About Brahms' Symphony
by Edward Gold
The Fourth Symphony is
probably the greatest of the Brahms' Symphonies but this is not meant
to criticize the others.
The opening theme of the first movement is probably derived
from a passage in the slow movement of Beethoven's "Hammerklavier"
Sonata, Op.106 where it appears in a subsidiary passage. Unlike the
First Symphony, there is no "big tune" as a culmination of the entire
work although there is plenty of melodic material throughout the work.
The slow movement opens with a horn fanfare which mirrors
the fanfare-like material of the first movement. There is a
contrasting, rather gentle, melody used as a foil which is later heard
in a quite forceful restatement. This slow movement was the first work
of a standard composer that I sequenced but, of course, the original
file has been fairly recently updated.
The "scherzo" movement, which I haven't yet done, is the
most lightweight of this imposing work and is famous for its prominent
use of the triangle. A section of the Liszt Eb Piano Concerto is
equally famous for it's rather less subtle use.
The last movement of the Symphony, the most recent sequence,
is also famous for another reason: its use of the chaconne form. Unlike
the similar passacaglia, the chaconne is not variations on an ostinato
bass but rather on a harmonic progression, however freely this might be
done. The other famous Chaconne is the Bach in D minor for
unaccompanied violin which, not coincidentally, Brahms did a version of
for piano left hand alone. There are many other examples especially in
English keyboard music.
Symphony: first movement (368 KB)
Symphony: second movement (68 KB)
Symphony: fourth movement (229 KB)