Brahms and Schumann: A Symbiotic Relationship

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Simon Rattle conducts the Berlin Philharmonic's season opener, Aug. 30, 2014. Simon Rattle conducts the Berlin Philharmonic's season opener, Aug. 30, 2014. (Monica Rittershaus)

Both Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms wrote four symphonies. But while it took Schumann a few weeks to write his First Symphony, it took Brahms some 20 years to compose his. 

In four recent, consecutive concerts at the Philharmonie, the home of the Berlin Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic principal conductor Sir Simon Rattle and the orchestra pair the two composers' symphonies, beginning with the Schumann Symphony No 1 in B-flat ("Spring") and the Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C. Tonight's broadcast features these two seminal works.

"Schumann of course is the Romantic, the echt (genuine) Romantic," says Rattle. He notes that Schumann was also Brahms's mentor.

"For me it will be fascinating to see how each composer influences each other," Rattle adds. "[W]e so often play Brahms so massively. I think the the lightness, the airiness, the feet-off-the-groundness of Schumann will have an effect...And very often Brahms is looking back to Schumann. If you listen to the two middle movements of the first symphony, you can see how much Schumann is there. The outer two movements almost slap that away, saying 'here is Beethoven. Here I must be a follower of Beethoven.'"


Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 1 in B flat major Spring
Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor

The Berlin Philharmonic's Schumann recording cycle is available at and on iTunes.

Comments [2]

Greg from Massachusetts

Agreed. I love the symphonies of both composers, but have to give Brahms the nod on #1 (and definitely #4). I enjoy hearing Schuman's second and third symphonies more than his Brahms counterparts.

Oct. 09 2014 06:16 PM
Constantine from New York

I love both composers, but I'd have to say Brahms in this case. Schumann's 1st is his least good symphony. The Rhenish (no. 3) is the best. (I must say, I think the 2nd is underrated.)

The first movement of the Brahms is my favorite in this symphony. It is quite stirring and the unexpected major ending is extremely moving.

Oct. 08 2014 02:20 PM

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