International tour – Rotterdam
About the program
“This concert was another of those where a new composition – one by Mr. Johannes Brahms – premieres to the graves,” began the review of the world premiere of Brahms’ Piano Concerto in D minor. The reception the piece received on 27 January 1859 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus was mixed at best. There was scant applause alongside audible hissing in response to the young composer’s work. “The piano concerto flopped gloriously and resoundingly,” said the composer himself . The audience at the Gewandhaus could not yet cope with Brahms’ style and they were probably taken aback by the unusualness of the work. And possibly, in light of the popularity of Liszt’s concertos, Brahms’ musical language appeared dull and puritanically simplistic. What is more, the near hour-long composition is physically and intellectually exhausting, burdening both the performers and the audience alike. Today however, we know that the story did have a happy ending. Brahms was not put off by the failure, and after a few years he would have been pleased to see the success and growing popularity of his concerto.
Like the Brahms Concerto, Beethoven’s Third Symphony also divided audiences at the time – hardly surprising given how new and unusual the tone of the work was. The story of the symphony’s conception is well-known. The composer originally intended to pay homage to Napoleon, but, when Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor in 1804, the disappointed Beethoven deleted the original dedication and instead wrote ”Sinfonia eroica… composta per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grand’Uomo…” (Heroic symphony… composed to celebrate the memory of a great man…) The orchestral score was completed in May 1804, and the symphony premiered in 1805 at the Theater an der Wien. While his first and second symphonies displayed the influence of his great predecessors, Haydn and Mozart, the new composition surprised the Viennese audience with its unusual length, daring tone and colours. Probably it was also extremely challenging for the orchestra. Yet by the time the printed score was published in February 1807, critics were already writing admiring reviews of a symphony which would soon take its worthy place in his repertoire. Only a few years after its composition it was regularly being performed across Europe.