On the Trail of the Late Brahms
»In any case, the best is a piano quartet with clarinet. It is said to be by Rabl, a Nawratil pupil. I know the young man and his music only a little … Of course I now am keeping him and his piece in mind.« Johannes Brahms wrote this very positive judgment about the twenty-three-year-old Walter Rabl’s op. 1 in a letter of 1896 to his publisher Simrock. The fact that Simrock did not hesitate long and gladly included Rabl’s compositions in his catalogue is not surprising: after all, it is precisely in the said Clarinet Quartet that the spirit of Brahms’s chamber music is more clearly felt than it is in the music of almost any other representative of what was then the young generation. The perfect compositional artistry attesting to strict schooling and the melodic richness pervading all the movements in Rabl’s op. 1 immediately captivate the listener. In all likelihood Rabl composed his Fantasy Pieces for Piano Trio immediately after the Clarinet Quartet. They are character pieces alternating between lyricism, cantability, and dance. He penned the Violin Sonata op. 6, it too a powerful, richly melodious work in the spirit of Brahms, just prior to the end of the nineteenth century.