Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) had lived over two-thirds of his life when his Symphony No. 1 in C minor (op. 68) was first performed in November 1876. Although the work came late in his career, Brahms already had considerable experience with orchestral writing and symphonic form. The D-minor Piano Concerto (op. 15) had started life as a symphony while the orchestral Serenades (op. 11 and op. 16), at least in terms of form and length, are closely related to the symphony. Brahms had also completed Eine deutsches Requiem, the Schicksalslied, the Triumphlied, and Rinaldo. In contrast to Mozart and Bizet with their youthful symphonic experiments, Brahms could hardly be patronized for producing a “commendable effort for one so relatively inexperienced.” Instead, Brahms’s fate was to be cast as some sort of Greyfriars Bobby of the classical tradition, a feckless Papa Katzenjammer who never lost...


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