Accent Series

2021-2022 Accent Series

Accent Faculty Performance Series: Troiano, Kashiwagi, and Kahng

Dr. Eric Troiano is joined by Dr. Tomoko Kashiwagi (piano) and Dr. Er-Gene Kahng for an evening of chamber music for saxophone. 


Slang (1994) by Libby Larsen
Fields of the Edge of Forever (2002) by Robert Mueller
act like you know (2018) by Corey Dundee
Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (2021) by Max Morrow
Black Mary (2018) by Shelley Washington

Accent Faculty Performance Series: Park & Kim

Dr. Moon-Sook Park (soprano) and Dr. Hyun Kim will give a duo recital of art songs in the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall.

Accent Faculty Performance Series: Delaplain & Mueller

Dr. Theresa Delaplain (oboe) and Dr. Robert Mueller (piano/composer) will give a concert of oboe music.

2020-2021 Accent Series

Accent Faculty Performance Series: Asher Armstrong, piano

Asher Armstrong is Assistant Professor of Piano at the University of Arkansas. 


Fantasien (Op. 116)
3 Intermezzi (Op. 117)
6 Klavierstüke (Op. 118)
4 Klavierstüke (Op. 119)
he Autograph of Brahms' Intermezzo in B minor (Op. 119, No. 1).


The Late Piano Music of Johannes Brahms

It is a rare gift to be able to experience so lucidly and intimately the inner world of another human being such as is the case with Brahms’s last works for piano. These 20 piano pieces, separated into four opuses (Opp. 116, 117, 118, and 119), are rightly celebrated by music theorists and historians for their masterful architecture and compositional rigour, but those qualities are overshadowed by an almost overwhelming and consistent expressive power which gives a glimpse into the heart of one who had difficulty with relationships and personal intimacy all his life, “(resisting) most efforts to get close to him” (Peter Ostwald). In old age he even destroyed documents which might have revealed too much about the person he was.

Two people are associated with these late piano pieces. The first was a young virtuosa pianist whom Brahms had recently met and admired named Ilona Eibenschütz, but her connection to these pieces pales in comparison to the second figure: Clara Schumann. This lifelong friend of Brahms seems to have been the one person he loved most, and at the time of writing the 7 Fantasien, Op. 116, Jan Swafford notes: “he may have composed the pieces to try and keep Clara Schumann going in body and soul. Since she could only play a few minutes at a time now, and because she loved these miniatures so deeply, maybe they did keep her alive.” Clara loved the piano and had a hugely celebrated performing career—she was, at her best, the equal of the virtuoso pianist Franz Liszt.

Brahms had known Clara for 40 years. Their meeting in 1853 was one of the great events of music history, but came to be marked by tragedy. Brahms was only 20, an aspiring young composer, and had approached Robert and Clara Schumann for guidance; the Schumanns gave him one of the warmest welcomes possible, and the three instantly became fast friends. These young friendships were tried immediately: Robert, who had long been suffering a syphilitic mental decline, had a final mental breakdown only months later, and was confined to an asylum in Endenich; Clara, pregnant, and with six children to take care of and many performing commitments, was devastated. Brahms rushed from his parents’ home in Hamburg to help Clara, and over the next three years lived on-and-off in the Schumann house, taking care of the children, visiting Robert, and comforting Clara. In 1856 Robert died; Clara never remarried, but there remained between Brahms and Clara for the next 40 years a closeness, and, it seems, an endearing love.

Written for Clara, these late piano pieces are then also a cathartic distillation of Brahms’s whole life; biographer Malcolm MacDonald describes them as “some of the most personal piano music ever written, in that they seem a product of the composer’s self-communing,” noting that “Clara Schumann was the first to see them in manuscript.” Accounts from sources close to Brahms illuminate that these pieces must have been an unbearably personal rendering of life into music. One mentioned here comes from a friend of Brahms named Max Kalbeck, who was strolling to Brahms’s rented summer house in Bad Ischl while the composer was in the midst of composing the Op. 116 pieces. While on his walk Kalbeck saw “emerging from the woods and rushing toward him someone (. . .) Kalbeck realized it was Brahms, with hat in one hand and his coat in the other dragging on the ground (. . .) Wild-eyed, weeping and gasping and sweating, Brahms brushed past Kalbeck, and disappeared in the distance, apparently not seeing his friend at all” (Swafford).

