Concerto for Violin / Symphony No. 2, J. Brahms
Two pieces by the illustrious composer Johannes Brahms – his Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 and Symphony No. 2 – feature in a series of concerts at the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona. The opera house is a superb venue for renditions of classical and romantic-era music. This includes these two fine examples of works that were written when Brahms had established himself as a huge talent in the late 1870s.
Brahms' Concerto for Violin was composed in 1878 in the key of D major, signifying the composer's desire to produce a piece that was more in the style of Beethoven's romanticism rather than the earlier classical period. Orchestrated for flute, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and a string section, the concerto opens with a lyrical movement in full classical sonata form, something that is also Beethoven-like in its approach. The work was premiered in Leipzig on New Year's Day of 1879 with Brahms' good friend Joseph Joachim playing the violin part. He wrote the piece's cadenza – a passage that was designed to highlight the violinist's skill – and many violinists who play the concerto today still use Joachim's interpretation of this section.
Written a year before the concerto, Brahms' Symphony No. 2 was initially performed by the Vienna Philharmonic on 30 December 1877. Like the concerto, it begins with a stirring movement in D major. However, it then shifts to B major for the second movement, an adagio. The symphony's third movement is in G major while the music returns to D major for the final movement, a sonata that Brahms' said should be played 'con spirito'. Full of shifting rhythms and tonal instability, this is a complex piece that reveals something darker in the psyche of the composer, often providing listeners with a satisfying musical experience that is somewhat deeper than examples of his other works. By the end of the final movement, the second symphony has an exultant, almost triumphal, feeling which is augmented by Brahms' exquisite use of brass to create a truly satisfying conclusion.
With a pair of highly regarded works by one of the world's leading nineteenth-century composers, these concerts are likely to be very popular among general music fans and devotees of Brahms in particular. Thanks to such an august venue in one of the world's best-known cities for romance, each performance will constitute a spectacular opportunity for audience-goers to acquaint – or reacquaint – themselves with two remarkable pieces of music.