Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > "Academic" Overture. Op. 80 - Brahms
"Academic" Overture. Op. 80
The cheerful, breezy, jovial "Academic" Overture was written by Brahms as a tribute of gratitude to the University of Breslau for conferring upon him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. It, as well as the "Tragic" Overture, was produced in that city in 1881 under his own leadership. The overture is clearly enough identified with the University functions and particularly with the students' "Commersbuch." The whole overture is built up on themes taken from that memorable collection of German student songs now famous the world over, and some of them pleasantly familiar to our own colleges.
The overture begins at once with a stately theme announced in the strings pianissimo, horns, bassoons, and drums. After its development at some length, a subsidiary passage leads to the first of the student themes "Wir hatten gebauet ein stattliches Haus" ("We had built a Stately House"), taken in the basses and woodwinds. After some transition passages reference is made to the opening theme, which finally leads to the second of the student songs, "Der Landesvater" ("The Country's Father"). This is followed by another subsidiary passage in the woodwinds, closing the first part of the overture. The next section begins with the "Fuchs Lied" ("Fox Song") sung by the bassoons and clarinets with full orchestral accompaniment, which is carried from one group of instruments to another in a jolly manner. In the closing section all the students songs return, but with different modes of development, and lead at the close to the "Gaudeamus igitur," given in full force by the orchestra and bringing the overture to a triumphant conclusion.