Academic Festival Overture

“Academic Festival Overture”, оp. 80 was composed as a tribute to the University of Breslau, which had notified him that it would award him an honorary doctorate in philosophy. (He is the author of another overture – “Tragic Overture” op. 81.) Initially, Brahms had contented himself with sending a handwritten note of acknowledgment to the University, however the conductor Bernhard Scholz (famous German conductor, composer and music teacher), who had nominated him for the degree, convinced him that protocol required him to make a grander gesture of gratitude and the University expected nothing less than a musical offering from the composer. Brahms created an overture in which he includes tunes appropriated from the student ditties. The composer describes it as “very boisterous potpourri of student drinking songs à la Suppé ‘ , his contemporary, the Austrian composer Franz von Suppe. It consists of four continuous sections  (Allegro – Maestoso – Animato – Maestoso). Brahms uses various student ditties: the patriotic song “Wir hatten gebauet ein stattliches Haus” (We had built a majestic home), which was associated with the movement toward German unification; “Hört, ich sing das Lied der Lieder” (Listen, I’ll sing the song of the songs); the cheerful German student song “Was kommt dort von der Höhq(What comes  down the hill), which was sung by the senior students at the admission of the new students. The overture ends with unfolded triumphant finale on the melody of the student anthem “Gaudeamus igitur”. Brahms himself conducted with great success the premiere at a special convocation held by the University on January 4th , 1881.

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