About the program
Brahms plays a key role in the new season of the BFO. In September and May, all four symphonies of the composer will be performed under the baton of Iván Fischer. It is conspicuous how late Brahms released his first symphony. He was 43 in 1876, when No. 1 premiered, and the next decade saw him produce the other three masterworks in the form. Then again, Symphony No. 1 took at least fourteen years to finish. The reason, said the composer, was that he was worried it would be taken for Beethoven’s tenth symphony, rather than his first, though his own perfectionism must also have played a part.
He finished Symphony No. 3 in 1883, at the age of fifty. This F major piece represents a transition between the sunny serenity of No. 2 and the solemnity of No. 4. Its first three movements evoke the world of Viennese Classicism—only to be followed by a closing movement that is Romantic in every respect. Like Symphony No. 2, the piece was first presented by the Vienna Philharmonic with Hans Richter conducting.
Brahms started writing his fourth symphony in the summer of 1884, and he finished it in 1885. He informed his friend, Hans von Bülow, about the completion of the work: “A pair of Entr’actes are to hand – such as together one commonly calls a symphony… I can’t stop thinking of the pleasure of starting the rehearsals with you. I don’t know whether a wider public will get to hear it. I fear it has the taste of the climate here – where the cherries never become sweet enough to eat!” The success of the October 1885 world premiere, where the conductor was von Bülow, was to prove the composer’s worries unfounded.