Brahms Symphony No 1
Conducted by Valery Gergiev
The London Symphony Orchestra present Brahms' Symphony No 1 alongside Szymanowski's Symphony No 1 as well as his Violin Concerto No 1, featuring the acclaimed soloist Janine Jansen.
Brahms’s epic first symphony, portraying dignity and grandeur, has always had a symbolic place in 19th-century symphonic music. Born after a long wait until the composer’s middle age at 43 in 1876, it was invariably seen as the composer’s ultimate tribute to the intimidating influence of Beethoven.
But the story of the Symphony’s gestation is not quite as straightforward. Brahms had already temporarily – and impatiently – titled his first orchestral Serenade, Op 11 (completed 1859) a ‘symphony serenade’ because of its expansive character; and the ‘Allegro’ first movement of the Symphony was actually first completed as early as 1862.
For decades Szymanowski’s music was rarely heard outside Poland. Today, he is recognised as one of the country’s greatest musical figures. His desire to embody the music of his native land and his incorporation of the folkloric sounds of the Polish mountains make his orchestral works a must for anyone with an interest in Polish culture and music. During Szymanowski’s early career, he wrote works of a grandiose, densely chromatic nature in the Germanic style of Strauss and Wagner. His first symphony, drenched in evocative Romanticism, is an extremely powerful and emotionally intense composition.
As always with Gergiev, there were idiosyncrasies to his rendition of Brahms’s First Symphony. But they were all welcome. The dark colourings and strong accentation that hinted at a Russian flavour were fascinating. As was the bass-heavy final peroration that seemed to transform the orchestra into an Orthodox choir.’
The Arts Desk
Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto, written ten years later, is a masterly work and so needs less help. They were surely as inspired as we were by the soloist Janine Jansen, who found exactly that tone of rapt aspiration and furious abandon the piece needs.
Supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the Polska Music Programme.
Captured live at the Barbican, London, in October 2012 and presented as part of the London Symphony Orchestra Collection.
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