Though central to our concert and recording repertory, and crucial to the history of the symphony, the four symphonies of Johannes Brahms have proved surprisingly resistant to critical analysis. In this brief, elegant book, a premier musicologist conducts us through the Second Symphony to show us what is unique and remarkable about this particular work and what it reveals about the composer and his time.
Reinhold Brinkmann guides us through the symphony movement by movement, examining musical ideas in all their compositional facets and placing them in the context of major trends in the intellectual history of late nineteenth-century Europe. He delineates connections between this symphony and the composer’s other works and traces its relation to the music of Brahms’s predecessors, particularly Beethoven. The product of a long and deep engagement with the music of Brahms, Late Idyll captures the spirit of the composer, probes the impulses behind his revisions of the original manuscript, and explores the meaning of the disparity between the first two movements of the symphony and the last. The result is a penetrating reading of a perplexing and important composition, clearly placed within its biographical, historical, and artistic context. It will engage and enlighten students and concertgoers alike.