7 Fantasien, Op. 116

The 7 Fantasien, Op. 116 are perhaps the most tightly-conceived group of the four late sets of piano pieces. MacDonald notes that there is something of a “palindrome” in the way they are organized. The opening and closing Capriccios, both in D minor, are stormy, passionate, and agitated; the opening Capriccio, marked Presto, contains hair-raising chordal flights across the keyboard, and is bristling with unrelenting syncopations, while the final Capriccio seems equally under the influence of rhythmic subversion and in its final bars presents the theme in chordal, toccata-like virtuosity. The second and sixth pieces are slow and more lyrical, with metrically complex middle sections: the second piece, a tentative Intermezzo in A minor, seems haunted by Magyar folk-song, while the sixth, a richly textured chorale (whose melody is “hidden” in an inner voice), contains in its middle section one of the most magical and moving moments in all the late music of Brahms. This section is notated in waltz time (3/4), but its gently rippling, rain-like textures do not follow the waltz rhythm—in fact they do not seem to follow any rhythmic pattern at all—this passage is unmeasured; it is a private conversation between the soprano and tenor voices. The third and fifth pieces seem unrelated at first glance; the third piece, a Capriccio, has at its heart a “noble, full-hearted E-flat tune in massively diatonic chordal writing and with a triumphant march-character that gains power from pervasive and trenchant triplet rhythms” (MacDonald), while the fifth piece is a spectral and stark Intermezzo in which “the chord played by one hand in the opening measure is a mirror of the chord played by the other” (Walter Frisch), creating an eerie “doppelgänger” effect. But perhaps both of these pieces serve to create variety adjacent to the fourth piece, the true expressive heart of the 7 Fantasien. Brahms initially entitled this Intermezzo “Nocturne” in his manuscript copy. MacDonald notes it is the “most intimate of all (. . .) it grows fantasia-like from a peaceful melody over a cradling left-hand figure which calls upon the right hand to cross over and touch the deepest bass notes.”

3 Intermezzi, Op. 117

The 3 Intermezzi, Op. 117 were referred to by Brahms himself as the “lullaby of all my sorrows,” and is without a doubt the most private and personal set of all the late pieces. Even in their early stages Brahms was quite secretive about these pieces; the confessional, introverted quality is remarkable. Somewhat unusually for Brahms’s late instrumental music, this triptych also contains more than one rich if deeply sorrowful literary association. The first is an excerpt taken from a Scottish Ballad, which Brahms wrote on the autograph of the first Intermezzo in E-flat:

Sleep softly my child, sleep softly

And beautifully!

It troubles me to see you cry.

This text is, in fact, much more complex than the simple cradle song suggested by the excerpt. The whole ballad distills the conflicted lament of an abandoned mother observing her sleeping child, in which the expression of brokenhearted love and repressed anger entwine painfully. A footnote in the Herder collection of the text (from which Brahms lifted it) suggests “the mother bending over her child’s cradle, tracing the father’s features in its face, and comforting herself in weeping” (quoted by E. Evans). In his most tender voice, Brahms perfectly mirrors the gentleness and sadness of this text, with the melody cradled safely in the middle of the right hand’s chordal warmth. A middle section in e-flat minor is so introverted it seems meant for an audience of one. Small rhythmic (hemiola) and contrapuntal nuances underpin this expressive journey, but the lasting impression, as with many of these pieces, is one of simplicity.

The second Intermezzo in B-flat minor is equally evocative; for British music critic J.A. Fuller-Maitland it seemed to depict an autumnal, rain-streaked atmosphere: “…a chilling autumn wind that, as it blows the dead leaves to and fro, calls up feelings of regret.” The rippling arpeggios simultaneously enfold and fragment glimpses of melody—rarely more than a two-note sigh. Again, Brahms’s hard-won compositional proficiency is evident: the piece is a compressed “sonata” form, with an element of monothematicism, but these details of structure are only delicate filigree to contain fragile, half-whispered secrets.

The final Intermezzo in C-sharp minor sees Brahms return to (or complete?) the folk song threnody of the 1st piece. Brahms’s friend Max Kalbeck noted that the bleak, spare opening of this piece was taken from another Ballad: “Oh woe, oh woe/Down into the valley/and woe, and woe, up the mountain [. . .] Oh woe, woe, for love is happy/only once a while, while it is new/Once it becomes old, then it becomes cold/and passes away like morning dew.” Those familiar with Scottish folk song will recognize this text immediately as that of O Waly, Waly. Brahms’s melody is superficially similar in some ways, but the atmosphere of the opening is unrelentingly dark, suggesting his “pessimistic attitude towards death” and “feelings of profound regret” (Matthews). The shadows of this opening give way, however, to one of the most magical refuges in all of Brahms’s piano music, a richly-textured “twilit world of almost impressionistic gleams and half-lights,” which seems to reflect on most beautiful memories; but the shadows return, leading this, one of the “darkest and most beautiful of the late pieces” (McDonald), to a, bleak, sepulchral close. Despite Brahms’s suggestive references and use of the written word, there is an expressive spirit that will lay forever hidden behind these details in the 3 Intermezzi; a spirit whose clarity can only be communicated without words.

6 Klavierstücke, Op. 118

The Op. 118 pieces contain some of the most enduring and loved moments in Brahms’s piano music. The opening piece is one of the briefest in the late opuses, a stormy, orchestral prelude to be played “not too fast, but very passionately.” It prepares the key of the beautiful and universally-recognizable Intermezzo in A major, one of Brahms’s most beautiful and tender pieces. Matthews notes of its opening phrases that they “sound warm-hearted and spontaneous whichever way one looks at them,” while Brahms conceals within this intimate canvas “augmentation, canon, and double counterpoint”—perhaps the most touching of these occurs at the A section’s gentle climax, where the opening theme is inverted. The most spirited of the set, the Ballade in G minor adopts a typically-Brahmsian richness of texture in chords and octaves; a certain driven, orchestral quality is magically allayed in this piece’s placidly rocking middle section. The fourth Intermezzo in F minor has, unaccountably, not found the ubiquitous appreciation as its counterparts;

it has been called “a puzzle (which many pianists find) hopeless of solution,” “somewhat dour,” and even “far better to look at than to listen to.” This is undoubtedly due to the fact that it puts Brahms’s compositional skill on display—the entire piece is structured as a strict canon at the octave. This seems to suggest that for some listeners, awareness of intellectual skill (even which, in this case, reveals marvelous expressive beauty and power) can inexplicably detract from the music. For others, this piece is a highlight of the set, an example of the “artful” enclosing art (one of its most beautiful moments occurring in its conversational, warmly-melodic middle section). The 5th piece, a Romanze in F major, seems, along with the 2nd Intermezzo, the expressive heart of Op. 118. Deeply intimate, its middle section is in the form of a cradle song, and brings to mind Chopin’s Berceuse—a rocking left hand ostinato figure supports gradually more active right hand filigree. The final piece is a “profoundly tragic” Intermezzo in E-flat minor which seem to stand alone next to all the late pieces. It opens with a fragile melodic thread, instantly revealing kinship to the ancient “Dies Irae” tune of the Requiem mass, accompanied by a wraith-like shadow which is immediately cast across the keyboard with left hand’s dark arpeggios. Max Kalbeck again noted a poetic inspiration for this work (from a now more-or-less unknown poet): “The idle waves lick the tired shore, and under the sea's mist the wind yawns/sleepily towards the windy coastline.-/And motionless on the windy coastline,/as if he were guarding his own grave/a dying man extinguishes his claim to existence.” This deeply pessimistic text is undoubtedly an illuminating mirror of this piece; even the heroic struggle of its middle section, which reaches a more white-hot incandescence than any of the other late piano pieces, cannot escape the inevitability of death, and is forcefully, then slowly extinguished by the return of the Dies Irae opening theme.

4 Klavierstücke, Op. 119

Speaking of the opening B minor Intermezzo from the 4 Klavierstücke, Op. 119 (pictured below), Brahms wrote to Clara: “It is exceptionally melancholy … every bar and every note must be played as if ritardando were indicated, and one wished to draw the melancholy out of each one of them.” This extraordinary piece creates, with its hazy, ambiguous harmonic atmosphere filled with unresolved falling thirds, something almost unique in Brahms’s music: two confessional pages which are as tonally “Impressionistic” as they are expressively lucid—the expressive character brimming with regret. The second piece, a tentative and rhythmically non-committal Intermezzo with a gentle waltz for a middle section, convincingly bridges the yawning expressive chasm between the bleak first Intermezzo and the frolicking, playful third Intermezzo in C major which “capriciously dissolves into fragile, rainbow-like arpeggios” (MacDonald). This short piece again sees Brahms nestling the melody into an inner voice and playing rhythmic games (are there two beats in the measure or three?). The final piece of this set, and indeed Brahms’s last work for solo piano, is the monumental Rhapsodie in E-flat. This piece is completely Brahmsian: an enormous, resounding chordal fanfare opens the work—note Brahms’s embedding of a hemiola-like effect in the larger rhythmic pulse (2 + 2 + 3 + 3) sometimes labeled as a “Hungarian” five-bar phrase—followed by passages that seem to recall works from the past (listen for the “Fate” rhythm from Beethoven’s fifth Symphony), as well as Brahms’s own works. A delightfully playful middle section emerges into a transitional passage with atrociously difficult technical athletics: the hands are spaced as far apart as possible on the keyboard, with the right-hand’s lightning-like flashes of downward notes answered by the left hand’s thundering waves of rising notes. A final appearance of the triumphant opening chordal theme appears before being ushered into a desperate coda where the music seems to heroically struggle with its parallel minor key, before finally being crushed with tragic and hair-raising drama.

