The Full Works Concert - Tuesday 27 August 2013: Brahms

Anne-Marie Minhall - sitting in for Jane Jones - has two major works and a choral masterpiece from the pen of the great Romantic Era composer.

Johannes Brahms composed the last of his four symphonies in the Austrian mountains, during the summers of 1884 and 1885. It wasn't an immediate success. The esteemed critic Hanslick said it sounded like 'two very clever people arguing.' Brahms was concerned from the start about the work’s accessibility - it's quite serious and even tragic. But audiences responded enthusiastically. In its musical perfection, the composer’s last word on the symphony is now counted among his greatest achievements. 

Brahms took several years over his Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor. After a prolonged gestation period, it was first performed in January 1859 in Hanover, when Brahms was just 25. Five days later, at Leipzig, an unenthusiastic audience hissed at the concerto, while critics savaged it, labelling it "perfectly unorthodox, banal and horrid". Brahms originally conceived the work as his first major work for orchestra, what would have been his first symphony. But he ultimately decided that he had not sufficiently mastered the techniques of orchestral colour to sustain a symphony, and instead relied on his skills as a pianist and composer for the piano to complete the work as a concerto.

The Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) is an orchestrally accompanied choral setting of a poem written by Friedrich Hölderlin. Brahms started the work in the summer of 1868, but it was not completed for three years. The delay in completion was largely due to Brahms’s indecision as to how the piece should end. Schicksalslied is largely considered to be Brahms’s greatest choral work with the exception of A German Requiem. In fact, one biographer argues that, “Had Brahms never written anything but this one work, it would alone have sufficed to rank him with the best masters.”


Brahms: Symphony No.4 in E minor
Bernard Haitink conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra 

Brahms: Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor
Piano: Maurizio Pollini Claudio Abbado conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Brahms: Schicksalslied Opus 54
Gerd Albrecht conducts the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and the Danish National Choir