Brahms's "Tragic" Overture
March 16, 1884
The Philharmonic concert on the 9th of this month brought among other things, unfortunately, a novelty by C. V. Stanford, a Serenade in Five Sections for Large Orchestra. 1 All that was missing to put the audience in a proper evening serenade mood, aside from some Turkish music, 2 was the four Wagner tubas and maybe four bells. It is truly astonishing to what extent, and without rhyme or reason, our modern composers defy the boundaries of musical resource and form. The usual rationalization is that such are the consequences of Wagnerian music. It has turned the youngsters' heads. No one can function any longer without a big orchestra, and so on.
(To all those who utter such nonsense we urge them to open Volume X of Richard Wagner's collected writings | Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen| and have a long, hard look at the essay. "Über das Dichten und Komponieren" ( On Poetry and Composition), and since nothing is gained by half measures, to give commensurate attention to the next chapter, "About Operatic Poetry and Composition in Particular." Above all, however, let all composers now living and writing ( Liszt is the only exception), before tearing their hair and gazing vacantly into space, lost in thought, recall these two essays or, if they have not already read them. make their acquaintance immediately, lest there be another disaster. Herr Stanford, had he followed this admonition, would have behaved like a gentleman, and dropped the idea of composing aserenade, just as many a symphony would never have merged from the dark womb of oblivion into the