Brahms' Symphony No 4 BBC Proms

Brahms' Symphony No 4

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


acclaimed musicians, an impassioned Piano Concerto and a symphonic


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


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


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


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


after pianists of the 21st century, Emanuel Ax.


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


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


concerts conducted by Bernard Bernard Haitink, one of the most


reveered conductors in the world has been conducting Brahms for more


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


intimate exchanges between piano and orchestra together with drama


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


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


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


Haitink to join the Chamber Orchestra of Europe for a


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2926 seconds


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


stage of Brahms's Second Piano Concerto.


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


Bernard Haitink. Wonderful sense of community on


stage. So noticeable how Emanuel Ax communicated with every other


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


listening to the likes of Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


earned his money playing in bars and brothels.


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


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


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


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


misogynist who frequented prostitutes. He never married


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


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


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


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


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


called Song of Love. Robert Walker played Brahms.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


is quite unlike Beethoven. The achievement of the first


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


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


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


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


There is a theme strongly associated with Clara, his ideal


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


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


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


the ideal woman who intervenes and the Symphony changes direction at


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Brahms also signified romantic passion for the foreign. Film


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


famous Music Verine. But Brahms also enjoyed the lighter


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


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


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


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


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


the great radical composer of music dramas were fiercely opposed to


Brahms as a representative of a conservative, classical tradition.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


ensemble resembles the historical counterparts in both size and


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


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


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


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


spirit and sensitivity to playing his music.


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


conducting and conducting style when you were trying to guide me


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


which create this is wonderful security of sound? Absolutely.


There is the most fantastic relautionship with this orchestra


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


scholarness comes through in his great historical model sin the


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


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


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


call, the variations for the different characters and yet what


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


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


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


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


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


wonderful moment in the last movement where it goes into the


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


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


this clarity and precision and lightness of touch that we are


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


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


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


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


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


way that the music has been received and obviously people have


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


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


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


perhaps he favoured this intricate feeling where we see the inner


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


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


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


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2926 seconds


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


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


conducted by Bernard Haitink. His As he congratulates and thanks


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


there are 18 of the original members still playing in the


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


Principal flute player there, played so beautifully in the last


movement. The orchestra now considered to be the finest Chamber


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


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


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


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


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


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


hearing a Proms concert of Brahms, Bernard Haitink thanking the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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