Arts & Culture

Wichita Symphony scoops up Brahms for concert

Daniel Hege believes the legacy of Johannes Brahms is quality, not quantity.

With four symphonies, three serenades, a handful of choral works, a requiem and four concertos to his credit, the list pales in comparison to other composers, the Wichita Symphony Orchestra conductor and musical director said.

“The bulk of each of the works is extremely significant. That’s where Brahms makes up the ground,” Hege said. “There are no throwaways anywhere. Everything is at the absolute highest level.”

But when selecting pieces for an all-Brahms concert, which the symphony will perform next weekend, Hege sidestepped the symphonies that have become a staple of the concerts.

Instead, the second half of next weekend’s concerts will be inhabited by Brahms’ “Serenade No. 1.” Less structured than a typical symphony, Hege said, a serenade can contain any number of movements (No. 1 has six).

“A serenade was something like he felt he could do, where he was not held to the rigorous standards and form and structure that a symphony requires,” Hege said of Brahms, who was about age 25 at the time. “This was a safer haven for Brahms.”

Serenades may be able to have less instrumentation, Hege said, but the 45-minute piece will utilize the full orchestra.

The first half of the concert will include Brahms’ “Song of Destiny” and “Nänie,” both of which feature the Wichita Symphony Orchestra Chorus, directed by Michael Hanawalt.

“They’re just beautiful pieces,” Hege said. “And when you pair them together, they comprise the length of a standard half-hour kind of choral work that we were looking for.”

The concert opener is “Hungarian Dance No. 6.”

“That’s just a great curtain-raiser,” Hege said. “It’s a showy, short work that kind of sets the tone for the concert.”

Hege believes Brahms (1833-1897) was too self-critical of his work, which resulted in a comparatively limited repertoire.

“More compositions may have found their way to his fireplace than its way to the publisher,” Hege said. “He held himself to ridiculously high standards.”

Hege holds Brahms in the highest of esteem among composers.

“There is not a wasted note in any composition,” he said. “Everything is thought through, and everything is filled with passion in one way or another.”

The pieces, particularly the serenade, combine “intellectual heft with passion,” Hege said.

“That’s who Brahms was, in a nutshell,” he added. “He was able to write with such cleverness in the construction of the work, because it’s all in the drama of the piece.”

Brahms Serenade

When: 8 p.m. Sat. and 3 p.m. Nov. 20

Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas

What: An all-Brahms’ showcase, with “Hungarian Dance No. 6,” “Song of Destiny,” “Nänie” and “Serenade No. 1.”

Admission: $20 to $65

Information: Tickets are available at, by phone at 316-267-7658 or in person at the symphony box office. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.