Belgian National Orchestra – Hartmut Haenchen director – Gil Shaham violin
Overture in g minor Anton Bruckner
Variations on a theme from Haydn, op. 56a Johannes Brahms
Concerto for violin and orchestra, op. 77 Johannes Brahms
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Brahms and Bruckner were roughly the same age, both lived in Vienna and were both devoted to composing absolute music. Inadvertently, they became adversaries: on the one side was Bruckner, a New German Wagnerian who made his mark in the symphonic genre claimed by traditionalists, and on the other was Brahms, admired by his followers as the only legitimate successor to Beethoven.
This concert opens with the Overture in G, composed by Anton Bruckner when he was studying under Otto Kittler in the Austrian city of Linz. Aged 38, Bruckner had decided a few years earlier to take composing more seriously and had begun taking lessons again, following a long period working as an organist and teacher in Sankt Florian. Although he later attached little value to the work he produced at this time, his Overture in G has often been counted among Bruckner’s great symphonies.
Brahms’ Violin Concerto is unusually symphonic in concept. The violin is not there to demonstrate the virtuosity of its player, but functions as a ‘primus inter pares’, and, as such, plays a significant part in the development of the musical motifs. Although it was initially deemed unplayable (“this is not a concerto for the violin but against the violin” – Hans von Bülow), Brahms’ Violin Concerto today holds a special place in the hearts of many soloists and conductors.