Tone Poem Tuesday

Closely related to the tone poem is the Concert overture, which is the forerunner of the tone poem in many ways. Also a single movement work, a concert overture was often intended to kick off a program of symphonic music, much in the way a standard overture does for an opera. Here is one of the finest such concert overtures: the Academic Festival Overture by Brahms.

Brahms composed this work as a “thank you” gesture to the University of Breslau, after the school awarded him an honorary degree. Displaying humor that’s fairly rare for Brahms, the work is mainly a collection of light-hearted tunes and even drinking songs, richly orchestrated in vigorous fashion. I can never help, when I hear this piece, wishing that Brahms had managed to tap into this part of his own psyche a little more often. Alas!

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