Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

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Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby BenG » Tue Feb 27, 2001 9:11 pm

While Beethoven wrote the greatest symphonies, I feel that Brahms is his closest competition. Anyone agree/disagree? What other symphonic collection can compare? Yes, there are many other 19th century composers that wrote great symphonies (Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Schubert, etc), but Brahms' four are uniformly great. Perhaps because his first was penned after the age of 40.<BR>Brahm's symphonies are VERY hard to rank because I love them all. I believe his works are more uniform in their overall excellence than Beethoven's--even if they don't eclipse Beethoven's greatest symphonies. Actually, Brahms' 2nd symphony has been called his 'Pastoral' symphony, but I think it is more tempered and more dimensional than Beethoven's 6th. It has long shadows and tinged with regret and sadness...the end of Romanticism. Yes, I think his 2nd is as great as Beethoven's 6th. If I were forced to rank the Brahms symphonies they'd be in this order.<P>2, 1, 3, 4<P>I'd appreciate reading other opinions Image
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby denison rosario » Tue Feb 27, 2001 11:31 pm

With relationship to Brahms I vote in symphonies 1,3,2,4 <BR>Now the myth of the only greatness of Beethoven's symphonies is questioned in the message that I still posted today: The six lies on Beethoven; read and answer what finds!!! <BR>Yes... what does find of the symphonies of Mahler and Bruckner? <BR>We are elevating the level of our researches... <BR>Hugs
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby Brahmsian » Wed Feb 28, 2001 1:16 pm

I agree that Brahms is the only competition. He is the natural continuation of Beethoven. No one will be Beethoven and no one will be Brahms. To put Mahler and Bruckner next to Brahms is ridiculous! If I had to rank the symphonies in order it would be 3,1,4,2. Somewhat similar to Hanslick's ranking so long ago.
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby shostakovich » Wed Feb 28, 2001 4:12 pm

Hi BenG. I appreciated your Brahms bio in another post. My Brahms ranking is 2, 4, 1, 3. The last movement of #2 is hardly pastoral.. I wonder who said that. He probably fell asleep before it ended. Thinking about symphonic writers and evenness, I'd include Schumann's 4. Major works all, if not with the solid Brahms structure. But, Hell, NOBODY of the period had structure like Brahms. <BR>Shos<BR>Shos
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby Luis » Wed Feb 28, 2001 10:26 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Brahmsian:<BR><B>To put Mahler and Bruckner next to Brahms is ridiculous! </B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>JA!!!!, Good one, Brahmsian!!! <BR>I'd have said the same but the other way arround!!<BR>Anyway, I wont’ argue in terms of your musical taste since I think there is no possible way to properly state that one composer is better than other, I just want to bring up an anecdote in which your beloved Brahms acknowledges Mahler’s genius: <P><I> “It was during these last days at Budapest that his musicianship received the highest tribute it had as yet been paid. The celebrated Brahms, in the city at the time (January, 1891) could not be induced to attend the opera. Every attempt to persuade him that this young conductor was worthy of even his notice [ailed to arouse his interest. Finally on the evening of a Don Giovanni performance some influential Mahler admirers insisted that the famous composer accompany them to the opera. The great man protested in vain, "Nobody can interpret Don Giovanni for me! That is music which I can enjoy only if I sit flown and read the score to myself? Much against his will Brahms found himself one of the audience. Cross as he had been, from the very beginning of the opera his delight and amazement were evident and he would show his appreciation of particularly fine <P>"Splendid!" "Remarkable!" "At last, that's just the way it ought to be done! "What a devil of a fellow that Mahler is!" At the end of the first act Brahms hurried backstage, threw his arms affectionately about Mahler, and said, "That was the best Don Giovanni I've ever heard. Not even the Imperial Opera in Vienna can rival it?" </I><P>I can understand that some people may not like Mahler, but I can’t even conceive anyone who can say Mahler’s 2nd is bad. For those who hasn’t heard it I recommend (AGAIN!!) Bernstein’s 1982 rec. for DG. Here's the link: <A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000001G96/qid=983416747/sr=1-1/ref=sc_m_1/104-8436844-5169509" TARGET=_blank>http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000001G96/qid=983416747/sr=1-1/re f=sc_m_1/104-8436844-5169509</A> <P>Just look at these comments!<P> This is the most imposing performance of this symphony currently available. The tempos are rather slow, but Leonard Bernstein sustains the music's tension superbly, and the climaxes are every bit as overwhelming as they must be to justify the time he takes getting there. The concerts from which this recording derives were among the musical events of a lifetime, and much of that sense of occasion has found its way onto this disc. <I> If you want to be blown away by music, then this baby's for you </I>. --David Hurwitz<P>“I have listened to this work literally hundreds of times, but have never been moved as much as by this incredible recording”<P>“The final 15 minutes of the last movement is one of the greatest pieces of recorded music one could ever hope for. Bravo!”<P>“I consider this to be one of the best recordings in my collection”<P>SO hear this one and then submit to the king!!! You can apologize later... Image<P>Here’s the link for the Mahler Bio. <A HREF="http://www.netaxs.com/~jgreshes/mahler/bio/index.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.netaxs.com/~jgreshes/mahler/bio/index.html</A> <P>Luis (a.k.a. Mahler addict) <P>PS: I like a lot of Brahms's music, not specifically his symphonies (although I haven’t heard his 4th) but pretty much his Piano concerto No. 2, his Piano trios, his Requiem, Violin concerto and other piano solo pieces (especially his Intermezzos). Ah...his piano quartets are fine too.<p>[This message has been edited by Luis (edited 02-28-2001).]
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby BenG » Wed Feb 28, 2001 11:46 pm

