Alto Rhapsody for Alto, Male Chorus & Orchestra, Op. 53. Christa Ludwig (mezzo soprano), Otto Klemperer/Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus.
The Rhapsody is a setting of verses from Goethe’s Harzreise im Winter. It was written in 1869, one year after the German Requiem, with which the third part of the Rhapsody has similarities of vocal and choral style. The work is in three sections: the first two, in a chromatically dense and wandering C minor, are for the soloist and orchestra and describe the pain of the misanthropic wanderer. The second section is an aria in all but name. The third section, in a nominal C major, brings in the male chorus, which joins the soloist in a plea to a celestial spirit for an abatement of the wanderer’s pain. The work typically takes between twelve and fifteen minutes in performance. See recordings, below, for indicative timings. The work was first “tried out” on 6 October 1869, at the dress rehearsal for the Karlsruhe season’s first orchestral subscription concert. Amalia Boni sang the solo role; the conductor Hermann Levi was on hand, but there was no male voice chorus, and it is unclear whether Boni was accompanied by orchestra or simply on piano. Brahms and Clara Schumann were present, but there was certainly no other audience. It received its first public performance, and its first definitely known proper performance, on 3 March 1870, at Jena. The soloist at the first performance was Pauline Viardot and the conductor was Ernst Naumann.
The Tragic Overture (German: Tragische Ouvertüre), Op. 81, is a concert overture for orchestra written by Johannes Brahms during the summer of 1880. It premiered on December 26, 1880 in Vienna. Most performances last between twelve and fifteen minutes. Brahms chose the title “Tragic” to emphasize the turbulent, tormented character of the piece, in essence a free-standing symphonic movement, in contrast to the mirthful ebullience of a companion piece he wrote the same year, the Academic Festival Overture. Despite its name, the Tragic Overture does not follow any specific dramatic program. Brahms was not very interested in musical storytelling and was more concerned with conveying and eliciting emotional impressions. He summed up the effective difference between the two overtures when he declared “one laughs while the other cries.” Brahms quotes some material from the last movement of the Second Symphony in this overture. The Tragic Overture comprises three main sections, all in the key of D minor.
1.Allegro ma non troppo 2.Molto più moderato 3.Tempo primo ma tranquillo.