7. Beethoven’s long shadow

Brahms wrote four symphonies. Ever conscious of the ghost of Beethoven peering over his shoulder, it took the composer fourteen years to complete the first of them. But, once he had surmounted that particular psychological barrier, the Second Symphony (1877) followed within a year, the Third six years later (1883) with the Fourth, and final work, being completed in 1885.

The Third Symphony, Op. 90 is the shortest of the four, but what it lacks (only slightly!) in duration it makes up for in lyricism. It’s unique in employing a three note motif (F-A-F) derived from Brahms’ life-motto Frei Aber Froh [free but happy] which he’d adopted in contrast to his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim’s rather gloomier motto of F-A-E (Frei Aber Einsam [free but lonely]).

Symphony No. 3 in F, op. 90

Allegro con brio 0:20
Andante 13:45
Poco Allegretto 22:30
Allegro 28:46


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