BY JARED BREY
Liberals and conservatives seem to be a staple of every political and artistic movement going back to the dawn of time, but the meanings of those labels are fluid and context-specific. During his own life, Johannes Brahms was perceived as the latter, a sort of classicist, forming one end of a spectrum on the other side of which were Franz Liszt, a pretty boy, and Richard Wagner, a proto-Nazi.
Brahms’s compositions are not necessarily lauded as breakthroughs in harmonic innovation. Instead, they’re known for their meticulousness and perfection. He apparently destroyed dozens or scores or hundreds of his own pieces because they weren’t good enough for him. We have also heard that he couldn’t grow a beard until he was in his thirties, which gives us hope that our own unimpressive stubble may only be a temporary condition.
We have less hope of achieving anything quite as magnificent as his fourth and final symphony, which the Philadelphia Orchestra is performing this weekend, bringing an end to its run of the composer’s biggest works. Find tickets here.