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There will be no late seating for this performance. Please allow enough time to arrive at the hall so that you are seated on time

Masur Conducts Brahms

This concert is now past.
Kurt Masur
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $41.00 - $128.00

Concert Duration

2 hours
Thu, Nov, 15, 2012
7:30 PM
Fri, Nov, 16, 2012
8:00 PM
Sat, Nov, 17, 2012
8:00 PM
The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


Symphony No. 3

Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90 (1883)

"Like a rainbow after a thunderstorm" — that's how Johannes Brahms's biographer Karl Geiringer describes the cyclical Third Symphony, in which the rising opening motif returns again and again. It was premiered in Vienna to great acclaim-perhaps more than the composer had experienced before. Brahms was his own worst enemy when it came to his craft; he was a tough critic of his creations, and once finally satisfied with what he had written, he destroyed all traces of the "journey." He threw away more than he left us. But perhaps it's not surprising: in the article "Neue Bahnen" ("New Paths") in the October 28, 1853 issue of the music journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik Schumann had made a prophecy that probably turned out to be a mixed blessing: according to him, the barely 20-year-old Brahms was "the young blood...the One called to convey the most exalted spirit of our time in an ideal way...the One at whose cradle the Graces and heroes stood guard..." It is no wonder that Brahms waited till he was 42 before he dared to write his First Symphony. When that creative struggle had finally been won, the Second Symphony followed quickly, and in 1883 the present Third was completed. This work has often been called Brahms's most personal symphony. The notes of the opening motif, F, A-flat, F, are said to represent the German words "Frei aber froh" (free but happy) — Brahms's response to his violinist/friend/musical advisor Joseph Joachim's motto "Frei aber einsam" (free but lonely). Whether it's true or not, that musical cell is the foundation and backdrop to much of the symphony. Still, the "free but happy" explanation seems a little off the mark at times, because throughout the symphony Brahms sets up conflicts expressed in the alternation of major and minor keys — as if he felt a greater kinship to the "free but lonely" motto and to an emotional palette that paints in colors of yearning, reflection, and serene acceptance.

Symphony No. 4

Symphony No. 4 (1885)

“God forbid, it is nothing so aristocratic — I’ve merely put together another collection of polkas and waltzes,” Johannes Brahms disingenuously wrote to a friend about his Fourth Symphony, his grand farewell to the symphonic form, whose supreme master he had become. Brahms authority Malcolm MacDonald writes that in this work “Brahms’s inspired marriage of the contemporary and the archaic is reflected throughout the symphony, in which epic tragedy and melodic lyricism find their most powerful expression in the composer’s entire output.” In the opening movement you will hear simple two-note motifs combined to form long melodies, while the slow movement is warm and lyrical. The subsequent high-spirited Scherzo provides contrast with its energetic drive (the composer described it as “noisy, with three timpani, triangle and piccolo”). In the finale, Brahms takes a Bach-derived theme and masterfully varies it some 30 times before concluding his magnificent symphony. With this deeply emotional, autumnal work Brahms had reached the pinnacle of his symphonic output.



Kurt Masur by Frans Jansen

Kurt Masur is well known to orchestras and audiences alike as both a distinguished conductor and a humanist. In September 2002 he became music director of the Orchestre National de France in Paris, and, in September 2008, became that ensemble's honorary music director for life. From September 2000 to 2007 he was principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1991 to 2002 he was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, and was subsequently named Music Director Emeritus — the first New York Philharmonic music director to receive that title, and only the second (after Leonard Bernstein, who had been named Laureate Conductor) to be so recognized. The New York Philharmonic established the Kurt Masur Fund for the Orchestra, which endows a conductor debut week at the Philharmonic in his honor in perpetuity. From 1970 until 1996 Mr. Masur served as Gewandhaus Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a position of profound historic importance; upon his retirement in 1996 the Gewandhaus named him its first-ever conductor laureate. Mr. Masur is a guest conductor with the world's leading orchestras and holds the lifetime title of honorary guest conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In July 2007 he celebrated his 80th birthday in a concert at the BBC Proms in London, where he conducted the joint forces of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestre National de France.

A professor at the Leipzig Academy of Music since 1975, Kurt Masur has received numerous honors, including the Cross of the Order of Merits of the Federal Republic of Germany (1995); Gold Medal of Honor for Music from the National Arts Club (1996); the titles of Commander of the Legion of Honor from the French Government, and of New York City Cultural Ambassador from the City of New York (1997); and the Commander Cross of Merit of the Polish Republic (1999). In March 2002 the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Johannes Rau, bestowed upon him the Cross with Star of the Order of Merits of the Federal Republic of Germany, and in September 2007 he received the Great Cross of the Legion of Honor with Star and Ribbon from the President of Germany, Horst Köhler.

In September 2008 Mr. Masur received the Furtwängler Prize in Bonn, Germany. He is also an honorary citizen of his hometown, Brieg. He has made more than 100 recordings with numerous orchestras, and in 2008 celebrated 60 years as a professional conductor.

Learn more about Kurt Masur

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