Johannes Brahms

Academic Festival Overture (Akademische Festouvertüre), for orchestra in C minor, Op. 80

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    Brahms composed this work and the Tragic Overture in the summer of 1880 in Bad Ischl, Austria, and conducted the first Academic Festival performance in Breslau on January 3, 1881. Despite Brahms' catalogue of 122 numbered works and at least 40 more works without, he wrote only 14 for orchestra: four symphonies, two early serenades, two piano concertos, two string concertos, two concert overtures, the Haydn Variations, and transcriptions of three Hungarian Dances from the 21 composed for four-hand piano between 1868 and 1880. No opera, though, or ballet or incidental theater music. Furthermore, from 1859 to 1874, he limited his orchestral writing to seven choral pieces (which, however, included A German Requiem, his longest work in any form).

    On March 11, 1879, the University of Breslau -- Wroclaw today, in Poland -- awarded him an honorary doctorate, for which he thanked them on a postcard. A friend replied that the University expected "a doctoral symphony...at the very least a solemn ode" quid pro quo. What they received 19 months later was this 10-minute Academic Festival Overture. To start the New Year, Brahms himself premiered it in the Silesian capital.

    This music is arguably the crusty composer's most ebullient, scored for the largest orchestra in his oeuvre: piccolo, contrabassoon, a third trumpet, tuba, bass drum, triangle, and cymbals, in addition to the usual wind pairs, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, and strings. For subject matter to fill a flexible sonata structure, he chose four student drinking songs. In the order of their appearance, these are "What comes therefrom on high" (staccato triads and off-center accents in C minor), "We have built a stately house" (three trumpets, solemnly in C major), "Der Landesvater" (The Sovereign; legato violins in E major), and finally, after the seriatim reprise of one, two, and three in tonic C major, the most famous song of all, the medieval student song "Gaudeamus igitur" (Let us therefore rejoice), in the coda. This may not have been what Breslau expected, but for global audiences ever since, the Academic Festival Overture ranks alongside the keyboard Waltz, Op. 39/16, as Brahms' most beloved instrumental music.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Menuetto Classics
    2018 Decca / Eloquence
    2018 BIS BIS 2253
    2018 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 18048
    2018 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 18032
    2018 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 17085
    2018 Warner Classics
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2017 Decca
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295975104
    2016 Decca / London
    2016 Warner Classics 0825646767717
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795516
    2016 Naxos 8578330-31
    2015 Menuetto Classics
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95073BR
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Channel Classics CCSSA 33514
    2015 Sony Classical 88843072592
    2015 AAO Music MCRP 2689272
    2015 Guild GMCD 7415
    2015 Guild Historical GHCD 24167
    2014 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099999356521
    2014 Warner Classics 0825646278176
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4792787
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Decca 4787696
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843006072
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Mark Custom Recording / Mark Records 50546MCD
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099940433820
    2013 EMI Classics
    2013 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / RPO RPOSP 038
    2013 Warner Classics 82128
    2013 AAO Music CCT 70022
    2013 Elatus 60435
    2013 Decca 4785344
    2013 Decca
    2013 Teldec 13136
    2013 Opus KURA OPK 2106
    2013 K-Tel 86624
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791046
    2012 CPO 7777202
    2012 Broken Audio BRAU 0468
    2012 Universal / Universal Music
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967813124
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099963565
    2012 Mark Custom Recording 2951
    2011 TGG Direct 60263
    2011 Nimbus 6130
    2011 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186182
    2011 Decca / Universal
    2011 Quartz QTZ 2054
    2011 K-Tel 51119
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 Challenge Classics CC72383
