Double concert (Brahms)

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Johannes Brahms, 1889

The double concerto in A minor for violin, violoncello and orchestra op . 102 by the German composer Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) is an important contribution to the instrumental genre of double concerto or sinfonia concertante, which was hardly cultivated in the late Romantic period . Brahms composed his last orchestral work in Switzerland in 1887; in the same year it was premiered in Cologne with the soloists Joseph Joachim and Robert Hausmann .

Origin, premiere and reception

It is often pointed out that Johannes Brahms tried with his double concerto to revive the strongly cooled connection with his friend, violinist Joseph Joachim . Brahms had sided with this party in the divorce of Joachim from his wife Amalie in 1880 , which Joachim resented. The work also has a compositional consistency: During his summer stay in Thun, Switzerland in 1886, Brahms wrote several instrumental works for violin and cello (2nd cello sonata in F major, op. 99, 2nd violin sonata in A major, op. 100, 3rd piano trio C minor op.101). The double concerto in A minor for violin, violoncello and orchestra op. 102 was composed in the following year 1887 during another summer stay in Thun. The cellist Robert Hausmann had asked Brahms for a concert piece for violoncello years earlier. According to the Brahms biographer Max Kalbeck , the work included material for a planned 5th symphony, which, however, must be regarded as speculation that is neither supported by work manuscripts nor work design.

On July 24, 1887, Brahms wrote to Joachim from Thun: “[...] prepare yourself for a little shock! At the moment I couldn't resist the idea of ​​a concerto for violin and violoncello, no matter how hard I tried to talk myself out of it. [...] Above all, however, I ask in all cordiality and friendliness that you are not embarrassed in the least. If you send me a card that simply says: 'I renounce', I know everything else and say enough to myself. [...] "

Joachim reacted positively, so that just a few days later Brahms sent him the solo parts. On September 23, 1887, there was a first rehearsal with orchestra in Baden-Baden in front of a few invited guests (including Clara Schumann ) with the soloists Joseph Joachim and Robert Hausmann; the orchestra part was performed by the Baden-Baden spa orchestra under the direction of Brahms. The first performance - with the same soloists and again under Brahms' direction - took place on October 18, 1887 in Cologne's Gürzenich with the Gürzenich Orchestra.

The reception of the work in the Brahms Circle of Friends was divided, as were the public assessments. Hans von Bülow , conductor of the Berlin premiere on February 6, 1888, described it as a “splendid composition”. Clara Schumann stated: "[...] As a composition it is extremely interesting, ingenious ... but nowhere is it such a fresh, warm train as in many other of his things." While Joachim stated in 1903: "[...] I almost want his double concerto to take precedence." before the violin concerto ", Theodor Billroth told Eduard Hanslick :" Desolate, boring, the pure production of old men. "

The first print was published in 1888 by N. Simrock Verlag, Berlin.

Work description

Cast and duration of performance

In addition to solo violin and solo cello, the double concerto requires the following orchestral scoring: 2 flutes , 2 oboes , 2 clarinets , 2 bassoons , 4 horns , 2 trumpets , timpani and strings .

The performance lasts about 32 to 35 minutes.


Brahms' double concerto, composed two years after his 4th symphony , is the composer's last orchestral work. In formal terms - unlike the four-movement 2nd piano concerto - it is again based on the common three-movement concert form. The line-up with two soloists and orchestra points back to the double concertos of the Baroque period and the Sinfonia concertante of the classical period, but the work stands out in its strong interlocking of the soloist parts with the orchestral setting. The motivic-thematic material is processed in a manner typical for the composer with great economy.

I. Allegro

The broad, densely crafted first movement is opened by a four-bar tutti introduction , followed by a cadenza-like introduction by the two soloists, before the actual tutti exposition follows. The secondary theme, voiced by the winds, clearly alludes to the beginning of the 22nd Violin Concerto in A minor by Giovanni Battista Viotti , a work that both Brahms and Joseph Joachim held in high regard. The implementation is dominated by the soloist. In the recapitulation , the secondary theme turns to A major, before a brief coda closes the movement in A minor again.

II. Andante

The movement is in three parts and begins in D major. Two ascending fourths in woodwinds and horns are followed by a vocal main theme. Both soloists are often performed in parallel octaves. The middle movement in F major is fed by a chorale-like woodwind theme. The repetition of the varied D major section is followed by a coda based on the thematic material of the middle section.

III. Vivace non troppo

Here the form of a sonata rondo is used, the sequence corresponds to the scheme ABA 1 -CA 2 -B 2 -A 3 . The decisive factor is a memorable, restless dance theme that is initially intoned by the solo cello. The movement, which begins in A minor, is not without dramatic episodes and with third and sixth passages that sometimes seem “Hungarian”, changes increasingly to a friendlier major character and ends with a short, effective coda in A major.


  • Max Kalbeck : Johannes Brahms . Volume IV, reprint of the 2nd edition from 1915, Breitkopf & Härtel, Tutzing, 1976, ISBN 3-7952-0189-6 , pp. 60ff.
  • Wulf Konold (Ed.): Lexicon Orchestermusik Romantik. AH. Piper / Schott, Mainz, 1989, ISBN 3-7957-8226-0 , pp. 110-113.
  • Renate Ulm : Johannes Brahms, The symphonic work. Bärenreiter, ISBN 3-7618-2111-5 .
  • Wolfgang Sandberger (Ed.): Brahms Handbook , joint edition JB Metzler'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung and Bärenreiter, 2009, ISBN 978-3-476-02233-2 (Bärenr.), Pp. 493–496.
  • Georg Hendrik Witte: Johannes Brahms, Concerto for Violin and Cello with Orchestra (Double Concerto) op.102 in: Johannes Brahms. Explanation of his most important works by A. Morin (ed.), Verlag H. Bechhold, Frankfurt a. M. 1897.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. M. Kalbeck, p. 64
  2. ^ W. Sandberger, p. 493
  3. ^ Hans Gál (Ed.): Johannes Brahms: Briefe . Fischer Taschenbuch Verl., Frankfurt a. M., 1979, ISBN 3-596-22139-0 , p. 143
  4. cit. all by W. Sandberger, p. 494