Brahms' The First Four Symphonies
The First Four Symphonies, Opus 68, 73, 90, 98, The Orchestral Scores.
Item Number: 48030
Berlin: N. Simrock, 1877-86.
The first four symphonies. Opus 68, 73, 90, 98, the orchestral scores, Quarto, bound in full morocco, gilt titles and tooling to the spine, front and rear panels, inner dentelles, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers. First Symphony (plate 7957), is first printing, conforming to McCorkle; the balance appear to be early printings. In near fine condition. Rare and desirable.
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, is a symphony written by Johannes Brahms. Brahms spent at least fourteen years completing this work, whose sketches date from 1854. Brahms himself declared that the symphony, from sketches to finishing touches, took 21 years, from 1855 to 1876. The premiere of this symphony, conducted by the composer's friend Felix Otto Dessoff, occurred on 4 November 1876, in Karlsruhe, then in the Grand Duchy of Baden. Brahms began composing a D minor symphony in 1854, but this work underwent radical change before much of it was finally recast as his first Piano Concerto, also in D minor. The long gestation of the C minor Symphony which would eventually be his first, may be attributed to two factors. First, Brahms' self-critical fastidiousness led him to destroy many of his early works. Second, there was an expectation from Brahms' friends and the public that he would continue "Beethoven's inheritance" and produce a symphony of commensurate dignity and intellectual scope – an expectation that Brahms felt he could not fulfill easily in view of the monumental reputation of Beethoven. It was probably 1868 when Brahms finally realized what would become the final structure of his first Symphony. In September of that year, he sent a card to his lifelong friend Clara Schumann sketching the Alphorn tune which would emerge in the symphony's Finale, along with the famous message "Thus blew the shepherd's horn today!" Despite the evidence of the work's development, the work would not premiere for eight more years, in 1876. The value and importance of Brahms' achievements were recognized by Vienna's most powerful critic, the staunchly conservative Eduard Hanslick. The conductor Hans von Bülow was moved in 1877 to call the symphony "Beethoven's Tenth", due to perceived similarities between the work and various compositions of Beethoven. It is often remarked that there is a strong resemblance between the main theme of the finale of Brahms' First Symphony and the main theme of the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Also, Brahms uses the rhythm of the "fate" motto from the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. This rather annoyed Brahms; he felt that this amounted to accusations of plagiarism, whereas he saw his use of Beethoven's idiom in this symphony as an act of conscious homage. Brahms himself said, when comment was made on the similarity with Beethoven, "any ass can see that." Nevertheless, this work is still sometimes (though rarely) referred to as "Beethoven's Tenth". However, Brahms' horn theme, with the "fate" rhythm, was noted in a letter to Clara Schumann (dated 1868), overheard in an alphorn's playing.