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Brahms: Symphony No. 1

Here’s a hint: Beethovenophobia? or a famous first by one of the three “B’s.”

The Austro-German nineteenth century was an age that believed that music could progress and be perfected, and there was a nagging fear that nobody could prove a truly adequate successor to Beethoven. Johannes Brahms strongly felt this anxiety, and it was one of the reasons it took over twenty years to complete his first symphony! To be fair to Brahms, he wasn’t actively composing it the entire time. It was shelved often, and for lengthy periods. But his hesitation remains telling of how, after Beethoven, the act of writing a symphony had acquired a nearly-mystical clout. The symphony eventually acquired the nickname of “Beethoven’s Tenth.” Although conductor Han von Bülow intended this nickname as a complement, the same words have also been used to malign Brahms’s magnificent work as derivative and boring.

Music Heard On This Episode

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Symphony No. 1: Mvt 1
Herbert von Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic — Brahms: The Complete Symphonies (Deutsche Grammaphon, 1998)
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album cover
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Symphony No. 1: Mvt 1
Herbert von Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic — Brahms: The Complete Symphonies (Deutsche Grammaphon, 1998)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

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