Brett Dean and Brahms

A Testament to Beethoven



Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Jaime Martín conductor


Brett Dean Testament
Brahms Symphony No. 2

About the performance

The impact of Beethoven’s life and work is felt in the insurmountable examples and admirers the German master left in his wake. Though in different times and in different ways, both Brett Dean and Brahms sought to pay homage to the brilliance of Beethoven in these respective works, conducted here by Jaime Martín.

  • Brahms under pressure
    The young Johannes Brahms suffered from the great pressure of high expectation placed upon him by the European musical public, thanks to a particularly enthusiastic advocate in Robert Schumann. That and the fact that Brahms himself was his own harshest critic (he burned many more manuscripts than he published) meant he did not feel ready to compose in the symphonic form until he was in his 40s.
  • The footsteps of a giant
    Brahms imagined hearing “the footsteps of a giant” behind him – that giant being Beethoven – making him question his readiness and ability. He would eventually tackle the symphony, his first being one of epic proportions. Just four months after the First’s hugely successful premiere in 1877 he would deliver his Symphony No. 2, a work displaying the composer’s hopeful, glorious and peaceful best. Brahms had stepped out of the shadow of the giant, and become one himself.
  • A last will and testament
    Upon learning of his irreversible hearing condition, Beethoven wrote his last will and testament in 1802. Upon rereading this testament, Australian composer (and former Berlin Philharmonic viola player) Brett Dean was inspired to create a piece for strings which reflected this moment in Beethoven’s life. The work begins with violas played with bows not treated by rosin, creating an almost silent desperation, as if itself hampered by a hearing ailment.

Duration: approx. 60 minutes with no interval

Program and artists subject to change.

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