Brahms: Serenades Nos. 1&2

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Brahms: Serenades Nos. 1&2 1:16:46 $11.98
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1 Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11: I. Allegro molto 10:09 44.1/16 Album only
2 Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11: II. Scherzo, Allegro non troppo, and Trio, Poco piu moto 7:58 44.1/16 Album only
3 Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11: III. Adagio non troppo 12:26 44.1/16 Album only
4 Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11: IV. Menuetto I - Menuetto II 3:53 44.1/16 Album only
5 Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11: V. Scherzo, Allegro, and Trio 2:56 44.1/16 Album only
6 Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11: VI. Rondo: Allegro 6:23 44.1/16 Album only
7 Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16: I. Allegro moderato 9:32 44.1/16 Album only
8 Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16: II. Scherzo: Vivace 3:09 44.1/16 Album only
9 Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16: III. Adagio non troppo 8:33 44.1/16 Album only
10 Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16: IV. Quasi menuetto 5:11 44.1/16 Album only
11 Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16: V. Rondo: Allegro 6:36 44.1/16 Album only

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Recorded live March 19, 2004 (Serenade No. 1) and January 31, 2003 (Serenade No. 2), Verizon Hall, The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Like Beethoven before him, the young Brahms felt some timidity about sending a first symphony out into the world. Just as the master from Bonn seemed to labor under the burden—“challenge,” if you will—of the great symphonies of Haydn and Mozart when he first approached the symphonic form around 1799, Brahms, in turn, felt Beethoven’s spirit peering over his shoulder when beginning his symphonic career half a century later. Thus he did what Beethoven had done: He started out by composing piano music, chamber works, serenades, and even a concerto, in order to polish his formal, contrapuntal, and instrumental skills in these “easier” genres before taking up a full-scale symphony. To carry the comparison with Beethoven one step further, Brahms’s D- major Serenade, Op. 11—his first completed work for orchestra—is far more “classical” than his daring piano works of the early 1850s had been; Beethoven, too, had begun composing for orchestra on the conservative side, largely steering clear of the harmonic and formal innovations he had already explored in his music for piano and chamber ensembles. It was as if mastery of orchestral texture alone were challenging enough; both composers would wait a few years before carrying the experiments of their smaller-scale works into the symphonic realm. And Brahms would wait two decades before revealing his First Symphony to the world. An Invaluable Post In 1857 he assumed a post that would be of great importance to his development as a composer. For three seasons he became music director of the orchestra at the small court at Detmold in northern Germany. Having just lived through several years of emotional turmoil associated with his love for Clara Schumann— and her apparent need for his friendship during Robert’s turbulent final years—he was now ready to put those dark days behind him and concentrate on the advancement of his career. The Detmold post was ideal for the young composer, for it allowed him to spend much of the year in the cultural ferment of his native Hamburg, yet provided him a few months of each year in which to conduct Detmold’s formidable little orchestra. Though Brahms had already studied the techniques of orchestration during his years with the Schumanns in Düsseldorf, the experience of conducting was invaluable in helping him put his study into practice. The first draft of the Serenade in D was for nonet (flute, two clarinets, horn, bassoon, two violins, viola, and cello), and the piece received its premiere in this version in Hamburg in March 1858. After this performance Brahms adapted the work for orchestra in December of 1858—doubtless “trying it out” with the Detmold ensemble before bringing it to the public. The new version was premiered in Hanover in March 1860, with Brahms’s friend Joseph Joachim on the podium. A Closer Look Sunny and straightforward, the Serenade grows directly from the 18th century Classicism that still pervaded musical life at the conservative Detmold court. Its style is strikingly Beethovenian, in fact even Mozartean—at a time when Wagner had already composed much of the Ring and half of Tristan. Like the serenade of the Classical period, Op. 11 is cast as “incidental” music—that is, as music performed for evening entertainment at