Conducting the Brahms Symphonies

Conducting the Brahms Symphonies: From Brahms to Boult

Christopher Dyment
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 260
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt18gzfcm
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  • Book Info
    Conducting the Brahms Symphonies
    Book Description:

    How did Brahms conduct his four symphonies? What did he want from other conductors when they performed these works, and to which among them did he give his approval? And crucially, are there any stylistic pointers to these performances in early recordings of the symphonies made in the first half of the twentieth century? For the first time, Christopher Dyment provides a comprehensive and in-depth answer to these important issues. Drawing together the strands of existing research with extensive new material from a wide range of sources - the views of musicians, contemporary journals, memoirs, biographies and other critical literature - Dyment presents a vivid picture of historic performance practice in Brahms's era and the half-century that followed. Here is a remarkable panorama showcasing Brahms himself conducting, together with those conductors whom he heard, among them Levi, Richter, Nikisch, Weingartner and Fritz Steinbach, and their disciples, such as Toscanini, Stokowski, Boult and Fritz Busch. Here, too, are other famed Brahms conductors of the early twentieth century, including Furtwängler and Abendroth, whose connections with the Brahms tradition are closely examined. Dyment then analyses recordings of the symphonies by these conductors and highlights aspects which the composer might well have commended. Finally, Dyment suggests the importance of his conclusions for those contemporary conductors who are currently attempting to rediscover genuine performance traditions in their own re-creations of the symphonies. This major study is complemented with forty photographs and a frontispiece. It is sure to fascinate musicians, Brahms enthusiasts and those interested in the history of recorded music. CHRISTOPHER DYMENT is author of Felix Weingartner: Recollections and Recordings (Triad Press 1976) and Toscanini in Britain (The Boydell Press 2012). He has published many articles about historic conductors over the last forty years.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-625-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Christopher Dyment
  5. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Christopher Dyment
  6. CHAPTER 1 BRAHMS CONDUCTS: THE COMPOSER AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES
    (pp. 1-27)

    Brahms played his Pianoforte Concerto in D minor superbly. I especially noted his emphasizing each of those tremendous shakes in the first movement by placing a short rest between the last note of one and the first small note before the next. During those short stops he would lift his hands up high and let them come down on the keys with a force like that of a lion’s paw.¹

    George Henschel’s vivid description of Brahms at the piano, dating from 5 February 1876, encapsulates the composer’s stylistic approach: commanding yet free, almost improvisatory and intensely personal. Half a hundred...

  7. CHAPTER 2 THE DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE: LINES OF AUTHORITY
    (pp. 28-161)

    The last chapter’s conclusions outlined the lines of enquiry required in the present chapter by the sometimes problematic ʽassembly of witnesses’ brought to the fore in the search for Brahms’s authentic voice. In the following pages the musicians – most but not all of them conductors – who in a variety of ways provided (or are alleged to have provided) lines of authority traceable to the composer are presented in more or less chronological order with the exceptions of the first, Alexander Berrsche, and the last, Walter Blume, whose importance lies now in the documentary evidence they left to posterity....

  8. CHAPTER 3 RECORDED EVIDENCE: TRADITIONS TRACED OR LOST
    (pp. 162-221)

    Selected early recordings of the Brahms symphonies are examined in this chapter with the aim of isolating those characteristics in them that may be attributable, in whole or in part, to the influence of those conductors who received some form of approbation by the composer for their stylistic approach. In one case only, that of Felix Weingartner, there is no intermediary: his approach to the Second Symphony received the composer’s direct approval in 1895. If one accepts, as Chapter 2 suggests may plausibly be the case, that Weingartner’s recorded approach preserved at least a sufficiency of the characteristics that Brahms...

  9. CHAPTER 4 CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 222-238)

    There is not now, nor will there ever be, some kind of Holy Grail awaiting discovery, its contents disclosing the true gospel of the interpretation of Brahms’s orchestral music. We can never know precisely how, in audible terms, Brahms conducted his symphonies or wanted them to be performed. This strong caveat to the conclusions reached in this chapter – which will already be obvious to those familiar with the preliminary conclusions scattered throughout preceding chapters – is an inevitable reflection of what was termed at the outset the ʽtantalising’ period in which Brahms lived: the era which saw the birth...

  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 239-244)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 245-250)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 251-251)