Order of the Cynthian Palm

About Brahms' Symphony No. 4
by Edward Gold

The Fourth Symphony is probably the greatest of the Brahms' Symphonies but this is not meant to criticize the others.

The opening theme of the first movement is probably derived from a passage in the slow movement of Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata, Op.106 where it appears in a subsidiary passage. Unlike the First Symphony, there is no "big tune" as a culmination of the entire work although there is plenty of melodic material throughout the work.

The slow movement opens with a horn fanfare which mirrors the fanfare-like material of the first movement. There is a contrasting, rather gentle, melody used as a foil which is later heard in a quite forceful restatement. This slow movement was the first work of a standard composer that I sequenced but, of course, the original file has been fairly recently updated.

The "scherzo" movement, which I haven't yet done, is the most lightweight of this imposing work and is famous for its prominent use of the triangle. A section of the Liszt Eb Piano Concerto is equally famous for it's rather less subtle use.

The last movement of the Symphony, the most recent sequence, is also famous for another reason: its use of the chaconne form. Unlike the similar passacaglia, the chaconne is not variations on an ostinato bass but rather on a harmonic progression, however freely this might be done. The other famous Chaconne is the Bach in D minor for unaccompanied violin which, not coincidentally, Brahms did a version of for piano left hand alone. There are many other examples especially in English keyboard music.

4th Symphony: first movement (368 KB)
4th Symphony: second movement (68 KB)
4th Symphony: fourth movement (229 KB)

 

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