Brahms's sunny Second Symphony is as warm and lyrical as his First had been
stormy and dramatic. It quite possibly reflects the idyllic nature around
Lake Wörth in Austria, where Brahms composed it in the summer of 1877.
Brahms himself, however, called attention to the melancholy current that
undermines the pastoral serenity ("You've never heard anything as world-
weary as this", he wrote to his friend Schubring). Despite the apparent
simplicity of the symphonic writing, the work is strengthened and enriched
by many thematic threads that run from one movement to another. It has been
a special favorite among music lovers since its premiere in Vienna on
30 December 1877.
Leonard Bernstein's interpretation with the Boston Symphony Orchestra was
recorded at Tanglewood in 1972. For Bernstein, Brahms was "a true Romantic,
containing his passions in classical garb", but also a "North-German
classicist swept away to Vienna, and fired by Danubian, Carpathian and
gypsy passions". Bearing this dualism in mind, Bernstein underscored both
the classicism and romanticism, the dramatic intensity and the sober
restraint of Brahms's music.