Academic Festival Overture (arr. Allen)

From Wind Repertory Project
Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (arr. Michael Allen)

This work bears the designation Opus 80.

General Info

Year: 1880 / 2019
Duration: c. 10:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Art of Sound Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $75.00; (digital) - $75.00


Full Score
B-flat Piccolo Trumpet
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Triangle


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Brahms wrote his Academic Festival Overture in 1881 as an acknowledgment of the doctoral degree which had been bestowed on him by Breslau University. The work was first performed at Breslau early in 1881, Brahms himself conducting.

The overture is in reality a fantasia on four student songs. In a letter to his publisher, Brahms wrote, "I advise you to have the Academic arranged for military band. I should be tempted to do it myself if I knew more about it."

- Program Note by Mark Hindsley from Program Notes for Band and Band Music Notes

Academic Festival Overture (German: Akademische Festouvertüre), Op. 80, by Johannes Brahms, was one of a pair of contrasting concert overtures — the other being the Tragic Overture, Op. 81. Brahms composed the work during the summer of 1880 as a musical "thank you" to the University of Breslau, which had awarded him an honorary doctorate the previous year.

Initially, Brahms had contented himself with sending a simple handwritten note of acknowledgment to the university, since he loathed the public fanfare of celebrity. However, the conductor Bernard Scholz, who had nominated him for the degree, convinced him that protocol required him to make a grander gesture of gratitude. The university expected nothing less than a musical offering from the composer. "Compose a fine symphony for us!" he wrote to Brahms. "But well orchestrated, old boy, not too uniformly thick!"

Brahms, who was known to be a curmudgeonly joker, filled his quota by creating a "very boisterous potpourri of student drinking songs à la Suppé" in an intricately designed structure made to appear loose and episodic, thus drawing on the "academic" for both his sources and their treatment.

The work sparkles with some of the finest virtues of Brahms's orchestral technique, sometimes applied for comic effect, such as the bassoons that inflate the light subject of "Fuchslied" (Was kommt dort von der Höh?). The inventive treatment includes tunes appropriated from the student ditties Fuchslied, Wir hatten gebauet ein stattliches Haus, Hört, ich sing das Lied der Lieder, and most memorably, the broad, triumphant finale on Gaudeamus igitur, which succinctly engages Brahms's sophisticated mastery of counterpoint, further fulfilling the "academic" aspect of his program, cheekily applied to the well-worn melody. Brahms manages to evoke ravishing euphoria without sacrificing his commitment to classical balance.

The overture consists of four continuous sections: Allegro (C minor), Maestoso (C major), Animato (G major), Maestoso (C major).

The composer himself conducted the premiere at a special convocation held by the University on January 4, 1881, to the chagrin (and mischievous delight) of many of the academics in the audience. Due to its easily grasped structure, its lyrical warmth, as well as its excitement and humor, the work has remained a staple of today's concert-hall repertoire.

- Program Note from Wikipedia


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of South Alabama (Mobile) Wind Ensemble (William H. Peterson, conductor) - 4 March 2021

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Academic Festival Overture, Wikipedia
  • Brahms, J.; Hindsley, M. [197-?]. Academic Festival Overture [score]. [Concert Band Transcriptions]: [Urbana, Ill.]
  • Perusal score
  • Smith, Norman and Albert Stoutamire (1979). Band Music Notes. Rev. ed. San Diego: Kjos West. p. 37
  • Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 85.