Programmatic Music

“Brahms strongly preferred writing absolute music that does not refer to an explicit scene or narrative, and he never wrote an opera or a symphonic poem,” Wikipedia is good enough to tell me.

I’m not sure if I’m disappointed or relieved, because on my way home from grocery shopping, the classical station spun a robust performance of his Second Symphony (Neeme Jervi and the London Symphony, if you care to know), which is my absolute favorite symphony and the cause of my first ever tweenage religious experience, and I suddenly, as I would not have at eleven, heard the sock-knocking final movement as Brahms, in his imagination, at last getting Titanically to bed with Clara Wieck Schumann.

Just my dirty mind, I’m sure, but tell me it doesn’t fit. Or have I not been getting enough sleep?

It is a measure of the philosophy we gain from age that this doesn’t spoil it for me one tiny bit.


5 thoughts on “Programmatic Music

  1. Mmmm…I’d say an emotional catharsis, but Brahms had such a Madonna/whore complex; I don’t think there was much literal physicality in his love for Clara, though certainly it had erotic energy. Whatever’s happening here, though—he’s certainly all the way…into it.

    • It just amazes me that I didn’t hear some of these things before… I mean… if you listen with the same ear that you use to hear the opening of Rosenkavalier, say: the piling on there just before the end, say starting about 8:20… you can almost hear the heavy breathing. And those moments of holding back.

      Of course, it also sounds like just plain joy. I remember that Brahms tweaked his friends about how “sad and elegiac” this work was going to be. Snarky bugger.

      • It’s the good old bait and switch; underpromise and overdeliver. Or overpromise and overdeliver.

        I don’t even remember what sex is like well enough to draw any auditory parallels. Rosenkavalier, you say? Oh, surely that opening is just, you know, one of the servants trying to get the fire going with a bellows.

  2. I’ve often wondered about how much of that can be heard in Brahms music and Symphony No. 2 is definitely a good candidate! I think the D piano concerto is another.

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