You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 22, 2011.

Welcome to the official ZJW kick off post.  Today, along with the classical musical interlude we shall celebrate the banal excellence of christianity in all of its delusional grandeur.

Of course, if you are part of the  underclass  female gender, your pretty lady brain might not be able to handle the video and all of the manly wisdom on display.

We had a slight break in routine as Eric Whitacre and his virtual choir took me by complete surprise. I’m sure Brahms would forgive me for inserting a choral work of that magnitude into the play of his first symphony. Catch the first movement here, if you are feeling out of sorts.

Many thanks to JSTOR for more information on the Symphony cited below.

Brahms’s Orchestral Music
J. A. Fuller-Maitland
The Musical Times
Vol. 74, No. 1083 (May, 1933), pp. 401-406

[…] When the first Symphony, Op. 68, in C minor, appeared in 1877, it provided the composer’s detractors with a serviceable new weapon, in the curious likeness between the big tune of the Finale and the ‘Hymn to Joy’ of the ninth Symphony. (As Brahms said, ‘Das sieht jeder Narr! ‘) It is true that in the first movement of the Symphony the old accusation is not wholly unjustified; but the opposing scales of the introductory poco sostenuto need a considerable amount of orchestral material to bring them out. Among the great interpreters of the Symphony there seems to have been some difference of tradition as to a certain slackening of the time in this first movement; it is not definitely prescribed in the score, and it seems quite possible that at different times of his life Brahms may have approved of the different readings, or at all events that he did not actively disapprove of any. Unfortunately the exact moment at which Joachim began the rallentando in the exciting first English performance of the work could not be registered, even if the score had been published as early. But whereas Nikisch began his three bars before letter M, Richter started his at the fourth bar after the same letter, and Steinbach did not make a very emphatic slackening until fifteen bars before letter 0, where an unnoted a tempo was made by all; and all drew back in the eight bars before the poco sostenuto that finished the movement. It is in the Andante sostenuto that one of the great moments of the Sym- phony is vouchsafed to us. At the seventeenth bar the oboe, supported by the rest of the wood-wind, has a theme that comes nearer than anything else in music to the point where words will no longer be needed for the trans- mission of thought.

Just when one expects it to be finished by some cadential figure it stops as if at the bidding of a little phrase of warning, which has already appeared in the third bar of the movement. Even when the oboe’s eloquent strain re-appears with horn an octave below it, and a solo violin an octave above, the interruption again takes place, as though the complete utterance of the whole would have transgressed some spiritual law, and let humanity into some divine secret. It is only in comparison with the deep impor- tance of the other movements that the section marked poco allegretto seems to fall short of being as great a movement as the others; the adagio that starts the introduction to the last movement opens with some ominous bars in the violin part of which some have detected a prophecy of the great tune that is soon to bring us its benediction. At the sixth bar begins a figure of quavers, pizzicato, which are soon hurried by a stringendo poco a poco to an a tempo, and the process is gone through twice in immediate succession. A rather tire- some habit was started, probably by Nikisch, under whom it was most evident, of taking the pizzicato quavers almost at the speed of the preceding crotchets, no doubt for the excellent purpose of giving space for the stringendo, but in the meantime throwing the movement out of balance.

Soon we come to the emotional climax of the Symphony, the delivery by the horns of the phrase that could not fail to suggest to every one in the Cam- bridge audience the familiar chimes, the ‘Cambridge Quarters’; the coincidence was so striking that the place of the phrase in the design of the Symphony was overlooked in the pleasure of recognizing the chimes whenever the Symphony was heard. After a short hymn-like phrase on bassoons and trombones, we are plunged into the rapture of the Allegro with its famous unmistakable resemblance to the Beethoven tune. As I have said else- where: ‘ In the two themes there is little, if any, resemblance in the melodic curve or in the sequence of notes; both are strongly and exclusively diatonic in movement and in har- mony, and the younger theme, equally with the older, belongs to the most precious things in the treasury of music.’ The exciting coda is for a moment interrupted by the hymn-like strain just before the close.

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