A lively, joyful work (Akademische Festouvertüre, opus 80) by Johannes Brahms, composed on the occasion of his being awarded an honorary doctorate in absentia by the University of Breslau in Germany (now Wrocław in Poland). The citation called Brahms the foremost contemporary composer of serious music. He celebrated with this festive piece, probably the single most played of his works. It is a pot-pourri of student songs, culminating with the magnificently triumphal Gaudeamus Igitur.

Other songs referenced are Wir haben gebauet ein stattliches Haus ("We have built a stately house") by the trumpets; Der Landesvater ("Father of the country"); and Was kommt dort von der Höh? ("What comes there from on high?"), one of the questions in a hazing ceremony, also known as Fuchslied "Fox-song".

The university management were no doubt expecting he would compose something grand and formidable for them, and politely suggested a "Doctoral Symphony" might be sufficient thanks. Brahms soberly informed Breslau's conductor Barnard Scholz that he had an idea for an "Academic Festival Overture", then surprised them all by addressing the rest of the university, the students, with their traditional and very un-academic pastimes celebrated in drinking songs. The invitation came in March 1879 and it was performed on 4th January 1881, with the students spontaneously singing along. It might well have had a political dimension too: several of the songs served as unofficial anthems of student resistance to restritive political control.

It is not frivolous music: it is grand, beautiful, stirring, and perfectly composed in sonata form; but it is also exuberant and fun.

www.menc.org/networks/genmus/openforum/messages/851.html was interesting on this
www.musicweb.uk.net/Programme_Notes/brahms_acfestov.htm
facstaff.uww.edu/allsenjm/MSO/NOTES/WSO/wsoApr02.htm

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