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Brahms Symphony No.1

You'd expect to read a lot about this symphony with that title. But honestly, it's just what kicked off my thought process. And when it comes to titles, I'm pretty uncreative. Also, it's nearly impossible to compete with clickbait.

Sure, there are formulas such as adding an odd number into a title or some outrageous claim. It's tiresome to come up with good titles. I get why Chopin just numbered his pieces. I'm considering doing the same. So it's just Op. 1 No. 5, and then you only find out what you get when actually reading it.

In terms of going viral, that approach is likely terrible. But maybe others would then come up with titles for me, as they did with Chopin. After all, his Op. 28 No.10 is now best known as Raindrop Prelude and Op. 64, No. 1 is easier to find when googling "Valse du petit chien" or Minute Waltz.

Often, with great titles, the content doesn't live up to expectations. I prefer the opposite. For example, when you meet someone called Kevin and they are the most cultured person you've ever encountered. My brother is called that, and my parents even did, at some point, regret the choice after reading the research stating that teachers automatically assume a kid called Kevin to be a troublemaker.

But back to the symphony, Brahms couldn't be asked to name his symphonies; they are just 1 - 4.

How did this become a theme for me?

It's simple: today, as I sat in my kitchen watching the tree outside sway back and forth in the wind, I listened to this piece of music.

Listening to it will convince you that from the 14 years it took him to complete, not a single one was too much. Greatness takes time.

I like to mention this fact so that whenever someone pressures you to speed up whatever project or masterpiece you work on, you can counter with it.

Most current startups will likely be dead in 14 years; their average lifespan isn't very long, roughly five years. So, nearly three cycles of startup birth and death in the timespan it took Brahms to write a symphony for eternity.

There's nothing wrong with taking time and slowing down.

Listening to Brahms slows down time for me—in a positive sense. Much of Romantic era music does, and it's fascinating. In an era when everything around them sped up (industrialization), composers like Wagner, Brahms, and Mahler did the opposite in their music.

They introduced fewer musical ideas, yet symphonies became longer. They had a larger orchestra at hand to really indulge in the sound. The orchestra of Mozart's day counted roughly 30 players.

Nowadays, we're at three times that.

That's why, in Mozart's music, you hear lots of motifs. However, when you listen to Brahms, you don't in the same time span. That's because he has much more instruments (literally) to convey his. And time to draw them out.

Brahms even put some very detailed instructions in the score - with 4 horns at his disposal, he had two playing the beautiful solo in alternating measures to ensure there wouldn't be a break when players took a breath.

Astonishing.

And beautiful to listen to.

But it's not something you'd just leisurely listen to as you do some Yoga. It warrants more attention than that.

And if you pay it, you might come out of it a little exhausted, in a good way.

There's a lot of richness in slowing down.

Taking 44 minutes out of your day to listen to a Brahms Symphony, that's 44 minutes not spent on screens, not spent with mindless scrolling, not spent overthinking.

44 minutes of what's possible when one guy dedicates 14 years to creating a symphony, and 100 musicians come together to do it justice.

When the strings start playing the most beautiful melody in the fourth movement, one can't help but feel moved. The tour de force leading up to it is part of the experience. Without it, it wouldn't be the same.

“To live is to suffer; to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”


My favorite recording of this symphony has to be:

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