In the “principle of the developing variation”, Arnold Schoenberg identified a fundamental element of Johannes Brahms’s compositional technique. With the Haydn Variations op. 56a, called thus though actually based on a chorale tune of unknown origin, Brahms composed a work in 1873 that can be regarded as a precursor to his First Symphony, premiered three years later. At the same time it already extends towards the final movement of Brahms’s last symphony from 1884–85, which is constructed as a passacaglia.
In this Berliner Philharmoniker concert conducted by Daniele Gatti, Richard Wagner is represented as musical antipode to Brahms with instrumental excerpts from Götterdämmerung, first performed at the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876.
In addition, the programme includes Alban Berg’s Three Orchestral Pieces op. 6, undertaken shortly before the outbreak of the First World War and in part premiered by the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1923 conducted by Anton Webern, Berg’s university friend. The work, which is dedicated to Berg’s “teacher and friend Arnold Schoenberg in immeasurable gratitude”, draws on the compositional rigour of Brahms’s compositions as well as Wagner’s instrumental refinements, but nonetheless marks the dawn of a new musical epoch.