The premiere performance was given on 2 December 1883 by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Hans Richter. The shortest of Brahms' four symphonies, a typical performance lasts between 30 and 40 minutes.
Hans Richter, who conducted the premiere of the symphony, proclaimed it to be Brahms' Eroica. The symphony was well received, more so than his Second Symphony. Although Richard Wagner had died earlier that year, the public feud between Brahms and Wagner had not yet subsided. Wagner enthusiasts tried to interfere with the symphony's premiere, and the conflict between the two factions nearly brought about a duel.
After each performance, Brahms polished his score further, until it was published in May 1884. His friend and influential music critic Eduard Hanslick said, "Many music lovers will prefer the titanic force of the First Symphony; others, the untroubled charm of the Second, but the Third strikes me as being artistically the most nearly perfect."