Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Monday, July 1

Brahms and Berg on busman holidays?

Synopsis

“Where to go for summer vacation?” That’s always been the question for any city-dweller fortunate enough to be able to escape to somewhere cool and green, with perhaps an ocean beach or at least a lake nearby.

In the summers of 1877 and 1878, Johannes Brahms abandoned urban Vienna for the rural Austrian district known as Carinthia and specifically the small town of Pörtschach on Wörthersee. Even today, this is prime vacation territory, with rolling green hills, dark pine trees, bright blue lakes, and the snow-capped Alps along the horizon. And the wildflowers have to be seen to be believed.

We can’t show you all that, but perhaps you can hear a sense of that landscape in the Second Symphony and Violin Concerto of Brahms —two works he composed during his summer holidays there.

In Carinthia, said Brahms, the melodies are so abundant that one had to be careful not to step on them. There just might be something in that, at least with respect to great Violin Concertos. In July of 1935, 57 years after Brahms wrote his Concerto in Pörtschach, the Viennese composer Alban Berg would finish his Violin Concerto in the same town, on the opposite shore of the Wörthersee from where Brahms stayed during his summer vacations. Berg’s Concerto even includes a quote from a risqué Carinthian folksong.

Music Played in Today's Program

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Symphony No. 2 Concertgebouw Orchestra; Bernard Haitink, cond. Philips 442 068

Johannes Brahms Violin Concerto in D David Oistrakh, vn; ORTF Orchestra; Otto Klemperer, cond. EMI Classics 64632

Alban Berg (1885-1935) Violin Concerto Henryk Szeryng, vn; Bavarian Radio Symphony; Rafael Kubelik, cond. Deutsche Grammophon 431 740

Additional Information

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