Philippe Jordan makes his Concertgebouworkest debut conducting two works which are more closely related than one might think: Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 - to be streamed on Friday, 12 March - and Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht (‘Transfigured Night’) which will be streamed on Friday, 19 March.
The Swiss conductor Philippe Jordan has stood at the helm of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra since 2014 and has started his tenure as music director of the Vienna State Opera this season. It is about time for his first performances with the Concertgebouworkest!
Brahms wrote his bubbly Symphony No. 2 during a carefree summer holiday. He warned his publisher teasingly that ‘I have never yet composed anything so sad and heavy: you will have to publish it with black borders.’ Melancholic passages notwithstanding, the Second Symphony mostly has a lyrical and almost elated character, and was soon nicknamed Brahms’s ‘Pastoral’ symphony.
The Second Symphony established Brahms’s reputation as a skilful architect of symphonic structures based on motivic development. At a time when literary programmes and music theatre were in vogue, Brahms’s art-pour-l’art approach was deemed hopelessly conservative. Yet, as Arnold Schönberg would remark in 1947, it made him a forerunner of later developments. Just as Brahms proved to be more progressive than his contemporaries thought, Schönberg’s reputation as a radical innovator belied his deeply romantic traditionalism.