On February 14, I attended a concert at Carnegie Hall of Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 in E minor, in a performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (one of the world’s premiere orchestras).
Brahms’s first and fourth symphonies are equally good. The first is a personal favorite of mine. Both symphonies rank right up there with Mozart’s greatest, Beethoven’s symphonies, Schubert’s ninth, and one or two others. Unquestionably.
A word that came to my mind last evening in connection with Brahms’s music is powerful. (Or should I say vigorous?) Incredibly so. In this respect, I would say very similar to, rivaled by, Beethoven.
such clarity of structure, development, and phrasing;
sonority, orchestration, harmony, the interplay among instruments: a brilliant fusion of same;
works that sound totally original;
in no way derivative or imitative.
When you hear Brahms, it’s unmistakably Brahms. Brahmsian. He has his own sound.
In the fourth, there is not one boring stretch or passage, no instance of a putative listener thinking the first and fourth movements were great, but the Andante was nothing special.
Don’t stop there, dear reader. His violin concerto. His German Requiem. His quartets. What impresses me most about Brahms is complete mastery combined with such sincerity and depth of feeling so clearly expressed.
— Roger W. Smith
February 15, 2019