Johannes Brahms 1889 wax cylinder recordings

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Johannes Brahms was a 19th century German composer, pianist, and conductor. Today he is best known for his German Requiem, his 4 symphonies, piano concerto, violin concerto, and many pieces for solo piano.

On December 2, 1889, Johannes Brahms was recorded playing two pieces on the piano at the home of Dr. Fellinger and his wife in Vienna, Austria by Theo Wangemann (a associate of Thomas Edison who was the world’s first recording engineer). Brahms played a segment of his Hungarian Dance No. 1 in g minor, and a paraphrase of a Josef Strauss Polka called die Libelle. The wax cylinder was made of soft wax and the earliest cylinders were damaged after each play rendering them unplayable after they had been used only a few times. The Fellinger family no doubt cherished this historic recording and played it many times. It became cracked and badly worn. The recording was played many years later on a radio station and somebody recorded the broadcast. The recording was later transferred onto a disc and many people tried to get rid of the surface noise to better expose the music hidden underneath. Musicologists and mathematicians are still working on it to try and de-noise the recording but it is proving to be very difficult. What they most likely will end up doing is using a clean modern recording of the music and figuring out approximately what is being played where and adjust the tempo and the note lengths. This recording is important because it is a time capsule into the past and can tell musicologists and performing musicians how people in the 19th century may have played the piano. They didn’t play the way pianists play now with a strict unbending tempo. There was a lot of tempo variation and the right and left hands didn’t always play strictly together. Enjoy this rare recording.