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Brahms: Academic Festival Overture

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: Graduation gone wild!

Johannes Brahms was one of the few composers who had the privilege of living to experience the impact his music had on the world. Throughout the course of his life, he garnered one prestigious award after another. In 1879, the University of Breslau awarded him an honorary doctorate degree, and so Brahms was commissioned to write a piece that would serve as a sort of musical “thank you” note to the university. The resulting piece was the Academic Festival Overture. The great composer, however, had a curmudgeonly sense of humor. He not only included standard academic themes from the university in the Overture, but also snuck in several student drinking songs in the style of Franz von Suppé. The composer conducted this piece at the school’s graduation ceremony the following year in 1880, much to the chagrin of the professors and the mischievous delight of the students in the audience.

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