Brahms’ Fourth and final Symphony is his greatest, the height of his achievement as symphonist.
The perfect meshing of symphonic form with feeling, Brahms creates a self-contained universe of emotion. The clash and contrast of the first movement is simultaneously troubled and noble before the nocturnal hush of a second movement that suggests an elegy for a fading past.
When Brahms composed this symphony, the 20th century was only 15 years away, the Classical Vienna of Beethoven and Mozart vanishing. The declarations of the electrifying scherzo give way to the implacable chords of the final movement, a darkly majestic set of variations, paying homage to great master of an earlier era, JS Bach. The tragic force unleashed by Brahms’ Fourth Symphony has an unforgettable, cathartic power.
Conductor Simone Young has made an acclaimed recording of all of Brahms’ symphonies, giving brilliant expression to the subtleties of Brahms’ voice.