Relayed from the Assembly Room, City Hall
National Orchestra of Wales
(Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Cymru)
Leader, Albert Voorsanger
Conducted by Warwick Braithwaite
The Overture was composed in the same year (1880) as the 'Academic Festival Overture,' and the two works made their first appearance in the same programme at a concert which was given in Breslau, with Brahms himself conducting; the occasion was his graduation as honorary Doctor of Philosophy, at the University there. The work has-no special programme, and its title is the only clue which Brahms gave to the mood of its music.
Two chords from the whole orchestra introduce a typical Brahms theme in a steady tempo; the strings begin it softly, the winds joining them soon. In a slightly changed form the opening is repeated, and then there is a short theme, four bars long, of which the third and fourth bars are the first and second turned upside-down. After some development there is a tune played first by oboes and then horns, which trombones and tubas carry on, with something menacing in its mood. After that, the real second theme is heard for the first time, a more serene and happy tune, but soon the music grows more agitated and works up to a climax. There, we hear still another new theme before the earlier ones return to form the customary recapitulation. Towards the end there is a little fugato made of a bit of the first tune, and the Overture closes with a coda, also built up on it.
Elsie Suddaby (Soprano) and Orchestra
This is the first occasion in recent times on which a Bruckner Symphony has been presented to the B.B.C.'s listeners, and his name has very seldom figured in the programmes. In Germany and Austria, however, he is regarded as having a very important place of his own among the composers of the age which succeeded Beethoven, and whenever opportunities of hearing his work are given, its bigness and dignity can immediately be recognized. Born in 1824, dying in 1896, he spent most of his life in Vienna, teaching, playing the organ, and composing. He was a distinguished organist, and in 1871, when he gave a series of recitals, here, at the Exhibition and at the Crystal Palace, his playing excited unusual interest. He was a devout Roman Catholic, and composed much church music, some of it in the largest forms; even his symphonic music is to some extent influenced by his religion and by his organ playing. In almost all the Symphonies an important part is taken by chorale-like themes. His orchestration has always been regarded as masterly, although his use of the wind instruments often recalls the organ. The way in which his movements are built up is a logical development of Beethoven's style, and there is this coincidence between his work and Beethoven's, that Bruckner also left nine Symphonies.
It was this seventh which first made it clear to the whole world of music that he deserved more than merely respectful recognition. Composed between 1881 and 1883, it was first performed at Leipzig, with Nikisch conducting. Of the principal theme of the first movement, Bruckner himself told how a friend appeared to him in a dream and dictated it, prophesying that it would bring him success. It is a fine, joyous, song-like, theme which flows along with an impulsive sweep; a short tranquil section with a melody begun by oboe and clarinet follows, and there is another quiet section with a theme for woodwinds accompanied by a busy figure on the strings. With a return to the speed of the opening there is an imposing theme in downward passages, and on these and variants of them, the big movement is solidly built up.
The slow movement is always regarded as among the most beautiful things Bruckner wrote. Of its theme, too, he had a story to relate-that it occurred to him one day when he was thinking of Wagner, with a melancholy presentiment that the great master's life must be nearing its end. Before the movement was completed news of Wagner's death reached him, and the last part of the movement was specially composed as a tribute, the composer himself marking it 'Funeral Music.' That part of the movement was appropriately played at Bruckner's own funeral.
The Scherzo, which comes next, opens with a trumpet theme above an octave figure in the strings, and the movement is concise and straightforward, the Trio, in slower and more suave measure, forming a striking contrast to the opening.
The last movement begins with only violins and viola; oboe and flute soon add little phrases, out of which the first part of the movement grows, to reach a bold and vigorous section for the whole orchestra. A little later there is a fine chorale-like theme for four trumpets, and after a return of the vigorous opening the strings, in turn, have a similar simple theme. But again the movement grows in energy and vigour, to work up to a really brilliant and vociferous close.
9-0 Michael Penn: A Short Story
National Orchestra of
Orchestra conducted by: