A River Runs Through Brahms and Schumann's Third Symphonies

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Heidelberg, Germany Heidelberg, Germany (S.Borisov/Shutterstock.com)

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.

Comments [2]

George Fernandez from New York, NY

What a beautiful recording of this repeat masterpiece of Brahms! Never thought I could hear one better than the other recordings I have or heard but this one hits it.
Thank You WQXR.

Wish I had advance notice of the performance. Would've loved to have a "friend" currently in Norway hear it.

Dec. 02 2014 10:11 PM
Milt Cohen from United States

a tiny correction to the caption of photo of Heidelberg above: the river is the Neckar, not the Rhine.

Dec. 02 2014 05:13 PM

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