Saturday, December 10, 2005
Brahms: Symphony No. 4, E minor
The Third of Brahms' Symphonies was followed very soon by the Fourth---in E minor, Op. 98, completed in 1885. This Fourth Symphony is unquestionably the most mature and the most forcefully dramatic of them all; the Coda of the first Movement surges to an intensity of white-hot passion quite without an equal in any of Brahms' symphonic creations. The choice of key is unusual: E minor seems to have been strangely unappealing to the early masters of the Symphony (Haydn did use E minor for one of his earliest Symphonies) for some reason not fathomable. The temper of the entire Symphony, excepting only the Third Movement, is severe, somber, though not in the least pessimistic; flashes of genial radiance soften its austere lines in many places, and phrases of surpassing loveliness emphatically confute the opinion of some commentators that this Symphony is chiefly a product of intellectual ardor, more reflective than emotional. Brahms possessed---and used---that "cerebral power which is the necessary concomitant of the highest artistic achievements," as Mr. Cecil Gray so happily expresses a momentous fundamental principle. The probability remains, be it admitted, that the Fourth is not likely to become the most popular and beloved of the Symphonies of Brahms.
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