The evening started off with Brahms' Academic Fesitval Overture, a work which combines 4 student songs into one: Wir Hatten gebauet ein Sttattliches Haus, Der Landvesvater, Was kommt von der Höh and Gaudeamus igitur , something he did as a gesture of thanks to the University of Breslau who conferred on him an honorable Ph D degree for his contribution to music. It's a suitably festive piece with moments of the academic pomp and ceremonious solemnity thrown in. I couldn't help feeling that perhaps the performance of this first piece might have been sequed rather more smoothly. Maybe the orchestra was not yet in form?
It was a completely different story with Brahm's No. 4. The orchestra displayed true unity although again, there could have been slightly more dynamic contrast between the powerful and the quieter passages, which sounded rather louder than was really necessary but..... It was a work of power, though not without moments of pathos and melancholy. It's said that when he wrote it, Brahms was much affected by his reading of the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex and thus at times, the piece is filled with a certain reflective mood. The the first and last movements seem well tied together. I love the second movement: so bright, cheerful and warm. The third has a certain festive spirit to it whilst the final movement is a real masterpiece: magnificent and powerful. It's his last.
After the intermission, it became the Brahm's No.1. In this work, we already see what he could have become: all the elements of the last are there: his brooding mood, moments of lyricism and the struggles deep within his soul represented by powerful motives which constantly fight for dominance and never quite succeeding until the glorious final movement whose power was such that it simply couldn't stop when it reached the peak of its final explosion but had to simmer down by several waves of energy each one weaker than the last. The HKPO finally came into its own. Both it and Atherton fully deserve our long and enthusiastic aplauses.