This performance is available as part of a six-concert Masters Applause subscription starting at just $156. Single tickets are available beginning Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 10am.

These are works of tribute and celebration from two close friends who just happened to be supreme composers. Brahms' cheerful overture is brimful of student drinking songs (!) while his serene Second Symphony was his most charming and warm. There is perhaps no greater work for cello and orchestra than the concerto Antonín Dvorák wrote as a farewell to a beloved family member.

Featured Repertoire
Brahms – Academic Festival Overture
Dvorák – Cello Concerto
Brahms – Symphony No. 2

Additional Activities
Arrive early for Symphony Prelude, an in-depth presentation about musical works to help make the most of your concert experience, starting at 7 pm in Enmax Hall (Main Performance Chamber), free to all ticket holders.

Ticket Information

$79 Dress Circle (A)
$69 Terrace (B)
$59 Orchestra (C)
$39 Upper Circle (D)
$29 Gallery (E)

Tickets subject to applicable service charges.


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Academic Festival Overture, Opus 80 (10’)*

Cello Concerto in B minor, Opus 104 (38’)*


Symphony No. 2 in D major, Opus 73 (40’)*

program subject to change

Academic Festival Overture, Op.80
Johannes Brahms
(b. Hamburg, 1833 / d. Vienna, 1897)

First performed: January 4, 1881 in Breslau
Last ESO performance: Sobeys Symphony Under the Sky 2008

Groucho Marx, when invited to join the Friars Club, is famously quoted as saying, “I’d never belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member.” Johannes Brahms must have felt a bit like that when the University of Breslau chose, in 1880, to bestow upon him an Honorary Doctorate.

Brahms came from a poor background, and never attended university. He also looked askance at stuffy institutions of any kind. So to be given the title of “first master of the rigorous musical art in Germany today,” and to know that the university would expect that Brahms would write a piece specifically for the occasion, led Brahms to produce one of the most infamously famous works in music.

The Academic Festival Overture certainly seems an august title. But Brahms peppered his overture – scored for the largest orchestral force for which he ever composed – with popular songs of the day. One source calls them “folklore tunes often sung by collegiate students in Germany,” while another calls them, “German student songs.” But let’s call them by what they were – drinking songs. The academicians and administrators were quite appalled by the irreverent overture Brahms presented them on January 4, 1881; the students were delighted. While we may not hear the inside jokes they did, we hear a grand, lively, and thoroughly entertaining work of joy and celebration.

Cello Concerto in B minor, Op.104
Antonín Dvorák
(b. Nelahozeves, 1841 / d. Prague, 1904)

First performance: March 19, 1896 in London
Last ESO performance: Symphony Under the Sky 2013

From 1891 to 1895, the distinguished Bohemian composer Antonín Dvo?ák received a generous sum of money to head up the newly-formed National Conservatory in New York. But he missed his homeland dearly, and during a break in his tenure in 1894, he took advantage of the time off to make a short trip back home. While there, he began sketches for what would become his Cello Concerto, instigated at the behest of Bohemian cellist Hanuš Wihan. Dvo?ák took to the task with relish, completing most of the concerto by the following February. Soon after that, however, his beloved sister-in-law Josefina ?ermakova died. In her memory, Dvo?ák reworked the piece. His song “Leave Me Alone in My Dreams,” which had been a favourite of hers, was quoted in both the Adagio second movement and in the finale. Wihan would eventually take up the concerto, which was dedicated to him, but the first performance took place with Dvo?ák conducting, and Leo Stern as soloist.

It might seem as if the first theme heard in the work is given relatively short shrift, particularly as the second subject (heard first on the horn) is given much more breadth – it was among the composer’s own personal favourites among the many melodies he composed. The bulk of the movement is spent with each of these musical ideas, with the first theme made much more dominant in the recapitulation.

The second movement is one of Dvo?ák’s finest slow movements. After an introduction in the woodwinds, the cello enters, quoting that favourite song of Josefina’s. The mood is not tragic, however, but beautiful, serene, and direct. Three horns present an almost organ-like chorale mood, leading to a bridge which ushers in a cadenza for the cello, accompanied by the woodwinds – which in turn leads into the movement’s peaceful conclusion. The finale perks up the pace with a picturesque march tune used as the main subject of a loose rondo movement. Not only does the song from the slow movement return, there are echoes of a theme from the first movement as well, lending a sense of completeness to the finale of this broad, rich concerto, which has taken its place among the best. Upon hearing it, Dvo?ák’s friend and mentor Johannes Brahms famously said, “Why on earth didn’t I know that one could write a cello concerto like this? Had I known, I would have written one long ago.”

Symphony No. 2 in D Major, op.73
Johannes Brahms
(b. Hamburg, 1833 / d. Vienna, 1897)

First performed: December 30, 1877 in Vienna
Last ESO performance: January 2015

It had taken Johannes Brahms the better part of two decades to finally bring a symphony before the public. Faced with the extraordinary pressure of producing a symphony worthy of the musical successor to Beethoven – as the music world then regarded him - Brahms had laboured and second-guessed the long, tortuous road that finally yielded his First Symphony in 1876. But with that ordeal finally behind him, Brahms wrote a second symphony with surprising ease, and in only months, instead of years.

Composed during an idyllic summer in 1877 spent at the village of Pörtschach, near Lake Worth in the Austrian Alps, the Second Symphony is widely considered Brahms’ most serene, his most contented. But there is a grey undercurrent amid the serenity, one borne of a mature and seasoned composer who, that same summer, had written a motet titled, “Wherefore is the light given to them that toil?”.

