A River Runs Through Brahms and Schumann's Third Symphonies

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This week on the show, Simon Rattle conducts the third installment in the Schumann/Brahms symphonic cycle. Schumann's Symphony No 3 in E-flat major is known as the "Rhenish" for its setting on the Rhine. Decades later, Brahms composed his Symphony No 3 in F major in Wiesbaden, also on the river.

Clara Schumann responded to each when it was new. About her husband Robert’s, she wrote to Brahms how the fourth movement (of five) mystified her. “Robert has written an astonishing new piece,” she wrote, “but there’s a movement in it I cannot make head or tail of...” Schumann himself called the fourth movement “solemn,” and Rattle says that one feels the demons that would eventually pull Robert Schumann down in the fourth movement of the "Rhenish" Symphony.

Decades later, when Clara received a two-piano version of Brahms’ Third Symphony from the composer, she declared it poetry, experiencing “...all the movements as if cast from one mold, one heartbeat. Every movement is a jewel! – How one is surrounded by the mysterious spell of forest life from the beginning to the end!”

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The Berlin Philharmonic's recordings are available at Arkivmusic.com and on iTunes.