Brahms Festival 2016

Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms

For the next three weeks, my hometown orchestra will be celebrating the music of Johannes Brahms.  My musical brother from another mother, Mike, would say the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is inflicting the music of Brahms on its audience.  He is not a fan of Brahms, to say the least, and honestly has some valid criticisms to voice.  Brahms has been a bit of an acquired taste for me, and I have grown to have an appreciation for old Johannes.  Seriously, how bad could a guy be that hung out at a tavern named “The Red Hedgehog”?

Press Release for Detroit Symphony Orchestra Brahms Festival, 2016

 

Previous years have seen the Detroit Symphony Orchestra celebrate the symphonies of Beethoven in a winter festival, and the music of Tchaikovsky in another festival.  Each winter celebration of these composers was followed up by a digital music release made from the live performances.  I have very much enjoyed the Beethoven Symphony cycle and the set of Tchaikovsky Symphonies  in which Maestro Leonard Slatkin led the orchestra.  There has not been an official announcement that there will be a similar collection of downloadable music made available from the Brahms Festival this year, but I have high hopes that it would happen.

Johannes Brahms resisted writing a symphony for a long time, so even his First Symphony is a mature work.  The truth is, Brahms very much felt the weight of the legacy that Beethoven had left, and was very self-conscious about the comparisons that any symphony he made would have to Beethoven’s.  His buddy Robert Schuman published an article when Brahms was only 20 years old, proclaiming Brahms a sort of musical messiah who was  “destined to give ideal expression to the times.”  This made the already self-critical Brahms even more self-critical for the rest of his career.  Johannes had a habit of burning musical manuscripts he didn’t want performed or published, to prevent posterity from seeing anything but what he thought were his best efforts.  We don’t know how many symphonies Brahms wrote and then fed to the fire before he let one be performed and published.

I really like the idea of a concentrated immersion in one composer’s works over several concerts and several weekends.  I wish I could attend all of the concerts in this year’s Brahms Festival with the DSO.  Alas, everyday life will present too many obstacles to make that possible.

Brahms Symphony N0. 1

6 thoughts on “Brahms Festival 2016

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  1. “Inflicting…” Ha-ha, you remember my dislike of Brahms! Especially that D major Divertimento…but to celebrate my purchase of new Bluetooth technology, I will listen to the Symphony #1 of Brahms in your honor,Richard. Whether or not I remain awake is anyone’s guess…:-)

  2. I find I can appreciate Brahms, but — like your brother-from-another-mother — I find a large swath of his output to be kinda morose and maybe a bit rambling.

    I remember one of my first assignments in Form & Analysis was to analyze the first movement of Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. It was agonizing! Trying to solidly identify the signature themes, modulations, and transitional material written by someone who was so obviously trying to avoid these singular elements being at all noticeable was maddening! He definitely set himself apart from Beethoven in that way. Maybe it was this forced introduction to his symphonies that turned my opinion of him sour.

    I remember one of the first things that struck me about that symphony was, “The first violins… why so high?!” Screeching and wailing octaves above the orchestra (in piccolo territory!). In my opinion, it’s uncharacteristic of Brahms who happens to be my favorite composer for bringing out the beauty of the mid-to-lower voices and registers of not only instruments but voices as well.

    Even though it’s mostly a downer, I do enjoy Brahms’ Ein Deutches Requiem. He also wrote a lovely song cycle for mezzo-soprano, piano, and viola… (2 Gesänge, Op.91).

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