Johannes Brahms (German, 1833-1897) composed his 3rd Symphony in F major, Op. 90, in 1883. The symphony was developed during a time in which some musicians believed that the future of music is symphonic poetry and program music. Others, including Brahms believed that music should be valued only by its musical and artistic standards and not by its inner program. The 3rd Symphony of Brahms is considered one of his artistically most perfect works.
The particularity of his Third is the basic motive of F-A-flat-F with which the first movement starts and that reoccurs within the movement to mark different passages. Brahms borrowed the idea of having a compressed motif binding together the structure of a movement from Beethoven, especially Beethoven's Fifth.
Interpretation of Brahms' 3rd Symphony
Brahms was a 50 year old bachelor at the time of composing his 3rd Symphony. And even though Brahms was opposing the idea of having an inner program behind his music, some critics later claimed that the symphony's basic motive of F-A-flat-F could stand for his life motto of being Frei Aber Froh which means in English free but happy.
An old friend of Brahms is quoted that he also did not like to read poetry into a symphony. However, while listening to the forth movement of this symphony, he could not stop himself of imagining a brave hero swimming with all his passion through the waves to his destination. The friend stated that this movement impressed him most deeply and that he loved the ending in which he felt a salvation during sinking which was beautiful and reconciling.