Symphony No. 4 (Brahms)

Symphony No. 4 (Brahms)

The "Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98" by Johannes Brahms is the last of his symphonies. It is a lushly romantic, lyric piece and is considered by many to be his magnum opus, along with "Ein deutsches Requiem".Fact|date=January 2008

Brahms began working on the piece in 1884, just a year after completing his "Symphony No. 3", and completed it in 1885. It lasts about forty minutes and is divided into four movements:

#"Allegro non troppo" (E minor)
#"Andante moderato" (E minor/E major)
#"Allegro giocoso" (C major)
#"Allegro energico e passionato" (E minor)

It is scored for two flutes (one doubling on piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, a contrabassoon, four French horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, triangle (third movement only), and strings.

The monumental first movement is Brahms at his most dramatic and passionate, while the contemplative second movement has an air of a requiem. The exuberant and joyful third movement (written last) resounds with triangles. The last movement is notable as a rare example of a symphonic chaconne, which is similar to a passacaglia; Brahms himself referred to it as a chaconne. For the repeating theme, Brahms adapted the passacaglia theme in the closing movement of Johann Sebastian Bach's cantata, "Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich". The symphony is rich in allusions, most notably to various Beethoven compositions. The symphony may well have been inspired by the ancient Greek tragedies of Sophocles that Brahms had been reading at the time. ["Brahms, Johannes ." Britannica Encyclopedia, from "Encyclopædia Britannica Deluxe Edition 2004 CD-ROM". Copyright © 1994-2003 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. May 30, 2003]

The work was given its premiere in Meiningen on October 25 1885 with Brahms himself conducting. It was well received and has remained popular ever since. The piece had earlier been given to a small private audience in a version for two pianos (one of them played by Brahms). Brahms' friend and biographer Max Kalbeck, reported that the critic Eduard Hanslick, on hearing the first movement in this performance, exclaimed "For this whole movement I had the feeling that I was being given a beating by two incredibly intelligent people." Hanslick later spoke more approvingly of it, however.

Arnold Schoenberg, in his essay "Brahms the Progressive", pointed out several thematic relationships in the score, as does Malcolm MacDonald in his biography of the composer. The first half of the passacaglia theme is anticipated in the bass during the coda at an important point of the preceding movement; and the first movement's descending thirds, transposed by a fifth, appear in counterpoint during one of the final variations of the passacaglia.

A fragment of the third movement was arranged by Rick Wakeman of the rock band Yes for the album "Fragile". Wakeman used an array of electronic keyboard instruments to perform the arrangement.


* Walter Frisch. "Brahms: The Four Symphonies" (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), pp. 115-140

External links

* [ Downloadable score of the piece in .pdf format]
* [ Allusive Irony in Brahms's Fourth Symphony.] (Analysis of Allusions in the Symphony) by Kenneth Hull
* [,,608974,00.html Andrew Clements, "Brahms: Symphony No. 4" (from "Building a Classical Library" series). "The Guardian", 17 March 2000.]

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