WASO Chief Conductor Asher Fisch traces the symphonies’ sometimes convoluted development from first to last.
My personal history with Brahms was through my parents, because this was the thing for German Jews in Israel when I was a kid: the holiest composer for some reason was Brahms. Brahms meant that you came from a good background, from good culture – you listened to Brahms quartets and quintets. I didn’t know the symphonies very well (the Israel Philharmonic played the Symphonies all the time, of course, and I probably heard many famous conductors I can’t even remember) but it was the chamber and piano music which was always playing at home. We had very few records when I was a young kid, but I think half of them were Brahms.
I understood somehow that Brahms was difficult but that I should love it. I remember when I just started playing the piano, trying to play around with the Intermezziand feeling very comfortable. And when I started to play more difficult stuff there was always Brahms in the palette.
The big problem, and therefore the biggest challenge with Brahms’...