Luis--just visited the Amazon link and added the Mahler recording to my shopping basket. I can't believe you've listened to so much Brahms with having his 4th Symphony elude you!--Do yourself a favor and get it right away! Image<P>-BenG@beethoven.com
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby serge urtizberea » Wed Feb 28, 2001 11:48 pm

Please forgive my sure-to-be-read-as-sacrilege argument that Brahms' symphonies rank nowhere near Beethoven's. I simply don't find them as concise or as articulated. While I enjoy them on the same plateau that I enjoy Brahms, they unfortunately will never challenge Beethoven's to my ears. The claim that Brahms' first is Beethoven's 10th actually distresses me. I cannot for the world figure out why that was ever said; any help here would be enjoyed.<P>If anyone wants to know how my brain works, I'll let you know I think nothing yet written or to be written will ever prove tantamount to the Ludwig cycle. The symphonies of Schumann and the Saint-Saens third equally rank second. Actually, the two Berlioz symphonies and the five above are all about the same rank; a step down from dear L. My tastes in symphonies are to date quite limited, truth be told.
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby Luis » Thu Mar 01, 2001 12:26 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by BenG:<BR><B>Luis--just visited the Amazon link and added the Mahler recording to my shopping basket. I can't believe you've listened to so much Brahms with having his 4th Symphony elude you!--Do yourself a favor and get it right away! Image<P>-BenG@beethoven.com</B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Oh... I’m so pleased; I have just made my good action of the day. Image See you in a few days when your head will explode out!!!! And prepare yourself for the best symphonic-choral finale since B’s 9th!!! -I am very happy!!! Image Image Image Image -<P>PS: You would make me a good favor in recommend me a good version of Brahm's 4th.<P><p>[This message has been edited by Luis (edited 03-01-2001).]
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby Luis » Thu Mar 01, 2001 12:53 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by serge urtizberea:<BR><B>The claim that Brahms' first is Beethoven's 10th actually distresses me. I cannot for the world figure out why that was ever said; any help here would be enjoyed.<BR></B> <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><BR>I don't know who stated such a thing but he certainly must have been more deaf than poor Beethoven in his worst times!!!<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR> If anyone wants to know how my brain works, I'll let you know I think nothing yet written or to be written will ever prove tantamount to the Ludwig cycle. The symphonies of Schumann and the Saint-Saens third equally rank second. Actually, the two Berlioz symphonies and the five above are all about the same rank; a step down from dear L. My tastes in symphonies are to date quite limited, truth be told.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>What about Tchaicovsky? I don't recall you saying something in his favor, Why is that? His last three symphonies are superb to me. And his 6th!!! OH...HIS 6TH!!!... I'm going to listen to it right now. See you.<BR>
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby BenG » Thu Mar 01, 2001 1:09 pm

Serge: You say Brahms' symphonies rank nowhere near Beethoven's? SACRILEGE!!!!! LOL<P>One of the reasons Brahms 1st was called 'Beethoven's 10th' may be due to me last movement. It echoes Ludwig's 9th in that it begins with a searching motif. It sounds almost chaotic--like ingredients that haven't been cooked enough yet, or someone stumbling around in the dark searching for light. In Beethoven, the theme from 'Ode to Joy' is that light. In Brahms it is somehow even sweeter--there is a moment when the dark clouds suddenly open up and a tiny sunbeam streams in...cascading down a wonderful love theme. Actually, this theme is the same that he dashed out to Clara Schuman on a postcard--asking her forgiveness for hurting her feelings. That theme makes its appearance again in this symphony...followed by a theme similar in nature to "Ode to Joy." The rest of the movement is triumph and Joy. Who said Brahms never wrote happy music?<P>I happen to believe that this symphony comes closest to 'Beethoven's 10th' as any other symphony out there. Or perhaps it is I who is being sacrilegeous.<P>Luis: As for Tchaikovsky, I think his last three symphonies ARE brilliant. I've listened to them countless times. But they are in such a different universe from Brahms and Beethoven. They are great in their own realm, but somehow I wouldn't feel right comparing him with Beethoven. In fact, Tchaikovsky himself was never a big fan of Beethoven. He prefered Mozart. Tchaikovsky also thought Brahms was boring while Brahms thought Tchaikovsky's music 'didn't amount to much.' It's fascinating that these two composers had a such blind spot for each other's music while I'm able to appreciate them both equally. I especially love Tchaikovsky's 4th and was recently lucky enough to attend a live concert. I love the stormy first movement with the flute acting as a little side whirlwind above the din. He was a master at orchestration and color. I especially like the moment where he expresses an intense longing and desire that cannot be fufilled. Bernstein once remarked that this moment (and you'll recognize it if you listen) was like someone crying out "I want it!" while fate answers back "You can't have it"..." But I want it!!!" "No, you can't have it!!!!!" and so forth. Tchaikovsky, like many Russians, is able to distill suffering and pain into poetry and beauty of incredible depth. I think someone should open a Tchaikovsky thread so we can talk about his music--it is just too different from the three B's and can't really be put in the same boat. <P>By the way, my favorite recording of Brahms 4th happens to also be conducted by Bernstein. Weiner Philharmoniker on the Deutsche Grammophon label.<P>Regards,<BR>Ben<P>
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby Brahmsian » Thu Mar 01, 2001 1:18 pm

