne and Lucerne as well as a wide range of masterclasses at some of the most prestigious institutions, has produced a large community of alumni. Her students can be found among the winners of international competitions, and many of them are members of the world’s finest ensembles and orchestras.

Isabel Charisius plays the extraordinary viola «ABQ» by Laurentius Storioni (1780).


Johannes  Brahms

Born in Hamburg, Germany on May 7, 1833, Johannes Brahms was the son of musician Johann Jakob Brahms. Johannes Brahms began his musical education learning the piano, cello, and horn. From the age of 7-years-old, he studied the piano under Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel.

Composer, pianist, and conductor, Brahms began his career at the end of the classical tradition (approx. 1730-1820) and established himself as a central figure in classical music’s Romantic era. His first concert tour took place in 1853 where he built a deep camaraderie with fellow musician, Robert Schumann.

His first major work presented to the public was Concerto No. 1 for piano and orchestra in D minor, which was performed by himself in Leipzig in 1859. In 1863, he moved to Vienna, where he was appointed conductor of Singakademie (Singing academy), which he would leave only a year later.

By 1868, Brahms achieved fame throughout Europe for the premiere of his renowned work German Requiem. Other notable works by Brahms include but are not limited to: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, op. 15, Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, op. 24, Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, op. 25, Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor, op. 38 Symphony No. 1 in C minor, op. 68, Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77 Symphony No. 3 in F major, op. 78 Symphony No. 4 in E minor, op. 98, and Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, op. 99 Quintet with Clarinet in B minor, Op. 115. Brahms has been lauded for his deep understanding of formal construction and his rendering of melodic richness, harmonic complexity, and his mastery to achieve a myriad of moods and atmosphere.

Johannes Brahms passed away on April 3,1897, in Vienna.

Photo credit: Fritz Luckhardt

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