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“You have no idea what it’s like to hear the footsteps of a giant like that behind you.”—Johannes Brahms on Beethoven
2020 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, a composer who casts a long shadow over music; challenging, inspiring, haunting, and setting the bar for generations to come. This week, San Francisco Symphony Conductor Laureate Hebert Blomstedt returns to conduct Beethoven’s Second Symphony, a piece written during the composer’s early years in Vienna. Already troubled by hearing loss, Beethoven leans into a steadfast belief in his inner voice to overcome despair and produce a symphony filled with humor and good cheer. Writing in the wake of Beethoven’s watershed symphonies, young Brahms, at first, found the comparison paralyzing. It took some fifteen years of rewrites and false starts before Brahms could write a symphony—and then he produced four of the most popular to come out of the Romantic age.
Symphony No. 4
All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.