Chailly’s Serenades.


Johannes Brahms:

  • The Two Serenades.


  • Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

Performed by the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Riccardo Chailly conducting.

A few days ago, I wrote about Ms. Helene Grimaud, and her performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto #1, which was a revolutionary piece for the time in which it was composed. I love this work; for the Viennese public, however, who heard it first, this music was not adequately conservative and too bizarre.

Brahms’ response to the somewhat hostile reception of his First Piano Concerto was a sense of frustration. Yet he soon went to work to explore what he had to learn in order to write his own symphonies. The results are these two lovely serenades.

Brahms was learning his own approach to orchestration as he wrote these works, and to hear the enormity of what he learned makes one truly appreciative of his genius.

The Serenade #2 has an unusual orchestration: It is scored for a chamber orchestra, including double woodwinds, but omitting violins, trumpets, trombones, and percussion. Perhaps it is this unusual collection of instruments that is the cause of rare performances these days.

Ultimately, Brahms gained the confidence to write his First Symphony after mastering these orchestration techniques; but it took more than ten years before Brahms agreed to have his Symphony #1 published. The cloud of Beethoven was hanging heavily over him.

On this CD, Riccardo Chailly turns his attention to Brahms’ two Serenades. This excellent recording should renew interest in these unjustly neglected and rarely performed works.

Chailly and his Leipzig orchestra restore an importance to these works. Under Chailly’s direction they emerge not just as precursors of the four Brahms symphonies, but as powerful and individual works in their own right.

Here is the lovely Brahms Serenade #2 in A-Major:



And next, here is the Serenade #1, as performed by the Philharmonie Utrecht:



Tags: Johannes Brahms, Serenades #1 and 2, Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig