Johannes Brahms

Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    Brahms composed this work between 1855 and 1876. Otto Dessoff led a "tryout" first performance in Karlsruhe, Germany, on November 4, 1876. At Düsseldorf in 1854-1856 -- where he helped Clara Schumann with her seven children while terminally mad Robert, her husband, wasted away in an asylum -- the young Brahms undertook on two separate occasions to sketch a symphony. By the end of 1858, one set of sketches had been assimilated into the First Piano Concerto, that gargantuan "serious" piece with Baroque underpinnings, in the tradition of Beethoven's Grosse Fuge and "Hammerklavier" Sonata. Sketches for a C major Allegro movement, in sonata form and 6/8 time, were saved for subsequent expansion and development. When, in 1862, he showed the results to now-widowed Clara, she expressed admiration but also concern that it ended too abruptly. For the next 12 years, Brahms kept this music close at hand. Finally, in 1874, he willed himself to complete the First Symphony that friends and admirers (beginning with Schumann in 1853, shortly after their first meeting) had been urging him to compose.

    He polished the Allegro of 1855-1862, now in C minor, then wrote a solemn introduction hinting at themes already 12-20 years old. These included a recurring motto of three ascending semitones, repeated in the slow movement. Having created a horse to pull the cart, Brahms addressed the middle movements: one slow (Andante moderato, in E major, then C sharp minor), the other quasi-scherzoid (Un poco allegretto e grazioso, pleasant and graceful, in A flat, F minor, and finally B major), respectively in triple and duple meters. Certain kinds of performance can make the central movements sound out-of-place, which is not meant, however, to impugn their intrinsic quality. Both exemplify a master of musical art in his time, who had reached a rarefied synthesis of conflicting creative forces. Their substance and style bespeak maturity no less than the monumental finale created to trump them. There an ominous preface in C minor leads to a C major Allegro non troppo ma con brio (not too quickly but spiritedly), which remains in 4/4 time until a climactic alla-breve acceleration into the coda.

    Brahms' decade of residence in Vienna had smoothed as well as ripened him: the middle movements could be called Schubertian, by way of Schumann. The finale, however, pays homage to the Germany's Baroque masters: Scheidt, Froberger, Buxtehude, Bach, and expatriated Handel. Simultaneously it honors the symphonic architectonics of Beethoven without regressing. Although he belonged to the generation that succeeded Chopin and Schumann, Brahms liberated music as much as they from the traditional Germanic tyrannies of bar-lines, four- and eight-bar phrasing, downbeat accents, and rhythmic squareness. While none of the music by his colleagues sounded richer (not even Bruckner's with augmented winds and brass), Brahms achieved his ends with astonishingly simple means -- the basic Beethoven orchestra, sans bass drum, cymbals, or piccolo -- plain to the point of abstemiousness on paper, but inimitably sonorous in performance.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Un poco sostenuto - Allegro
    2. Andante sostenuto
    3. Un poco allegretto e grazioso
    4. Finale. Adagio - Più andante - Allegro non troppo, ma con brio

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Menuetto Classics
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon 4835251
    2018 Linn Records CKD 601
    2018 Warner Classics 0190295633837
    2018 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 18032
    2018 CuGate Classics CGC 036
    2018 Warner Classics
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2017 ICA Classics ICAB 5141
    2017 Berlin Classics 0300911BC
    2017 Berlin Classics 0300839BC
    2017 Oehms Classics OC 030
    2017 Decca / London
    2017 Opus KURA OPK 2117
    2017 BSO 34
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4797477
    2017 Warner Classics 561986
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295886721
    2017 ICA Classics ICAC 5143
    2017 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 09036
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795805
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295975104
    2016 Weitblick SSS 1972
    2016 Alba ABCD 390
    2016 Warner Classics 0825646767717
    2016 Detroit Symphony Orchestra
    2016 ABC Classics 4814413
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88875169792
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796314
    2016 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13037
    2016 SWR Music SWR 19022CD
    2016 Decca / Philips 4788977
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796018
    2015 Delos DE 3487
    2015 BR Klassik 900140
    2015 Klanglogo KL 1513
    2015 Oehms Classics OC 1813
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Sony Classical 88843072592
    2015 IDIS 6704
    2015 RCO RCO 15002
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795229
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 14006
    2014 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099999356521
    2014 Telarc
    2014 Telarc TEL 34659
    2014 Warner Classics 0825646278176
    2014 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 14046
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4792787
    2014 Lodia Music LOCD 779
    2014 Decca 4787696
    2014 Urania WS 121265
    2014 Tahra TAH 766767
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843006072
    2014 Andromeda ANDRCD 9120
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099940433820
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    2013 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / RPO RPOSP 038
    2013 Warner Classics 82128
    2013 LSO Live LSO 0733
    2013 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13028
    2013 Elatus 60435
    2013 ICA Classics ICAC 5090
    2013 Regis Records 1395
    2013 Guild Historical GHCD 2402
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    2013 Decca 4785344
    2013 Ondine ODE 12292T
    2013 Teldec 13136
    2013 Audite 95625
    2013 Orfeo C 788122B
    2013 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 9058
    2013 Oehms Classics OC 090
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    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791046
    2013 Nimbus NI 6227
    2012 BR Klassik 900112
    2012 CPO 7777202
    2012 LPO LPO 0068
    2012 Naxos Classical Archives 980971
    2012 Solo Musica WS 002
    2012 Broken Audio BRAU 0465
    2012 Royal Philharmonic Masterworks / RPO RPM 29230
    2012 BIS BIS 1756
    2012 Signum Classics SIGCD 255
    2012 Entertainment Group 4033
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    2012 Naxos 8501057
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    2011 Naxos 8572448
    2011 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic 93267
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94074
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    2011 Oehms Classics OC 408
    2011 Broken Audio BRAU 0276
    2011 Broken Audio BRAU 0257
    2011 ICA Classics ICAC5019
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    2011 Signum Classics SIGCD250
    2011 Newton Classics 8802079
    2011 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186182
    2011 Newton Classics 8802063
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    2008 EMI Classics 5627422
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    2008 ZYX Music 100542
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    2007 Verdi Music 144236814
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    2004 EMI Music Distribution 62760
    2004 Centurion Classics 2063
    2004 LSO Live LSO 0045
    2004 High Definition Classics 019
    2004 ASV 729
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    2004 Brilliant 92392
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    2004 Document 221543
    2004 Silverline Classics 288237
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000218702
    2004 Document 203184
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000041502
    2003 NM Classics 97017
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000019902
    2003 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    2003 Arts Music 43013
    2003 Elatus 2564604352
    2003 Philips 000054702
    2003 Artemis Classics 1184
    2003 Andante 1030
    2003 Andante 1973
    2003 IDIS 6392/3
    2003 Document 220822
    2003 Decca 000017402
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 75956
    2003 Tahra 490-491
    2003 Budapest Music Center 067
    2003 Tahra 1
    2003 History 45515
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 4744002
    2003 Melodram 40068
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 471443
    2002 Philips 470942
    2002 D Classics 70541
    2002 Classica d'Oro 1068
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 75502
    2002 Rca Red Seal 89102
    2002 RCA Red Seal 89103
    2002 Virgin 62081
    2002 Supraphon 36692
    2002 Opus KURA 2022
    2002 Apex 44351
    2002 Living Stage 35146
    2002 Doremi Records 7798
    2002 Rca Red Seal 90114
    2002 Audiophile Records 555
    2002 Tahra 2175/6
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon
    2001 Classica d'Oro 1028
    2001 Urania 181
    2001 Supraphon 110394
    2001 Classica d'Oro 1009
    2001 Rca Red Seal 74321
    2001 Ondine ODE9902T
    2001 Tahra 1054-1057
    2001 History 203090
    2001 Simax 1206
    2001 History 204573
    2001 History 205241
    2001 Tahra 391-393
    2000 Naxos 8 554119
    2000 Teldec 84067
    2000 Teldec 82128
