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Budapest Festival Orchestra: Brahms – 1

About the Event

Immerse yourself in the stunning architecture of Budapest's breathtaking Palace of Arts for the ultimate concert set to awake your understanding of classical music.

Brahms, often pictured with a stern face and a lengthy beard, set to conservative music, resides in many people's memories. Yet some are taken aback that he is the mind behind the spirited Hungarian dances, while others marvel at how the same maestro crafted one of the most formidable piano concertos in music's annals. What's even more astounding is that after a fifteen‐year gestation period for his first symphony, Brahms unveiled the second in a mere four months. This time, the BFO offers a jubilant rendition of Brahms, showcasing two grand compositions, each paired with a Hungarian dance. Pianist Yefim Bronfman, a frequent collaborator with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, has been lauded for his passionate and fluid performances of Brahms, as international critics have noted.

In two installments, Brahms rolled out four‐hand piano versions of his twenty‐one Hungarian Dances. Introduced to Hungarian Gypsy tunes by Ede Reményi, especially the csárdás, Brahms crafted what he termed 'arrangements'. These pieces were instant hits, but their orchestral adaptations gained even more acclaim. Notably, only three were orchestrated by Brahms himself, like the vivacious Hungarian Dance No. 10. It's a musical burst of energy, while Dance No. 7 offers a playful and varied tempo, distinguished by its contrasts and pronounced accents.

Brahms once quipped about his concerto, “I have written a tiny piano concerto with a tiny and charming scherzo,” yet it stands as one of his most profound compositions. Initiated in 1878, its completion spanned three years. Its global debut was in Budapest, with Sándor Erkel conducting and Brahms himself as the soloist. The opening act begins uniquely, with a lone horn calling out, answered by the piano. This melodic exchange is disrupted by a fervent eruption from the soloist, setting the stage for a cascade of musical themes. Following this is a tumultuous scherzo, succeeded by the traditional slow movement — marked by a contemplative cello solo that transitions into exotic tonal realms. The composition crescendos into a riveting finale.

A fascinating anecdote is that Brahms momentarily shelved initial drafts of his Piano Concerto to compose his Symphony No. 2 during a single summer. The serenity of Wörthersee, his composing retreat, resonates through the symphony, with its bucolic atmosphere standing in stark contrast to the tumult of Symphony No. 1. The entire symphony hinges on the three‐note bass motif introducing the first movement. A cello ushers in the slow movement with a hint of melancholy, but an oboe's solo, coupled with a gentle plucked accompaniment in the third movement, dispels the gloom. The finale unfolds as some of Brahms's most unrestrained compositions.

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