Brahms: Academic Festival Overture (Solti, CSO)


This is Brahms‘ Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80 (Akademische Festouvertüre), a much lighter counterpart to his Tragic Overture. He composed it in 1880 when he received an honourary doctorate from the University of Breslau (now Wroclaw), as a musical show of gratitude. The music is very light-hearted, warm and humorous, but Brahms uses the occasion as a tour-de-force in contrapuntal symphonic writing. The orchestra whisks through several pulsing, boisterous melodies, which Brahms described as a “potpourri of student drinking songs,” subtly mocking the academic institution for which he composed the piece. At 9:10 the orchestra erupts into a joyous rendition of “Gaudeamus igitur” (“So let us rejoice,” a.k.a. “On the shortness of life”), a popular Latin graduation hymn which was originally a beer-drinking song. 

The recording is by Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The images are of Solti, Brahms, the University of Wroclaw, and the beautiful old city of Wroclaw, Poland.

First verse of the Gaudeamus: 

Gaudeamus igitur Juvenes dum sumus. 
Post jucundam juventutem 
Post molestam senectutem 
Nos habebit humus. 

Let us rejoice therefore 
While we are young. 
After a pleasant youth 
After a troubling old age 
The earth will have us.

 

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