Brahms Fear of Composing First Symphony Led to This Masterpiece

Johannes Brahms was a German pianist and one of the great composers in the Romantic Era of classical music who lived much of his life in Vienna, Austria.

Johannes Brahms [May 7, 1833 – April 3, 1897]

This accomplished composer wrote pieces in almost every genre of classical music but for many years one genre of classical music was missing from his repertoire-the symphony.  It wasn’t that Brahms did not want to write a symphony…he longed to compose a symphony.  So, what took Brahms so many years agonizing to write his first symphony?  The shadow of Beethoven’s greatness hovered unmercifully over Johannes Brahms mind.  

You see Johannes Brahms was compared by many to the great master Beethoven. Beethoven composed 9 of the greatest symphonies ever and his epic Choral 9th Symphony was, and probably still is today, considered the greatest symphony ever written.

How could Brahms even come close to that greatness?  He was terrified his work would look so small to the great Beethoven.  So, while Johannes Brahms started on his first symphony around 1855, it took him an incredible 21 years when he finally completed his great first symphony in C-minor in 1876.  The adage, better late than never, sure applies in this case as some have called Brahms first symphony, admiringly, Beethoven’s 10th symphony.   

While it took Brahms 21 years to compose his first symphony, he wrote his next three symphonies in only 9 years after he finished his first, and he wrote symphonies #3 and #4 within one year of each other.  All four of Brahms symphonies are considered some of the top masterpieces in the symphonic repertoire. 

While Brahms took so long to write and release his first symphony, he seemed to experiment with two long orchestral serenades that were actually in the form of a symphony without the name.  So, Brahms could see how well these would be received by the public and critics without the fear of being called a failure in his first symphony.

Brahms first serenade, composed in 1858, was a magnificent orchestral work that, from first hearing, is undoubtedly Brahms.  You can actually hear some of the same musical ideas that would later be incorporated in his four symphonies. 

Brahms first serenade was a 6 movement orchestral work in D-Major.  The 6 movements:  1. Allegro molto;  [10:29] 2. Scherzo-Allegro non troppo; [17:57] 3. Adagio non troppo; [28:18] 4. Menuetto; [33:36] 5. Scherzo-Allegro; and [39:47] 6. Rondo-Allegro.

One could say that because of Brahms fear of composing his first symphony, it led to this masterpiece.  Please turn up the volume and enjoy this orchestral masterpiece by Brahms, his Serenade in D-Major.

Johannes Brahms: Orchestral Serenade #1 in D Major:

Now here is Brahms epic First symphony.  It is led by Houston’s own director, Maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada, leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. When you hear how great this first symphony is by Brahms you will wonder, how could this giant in classical music have been so fearful-this is so awesome.  Please turn up the volume and enjoy Brahms first symphony masterpiece.

Johannes Brahms: Symphony #1 in C-minor:

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