This glorious concerto well deserves its popularity and reputation as possibly the best written for the cello. It is an almost perfect example of Dvořák’s ability to meld virtuosic challenges to the soloist, his solid mastery of orchestral construction and his innate melodic gifts. No other cello concerto comes close in size, expressive depth or melodic richness. On hearing it, Brahms proclaimed of his friend’s creation, “Why on earth didn’t I know that one could write a Violoncello concerto like this? If I had only known, I would have written one long ago!” The Second Symphony might be described as Brahms’ ‘Pastoral’ – a total contrast to the dramatic and very serious First. Its song-like melodies are imbued with a gentle and lyrical quality – in their simple beauty the themes give the impression of having been written down as a result of spontaneous inspiration. In Brahms’ own words, “a delightfully happy spirit” pervades the whole work, and with its sunny themes Viennese audiences immediately took to it.