LANSDOWNE

SYMPHONY

ORCHESTRA

Brahms Symphony No. 2 Program Notes

Johannes  Brahms  was  a  child  of  Hamburg,  growing  up  near  the  great  shipping  port  of  Northern  German.    He  maintained  a  lifelong  fascination  with  shipping  schedules,  and  other  organizational  minutiae.    Following  the  path  advised  by  his  ill-fated  mentor,  Robert  Schumann,  he  wound  up  in  that  European  musical  capital,  Vienna.  Although  Brahms  music  contains  tremendous  opportunities  for  musical  and  emotional  expression,  he  played  the  part  of  straight  man  in  Viennese  musical  life.    While  never  formulaic,  he  composed  works  with  an  eye  for  classical  proportion  and  form,  and  the  conservative  critic  Eduard  Hanslick  was  one  of  his  many  champions.Perhaps  with  justification,  Hanslick  was  impatient  with  genres  that  called  themselves  Music  of  the  Future,  excoriating  Richard  Wagner  and  Franz  Liszt  with  some  regularity.    (Hanslick  was  quite  dismissive  of  Bruckner,  writing  of  his  Eighth  Symphony:  strange  as  a  whole  and  even  repugnant...)  Brahms  cultivated  the  popular  and  influential  in  Vienna,  too,  (not  a  fault,  no-matter  what  Frederic  Morton  says  in  A  Nervous  Splendor)  -  one  of  his  signed  autographs  includes  the  opening  of  the  Blue  Danube  Waltz, by  Johann  Strauss  Jr.,  and  says  Unfortunately  not  by  Johannes  Brahms! His  First  Symphony  (Op.  68),  which  he'd  been  rumored  to  be  at  work  on  for  many  years,  and  about  which  Robert  Schumann  had  told  the  world  to  expect  Beethoven's  Tenth!dz  was  performed  with  great  anticipation,  to  a  packed  audience  with  the  Vienna  Philharmonic.    The  Second  Symphony  was  composed  much  more  quickly, during  Brahms  1877  holiday  in  the  Carinthian  mountains  of  Southern  Austria.  The  wonderful  thing  about  Brahms  is  that  you  don't  need  to  know  about  the  order  of  the  Symphonies,  and  their  connection  to  Mozart's  final  symphony,  to  enjoy  them.    Specifically,  the  keys  of  Brahms  four  symphonies,  C-D-F-E,  spell  out  the  main  motif/fugue  subject  of  the  Jupiter  Symphony's  Finale.  However,  the  listener  can  gain  some  interesting  perspective  of  Brahms,  and  the  Second  Symphony,  in  knowing  that  the  notes  of  its  brief  introduction,  D-C#-C,  can  be  found  throughout  the  piece  -  even  the  fourth  movement  begins  D-C#-D!