The E minor Symphony is often considered as Brahms' most "classical" symphony. It certainly is the strictest and the most concentrated of all four symphonies, although it did seem to cast some doubt in the musician's mind. Brahms had surrounded the composition with a certain amount of mystery, even suggesting that the work in progress could be a piano concerto! In fact, the composer busied himself during two consecutive summers with his Op. 98. The Allegro and Andante were written in 1884 during a stay in Styria, while the other two movements were completed the following summer. It is fortunate enough that the work ever got to be heard since the manuscript almost went up in flames in the fire that broke out in Brahms' summer residence! As usual, it was in Vienna that the composer gave a first private hearing of the work, in a transcription for two pianos that confused even his most faithful supporters. "You're too powerful!" complained his friend from Zurich, Theodore Billroth. Brahms chose not to change a single note, and after a careful preparation with the musicians, the Fourth Symphony was a resounding success when Brahms conducted its premiere in Meiningen. The work presents a serious and tormented mood. This is underlined by Brahms' choice of E minor, a very unusual key among symphonists. The last movement is modelled on a Chaconne and lines up 35 variations on a theme borrowed from Bach's Cantata BWV 150 "Nach dir, Herr".