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099964851
    2010 Fab Four 233023
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca 4782365
    2010 Sony Classics / Sony Music Distribution 61878
    2010 Warner Classics
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Teldec
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 X5 Music Group 15414
    2010 Warner Classics 256468081
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Virgin Classics 932232
    2009 Virgin Classics
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 477 818-3
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 World of Classic / Zebralution
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Royal Philharmonic Masterworks 28500
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Antes Edition / Zebralution
    2009 Landscape Classics / Zebralution
    2009 Decca 4781740
    2009 Decca 4782030
    2008 Decca 4758217
    2008 Guild Historical 2337/38
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4356832
    2008 Landscape Classics
    2008 EMI Classics 5627422
    2008 Naxos Historical 8111274
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 Classic FM 3
    2008 ZYX Music 100542
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93554
    2008 Hyperion CDA67612
    2007 Urania URN 22313
    2007 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 8005
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 734354
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099950091
    2007 Warner Classics 64159
    2007 Arte Nova 378520
    2007 Verdi Music 144236814
    2007 Philips 4429788
    2007 LPO 97
    2007 Decca
    2007 Simply 043
    2007 Saydisc 262
    2007 Naxos 8570726
    2006 Brilliant 92878
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243476939
    2006 Hungaroton 32140
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946365229
    2006 Sanctuary 2009
    2006 Warner Music 61892
    2006 EMI Classics
    2006 Supraphon 38682
    2006 Teldec
    2006 Decca / Universal Music
    2006 Andromeda 5066
    2006 Resonance 405
    2006 Warner Classics / Warner Music 4627682
    2006 Resonance 3063
    2006 Haenssler 98269
    2006 Signum UK 089
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 68655
    2005 Virgin Classics 61360
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Naxos 8557428
    2005 Naxos 5110077
    2005 Naxos 6110077
    2005 Silverline Records 284209
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Berlin Classics 0090732
    2005 Penta Tone 186045
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Sony Music 74629
    2005 Vanguard Classics 1767
    2005 Platinum Entertainment 3719
    2005 Platinum Entertainment 34732
    2005 Platinum Entertainment 3476
    2005 Platinum Entertainment 3770
    2004 ASV 557
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon
    2004 Decca 1917
    2004 Arts Music 43038
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 62760
    2004 ASV 744
    2004 Silverline Classics 288257
    2004 RCA Red Seal 60388
    2004 Golden Classics / Madacy 3582
    2004 Motette 13001
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000218702
    2004 Laserlight / Delta Distribution 36212
    2004 Symposium 1241
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 62792
    2003 NM Classics 97017
    2003 Philips 473267
    2003 Decca / Digital
    2003 Naxos 8 554116
    2003 Elatus 2564604352
    2003 Philips 000054702
    2003 EMI Classics
    2002 Philips 470942
    2002 Decca 4702542
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 75502
    2002 Sony Music Distribution 89905
    2002 Virgin 62081
    2002 Naxos 110164
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 469 322-2GP2
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 471628-9
    2002 Andante AN 2966
    2001 Rca Red Seal 74321
    2001 Sony Music Distribution 28879
    2001 Soundline / Soundline Band SLB 4010
    2001 History 205253
    2001 Lifestyles 215003
    2000 Disky 70593
    2000 Teldec 84067
    2000 Teldec 82128
    2000 Dutton Laboratories CDK1210
    2000 Tring 055
    2000 Amadis 7027
    2000 Sony Classical 61846
    2000 Disques Pierre Verany 730019
    2000 Platinum Disc 1132
    2000 Platinum Entertainment 1069
    2000 RCA 70931
    2000 Platinum Entertainment 5282
    2000 Platinum Entertainment 10502
    1999 Penguin Classics 460623
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 67031
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 73570
    1999 Seraphim Classics
    1999 Platinum Disc 1122
    1999 Decca 460982
