Day 311: Serenade No. 1

BrahmsCD5He had me at the French horns.

I’m a sucker for the sound of a French horn. To my ears, it’s incredibly mellifluous.

Brahms Serenda No. 1 in D Op. 11
is an absolute delight.

This is the first time (well, with his Symphony No. 4 closely behind) that I’ve been blown away by Brahms’ music. Serenade No. 1 is stirring, emotional, compelling, magical.

It’s music like this that made me want to listen to Classical music in the first place.

I don’t know what critics and fans think of Brahms’ early (1857) composition. But I like it. So who cares what others think, eh?

The musicians on today’s CD are:

Dresdner Philharmonie
Heinz Bongartz, conductor

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

The first serenade was completed in 1857. At that time, Brahms was also working on his First Piano Concerto. Originally scored for wind and string octet and then expanded into a longer work for chamber nonet, the serenade was later adapted for orchestra.

It consists of six movements and lasts slightly less than forty minutes.

Brahms was 24 when he composed Serenade No. 1. Perhaps his age has something to do with the exuberance I hear in this piece of music. It sounds like the work of a guy who’s trying to make a big splash in the Classical music world.

By way of contrast, Brahms’ symphonies were written decades later and they sound it. They’re sedate, even tame, by comparison.

Here’s what I’m listening to – and loving:

See what I mean? How could you not be stirred by that?

Day 310: Overtures, Variations, and Serenades (Oh, My!)

BrahmsCD4I liked this CD from the get-go.

The music is interesting, varied, and bold.

These overtures and variations seem to be better composed than Brahms’ symphonies. At least, to my ears, they’re infinitely more compelling.

The musicians on today’s CD are:


London Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, conductor

Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester
Gunter Herbig, conductor

Dresdner Philharmonie
Heniz Bongartz, conductor

The compositions on today’s CD are broken down into four main sections, covering some 17 tracks:

1. Academic Festival Overture Op. 80
2. Tragic Overture Op. 81
3. Variations on a theme by Haydn Op. 56 “St. Anthony Variations”
4. Serenade No. 2 in A Op. 16

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

Academic Festival Overture (German: Akademische Festouvertüre), Op. 80, by Johannes Brahms, was one of a pair of contrasting concert overtures — the other being the Tragic Overture, Op. 81, written to balance it as its pair. Brahms composed the Academic Festival Overture during the summer of 1880 as a musical “thank you” to the University of Breslau, which had awarded him an honorary doctorate the previous year.

Initially, Brahms had contented himself with sending a simple handwritten note of acknowledgment to the University, since he loathed the public fanfare of celebrity. However, 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!” he wrote to Brahms. “But well orchestrated, old boy, not too uniformly thick!”

Brahms, who was known to be a curmudgeonly joker, filled his quota by creating a “very boisterous potpourri of student drinking songs à la Suppé” in an intricately designed structure made to appear loose and episodic, thus drawing on the “academic” for both his sources and their treatment.

The work sparkles with some of the finest virtues of Brahms’s orchestral technique…

According to Continue reading