Massive in proportions and demanding for the soloist and orchestra, the first movement lasts about twenty minutes, almost twice the length of the other two movements combined. A looming influence in the first movement is one of Brahms’ other musical idols, Beethoven, and in particular the Ninth Symphony. Both works share the same key and their first movements share the same stormy atmosphere. The beginning, though, also has a connection with Schumann. According to violinist Joseph Joachim, for whom Brahms wrote his Violin Concerto, the opening is a depiction of Schumann’s suicide attempt four years earlier. Once the soloist enters, the music turns more reflective, although the agitated opening reappears at various points. The movement races towards its D minor end without providing an uplifting resolution. While composing the work, Brahms told Clara that he wanted to portray her tenderly in music. This tenderness of the second movement provides a complete contrast to the first movement. The few brief loud parts for the orchestra interrupt but do not destroy the reflective quality throughout the movement. Early in his career, Brahms admitted having trouble with writing last movements. He did not solve it in this concerto but instead looked to Beethoven for inspiration. Brahms found it in the finale of Beethoven’s only minor key piano
concerto, the Third Concerto in C minor, which Brahms used as the blueprint of the finale of his own concerto. In Beethoven’s concerto, the pianist begins in minor with a solo part lasting eight measures followed by a quiet entrance of the orchestra; Brahms’ finale starts exactly the same way. And so on throughout the movement. After a brief cadenza towards the end, the concerto, again like Beethoven’s, turns to major and closes triumphantly. tCHaikOVSkY: SYmPHOnY nO. 5 A few months after his 1888 meeting with Brahms, Tchaikovsky conducted the premiere of his Fifth Symphony in St. Petersburg. While the audience loved the new symphony, the critics hated it. Critics aside, the early performances were a success. Tchaikovsky, though, battling his own continual self-doubt, declared the work a failure. He called the symphony “repellant” and wrote, “It was clear to me that the applause and ovations referred not this but to other works of mine, and that the Symphony itself will never please the public. All this causes a deep dissatisfaction with myself.” Obviously, over time, public opinion has proved Tchaikovsky wrong, and this symphony has become one of his most popular pieces.
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trating this two-piano piece and called it a symphony. Still not satisfied with this, Brahms kept some of the original piano writing and wrote for the orchestra as partner. This would give him the chance to try out writing for the orchestra without being held to the higher standard of calling the work a “symphony.” Completed in 1858, the Piano Concerto No. 1 became his first orchestral work. Brahms was the soloist for the premiere with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. It was a disaster. The audience responded to Brahms’ work with an eruption of hisses and catcalls. Eventually, the concerto did, of course, earn a place in the standard repertoire.
The symphony opens with a quiet melody in the clarinet and strings that is carried through the whole piece in different guises. While the Fourth Symphony is frequently associated with “Fate,” the Fifth Symphony, too, has that connection. Tchaikovsky says that this symphony deals with “complete resignation before Fate or before the inscrutable predestination of Providence.” A rocking 6/8 dance-like melody (rhythmically similar to the opening movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony) enters in the movement’s main fast section, which Tchaikovsky puts in various moods and dynamics throughout without major alterations to the original melody, a standard compositional technique of Tchaikovsky. The second movement begins with one of the most famous French horn solos in all of classical