An extract from my Sunday Musings newsletter
I say without exaggerating that this work surpasses his first two symphonies; if not, perhaps, in grandeur and powerful conception—then certainly in—beauty. – Antonín Dvořák
The first thirty seconds of this piece are the most exquisite I have heard. That one, prolonged melody – so tender, so earnest, so wistful – reduces my heart to a bleeding pool of warmth. Every. Single. Time.
As I often do, I have attached a story to the piece – it enhances my appreciation, by increasing my powers of empathy.
I imagine an adolescent bird, flung from its nest, trying to find its way home. The motif is, alternatingly, the yearning and aching (how powerful are those words!) of that young heart, and of the mother, and the gliding of both birds as they roam the wilderness.
It does not matter that this was not Johannes Brahms’ intention – for great art expresses a universal idea, not a transient form. In this piece we find the naked soul of mourning and loneliness, laid bare. Hearing this, we cannot doubt the transcendent genius of man, whatever its source.