Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 May 2019
A symbiosis in music between performance and composition prevailed throughout the nineteenth century. It was particularly evident among conductors. Conducting did not emerge as a distinct profession until the last quarter of the century. But even then, those who sought to make conducting a career either dabbled in composition or harboured lifelong hopes to succeed with their own music. The instincts of a fellow composer dominated the approach to interpretation from the podium.
In Johannes Brahms’s circle of close friends and colleagues, there was perhaps no better example of this link between composing and conducting than Otto Dessoff (1835–92). Dessoff is remembered only as a conductor, despite many fine works to his name. It was to Dessoff that Brahms entrusted the first performance, in 1876, of his First Symphony Op. 68 Dessoff was born in Leipzig to Jewish parents; he met Brahms in 1853 but became a close friend in the 1860s, after they both settled in Vienna.