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Brahms was 43 years old when, after a long period of maturation, his First Symphony was published. Felix Weingartner commented on it ‘taking hold like the claw of a lion’ and its urgency marked a new phase in Brahms’ musical development. The Second Symphony is traditionally seen as the pastoral element in the cycle, while the Third, with its melodic beauty, has the courage to end quietly, an act of astonishing serenity. The compelling Passacaglia finale of the Fourth Symphony represents a fitting summation to one of the greatest symphonic cycles in the classical canon.