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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Symphony No. 2 in D Major. Op. 73 - Brahms


Symphony No. 2 in D Major. Op. 73

Johannes Brahms
(1833-97)



1. Allegro ma non troppo.

2. Adagio ma non troppo.

3. Allegretto grazioso.

4. Allegro con spirito.

The Second Symphony of Brahms was finished in 1877. Only a year had intervened since his début in this important field of music, but the second work is widely different from the first in its general character. It is distinguished by cheerfulness, repose, and almost pastoral simplicity, and betokens peaceful existence. Less dignified perhaps in its purpose, certainly less pedagogic in its structure and working out, it is none the less interesting for the beauty of its themes, the strength of its contrasts, the sustained character of the various movements, and the unity of the work.

The first movement suggests pastoral simplicity and repose. The opening subject is beautifully set for the wind instruments, and is thoroughly melodious, the horns fairly giving out festive strains. The second theme sings itself most sweetly and gracefully in the cellos and viola. In the working out, however, a more passionate key is struck and the idyllic character of the movement is disturbed. Then follows a succession of passages which are almost stormy in their effect, so strong are the brasses and blaring even to dissonance; but the angry waters are calmed again when the first theme returns, this time on the oboes, and the movement glides peacefully along to the Coda, in which the horn is used with fascinating effect, and a peculiar tone-color is given by quaint pizzicato string accompaniment that follows.





The second movement is somewhat sphinx-like as to its real purport. The themes are less clearly stated. The form is more unique, but the workmanship shows the same consummate perfection that characterizes all this composer's work. Unquestionably there is a deep meaning underlying it, both in the form itself and in its expression, which we may leave to the hearer to interpret.

This criticism does not apply, however, to the third movement, for here everything is clear and full of cheerfulness, even to the verge of frolicsome gaiety. It is made up of two sections, an Allegretto and a Presto. In beauty and vivacity it resembles the opening movement and strongly partakes of the Haydn spirit. It begins with an exquisite pastoral melody for the reeds, which is most deliciously treated and full of charming variety. It then rushes on to the Presto, which is a mercy rustic dance in itself, abounding with sparkling humor and even boisterous gaiety. Then comes a repetition of the Allegretto, which brings the happy scene to its close.

The Finale is full of reminiscences of preceding themes which are handled with great skill. After treating them in variations and with constantly changing shades of tone-color, sustaining them with all the strength of a master, he seems to give a free rein to his powers and the movement rushes on with constantly increasing vigor and spirit to a brilliant and sonorous close.





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