court. As such, the succession of movements is freer than that of the typical four-movement symphony. The first of the Serenade’s six movements is a clear enough sonata form (Allegro molto), though, complete with a remarkably astute development section and an impressive coda in which the movement’s energy gently dissolves into motivic fragmentation. The first of the Serenade’s two scherzos (Allegro non troppo) brings to mind the restless forward motion of the composer’s own Second Piano Concerto—whose scherzo, also in D minor, begins with the same D-E-D-E-F pickup figuration. The Adagio non troppo is lyrical and languid in the fashion of Beethoven’s early slow movements; while the pair of Menuettos looks more to Haydn. More than one commentator has heard allusions to Beethoven (the First and Second symphonies, the F- major “Spring” Violin Sonata) in Brahms’s second scherzo (Allegro ). The finale (Allegro) is a galloping rondo of energetic and simple charm. —Paul J. Horsley Program note © 2004. All rights reserved. Program note may not be reprinted without written permission from The Philadelphia Orchestra Association. Serenade No. 2 in A major, Op. 16 Composed from 1858-59; revised in 1875 While Schumann, Mendelssohn, and other early Romantics struggled with the legacy of Beethoven’s symphonies, Brahms, a generation younger, faced somewhat different challenges and enjoyed new opportunities. One of his greatest challenges was unintentionally created by Schumann, whom the 20- year-old Brahms first met in 1853. The older composer’s mental health had been declining for some time and the next year he attempted suicide by throwing himself in the river Rhine. He would live in a sanatorium in Endenich for the remaining two-and-a-half years of his life. He only saw Clara once, a few days before he died, although Brahms visited regularly. “New Paths” But before these sad events, Robert and Clara took the young composer into their home and hearts. Robert, who had been a brilliant and powerful music critic years before, came out of journalistic retirement and submitted a brief review, his last, to the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, the prominent venue he had helped start nearly 20 years earlier. Schumann’s article, Neue Bahnen (New Paths), hailed Brahms as the musical messiah the world had been awaiting since Beethoven’s death. It was a dream review, especially from the pen of one of the leading critics and composers of the era, but also one that created expectations that put severe pressure on the 20-year-old Brahms. Schumann in fact based his praise on relative ly few works, mainly ones for piano. The piano sonatas already were “like disguised symphonies,” Schumann wrote, and gave hope for greater things to come. Although not the only reason, the pressure was surely a contributing factor in Brahms not completing his First Symphony until the age of 43, when it was immediately welcomed as “Beethoven’s Tenth.” But there were many false starts along the way. Disguised Symphonies Brahms’s path to writing a symphony worthy of Beethoven’s heritage was littered with musical materials that he diverted to other projects, as well as to what might be considered other “symphonies in disguise.” The mighty orchestral opening of his First Piano Concerto in D minor was at one time intended for a symphony, as were parts of A German Requiem and other compositions. The closest Brahms got in his 20s to composing an actual symphony are two orchestral serenades that were performed and published in 1860. The First Serenade, in D major, Op. 11, for a time even bore the title “Symphony Serenade.” Brahms wrote the serenades during the years when he was splitting his time between Hamburg and the Court of Lippe-Detmold, where he taught piano, gave concerts, composed, and served as a choral conductor. The First Serenade was originally written as a chamber work for eight or nine wind and string instruments, partly in the tradition of similar instrumental combinations by Beethoven, Schubert, Spohr, Hummel, and others. But the serenades also take on the earlier Classical tradition of Mozart. Allegedly at Clara’s suggestion, Brahms expanded this four- movement chamber work (now lost) to a six- movement composition for large orchestra. While working on the piece he began the five-movement Second Serenade we hear tonight, a work scored for a smaller ensemble lacking trumpets, timpani, and, more unusually, violins. (The piccolo, however, is used to delightful effect in the final movement.) Seeking Clara’s Suggestions As Brahms did throughout his life—but especially in these earlier years—he sent the work- in-progress to Clara Schumann for her candid opinion (she gave no other kind). It was she, in fact, who complained that even one of Mozart’s greatest serenades lacked variety in its