Brahms' Symphony No 4 BBC Proms


Brahms' Symphony No 4

From the Royal Albert Hall Katie Derham introduces two masterworks by Brahms performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Bernard Haitink.


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Tonight's prom promises to be a rare treat. Internationally

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acclaimed musicians, an impassioned Piano Concerto and a symphonic

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masterpiece all under one roof. Hello and welcome to the Royal

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Albert Hall for the second of two concerts devoted to the music of

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Brahms and with a stellar line-up. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe,

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the legendary conductor, Bernard Haitink, and one of the most sought

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after pianists of the 21st century, Emanuel Ax.

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Already on stage are the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Formed in 1981,

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they are celebrating their 30th anniversary with a sickle of Brahms

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concerts conducted by Bernard Bernard Haitink, one of the most

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reveered conductors in the world has been conducting Brahms for more

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than half a century and describes him as a composer who thinks with

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his heart and feels with his brain. Brahms's music and he is underrated.

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People say he's German, heavy, old- fashioned, he's traditional. But so

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much feeling in it and very often sadness in Brahms. He was a lonely

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man. Music was his way of telling people how much I loved humanity

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and people and how much he wanted to have his music telling them. I

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think that it's extremely human. Later, we'll hear Brahms's fourth

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and much-loved Symphony. First, this evening's prom opens with

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Emanuel Ax's second concerto. It combines work with combines

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intimate exchanges between piano and orchestra together with drama

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on an epic scale. Ax learnt the piece more than 30 years ago and he

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says he's been trying to get it right ever since. He is a poetic

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So, here comes tonight's soloist, Emanuel Ax and conductor Bernard

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Haitink to join the Chamber Orchestra of Europe for a

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2926 seconds

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performance of Brahm's Second Piano A masterful performance by all on

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stage of Brahms's Second Piano Concerto.

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Emanuel Ax playing with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, conducted by

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Bernard Haitink. Wonderful sense of community on

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stage. So noticeable how Emanuel Ax communicated with every other

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musician he was playing with and of Emanuel Ax describes the Piano

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Concerto as the corner stone of any pianist's life, incredibly

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difficult but very much worth it. He said of the final movement, he

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finished with the suffering, the storm and stress and now we are

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playing in heaven. A sentiment shared by the audience here at the

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Royal Albert Hall and clearly by Emanuel Ax, Manny, as he's known,

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born in Poland, grew up in can darbgs then later in New York where

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he said he spent his teenage years listening to all the greats in

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Carnegie hall, a wonderful time for a budding musician, he says,

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listening to the likes of Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz and

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Ashkenazy. All these people were so great, you would go to a recital

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and the next day you would try and sound like them, which is of course

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what young pianists listening to It's international time here at the

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Royal Albert Hall and in the second half of the concert, we'll hear

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Brahms's fourth final Symphony. Nearly two centuries after his

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birth, love him or hate him, Brahms is still one of the most performed

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and recorded composers. But what do we know about this intensely

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private man? I headed off to Vienna to find out more about the Brahms

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There are two positions you can take on Brahms. You either find him

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impossible like some composers. are ready to test Brahms? Bores me

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to death. It's so thick. When it's good, sounds like Beethoven.

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Or you feel his music touches the sublime. You know anything more

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beautiful? As beautiful perhaps but A new generation of musicians has

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For me, Brahms is the most human composer in the best way. It gives

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me energy, exactly the same thing that if I go to the mountain and I

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get air, or go in front of the sea and you breathe and feel like

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stronger, Brahms for me is this. It's true that we feel something

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very comfortable. Unique. And very in the nature which is down-to-

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earth, which is the earth, the nature, the life, really how we are

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and how we make music. You could feel that this man was enjoying

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life and you can hear it in the Brahms was born in 1833 in a poor

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district of the port of Hamburg. He was a promising young pianist and

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earned his money playing in bars and brothels.

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While his mind was full of lofty artistic ideals, he was witnessing

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human life at its most brutal. He later said he saw things which

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left a deep shadow on his mind. This statue has Brahms peering down

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at a female mews. In later life, he was considered something of a

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misogynist who frequented prostitutes. He never married

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although he apparently claim close a few times. But there was woman to

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whom brams remained devoted his entire life -- Brahms. Clara was a

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brilliant pianist and the wife of composer Robert Shooman. When the

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20-year-old Brahms visited the couple, they were en tranceed by

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him. It was a meeting fit for a Hollywood movie and became one

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called Song of Love. Robert Walker played Brahms.

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Go on! Go on! Clara, come here. Listen. It's my wife. Shooman die

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add few years later and Clara remained devoted to his memory.

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Brahms clearly adored and respected her, but the film shows him

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daringly unsuccessfully proposing marriage. Dear Clara... I'm hurting

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you so... You can't help it. Clara reject Brahms as Hollywood

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suggests or was it possibly the other way around? We'll never

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Though Brahms had a deep respect for the past, he was always

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troubled by the shadow of his great predecessor, Beethoven, overawed,

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it took him over 20 years to write his first Symphony, only for it to

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It's not like Beethoven in the end. The solution that Brahms achieves

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is quite unlike Beethoven. The achievement of the first

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Symphony is to draw together the classical and the romantic and the

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extreme romantic. What it is that makes that Symphony unique is that

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it's able to draw together this intensity of feeling. A Symphony

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that actually, when you look at it, tells a kind of personal story.

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There is a theme strongly associated with Clara, his ideal

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love in the finale. That's the big turning point in the Symphony, the

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moment that turns it from darkness That's as romantic an idea as you

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could possibly look for, this is the moment of the redeeming love,

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the ideal woman who intervenes and the Symphony changes direction at

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this point. That does not fit with the image of Brahms as this

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backward looking classicist at all. Though Brahms is a very German

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composer, he's always had his champions in France. Take this

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novel by Sagan. A Brahms concert helps a Roman blossom. What are

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Brahms? Look over there. In the film version of the book, Brahms's

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3rd Symphony becomes a love theme for IngridBergman. Now the first

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The same theme was turned into a song by the notorious creator for

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Brahms also signified romantic passion for the foreign. Film

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director Louis Mall who used the Brahms was a handsome, beardless

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fellow when he made the inevitable move to Vienna, the city of bait

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hoifen and shoe Bert. But it seems everywhere he lived has since

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disappeared. This is where he first lived in 1862. Not here exactly,

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this building can't be more than 50 years old. This is where he lived

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in 1866. I think... In 1969 -- 1869, he took rooms at this hotel. But

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it's changed a lot. This is the site of his final

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address. He had an apartment four floors up. Well, at least there's a

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He'd look out of his window at this glorious building, he liked to walk

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from his apartment across a bridge that has also long since vanished

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to arrive where many of his greatest works were performed, the

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famous Music Verine. But Brahms also enjoyed the lighter

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side of the city, the Prata. The Woods. And he was very fond of the

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popular music of the day. One of his closest friends was none other

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than the waltz King himself, Johann Strauss II. In fact when Brahms was

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asked by Strauss's wife to autograph her fan, he wrote a few

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notes of tf Blue Danube and the The supporters of Richard Wagner,

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the great radical composer of music dramas were fiercely opposed to

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Brahms as a representative of a conservative, classical tradition.

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Sometimes there were even punch-ups between rival factions at concerts.

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It was a lively scene of the kind you don't tend to see at classical

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concerts these days. I wonder how much Brahms enjoyed being drawn

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into all this. It obliged him to take up a position. But there are

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certainly moments in Brahms's music where you can hear strong echoes of

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the kind of harmonic language, the kind of disillusion of tonality

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that is going on. He had more of an admiration for Wagner than he would

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have admitted in public. You may have heard that Brahms had

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his voice and piano playing recorded on a wax cylinder by a

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representative of Thomas Eddie son. -- Iddison. -- Eddison. That is a

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Hungarian dance that you can hear underneath all that crackle. It

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sounds as if someone is saying "I am Dr Brahms". Is that the voice of

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the man himself? It has been suggested it's the voice of the

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technician who was there at the time. As for whether it was Brahms

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playing the piano, again a secret When Brahms died in 1897, the city

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of Vienna gave him a spln did funeral. Thousands of people lined

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the streets as his coffin was brought from his apartment to this

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cemetery -- splendid funeral. Here, facing his predecessors, Beethoven

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and Schubert, lies Brahms. Side by side with Johann Strauss.

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Joining me now are Hannah French, a lecturer at the Royal Academy of

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Music and Matthew Rowe, the conductor. Hannah, let me start by

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asking you, what is it about tonight's performance of Brahms

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that makes it so special? It's simply because this magnificent

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ensemble resembles the historical counterparts in both size and

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reputation. It's a real treat to hear this music played with such

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clarity and elegance. And this is how Brahms would have heard it, I

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guess? Exactly. He conducted the orchestra in the premier of this

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work in 1885 and he said of the ensemble that he admired their

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spirit and sensitivity to playing his music.

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Now, Matthew, you and I have spent many, many hours discussing

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conducting and conducting style when you were trying to guide me

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through Maestro. Bernard Haitink is legendary, one of the greats, but

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what makes him so special? He's really a musician's conductor.

