Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Music and Monarchy: Brahms and Princess Anna

I always enjoy it when I have opportunities to relate my occupation as a cellist to my interest in royalty. Last night in Dallas four colleagues and I performed the Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34 by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), as we will do again on Sunday. In order to introduce the piece properly to the audience I did a little research on the dedication to "Ihrer Königlichen Hoheit der Frau Prinzessin Anna von Hessen" that appears at the top of the music. While Wikipedia's article on the quintet identified the dedicatee as Princess Anna of Hesse and by Rhine (1843-1865), it became clear from other sources (including Wikipedia itself) that the actual dedicatee was Princess Anna of Hesse-Cassel (née Prussia) (1836-1918), "a highly intelligent woman who presided over a court salon of outstanding artists and musicians, including Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, Anton Rubinstein, and Julius Stockhausen. She herself was a classically trained pianist of great talent and ability who studied under Theodor Kullak." Brahms and Clara Schumann performed his prior two-piano version of the piece for Princess Anna in 1864, and he was so grateful for her appreciation that he dedicated the final piano quintet to her the following year.

Princess Anna was the mother of Landgrave Friedrich Karl (1868-1940) who was briefly "King of Finland" in 1918. One of her grandsons, Prince Christoph (1901-1943), married Princess Sophie of Greece (1914-2001), sister of none other than Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh. Anna's husband Landgrave Friedrich Wilhelm (1820-1884), who unfortunately for her never got over the death of his first wife Alexandra of Russia (1825-1844), was the brother of Queen Louise of Denmark (1817-1898). Anna's niece Louise (1860-1917) married Queen Victoria's son Prince Arthur (1850-1942); their descendants currently occupy the thrones of Denmark and Sweden. Anna's own ancestry was quite distinguished being both a granddaughter of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia (1770-1840) and a great-granddaughter of Tsar Paul I of Russia (1754-1801).


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