instrumental color. This may have posed a challenge that Brahms’s unusual instrumentation and interaction of wind, brass, and lower strings was meant to address. Although he dispatched the opening movement to Clara in late 1858, she had to wait, notwithstanding repeated requests, for the next three movements to arrive on her 39th birthday in September of the next year. Brahms asked if the slow movement was “worth all the trouble I have taken with it.” Within a week he got his answer. Clara wrote, “What shall I say about the Adagio? ... I cannot find the words to express the joy it has given me and yet you want me to write at length! It is difficult for me to analyze what I feel; it impels me to something which gives me pleasure, as though I were to gaze at each filament of a wondrous flower. It is most beautiful! ... The whole movement has a spiritual atmosphere; it might almost be an Eleison [from a Mass]. Dear Johannes, you must know that I feel it better than express it in words. The Menuett has great charm (a trifle Haydnish), and the oboe in the Trio is delightful. ... The first movement gave me the same pleasure all over again; one or two things perhaps do not please me in it but they are quite minor details in a beautiful whole.” Clara’s enthusiasm continued when she received the final movement in November. Brahms conducted the first performance in Hamburg on February 10, 1860, about three weeks before the premiere of the orchestral version of the First Serenade. A few months later he crafted a four-hand piano arrangement. As he did so, the intensely self-critical composer commented, “I have seldom written music with greater delight. It seemed to sound so beautiful that I was overjoyed.” —Christopher H. Gibbs Program note © 2003. All rights reserved. Program note may not be reprinted without written permission from The Philadelphia Orchestra Association. ABOUT THE ARTIST Wolfgang Sawallisch became conductor laureate of The Philadelphia Orchestra in September 2003, following the culmination of his decade-long tenure as the Orchestra’s sixth music director. Acclaimed as one of the greatest living exponents of the Germanic musical tradition, Mr. Sawallisch enriched and expanded upon the Orchestra’s century-old tradition of excellence, leaving an enduring legacy of artistic achievements with the ensemble. He was an outspoken advocate for the Orchestra’s new home at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and actively participated in planning for the new concert hall’s acoustics and operations. Mr. Sawallisch was born in Munich and graduated from that city’s Academy of Music. He began his conducting career at the Opera Theater of Augsburg, where he served as vocal coach, chorus master, and conductor of ballet, opera, and concert music. In 1953 he became the youngest conductor to lead the Berlin Philharmonic. He next held music directorships in Aachen, Wiesbaden, and Cologne and appeared annually at the Bayreuth Festival. He was music director of the Vienna Symphony from 1960-1970, and also served as music director of the Hamburg Philharmonic from 1961-1973. He served as artistic director of Geneva’s Orchestre de la Suisse Romande from 1973-1980. In 1971 he was appointed music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, serving concurrently as the Opera’s general manager during his last ten years there before coming to Philadelphia. As a guest conductor, Mr. Sawallisch’s recent appearances include performances with the Berlin, Vienna, Israel, and Czech philharmonics; the Vienna Symphony; Tokyo’s NHK Orchestra; the Orchestre de Paris; and London’s Philharmonia. Mr. Sawallisch is highly regarded as a chamber musician and accompanist. He has collaborated and recorded with such vocalists as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Nicolai Gedda, Thomas Hampson, Hermann Prey, Lucia Popp, and Peter Schreier, as well as with the Munich Residenz Quartet, cellist Heinrich Schiff, and violinists Sarah Chang and Frank Peter Zimmermann. Mr. Sawallisch’s discography includes a wide range of orchestral and opera recordings, both with The Philadelphia Orchestra and with a number of European ensembles. His Philadelphia discs include works by Bruckner, Dvořák, Hindemith, Schumann, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner. Mr. Sawallisch was given the Toscanini Gold Baton in recognition of his 35-year association with La Scala in Milan. He has received honorary degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music, Westminster Choir College of Rider University, and Villanova University, as well as the Pennsylvania Governor’s Distinguished Artist Award. 3/2004 PRODUCTION CREDITS Balance Engineer: George Blood Recording Engineer: George Blood Editor: Charles Gagnon Archival Transfer: Charles Gagnon Cover and Bio Photo: Chris Lee