Relayed from the National Museum of Wales.
National Orchestra of Wales
If this famous work were to be given an English nickname, it might be called' The Cambridge Symphony'.
It was composed about half a century ago - in 1876. This was the period when Stanford, as Professor of Music at Cambridge, had brought to the height of its fame the Cambridge University Musical Society, and he naturally lost no time in arranging a performance of a new work of such importance in a style so congenial to him.
Brahms was himself warmly invited to come and conduct, but all efforts at persuasion failed.
When Brahms wrote this First Symphony he was already well over forty. The other three great Symphonies which stand to his credit followed in quick succession.
The Symphony consists of the normal four Movements, as follows:-
First Movement. Introduction, opening with a slow melody - Movement proper (quick) with two main tunes - the first (long and complex) related to the opening slow melody of the Introduction, the second a steadily-rising chromatic scale in Woodwind, with reminiscences of the first tune meanwhile in the Strings.
Note, after a few moments, a peremptory little three-note ejaculation in Violas (accompanied by the other Strings, plucked instead of bowed).
Out of all this material, first exposed, then developed and at length recapitulated (to use the technical terms), the whole long Movement grows.
Second Movement. A steadily-moving, sustained, serene, song-like piece.
Third Movement. A fairly quick and very graceful piece. Note the lovely opening, with the main tune so happily sung by Clarinet.
Fourth Movement. Another slow Introduction (with an unintentional 'quotation' of the 'Cambridge Chimes - which Brahms had never heard) is followed by the fairly quick Movement proper. This Movement abounds in vigorous tunes. In particular we shall note the march-like second main tune, one of the world's best.
National Orchestra of