    1999 Golden Melodram 40039
    1999 Pearl 9018
    1999 Lifestyles 1759
    1999 Platinum Entertainment 1401
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 572649-2
    1998 Intersound 2850
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459054
    1998 Platinum Disc / Platinum Entertainment 1140
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459071
    1998 Testament 1122
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 66272
    1997 Compose Records 9153
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon
    1997 Eclipse Records 64355
    1997 Sony Music Distribution 63287
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80463
    1997 Point Classics 267156
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 69515
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80450
    1997 Teldec 13136
    1997 ASV 6037
    1997 Naxos 8 553627
    1997 Intersound 1730
    1997 BMG 68443
    1996 Gemini Collection 600
    1996 Arts Music 47136
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 449 601-2GJB5
    1996 Teldec 13565
    1996 Arte Nova 37852
    1996 Supraphon 1990
    1996 Erato 95194
    1996 Reference Recordings 3617
    1996 Naxos 504012
    1996 Denon Records 78956
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 445506
    1995 Virgin 561226-2
    1995 IMP Classics 29682
    1995 Carlton 2014
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 64470
    1995 Royal Classics 6435
    1995 Lydian 18027
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 66248
    1995 IMP Classics 2045
    1995 Intercord Klassische Diskothek 885924
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 23160
    1995 Intersound 3820
    1994 Classical Heritage 1209
    1994 Sony Classical 64054
    1994 Erato 94817
    1994 Naxos 504001
    1994 Naxos 550281
    1994 Philips 442 068-2PB4
    1994 Philips 438760
    1994 Delta/Laserlight / Laserlight 12297
    1994 Naxos 556659
    1994 ASV / ASV/Living Era ASQ 6124
    1994 IMP Orchid
    1993 Philips / PolyGram 438320
    1993 Telarc Distribution 82006
    1993 ASV 6104
    1993 Teldec 77291
    1993 IMP Classics 1023
    1993 VAI Audio 1020
    1992 ASV CDQS6076
    1992 RCA 60843
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48398
    1992 London 430799
    1991 Sony Classical 46330
    1990 EMI 63537
    1990 Sony Classical 45932
    1990 Teldec 44944
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 431029
    1990 Bandleader 5042
    1988 Deutsche Grammophon 415 570-2GX4
    1987 Telarc Distribution 80155
    1984 Deutsche Grammophon 410031
    Grammofono 2000 78637
    Deutsche Grammophon 437000
    Priory Records 329
    Dutton Vocalion 1028
    RFCM Symphony Orchestra
    RFCM Symphony Orchestra
    EMI Music Distribution 67226
    Seraphim UK 69584
    RCA 60325
    Forlane 014
    RCA 61715
    CBS Masterworks 39451
    Pro-Arte Records 919
    Brilliant Classics 93554/25
    Arte Nova 46484
    Vanguard 1719
    Brilliant Classics 93554/4
    RCA 57920
    EMI 69651
    Deutsche Grammophon 437008
    EMI Classics 64256
    IMP Classics 882
    Collins Records 30492
    RCA 60257
    Grammofono 2000 78853
    Theorema 121213
    EMI Music Distribution 69203
    Quintessence 2056
    Supraphon 110119
    CBS Records 37778
    Sony Music Distribution 47538
    High Definition Classics 079
    Disques Pierre Verany 790012
    EMI Music Distribution 69857
    IMP BBC Radio Classics 9113
    Virgin 59223
    Kontrapunkt 32120
    Supraphon 111990
    Deutsche Grammophon 431592
    EMI Music Distribution 4595
    Donau 8027
    London 414488
    Decca 4757942
    Musical Heritage Society 544604Z
    ASV 421
    Hunt Productions 736
    Pro-Arte Records 3431
    Deutsche Grammophon 423617
    VMK 1058
    Pro-Arte Records 855
    Intersound 2055
    Sony Music Distribution 61986
    Arlecchino 156
    Deutsche Grammophon 469436
    In Classical Mood 12014
    Arte Nova 46483
    Maxiplay 823
    RCA 7980
    Ades 13274
    Telegraph
    Biddulph Recordings 003
    History 205256
    EMI Angel / EMI Music Distribution 69231
    Philharmonia of the Nations 56
    Pickwick 16
    Public Music Inc. 1036
    Beulah 18
    Intersound 6205
    Decca 4757798
    Pickwick 11003
    RCA 68082
    LPO 21
    Premier Books 2001
    IMG Artists 100
    Grammofono 2000 78856
    Pro-Arte Records 926
    Musical Heritage Society 532862
    EMI Music Distribution 65617
    RCA 60340
    Masters of Music 3075
    Masters of Music 3077
    Pilz 446932
    Arkadia 629
    Sirio 530020
    Iron Needle 1326
    Mark Custom Recording 4722
    Pro-Arte Records 813
    Pickwick 1126