The evolution of Brahms’s Second Symphony could not have been in greater contrast to that of its predecessor. Whereas Brahms had laboured some 20 years over his epic First, the Second sprang forth in a relative rush of creative exuberance. Not that Brahms was letting on. As the Symphony neared completion, the composer kept friends, publisher and critics second-guessing, maintaining that it would be so elegiac and melancholy in character ‘that you will not be able to bear it’. Proof was, however, in the pudding: a joyous and sonorous work of pastoral lyricism that delighted its rapt début Viennese audience.