Programme guide

As early as the second half of the 1850s, Johannes Brahms collaborated on publishing Robert Schumann’s posthumous works. He championed the original versions of both the Andante with Variations op. 46 and the D minor Symphony – Schumann had fundamentally revised the symphony, originally composed and premiered in 1841, ten years subsequently and had it printed as “No. 4”. Brahms preferred the first version, primarily because of its more transparent sound, and brought about – much to the displeasure of Schumann’s widow Clara – a separate edition of that composition. It differs from the later version in its instrumentation, quicker tempi and the shorter introduction to the finale. Wrapping up the Philharmoniker’s Schumann / Brahms cycle, Sir Simon Rattle too decided in favour of the rarely heard first version of the D minor Symphony. He explains his vote for the early version of the work saying that Schumann in 1851 did indeed “use in principle exactly the same material, the same notes,” but transformed “a symphony full of lightness, grace and beauty into a symphony of gloom, delusion and compulsion.”

The programme continues with Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, composed in 1884–85, about which even before the premiere Hans von Bülow enthusiastically reported to his Berlin concert agent Hermann Wolff: “No. 4 mammoth, quite idiosyncratic, very new, iron individuality. Breathes an unparalleled energy from a to z.” Joseph Joachim noted on the occasion of the first Berlin performance on 1 February 1886: “The downright gripping pull of the whole thing, the denseness of the concoction, the wonderfully convoluted growth of the motives, even more than the abundance and beauty of individual passages have really had a profound effect on me so that I almost believe that the E minor is my favourite among the four symphonies.”

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