Notice that Brahms is refering to his conducting genius, not his compostitions. Has a conductor, Mahler was great but is no competition in the compostional field.
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby shostakovich » Sat Mar 03, 2001 2:18 pm

I've enjoyed the commentary here. Luis, thanks for the Brahms-Mahler story. Interaction between the greats is fascinating. I recall a story Stokowski told of a soldier taking a smoke break in the rest room of a hospital where he had guard duty. A surgeon came in to wash his hands. The only conversation that passed between them was something like "Lousy night, isn't it?" "Sure is." It was the first meeting of Mussorgsky and Borodin.<P>Ben, the mention of Brahms and Tcaikovsky in the same note was interesting. They share the same birthday. Or do they? How long ago did you see Bernstein doing "I want it" to the 4th symphony? Only a few months ago I was watching a tape of that from the Young Peoples' Concerts series. We need TV educators like Bernstein desperately.<BR>Shos
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby shostakovich » Sat Mar 03, 2001 2:41 pm

As for Beethoven's 10th, let me copy from a set of records of the 4 Brahms symphonies (Szell, Cleveland). <P>"This symphony is indeed a work written under Beethoven's shadow, not so much in sound or material, but in attitude. A long, immensely solemn introduction is shrouded in mystery and suspense, as is the opening of Beethoven's ninth. ---- As so often with Beethoven, we are left breathless by a crowding together of short, jagged ideas that continue to grow long after they are introduced." This is about the first movement only. Then jumping to the fourth. "A great striding tune ushers in the finale proper. It's position, after that stormy introduction, again reminds us of the course of events in the Beethoven Ninth, and there is indeed, some rsemblance in the melody itself. ("Any fool can see that", was Brahms' irritable retort when this was called to his attention)."<BR>Shos
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby BenG » Wed Mar 14, 2001 10:55 pm

Shos,<P>We were talking about ways to promote music to young people and in the above post you made reference to Bernstein. I think he--nearly single handedly--was responsible for creating interest in several generations of young people. I have missed many of his 'lectures' but I was lucky enough to catch a few repeats that ran on PBS a couple years back. This man's musical articulation was so great that his love of the music became infectious. He not only made me appreciate and understand the music better but he also made me EAGER to listen to it again--almost for the first time. I particularly remember him explaining the Eroica symphony and it has since become my favorite. The bit about Tchaikovsky's 4th symphony stuck with me because he was able to express something intrinsic to the score that I knew all along...but he did it in a way that made the music seem even more profound and beautiful. Perhaps someone can convince PBS to rerun that series of lectures.<P>Do you remember the concert he had in Berlin just before the fall of the wall? He conducted Beethoven's 9th and it was marvelous--even with TV sound. He was without doubt one of the century's best conductors--right up there with Toscanini and Bruno Walter.<BR>
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby shostakovich » Wed Mar 14, 2001 11:16 pm

Hi Ben. Rerunning Bernstein's Young People's Concerts on PBS sounds like a great idea to me. The old, who remember them when, and the new young, would benefit immensely. Do you know for sure that it was PBS that reran them? I taped some off PLEX when I could. Is there a net whiz out there who can come up with a home office for PBS or PLEX? We might be able to gather written requests from around the world to present to the stations. I wonder if Beethoven.com would lend its weight in some way. Are you reading this, Nicole? My natural negativity says it won't do any good, but that shouldn't stop us from trying.<BR>Shos
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Re: Symphonies: Brahms vs. Beethoven

Postby BenG » Thu Mar 15, 2001 12:16 am

Shos--I can't say for sure that I saw them on PBS, but that's my best guess. I remember him discussing Beethoven's 6th and 3rd and then later Tchaikovsky's 4th. The latter might have been included in a special biography of his life and that may have ran on the History Channel, but I'm not sure. I should've paid more attention. As you know, the original series ran many years ago on CBS so perhaps they still own the rights. BTW, there are several Bernstein sites out here. LeonardBernstein.com has links to his video and recordings--most can be had at Amazon.com. I may buy a few myself.<P>--Ben
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