BRAHMS SYMPHONY NO. 4
A great composer's melancholy farewell to the symphony
Johannes Brahms' fourth and last symphony, "one of the supreme creative acts of the Romantic era" (Malcolm MacDonald), could be said to glow with autumnal colors. Endowed with a strong undercurrent of subdued melancholy, it seems to pine for an irretrievable past.
Indeed, the past lives on majestically in this work, particularly in the sighing theme of the first movement reminiscent of Baroque practice, and, above all, in the use of the Baroque form of the chaconne in the last movement, around which Brahms spins over 30 variations on a solemn, stately theme. Franz Welser-Möst offers a "lean, propulsive performance" (The Plain Dealer) of this work with his highly concentrated Cleveland Orchestra.
The swift pace of the symphony in Welser-Möst's hands reflects the conductor's quest for a distinctive, far-from-the-mainstream interpretation. The ensemble's unique approach to Viennese music of the late 19th century in general, and of Brahms in particular, is most certainly due in part to Franz Welser-Möst's strong ties to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera (he has been General Music Director there since 2010) and the Vienna Musikverein, where the Cleveland Orchestra has established a residency. Though at home in Cleveland, Ohio, the orchestra cannot conceal its "Vienna connection!"