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Very economical. There is no flamboyant ness about him. He has

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this intensity and this wonderful integrity with his music-making. He

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always goes back to the score, always restudying things, finding

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new things there. That comes through in his conducting. Just

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take a look at this because this is Bernard Haitink conducting here at

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the Proms in 1973,. Let's have a Yes, so it really hasn't changed

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very much at all in all these years, still incredibly economy and you

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can see him listening so intently to the ensemble which he does so

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brilliantly and reacts to what he hears. There is no question that

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with an ensemble Reich this there is this mutual respect on stage

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which create this is wonderful security of sound? Absolutely.

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There is the most fantastic relautionship with this orchestra

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and he loves conducting them because there is so much give-and-

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take -- relationship. He has a wonderful ability to guide them in

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a very commanding way but seemingly with such a light hand and such a

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light touch and such a sense of peace which I love watching.

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So Hannah, with the fourth and final Symphony we are going to hear

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in the second half, what can we expect? We can expect to see the

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two sides of Brahms, the scholar side and the real passionate side.

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Really it's the combination of his symphonic writing, those the

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Chamber and the nature of the writing and the performance that we

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hear will be very evident. The scholar and the passionate. The

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scholarness comes through in his great historical model sin the

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Sizing the old with the new as he does in so many works but

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eespecially as he does here with the connection to Bh. All the

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things are brought together, the 18th century dance, the curtain

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call, the variations for the different characters and yet what

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Brahms disease with it is very much of his own time and romantic

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language hung on this framework if you like. Matthew, he's notorious

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for being obsessed by his own mortality. Do we hear that a lot in

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this work? The most striking thing is that it's the one Symphony that

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ends in the minor key, it begins and ends in the minor. There is a

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wonderful moment in the last movement where it goes into the

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major and seems a little brighter but still it returns to the minor

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and ends darkly and sombrely. way we are hearing Brahms tonight,

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this clarity and precision and lightness of touch that we are

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hearing from the Chamber Orchestra, is this a new trend, do you feel,

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that is going to become more and more mainstream, I guess, in terms

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of the playing of Brahms? Have we completely moved away from the

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heavy late 19th century, early 20th century style? I hope so, in many

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ways. I think that Henry Wood might have a thing or do to do with the

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way that the music has been received and obviously people have

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this sense of it being thick and heavy. A full Symphony orchestra

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twice the size of this ensemble has the power and intensity of the

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passion that we know that Brahms had heard in his lifetime but that

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perhaps he favoured this intricate feeling where we see the inner

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lines coming through. You will see that again as we did before with

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the violins. Well, we can see that Bernard Haitink is coming on to the

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stage now to conduct Brahms's fourth and final Symphony so

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2926 seconds

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Matthew Rowe and Hannah French, A splendid performance of Brahms's

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Fourth Symphony, performed by the chaim we are orchestra of Europe,

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conducted by Bernard Haitink. His As he congratulates and thanks

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members of this wonderful Chamber Orchestra, it was formed back in

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1981 by a group of young musicians who'd all played together at the

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European community Youth Orchestra but were getting too old for that.

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They didn't want to stop playing together. One said, we all had

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someone we didn't want to say goodbye to, so it was either get

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married or form a new orchestra or, presumably in some cases, both.

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Their leader, Marieke Blakestijn there, one of the original members,

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there are 18 of the original members still playing in the

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Chamber Orchestra of Europe. That's Chris Parks on the horn there.

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Principal flute player there, played so beautifully in the last

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movement. The orchestra now considered to be the finest Chamber

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Orchestra in the world and adore As I said, Bernard Haitink

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conducting his 85th prom, but his very first exposure to the Proms

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was actually listening, as a young boy, living in Nazi-occupied

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Holland during the Second World War and he'd listened illegally to the

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BBC broadcasts on the radio. He says the reception was terrible,

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but he'd still manage to hear a few notes. He remembers especially

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hearing a Proms concert of Brahms, Bernard Haitink thanking the

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audience once more at the end of this wonderful prom. Haitink said

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Brahms was able to use music to express humanity. That's all from

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the Royal Albert Hall. You can hear a live prom every night on Radio

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Three. If you missed yesterday's prom given by this orchestra, it's

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available now on the BBC iPlayer. BBC Four will be back on the Proms

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tomorrow for the Verdi Requiem conducted by Semyon Bychkov. I'll

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be back next Saturday on BBC Two and BBC HD for a Proms first, Tim

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From the Royal Albert Hall Katie Derham introduces two masterworks by Brahms performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Bernard Haitink.

The concert begins with Brahms' mighty Piano Concerto No 2 with international soloist Emanuel Ax, one of the giants of the keyboard.

In the second half Symphony No 4, the composer's final and best loved symphony. During the interval, a sideways look at Brahms and his music.


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