Brahms' Third and a magnificent Serenade

We have to thank Iván Fischer for his championing of this wonderful Serenade

Brahms' Third and a magnificent Serenade

Previously on Classical Explorer, we looked at two performances of Brahms Fourth Symphony. Today, we meet its predecessor, the Third. First let's hear the opening - the orchestra is the Budapest Festival Oerchestra, the conductor Iván Fischer. And tehre is no-one more expressive about the opening of this wonderful symphony and its meaning than Fischer himself.

A life's story in ten bars - there is no magnificent opening of a symphony than the first 34 seconds of Brahms' Third. We hear a resolute harminy, a proud major chord followed by a twusted one on the same foundation - good and evil, heroic and mean - but it is a mere introduction to teh real birth, a victorious emanation of energy, full of life and light. Each bar of this outburst takes us to a new experience: to happiness in F major, sadness in F minor, wandering into the distantly related D flat major, with a confusing dead-end of a diminished seventh as if we would lose our way. But then a magic solution takes us on a lyrical journey reaching first to fulfilment and finally to a peaceful decline. This is how we should live.

... and indeed, that opening here is full of power. Perhaps not as often performed as the First, Second or Fourth Symphonies, the Third is a magnificent outpouring of lyricism, as the third movement shows in this finely considered performance:

Iván Fischer's performance is a modern masterpiece in and of itself, the finale unrushed and noble, the cellos burnished as Brahmsian cellos should be. The sense of flow Fischer imparts to the score is remarkable; contrasting this with, say a rather heavier Karajan Berlin performance is like restoring a fine painting.

The Serenade No. 2 in A  Major, Op. 16, is a beautiful work, and if the Third Symphony offers a world in microcosm, this offers perhaps a more relaxed, joyful panoply. As the excellent booklet notes point out here, as in much of Haydn's music, dark forces only surface in very transitory form (think of the clouds that colour the opening of the slow third movement, Adagio non troppo).

. This is the joyous Scherzo, the second movement (of five):

Despite the excellence of the symphony, it is this Serenade that is the clincher for this disc. The sheer Brahmsian sunniness of the finale is an absolute joy in itself.

We have to thank Iván Fischer for his  championing of this wonderful Serenade.

A revelatory release.