Brahms’ First Symphony: Walking in the Footsteps of a Giant

I shall never write a symphony! You can’t have any idea what it’s like always to hear such a giant marching behind you! Johannes Brahms was nearing 40 when, in 1872, he wrote these words in a letter to the conductor Herman Levi. The “giant” was Beethoven, whose nine game-changing symphonies loomed like a dauntingly impassible mountain range in front of every nineteenth century composer who followed. By this time, Brahms was already …

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