A rundown of Brahms’ symphonies
Symphony No.1 in C minor: Brahms’ First stands on the shoulders of giants – Beethoven’s nine symphonies. Daunted by this example, Brahms spent 14 years completing a symphony that nods to the past but moves beyond it in richness and drama. Tracing a heroic journey from darkness to light, Brahms caps the symphony with his own ode to joy.
Symphony No.2 in D major: Dispelling the storm clouds of his First Symphony, Brahms’ Second is his ‘pastoral’ symphony. At its heart is a slow movement of rapt beauty, a full-throated song of ever-increasing majesty, almost disturbing in its intensity. Balance is restored by a gentle folk dance and a thrilling finale.
Symphony No.3 in F major: Brahms continues to explore the conflict of passion and order in his Third Symphony, which grips us from its first powerful gesture. He strikes an even more personal note, embroidering this lyrical work with his musical motto: ‘free but happy’. Passion turns to peace in the symphony’s tranquil final pages.
Symphony No.4 in E minor: Few works come close to this towering achievement, the perfect meeting of thought and feeling, and the distillation of Brahms’ mastery of the symphony. Unfurling restlessly from its volatile first movement, the Fourth passes through autumnal melancholy, and explosive joy. The finale is an ever-evolving set of variations each more majestic than the last.
Unfinished and heroic
SCHUBERT Symphony No.8 in B minor: The perfect fragment of Schubert’s B-minor Symphony haunts us with its uncanny emotional directness and shadowy, ambivalent harmonies. We don’t know why Schubert set this masterpiece aside, but although it is ‘unfinished’ it is far from incomplete.
BEETHOVEN Symphony No.3 in E-flat major: Unprecedented in scope and force, Beethoven’s Eroica is one of the most electrifying symphonies in the repertoire: a parade of dynamic, dramatic moments, funeral marches and a final life-affirming outpouring of joy. The true hero of the piece isn’t Bonaparte or Beethoven – it is all of humanity.
Secure your seats to see Daniel Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin in the Concert Hall with three historic programmes: Sunday 25, Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 November 2018.