Back in the late 1970s and early 80s, Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic often appeared on PBS performing Beethoven and Mozart symphonies and, as seen here, all of the Brahms symphonies. Also performed were concertos of Brahms for violin, piano and the double concerto for violin and cello. I used to video tape these concerts, watching them over and over again until the music warbled due to the increasingly damaged video tape.
The video above is Brahms 2nd symphony in D major, Op. 73 performed at the Musikverein in Vienna, arguably the greatest concert hall in the world. In addition to these concerts on PBS, each episode in this series often had Bernstein himself discussing the music for that night’s program, all in his typical style of humor, sarcasm and musical brilliance (seen after after the jump).
While serving as director of a chamber music festival I founded in Austria several years back, we were fortunate to be close enough to the town of Pörtschach near the Carinthian capital of Klagenfurt in the south of Austria, a popular vacation spot for various composers in the 19th and early 20th centuries such as Gustav Mahler, Hugo Wolf, Alban Berg and Johannes Brahms. Brahms spent the summers of 1877–79 in Pörtschach and composed some of his most famous works there, including the second symphony. One should know that “summers” spent in places like this were not from June to August, like today, but more like five to six months until October, plenty of time to crank out works like this.