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1883 – Brahms Symphony No. 3


1883 Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 3 in F major
Instrumentation Strings, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and contrabassoon, 4 horns,  2 trumpets, 3 trombones and timpani
Movements I: Allegro con brio  (F) II: Andante C) III: Poco Allegretto (c) IV: Allegro (f/F)
Overview This symphony was the most successful to date of Brahms’ works. Although quite short the work has various unusual features in its form and tonality and with the stormy hints of F minor at the beginning of this F major symphony rearing their head at various points in the work. However, all four movements, including the last, end quietly, with the serene F major ending of the last movement being particularly poignant.

See full score / watch on Youtube

B) 1st mov. / sonata The first movement is based on the motif F-Ab-F (Frei aber froh – free but happy). This motif in the context of F major creates immediate harmonic and tonal instability and this is reflected in the stormy opening music.

For the second subject, however, Brahms temporarily leaves the whole question behind by moving unexpectedly to the non-closely related key of A major:

C) Second movements The C major Andante leaves the storms behind and is simple, gentle and very beautiful. It is in modified sonata form and although the instrumentation is reduced the woodwind play a very prominent role in the movement.
D) 3rd mov. / Minuet The third movement is a Poco Allegretto and distinctly not a minuet but more of a gentle waltz, The bubbling leggiero textures at the opening set the tone for a movement that,  like the second movement, rarely moves beyond quiet dynamics.
G) Harm. / tonality The unusual tonal relationships in the first movement (first and second subject) and the constant presence of the minor (the last movement starts fully in F minor) mentioned above are the most notable features of the harmony and tonality.
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