Drinking songs and other music by Brahms at Saturday’s Louisville Orchestra performance at the Ogle.


There’s a reason I’m always riffing on the same refrain. Last evening, it was time for another Louisville Orchestra concert at the Paul W. Ogle Cultural & Community Center at IU Southeast.

Inspired by the mountains and countryside of Austria, Brahms wrote his Second Symphony — a work that evokes both victory and peace. The composer wrote his Academic Festival Overture as a “thank you” for an honorary degree. It’s a sparkling mix of student drinking songs that were popular in the era and offered a cheeky response to the “serious” occasion.

JOHANNES BRAHMS: Academic Festival Overture
JOHANNES BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 in D Major

I’ve always enjoyed the story behind the Academic Festival Overture, which Brahms wrote for the occasion of an honorary degree bestowed on him by the University of Braslau.

No doubt the premiere was intended to be a solemn occasion. As an unspoken reciprocation of their award, the University of Breslau had anticipated that Brahms, one of the greatest living composers (albeit one who had not attended college), would write a suitable new work to be played at the award ceremony. There is little doubt that what he provided confounded his hosts’ expectations. Rather than composing some ceremonial equivalent of Pomp and Circumstance—a more standard response—Brahms crafted what he described as a “rollicking potpourri of student songs,” in this case mostly drinking songs. It is easy to imagine the amusement of the assembled students, as well as the somewhat less-amused reaction of the school dignitaries, to Brahms’s lighthearted caprice.

It’s very reminiscent of my academic career at IU Southeast.

But seriously, the concert on Saturday night (conducted by Teddy Abrams) was the third of four “neighborhood” appearances by the LO at Ogle this season, and reiterating, the Confidentials adore the convenience of the orchestra in our backyard.

Both the LO’s series and the venue itself are chronically underrated assets for the city of New Albany.