The autograph of Brahms’s Intermezzo in B minor, Op. 119, No. 1

Clara’s daughter Eugenie recounts a moving anecdote of how much these last pieces must have meant to Clara, and to Brahms: “Eugenie heard the sound of the (late piano pieces) from the music room (. . .) when the music stopped Eugenie went into the room and found her mother at the writing table, her cheeks flushed and eyes shining, and Brahms sitting opposite her with tears in his eyes. Gently he said to Eugenie, ‘your mother has been playing most beautifully for me’” (Swafford).

Peter Ostwald noted of Brahms that “even Clara Schumann had to confess that nearly fifty years of acquaintance with this musician had given her no insight into his character or ways of thinking […] music helped him to find ways of avoiding personal intimacy […] all his life Brahms had a way of avoiding intimate relationships with other people.” In these works we see more clearly than usual the personal intimacy which was perhaps absent in Brahms’s relationships. In this music there is also an “overwhelming tenderness,” which surely accounts for its enduring emotional power; for many listeners, there is something very special about how this music reaches into the “hidden life” so lucidly and deeply. Perhaps Carl Dalhaus has said it best: “a (work by) Brahms is virtually a musical attestation of the fact that each member of a crowd … is never entirely on his own.”

(Program notes by Asher Ian Armstrong)

Accent Faculty Performance Series: Alan Gosman, piano

Dr. Alan Gosman is a pianist and Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Arkansas.


Italian Concerto in F Major (BWV 971) by J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Piano Sonata in F Major (K. 332) by W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) 

The concert was pre-recorded in Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, and the concert link will remain active even after the premiere.

Gosman has published on Beethoven's sketchbooks and compositional process, musical form, canons, and links between performance and analysis.  His work on Beethoven includes his book, Beethoven's "Eroica" Sketchbook: A Critical Edition, coauthored with Lewis Lockwood.  During 2020, the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, his activities included presenting and helping to organize a conference at the Beethoven-Haus Bonn, as well as a collaboration on a Beethoven sketch reconstruction project with the composer Robert Levin that was performed in September by the WDR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Cristian Macelaru.  A video of this project will be released in 2021. 

At the University of Arkansas, he initiated Music75 and co-founded Live at the Five & Dime, a free weekly concert series from April to October.

Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Arkansas, Gosman was an associate professor at the University of Michigan, where he was the Director of Graduate Studies in Music Theory.

Accent Faculty Performance Series: Jake Hertzog 

Jake Hertzog is Senior Instructor of Guitar at the University of Arkansas.

Accent Faculty Performance Series: Delaplain & Mueller

Dr. Theresa Delaplain is Assistant Professor of Oboe performing with Professor of Music Theory Dr. Robert Muller. 


Sonata in B-flat Major, HWV 357 by Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759)

  1. Allegro
  2. Grave
  3. Allegro

Song Without Words (Pleading) by Florence Price (arr. Robert Mueller)

Esperanza Rota by Adriana Verdié (b. 1958)

(World Premiere)

Mosaic of Joy by Theresa Delaplain (b. 1959)

Reverie by Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Incantation and Dance by William Grant Still (1895-1978)

Dr. Moon-Sook Park is Associate Professor of Voice, Dr. Jeffrey Murdock is Associate Professor of Music Education, Dr. Hyun Kim is Visiting Assistant Professor of Vocal Coaching.

Deposuit Potentes from Magnificat - BWV 243  - Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
Thou shalt break them From Messiah George Federic Handel (1685–1759)
If with all your hearts From Elijah - Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)

Jeffery Murdock

Ave Maria - J. S. Bach & Charles Gounod (1818–1893)
If God be for us who can be against us from Messiah George Federic Handel
Alleluia from Exsultate, jubilate  - Wolfgang Madeus Mozart (1756­–1791)

Moon-Sook Park

Pie Jesu from Requiem Lloyd Webber (b. 1948)

Moon-Sook Park/Jeffery Murdock

I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired - Jacqueline Hairston (1924–?)
Give me Jesus  - Moses Hogan (1957–2003)
Toccata (Ride on King Jesus) from Cantata  - John Carter (1932–1981)

Jefferey Murdock

 여호와는 나의 목자시니 (Jehowanun naeu mokzasini) [The Lord is my Shepherd] -  Unyoung Na (1922-1993)

나를 받으옵소서 (Narul baduopsoseo) [O, take me, Lord] - Duckshin Choi (b. 1968)

Moon-Sook Park

Lord’s Prayer  - Albert Malotte (1895–1964

Moon-Sook Park/Jefferey Murdock