Brahms: Symphony No. 2

Available in 44.1kHz/16bit

Buy Album
Album Name Length Format Sample Rate Price
Brahms: Symphony No. 2 46:26 $11.98
Buy Individual Tracks
# Track Title Length Format Sample Rate Price
1 Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73: I. Allegro non troppo 20:28 44.1/16 Album only
2 Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73: II. Adagio non troppo - L'istesso tempo, ma grazioso 10:32 44.1/16 Album only
3 Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73: III. Allegretto grazioso (quasi andantino) - Presto, ma non assai 5:30 44.1/16 Album only
4 Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73: IV. Allegro con spirito 9:56 44.1/16 Album only

Price as configured: $11.98

* Required Fields

Robert Schumann’s prophetic review in 1853 hailing the 20-year-old Johannes Brahms as the savior of Western music is well known. His effusive praise, however, may have had the unintended consequence of delaying a first symphony from the young genius. Schumann and everyone else wondered when Brahms would write a symphony, what it would be like, and how he would answer one of the most pressing aesthetic questions of the day: the best way to write a symphony after the towering achievements of Beethoven. Berlioz, Liszt, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and other composers all came up with their own varying answers. Brahms’s was eagerly awaited. But he kept delaying, starting to write a symphony, yet ultimately diverting the music to other pieces. Two orchestral serenades, Opp. 11 and 16, came fairly close to being full-fledged symphonies, and there are comparable aspirations evident in the unusually symphonic First Piano Concerto and the great “Haydn” Variations of 1873, which must have boosted his confidence in proving his orchestral prowess. In the end it took some 23 years before Brahms finished writing his magnificent Symphony No. 1 in C minor, a worked immediately hailed as “Beethoven’s Tenth” by the celebrated conductor Hans von Bülow. “One Laughs, the Other Weeps” After all the angst of producing that work, his Second Symphony had no such protracted birth pangs; its labor was relatively quick and easy. Brahms may have felt liberated to some degree from the burden of expectations set up so long ago by Schumann and turned to writing quite a different kind of symphony the second time around. Throughout his career he frequently created works in contrasting pairs. The First and Second symphonies may be considered such an instance of unidentical twins. They present an intriguing juxtaposition of gravity and cheer, which some have interpreted as a glimpse of the two sides of Brahms’s personality. “One laughs, the other weeps,” was the composer’s own assessment. Brahms wrote the Second Symphony between June and October 1877, while also correcting the proofs of the First Symphony and making a four-hand piano arrangement of that work. His physical surroundings apparently inspired him, as he began composing amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Wörthersee, a lake nestled in the Carinthian Alps of southern Austria (Mahler would later find inspiration there as well) and completed it in Lichtental near Baden-Baden. He informed his friend, the powerful Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick, that the Symphony was “so cheerful and lovely that you will think it especially for you or even your young lady! That’s no great feat, you will say, Brahms is a smart fellow and the Wörthersee virgin soil, with so many melodies flying around that you must be careful not to tread on any.” The composer eventually sent the work to his good friend Theodor Billroth, a prominent Viennese physician, who responded: “I have already completely immersed myself in this piece, and it has given me many a happy hour. I cannot tell which movement is my favorite; I find each one magnificent in its own way. A cheerful, carefree mood pervades the whole, and everything bears the stamp of perfection and of the untroubled outpouring of serene thoughts and warm sentiments.” Late Idyll Such descriptions of the Second as sunny, warm, even pastoral (similar therefore to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, which contrasted so with his famous Fifth, or to Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony) have been attached to the work from the beginning. But the piece also has its more somber moments, specifically in the first two movements. A conductor wrote to Brahms two years after the Symphony was written to inquire about the dark tone that intrudes in the first one with the trombones and timpani. The composer explained that “I would have to confess that I am, by the by, a severely melancholic person, that black wings are constantly flapping above us, that in my works—possibly not entirely without intent—this symphony is followed by a small essay on the great ‘Why.’ If you do not know it [the motet “Why is the Light of Say Given to the Hard-pressed”] I will send it to you. It throws the necessary sharp shadows across the light-hearted symphony and perhaps explains those trombones and drums.” Musicologist Reinhold Brinkmann has explored what he calls the “Late Idyll” represented in this not so straightforward work. After the popular and critical success of the First Symphony, which had its premiere in the relatively provincial Karlsruhe, Brahms was emboldened to present his Second initially in Vienna. Hans Richter was enlisted to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in a premiere scheduled for early December 1877, but, as Walter Frisch has noted, “in one of those little ironies of music history, it had to be postponed until December 30 because the players were so preoccupied with learning Wagner’s Rheingold.” A Closer Look The ear may be drawn, at the beginning of the first movement (Allegro non troppo), to the musical ideas presented by the woodwinds and brass, but the primary building block of the entire Symphony comes before, with the first four notes intoned in the lower strings: D, C sharp, D, A. The movement is rich in melodic ideas, including a brief allusion to Brahms’s song from the same time (and in same key) “Es liebt sich so lieblich im Lenze!,” Op. 71, No. 1 (Love Is So Lovely in Spring). The second movement (Adagio non troppo) is the least sunny and exhibits the “Brahmsian fog” of which critics commented during the composer’s time, with the dark sonorities of its instrumental palette and the thickness of the orchestration. The third movements of Brahms’s symphonies typically serve as a kind of intermezzo; that of the Second Symphony merges elements of the minuet (Allegretto grazioso) and the scherzo (Presto, ma non assai). The final Allegro con spirito begins with a soft and mysterious theme that suddenly bursts into a fortissimo statement with great energy and forward drive. —Christopher H. Gibbs Program note © 2006. All rights reserved. Program note may not be reprinted without written permission from The Philadelphia Orchestra Association. ABOUT THE ARTIST When Wolfgang Sawallisch stepped to the podium of The Philadelpia Orchestra in September 1993, he became only the sixth music director in the Orchestra’s history. Born in Munich in 1923, Sawallisch has established himself as one of the major conductors of our time. Critics have hailed qualities such as his “total command of every aspect of the score” that have made his interpretations of the European classics some of the most satisfying to be heard anywhere. “Sawallisch is unrivaled,” wrote one critic of a recent EMI Classics recording with The Philadelphia Orchestra, “in his ability both to clarify the music and to raise it to an exalted level.” For 21 years Sawallisch led the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, where he served as both music director and artistic director. He became known the world over for performances of operas by Mozart, Strauss, and Wagner. He completed his tenure in Munich in 1992. Currently he is honorary conductor of Tokyo’s NHK Orchestra, as well as an honorary member of the Vienna Symphony, the Hamburg Philharmonic, and the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome. He has made regular guest appearances at the Bayreuth and Salzburg festivals, at La Scala, and with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, and the Orchestre National de France. In November 1993 he received the Gold Baton Prize for his distinguished work at La Scala; also in 1993, his recording of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto, with pianist Stephen Kovacevich, was awarded Gramophone magazine’s “Concerto of the Year” Award, and his recording of the Bavarian State Opera’s production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen received the magazine’s first ever “Classical Video of the Year” Award. After early studies at Munich’s Academy of Music, Maestro Sawallisch began his conducting career at the Opera Theater of Augsburg, later holding music directorships in Aachen, Wiesbaden, and Cologne. In 1953 he became the youngest conductor ever to lead the Berlin Philharmonic, and in 1957 the second youngest to appear at Bayreuth. For a decade beginning in 1960, he was chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony, concurrently serving as music director of the Hamburg Philharmonic. From 1973 to 1980 he was principal conductor and artistic director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva. Also a gifted pianist, he has recorded chamber music and songs with some of the leading instrumentalists and singers of our time. Sawallisch’s early guest appearances with The Philadelphia Orchestra, beginning with his debut in 1966, were high acclaimed; during the 1980s he returned many times to conduct, and to appear on the Orchestra’s Chamber Music Series. In September 1990, the Orchestra announced his appointment as music director, effective September 1993. His first season included widely acclaimed performances of works by Britten, Brahms, Wagner, and Stravinsky. 4/1995 PRODUCTION CREDITS Balance Engineer: George Blood Recording Engineer: George Blood Editor: Charles Gagnon Assistant Editor: Jason O’Connell Archival Transfer: Jason O’Connell Cover and Bio Photo: Chris Lee