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Johannes Brahms's Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80, was one of a pair of contrasting concert overtures — the other being the Tragic Overture, Op. 81. Brahms composed the Academic Festival Overture in 1880 as a "thank you" to the University of Breslau, which had awarded him an honorary doctorate. 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 who had nominated him for the degree convinced him that protocol required him to make a grander gesture. Brahms, known to be a curmudgeonly joker, filled his quota by creating a "very boisterous potpourri of student drinking songs à la Suppé" in a loose episodic structure. The piece calls for one of the largest ensembles for any of his compositions: piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, one tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and strings. The composer himself conducted the premiere at a special convocation held by the University on January 4, 1881, to the 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. A typical performance lasts around ten minutes
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