Brahms Symphony No 3

Conducted by Valery Gergiev

The London Symphony Orchestra present Brahms' Symphony No 3 and his Variations on a Theme of Haydn alongside Szymanowski's Symphony No 3, 'Song of the Night', featuring the acclaimed tenor Toby Spence.

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Brahms is often associated with the idea of abstract music, free of literary models or autobiography, but with the third the composer wrote in many ways his most personal symphony. And though coming only within a decade of the First Symphony’s premiere, it marks an entirely new stage of maturity - obviously written to more precise compositional goals: markedly, the symphonic application of a motto theme with the distinctiveness of a Leitmotiv. The Variations on a Theme by Haydn was Brahms’s first orchestral piece, and the first set of independent variations for orchestra by any composer.

For decades Szymanowski’s music was rarely heard outside Poland. Today, he is recognised as one of the country’s greatest musical figures. His desire to embody the music of his native land and his incorporation of the folkloric sounds of the Polish mountains make his orchestral works a must for anyone with an interest in Polish culture and music. Szymanowski’s Third Symphony is a musical setting of a 13th- century poem written during his second, Franco-Arabic period and combines the influences of Wagner, Chopin and Scriabin.


The teeming, ultra-glamorous surface of Szymanowski’s opulent Third Symphony, The Song of the Night, maintained a sheeny iridescence that never felt overbright, even at the score’s hedonistic climaxes, while a structure that can seem aimless took flight and held to its airborne course. Toby Spence floated his clean-edged tenor over the gorgeous textures conjured by the orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus. 


in the Variations on a Theme of Haydn he [Gergiev] struck gold in a superbly handled sequence of variations. The feather-light Mendelssohnian scherzo of the fifth was followed by a jaunty windband in the sixth, a gracefully lilting seventh and a spookily muted eighth before the St Anthony chorale emerged with dignity. 

Evening Standard

Supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the Polska Music Programme.

Captured live at the Barbican, London, in December 2012 and presented as part of the London Symphony Orchestra Collection.

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