All four movements of the D Major Symphony are in major keys, yet as often as not, tonality is suggested more than dwelled upon. There is much harmonic and rhythmic interplay and subtlety at work throughout the symphony, which begins with an almost hymn-like theme in the trombones before the mood turns more rich and romantic. A theme which comes to dominate the movement first occurs about two and a half minutes in – listen for what almost sounds like the opening of Brahms’ famous Lullaby. Moods contrast greatly throughout this movement, often by using fragments of the two main themes subjected to cross rhythms and unsettled harmonies. There are some moments of intense passion, but the movement itself ends almost playfully, with pizzicato (plucked) strings leading to a demure ending.

The second movement is the longest slow movement in any Brahms symphony, and opens with much the same mood as the first does. The development section offers a strong contrast in both mood and tempo, and moves through many keys. An emotional climax ebbs away as quickly as it arrives, ending the movement on a hush. The third movement’s main song is a tripping Ländler (the rustic precursor to the Viennese waltz), contrasted with a skittish, scurrying theme in 2/4 – the string writing has the feel of Mendelssohn’s gossamer string sound. These two main subjects alternate, or are combined in ingenious ways by Brahms in this good-naturedly off-kilter movement.

With the opening measures of the finale, we know momentous things are imminent. But at first, the buoyant outbursts from the orchestra sound almost as if the happiness is contrived. A clarinet begins a new song, which is followed in the strings by one reminiscent of the third movement’s Ländler. Fragments of these melodies come and go, but there is a forward momentum to the music; the brass dominate the proceedings as the coda begins, and at last, the joy is as irrepressible as it is unbounded, leading to one of the most ebullient endings of any Brahms work.

Program notes © 2017 by D.T. Baker

Artist Info

“The rising star of the French cello,” 22-year-old cellist Edgar Moreau consistently captivates audiences with his effortless virtuosity and dynamic performances (Le Figaro magazine).  Mr. Moreau won First Prize in the 2014 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, was awarded six concert prizes at the YCA Auditions, and is recipient of the Florence Gould Foundation Fellowship of YCA.  He has been selected as one of the European Concert Hall Organization’s 2016-2017 Rising Stars. His album of Baroque concertos was released last season on the Warner Classics label. Highlights of the 2016-2017 season include concertos with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Boise Philharmonic.  Last season, he made his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and made his New York recital debut in the Young Concert Artists Series. He has soloed with the Brussels Philharmonic, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio-France, the Simón Bolívar Orchestra in Caracas, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, the Mariinsky Orchestra in Toulouse, the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. 

In 2015, he was named “Solo Instrumentalist of the Year.”  As recipient of the 2015 Arthur Waser Award, he receives a grant of 25,000 Swiss Francs, and makes his debut with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra. Born in 1994 in Paris, Mr. Moreau began playing the cello at the age of four and the piano at six.  He studied with Philippe Muller at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, and currently works with Frans Helmerson at the Kronberg Academy.  His first CD, Play, a collection of short pieces, is available on Warner Classics label.  He plays a David Tecchler cello, dated 1711. 

This is Mr. Moreau’s debut with the ESO.

Venue Info

Enmax Hall, Winspear Centre
#4 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Edmonton, AB
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Getting Here

The Francis Winspear Centre for Music is on the corner of 102nd Avenue and 99th Street, in the heart of The Arts District in downtown Edmonton. It is readily accessible by car, Edmonton Transit (bus and LRT), and the Pedway system.

The City of Edmonton provides over 1500 convenient parking stalls within a 5-minute walk from Winspear Centre, The Citadel Theatre and Shaw Conference Centre. The Library, Canada Place and City Hall Parkades provide heated underground parking with pedway connections to the event venues. Parking is also available at on-street meters in the vicinity.



Nearly every level of the Winspear Centre is able to accommodate patrons with wheelchairs. Please advise our Box Office staff when you purchase your tickets that access to wheelchair seating will be necessary.

The Winspear Centre can provide an assistive listening device if you require one. Please visit the concierge desk in the main lobby.


Dining Near the Winspear

The Winspear Centre's downtown location is ideally situated for some of the best dining experiences Edmonton has to offer. Whether you're seeking dinner before the show or a late night treat after, you can find it at one of these restaurants located within a few blocks of the Winspear Centre.


At the Event

What to Wear
For some, an event at a world-class facility like the Winspear Centre is a great excuse to dress to the nines. But it’s hardly necessary. If that’s your style – go for it! If it’s not – hey, you paid for the ticket, so do what makes you feel comfortable. You’ll see a wide range of dress, from casual to pretty classy, depending on the kind of event it is. Business casual is probably a great middle ground for most Edmonton Symphony Orchestra concerts.

Perfume & Scents
In consideration to your fellow patrons who may have sensitivities or allergies to scented products, we ask that you use such products with great discretion. If, as a patron, you experience difficulty due to another patron’s use of fragrance, please alert our front of house staff, who will do everything possible to accommodate you.

Food & Beverage
The Winspear Centre has a number of stations in operation pre-show and during intermission. Bars, coffee bars, dessert stations and a martini bar are waiting for you. A good bet for intermission is to pre-order your drink before the show, and it will be waiting for you, so you can avoid lining up during the break.

Click here for more information on planning your experience.