Brahms Quintet in F Minor

Why the piece hit my ears with such depth of meaning I do not know and can never know. Our home was often filled with classical music from our mono record player. Ann practiced on the piano. Laurie, the flute. I, still in elementary school, let’s say I was 10, did not yet play any instrument. But when I heard Brahms Quintet in F Minor, it became my piece. Rudolf Serkin and the Budapest String Quartet. It had to be them that do it.

I played it every day. I played it multiple times a day. The music said to me that I had depth because it had depth. It was stirring to my soul. Exciting. Humbling. And like little children who love being read “Goodnight Moon” for the umpteenth time, I was attached to the Quintet by its familiarity, its predictability.

Grandpa Charles was my model for listening to music. His arms would swing and then hit the air with definitive climactic rhythmic smacks. I loved how he loved the music. I would love the music the same way. I would let the music take me in and take me over. I would swing my hands and tighten and release my body. I would do this, lying on our living room’s supremely comfortable, exceedingly long, orange couch, propped up by the matching orange pillows.

My sister Laurie was not amused. She said, “you know, Danny, if you keep listening to that record again and again, pretty soon the needle will scratch its way to the bottom and destroy the record. Forever. And you will never be able to listen to it again.

My Quintet listening slowed down. Considerably. Life presented other joys and the brain would seek preoccupation by all else in creation.

The notion of being able to buy another record somehow never crossed my mind. Her pronouncement scared me away from the record. Could one listen to Brahms Quintet in F Minor only so many times? Were life’s pleasures to be meted out? Rationed like some WWII food stuff?

9 thoughts on “Brahms Quintet in F Minor

  1. A touching story, Daniel, and I like how it ends with the questions your sister’s admonishment raised in your mind as a child. It’s a good piece of writing!


  2. I LOVE Brahms – certainly, he is underrated and always associated with that sleepy tune, Brahm’s Lullaby.

    I never get tired of Dvorak, though. Or Gershwin. Or the divine Mozart. Bach’s Brandeburg, Beethoven’s Pastoral. Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Mendelsohn… the list goes on.

    Fur gezunterhayt!




  3. What an interesting story, Daniel. Your sister certainly came up with a very imaginative way to get you to stop playing that record over and over – I suppose she got tired of hearing it. Have you ever reminded her of that episode? I bet it would make her smile. Hopefully you are able to play those melodies, courtesy of YouTube, to your heart’s content.


    1. Laurie has – perhaps unfairly – been the butt of many of my youthful stories. She is now a wonderful sister, but at the time, her little annoying brother was no doubt a pain in the you know where. Yes… she gets reminded of these episodes, though doesn’t always remember the details in quite the same ways!


  4. A nice story, though a rather naughty sister. As a teen, I had a similar love affair with a classical piece, one by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, featuring wonderful lilting Spanish-guitar riffs, often performed by Andres Segovia. I always thought the composer was Spanish, but just looked up his background to find that his family, Sephardic Jews, were multigenerations in Tuscany after being expelled from Spain the same year that Columbus “discovered” America. In Mussolini’s time, he fled to the United States (his immigration sponsor: violinist Jascha Heifetz). I, too, almost wore out that record. I liked to play it (at full volume) in our Lake Hills living room on evenings when we could see spectacular sunsets over the Olympics.


  5. Ah… didn’t know that Segovia was Jewish. Or for that matter, not Spanish.

    I think that kids sitting back and listening to music ad nauseum is probably pretty universal for those who can afford it. And pretty healthy. Funny, but I rarely do it now. Rarely just close my eyes and listen. Probably should change that.


  6. The thing about music is that it’s a completely different space than any other we inhabit.
    I love to be able to escape to that realm. Re: Bs, should there be 4, when Bartok is added?


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