Frei aber froh! This was the motto of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): ''Free but happy!'' The Romantic composer formulated it in response to his friend Joseph Joachim, who after the divorce of his wife went through life under the painful motto Frei aber einsam. In his intoxicating Third Symphony, Brahms - through the three notes F(rei) A(ber) F(roh) - focused on his personal love of freedom, as well as the heroic struggle it takes to become a free, independent individual. It is known that Brahms never got married, but often fell in love with young, beautiful female musicians, and felt a lifetime attraction to Clara Schumann, the wife of the famous composer. That romantic yearning can be heard in the lyrical, melancholic Poco allegretto, one of Brahms's best-known melodies. The second movement of the symphony, Andante, has a rustic character, and Clara called it ''a pure idyll''. Here one can hear the carefree, cheerful side of freedom, that of long walks in nature and the absence of oppressing tires. Being free is also frightening and difficult, which is reflected in the majestic motifs in the first and fourth movements, which follow each other at a furious pace and only in the final measures of the composition are reconciled in the recurring Frei aber froh-motif.
This performance of Brahms's Third Symphony by the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the world-famous Jaap van Zweden, is of the very highest quality.
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