Johannes Brahms: Symphony Number Two in D Major

After becoming fascinated with Brahm’s first symphony, I moved on to his next two. This was during my freshman year of college, during which I became even more enamored of Romantic movement in the arts in general and music in particular.

As I think I mentioned in my last post, it took Brahms nearly 12 years to finish his first symphony. He used to say he lived in the shadow of Beethoven, whom he worshipped, and his shyness kept him from putting himself in the same category. When his first symphony met with great acclaim, this so bolstered his spirits that he immediately set forth and penned his Symphony Number Two in D Major in a few short months.

Whereas the first symphony contains lots of turmoil and seething emotions, the second symphony has been described by critics as “sunny.” Indeed, it seems related more to Beethoven’s Pastoral (number six), in its lyricism and lush depiction of naturalistic settings.

The first movement has a theme which is related to the melody people call “Brahm’s Lullaby.” That was an instant draw for me as I remember my mother singing that to me as I lay in my crib as a tot. The second movement starts out with a moody theme, and it is the most stormy of the movements. But Brahms manages to work this theme into a more uplifting state and by the end, you feel the sun flooding in to wash away the gray sentiments. The third movement begins with an introduction given over to the woodwinds. It has a gentleness to it, but there is a inexorable rhythm behind it. The orchestra then joins in playing very rapidly, though quietly. The rapid pace set against the quiet and lush strings gives this movement its appealing dynamism. The last movement is a spirited allegro, which remains upbeat and full of vigor and life the whole way through.

It probably wasn’t an accident that my interest in Brahms and Romanticism coincided with my first long term relationship with a woman. Considering the number of bad relationships I have seen friends go through over the years, I have to be thankful that my first one, which lasted almost two years, was overall pleasant. Here name was Linda and she had a great sense of humor, a deep appreciation for the arts, was quite even tempered, and never hurtful. I don’t remember more than a handful of arguments during our time together. Ours was a quiet relationship and we liked taking walks in forests, swimming, reading and listening to concerts. One semester I took a course in Chaucer and I had to learn to read the middle English text out loud. One of the poems, “The Miller’s Tale” is so bawdy, that it’s hard to believe. A man finds his wife is cuckolding him and when her lover climbs a ladder to steal a kiss, the husband sticks his derriere out, which the poor paramour kisses. When I read this passage out to Linda, she let forth a huge belly laugh and then held her sides as she fell to the floor laughing.

OK, so now it sounds like I’m romanticizing, for which, given the musical subject today, it seems I can be forgiven.

Download MP3 or buy CD of Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3

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About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

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