Valery Gergiev begins his Brahms symphony cycle with recordings of the first two symphonies, ‘Tragic Overture’ and ‘Haydn Variations’.
The ‘Haydn Variations’ was the first set of independent variations for orchestra by any composer. His epic first symphony, portraying dignity and grandeur, was ecstatically received at its premier in 1876, and Brahms was soon heralded as one of the great symphonic masters. His second symphony, with its joyful melodies and pastoral beauty, portrays a more relaxed tone than its predecessor. The Tragic Overture, on the other hand, is turbulent and tormented, with a powerful and magnificent energy.