Notes and Editorial Reviews
The first performance of Brahms’s First Symphony was not only greatly praised by contemporaries, it also marked the composer’s ascent to musical nobility. This recording is complemented by the “Schicksalslied” for Choir and Orchestra, after a text bei Friedrich Hölderlin.
Orchester der Landeshauptstadt München James Levine, Dirigent/conductor
Philharmonischer Chor München
“I thought … that it would and that it must be … that someone would suddenly come along whose very calling would be that which needed to be expressed according to the spirit of the times and in the most suitable manner possible, one whose mastery would not gradually unfold but, like
Minerva, would spring fully armed from the head of Jupiter. And now he has arrived, a young blood, at whose cradle appear graces and heroes. His name is Johannes Brahms, and he hails from Hamburg, where he works in dim seclusion having been educated in the most difficult of the rules of art by a good teacher (Eduard Marxsen)…sitting at the piano, he began to explore most wonderful regions. We were drawn in to ever more magical circles … these were the sonatas, and veiled symphonies … And when he finally lets sink his magic wand, where the powers of the masses, in chorus and orchestra, lend him their strengths, we are able to gaze into the secrets of the spirit world…For there exists in every age a secret bond of like spirits. You who belong together, draw the circle ever tighter, so that the truth of art shall burn more brilliantly, and spread joy and blessing too.” (“Neue Bahnen”, in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 1853)
Schumann’s words of praise written about his guest and later friend Brahms – shortly before he was to stay in Düsseldorf for a while – have proved to be true, even if this laudatory note represented for the ambitious young composer a burden at the time. The meeting with Clara and Robert Schumann was in any case of extreme significance for the career and personal development of the twenty-year-old.
Johannes Brahms came from a modest social background: the father, a musician in employment of the city of Hamburg, was later a double bass player in the municipal orchestra. It was he who gave his son the first instruction in music. The main impetus marking out a future path were the piano lessons and studies in music theory with Eduard Marxsen, at the time a well known musician and teacher in Hamburg. In his early youth Brahms worked as a pianist at a number of restaurants in order to help with the family income. At the beginning of the 1850s he accepted an engagement as piano accompanist to the Hungarian violin virtuoso Eduard Remény, who took him on tour throughout Europe. Through him he made the acquaintance of Joseph Joachim, the famous violinist, who was to remain a friend for the rest of his life.
After Brahms had made a name for himself in the music world (being turned down nevertheless in 1863 for the recently vacated position of choral director of the “Singakademie” in his home town), he moved to Vienna for good. If we disregard a short period as conductor of the Wiener Singakademie and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, he did not take on any fixed positions – his command of ever higher fees allowed him to survive as a freelance composer.
We must turn to Eduard Hanslick, the “Pope among critics” in Vienna to learn that Brahms, obviously against his will, was appointed the chief figure of a musical circle that was avowedly anti Wagner and later anti Bruckner. That the artist in question, who exhibited great literary learning, was not a conservative in the reactionary sense, is a thesis propounded at the latest by Arnold Schönberg, who for his part, saw in a compositional technique quite atypical for Brahms – we might term it arrested development that gives rise to concomitant variations – his own principles of composition being pre-empted. The founder of dodecaphony was right when he claimed that Brahms was several steps ahead of the field.
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 68 by Johannes Brahms
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1855-1876; Austria
Song of Destiny, Op. 54 by Johannes Brahms
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra,
Munich Philharmonic Choir
Written: 1868-1871; Austria
Be the first to review this title