Brahms - Academic Festival Overture

A musical thank you note, filled with drinking songs, from Brahms to Breslau university.

How do you normally say 'thank you' to people? Johannes Brahms said it in music in 1880 to the University of Breslau, which had given him an honorary doctorate.

Apparently he initially wrote them a simple thank you note but the conductor Bernard Scholz, who had nominated him for the degree, convinced him that protocol required him to make a grander gesture of gratitude. The University expected nothing less than a musical offering from the composer. 'Compose a fine symphony for us!' Scholz wrote to Brahms. 'But well orchestrated, old boy, not too uniformly thick!'

Brahms duly obliged, creating a 'very boisterous potpourri of student drinking songs à la Suppé'.

The Overture simply sparkles with some of Brahms's finest orchestral writing, sometimes applied for comic effect, particularly in the composer's treatment of popular student drinking songs.

Brahms himself conducted the premiere at a special convocation held by the University on 4 January 1881 to the mischievous delight of many of the academics in the audience.

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