BRAHMS VIOLIN CONCERTO / ACADEMIC FESTIVAL OVERTURE
Brahms, earnest and passionate, yet with a twinkle in his eye
Written nearly contemporaneously in the late 1870s, Johannes Brahms' rousing Academic Festival Overture and Violin Concerto op. 77 bear witness to a composer at the height of his abilities, a mature master of large-scale masterpieces.
Conceived for Brahms' close friend Joseph Joachim, the Violin Concerto demands extreme technical proficiency, even if the virtuosity on display is never merely for show. As if to exemplify this, violinist Julia Fischer gears herself from the very start of this emotionally searing work to maintaining a restrained yet passionate tone.
Fischer becomes the driving force behind this, as the local press put it, "stellar presentation" of the concerto. In a congenial meeting of Brahmsian soulmates, Fischer and Welser-Möst repeatedly bring the piece to a boil before dousing it with lyricism.
The light-hearted, facetious Brahms takes the upper hand in the Academic Festival Overture, a brief but rousing ode to university life by a composer who never attended a university! Here the formidable Cleveland Orchestra brass is allowed to shine triumphantly, and the entire ensemble digs in for an interpretation that transforms lusty student ditties into imposing musical affirmations of youth and drive.