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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Symphony No. 3 in F Major. Op. 90 - Brahms


Symphony No. 3 in F Major. Op. 90

Johannes Brahms
(1833-97)



1. Allegro con brio.

2. Andante con moto.

3. Poco allegretto.

4. Allegro.

Brahm's Third Symphony, first performed at one of the concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic Society, December 2, 1883, is undoubtedly the most popular of the series for the reason that it is clearer in its general construction than the others. At the same time, while less complicated and elaborate in its development, it is not lacking in ideas of a thoroughly poetical kind and in great variety of color.

The first movement opens with a short prelude of powerful chords by the wind instruments, introducing the first theme, a majestic melody, which is given out by the violins, accompanied by the violas and cellos, and supported by the trombones. The theme, which is peculiarly brilliant and even heroic in it style, is treated with masterly skill as it progresses from a steady and peaceful flow to highest point of vigor and majesty. In the transition to the second theme, however, announced by the clarinets, occurs a more restful period; and the theme itself, which is graceful and pastoral in style, imparts a serious, earnest character to the movement, which is still further enforced by the skillfully constructed Coda.





The second movement might almost be termed a rhapsody, as it is very short and is not elaborated after the customary manner. The greater part of the movement indeed rests upon and grows out of the opening theme, which is a simple but graceful and joyous melody, in strong contrast with the epic character of the work. This theme is taken alternately by the wind instruments, violas, and cellos, and is freely treated in variations, which give beautiful tone-color to it. It has a brief rest while the clarinets and bassoons give out a resonant, stirring phrase as if foreshadowing what is to come. It is hardly pronounced enough, however , to be called a second theme. The first subject at once returns and goes on to the end in a series of delightfully contrasted effects.

The third movement, which takes the place of the ordinary Scherzo, is mostly serious in its style, and really fixes the general character of the symphony. Its principal theme, a genuine sample of the Lied, is given out by the cellos, at first fanciful, tender, and full of simple grace, then reminiscent and contemplative, and at last dreamy; to which succeeds a passage for the wind instruments, soothing and almost suppliant.





The Allegretto dies away in soft chords which lead to the Finale -- a passionate, agitated, and sombre movement, yet heroic, elevated, and strong in its style. The theme with which it opens rushes past with all the haste and mystery of a vision in a dream, and then reappears in a new harmonic form, only to grow more sorrowful and gloomy with the entrance of the trombones preluding a new phrase, for now the sentiment changes and we have in its place a passionate conflict. Through the fierce and determined phrases of the violins, however, is heard the steady, jubilant song of the cellos. As they announce the victory the gloom disappears, and gives place to peace and rest once more, dignified and ennobled by the heroic theme of the first movement.



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