Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Tragic Overture. Op. 81 - Brahms
Tragic Overture. Op. 81
It is a long remove from the briskness and geniality of the "Academic" Overture to the "Tragic" Overture with its dark and passionate themes and solid musical workmanship. The "Tragic," though written first, bears a later opus number. Both were composed in 1880 and given for the first time in the following year. It has no program beyond the significance of its title. Two themes, the one expressing intensely passionate sentiment and the dread of some impending catastrophe, and the other fitful gleams of hope, seem to dominate the overture and to represent the two contending forces in the human struggle, and the ultimate victory over fate rather than any special tragedy. The first subject is given out in the woodwinds, the oboe being prominently accompanied by the strings and the other subject by the brasses. The whole overture is devoted to this struggle and its alternating phases. Musically the composer has not only gone beyond the overture limits, but also beyond those of the symphony, in his treatment of the themes and in the unusual amount of subsidiary matter which he introduces and elaborates as part of the principal material, by reason of its contrapuntal connection with it. Hence the overture is in somewhat irregular form, because of the long and intricate development of these themes and subsidiary passages, and yet from the musical point of view it blends into a compact whole.