Happy Birthday, Brahms and Tchaikovsky!

These two titans of the Romantic era share a birthday: May 7.

Johannes Brahms was born on May 7, 1833. Exactly seven years later, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born. They became two of the most well-known composers in music history. To celebrate this coincidence, we're playing their symphonies all week on the Symphony at 8! Here's the schedule:

Tuesday, May 3:
Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
Boston Symphony Orchestra, Bernard Haitink, cond.

Brahms's Second Symphony is known as his "pastoral" symphony, evocative of the Austrian countryside, where he was visiting when he wrote it. The piece was supposed to be premiered at a concert on December 9, 1877, but as Walter Frisch wrote in his biography of the composer, "in one of those little ironies of music history, it had to be postponed [because] the players were so preoccupied with learning Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner."

Wednesday, May 4: 
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons, cond.

Before Andris Nelsons came here to Boston to lead the BSO, he was Music Director at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (no, not Birmingham, Alabama - Birmingham in the U.K.). While he was there, together with the orchestra, he released a CD series of all of Tchaikovsky's symphonies. Reviewers have praised this CD, calling Nelsons "brilliantly responsive" and the performance overall "one of tremendous vitality and discipline."

Thursday, May 5:
Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
Vienna Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, cond.

Brahms's Third Symphony is the shortest of the four he wrote, and uses his "Free, but happy" motif (more on this in the LA Phil's program notes), referring to the fact that he was single for most of his life. He wrote it over the course of one summer, and when he sent a piano transcription of it to his (by that time) close friend and confidant Clara Schumann, she called it "one beat of the heart."

Friday, May 6:
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, cond.

Though Tchaikovsky himself wasn't too pleased with his ending to this one, it has become one of his most popular symphonies. In World War II, officials in Leningrad ordered the Leningrad Radio Symphony Orchestra to play it during the Siege, to keep spirits high in the city. When it was first performed in Boston, reviewers didn't really love it, calling it "a horde of demons struggling in a torrent of brandy, the music growing drunker and drunker. Pandemonium, delirium tremens, raving, and above all, noise worse confounded!" (info: Wikipedia)

Saturday, May 7:
An encore broadcast of the Boston Symphony Orchestra!

Yefim Bronfman is the soloist in Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2, and Andris Nelsons conducts Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1, "Winter Daydreams," as well as Haydn's Symphony No. 30, "Alleluia."