    2000 Claves 509012
    2000 Arkadia 78564
    2000 RS 0540041
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 459636
    2000 Dutton Laboratories CDK1210
    2000 Amadis 7005
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    2000 INA Memoire Vive 033
    2000 Dutton Laboratories 9705
    2000 Arcobaleno 9422
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    2000 Q Disc 97015
    2000 Melodiya 245
    1999 Chandos 99764
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 445505
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    1999 Biddulph Recordings WHL052
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 459635
    1999 Sony Music Distribution 60970
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 56843
    1999 Warner Classics
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 73555
    1999 Iron Needle 1391
    1999 Angel Records 67029
    1999 Berlin Classics 0092432
    1999 Grammofono 2000 78764/5
    1999 RCA 55838
    1999 Cala Records 524
    1999 Music & Arts CD4941
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 447398
    1999 Haenssler 98351
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 67101
    1998 Naxos Historical 81108056
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 431790
    1998 Teldec 43479
    1998 Haenssler 98186
    1998 Arkadia 78548
    1998 Testament 1142
    1998 Teldec 90883
    1998 Music & Arts CD1018
    1997 GM Recordings 2051
    1997 Compose Records 9153
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon
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    1997 Eclipse Records 64355
    1997 Sony Music Distribution 63287
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80463
    1997 Point Classics 267127
    1997 Philips 442799
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 69515
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453097
    1997 Music & Arts 995
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80450
    1997 Teldec 13136
    1997 Grammofono 2000 78026
    1997 Tahra 222
    1997 Tahra 175/8
    1997 Magic 48051
    1997 Cala Records 0520
    1997 Grammofono 2000 78751
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 449715
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 449 601-2GJB5
    1996 Mercury 434380
    1996 Teldec 13565
    1996 Erato 95191
    1996 Arte Nova 37852
    1996 Supraphon 1995
    1996 Supraphon 1989
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 447408
    1996 Music & Arts CD-941
    1996 Testament 3054
    1996 Denon Records 78956
    1996 London 448197
    1996 QK 62288
    1996 Music & Arts CD-904
    1995 Music & Arts 857
    1995 Capriccio Records 10600
    1995 Orfeo 263921
    1995 Virgin 561226-2
    1995 IMP Classics 29682
    1995 Eurodisc 69220
    1995 EMI Classics 65513
    1995 Carlton 2014
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    1995 Universal
    1995 ZYX Music 4159
    1995 Supraphon 1941
    1995 Chesky Records 9019
    1995 Royal Classics 6433
    1995 RCA 74321303672
    1995 Orfeo 70833
    1995 Lydian 18005
    1995 Preiser Records 90114
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 66248
    1995 Curb 78008
    1995 Intercord Klassische Diskothek 885924
    1995 Music & Arts CD-833
    1995 Naxos 553228
    1995 Myto Records 89009
    1995 Preiser Records 90922
    1994 Classical Heritage 1209
    1994 Erato 94817
    1994 Naxos 504001
    1994 Naxos 550278
    1994 Memories 4531
    1994 Music & Arts 804
    1994 Philips 442 068-2PB4
    1994 Philips
    1994 Philips 438757
    1994 Biddulph Recordings 017
    1993 Centaur Records 2124
    1993 ASV 6101
    1993 Kontrapunkt 32128
    1993 London 436 289-2DH
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    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48398
    1992 London 430799
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon 431161
    1991 Sony Classical 46534
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon 427602
    1991 RCA 60788
    1991 Chesky Records 19
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 423141
    1990 Decca / London
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 431029
    1988 Deutsche Grammophon 415 570-2GX4
    1988 Stradivarius 10007
    1980 Tahra 102
    1980 Tahra 1012
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    1980 Tahra 145
    1980 Tahra 141-142
    1980 Tahra 1028/9
    History 204568
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    Deutsche Grammophon 477006
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    Archiphon 21
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    Memoria 991006
    Urania
    Arte Nova 46484
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    Deutsche Grammophon 435347
    EMI Music Distribution 54286
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    RCA 60428
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