Brahms 3d Symphony Summary

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ANALYSIS of

JOHANNES BRAHMS:
SYMPHONY NO.3 IN F MAJOR, OP.90, ALLEGRO CON BRIO

General Information:
• DATE OF COMPOSITION: J.Brahms composed his 3d Symphony in the summer of 1883 at Wiesbaden, nearly six years after he completed his Second Symphony.
• MUSICAL ELEMENTS: In this symphony we come across the F-A(Flat)-F Motif, which was used by Brahms to abbreviate his personal-motto “Frei aber froh”. (‘Free but Happy’)
This is was what Brahms had declared himself to be, since at the time he was a 50 year old Bachelor. The inspiration behind this was the motto his friend Joseph Joachim had dedicated to himself in 1853, which was “Frei aber einsam” (‘Free but lonely’) and from the notes represented by the first letters of these words, in this case: F–A–E.
The F–A–F motto and some altered versions of it can be repeatedly heard throughout the whole symphony.

The Analysis:
I) EXPOSITION

• The Symphony opens with the F-A-F motif, making in a way a clear statement of how prominent its presence is going to be throughout the whole Symphony.
In immediate succession of the opening, comes the first theme, mostly consisting of a descending melodic pattern followed by a varied repeat and an extensive continuation in which the theme’s basic idea undergoes a series of developmental processes, such as extensions accelerations and fragmentations, until finally reaching a rather weak, inconclusive IAC on Bar 14.
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III) RECAPITULATION

• In the recapitulation, much of the earlier music returns, with the exception of some passages that are omitted.
• What happens in this particular Symphony during the recapitulation regarding the second theme is unique.
Starting now in D Major, the second theme suddenly slips back into the expected tonic key in various sections (E.g. Bar 156) and then it even moves to the relative minor, as opposed to the -expected- parallel minor, rendering it rather peculiar in terms of tonal relations.
• Following the full exposition of the second theme group, Brahms drives the movement to its conclusion through an extensive Coda, where the main theme together with its ‘complimentary’ motto-phrase, is given an immensely passionate utterance, until peacefully ending in F Major later.

GENERAL REMARKS:

• Throughout the movement Brahms uses quotations of the F-A-F motif excessively, in various parts and contexts, sometimes in obvious or not so obvious ways.
• An interesting aspect of this movement regarding harmony, is the persistent use of the interval of the Third (Major and minor) as means of modulations or harmonic
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