Brahms’s Symphonies, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, May 30-31, 1997

Saturday, 31 May 1997, 11:28 am, Vancouver, BC

More on the Vancouver Museum from the Toronto consultants Thursday and Friday, both days with very early starts and late finishes; both induced by poor planning on the part of the consultants and Cultural Affairs, which had a last-minute panic due to several weeks of inattention and poor communication. So, while all the renovations planning continued, the entire infrastructure grant concurrently was rewritten so that it conformed to the requirements that Cultural Affairs had forgotten to communicate. The new executive director blissfully kept himself out of the process.

In any event, the planning sessions went well, and the infrastructure grant went off yesterday at the last minute to Victoria; and I went off to hear the first two symphonies at the VSO’s Brahms Festival at the Orpheum.

The First Symphony was a magnificent, trenchant performance, and I heard correlations and structures that I never had heard before, including some remarkable homages to Beethoven. The performance was revelatory. As to the Second, perhaps it was because I was tiring because of the long days, but I continue not to be warmed by it. I find the piece not very interesting, and over thirty years of trying to get past what may be a blind spot have not improved the appreciation. But the maestro clearly loved the playing, and the audience, which was restrained for the First, clapped strenuously for the Second.

Johannes Brahsm (Courtesy:

Johannes Brahsm (Courtesy:

Sunday, 1 June 1997, 9:28 am, Vancouver, BC

Financial wrap-up to the month yesterday; and the improvement not satisfactory. I need more return for my effort; not only in the financial area, but elsewhere, such as in fitness, in writing.

I dwelled on this for some time, and wondered if I weren’t building unnecessary obstacles right into my goal structure. I thought again of Ringer’s notion that goals that are too precisely structured in terms of both content and time are sure probabilities for frustration.

Had my hair cut in the middle of the afternoon. Afterwards, Gloria and I went to see the mall manager of the Denman Place Mall to complain about the amplified music the promotional buskers were playing in front of the mall. The music rises to the apartment buildings, and the flute, nominally one of the softest of instruments, is the most irritating.

We then walked the seawall to Siwash Rock, the heavy rains of the morning having abated.

To the second evening of the VSO’s Brahms Festival. Heard the second part of Mary Ingraham’s talk, which was much improved over yesterday’s, she clearly having had more time to prepare. Her comments on orchestra, instrumentation, and audience were most interesting.

The concert itself was fabulous, with a vigorously cogent reading of the Third, and a thrilling, riveting performance of the Fourth. I think I heard every note of the passacaglia. (Between symphonies, two retiring musicians were honoured; one, a French hornist with 31 years’ playing, and the other, a first violinist, with 42. Long-stemmed red roses, in the quantity of the years, were given. Clyde Mitchell officiated. It was quite lovely.)

I come away from these two evenings with a greater appreciation of Brahms the symphonist, his just position in the symphonic tradition, and the power and integrity of his architectonic reasoning. And the beauty and care of his orchestration, his feeling for the woodwinds and brass, his love for the horn and the ‘cellos; the clarity and artistry of his conception.

And why is it, when I wake today, that the music that is in my mind is that of the Second?

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