Johannes Brahms was borne on 07 May, 1833, in Hamburg, Germany. His father, Johan Jakob, had run away from his home village, where his family kept an inn, to become a musician. He gained a modest foothold in the city of Hamburg as a horn and double bass player. He performed in various places of entertainment, the militia, and; eventually, he performed in the opera orchestra. His mother, on the other hand, whom is consequently seventeen years older than her husband, has been supporting herself since the age of thirteen. She has done so by garnering employment as a seamstress and general maid.
Due to their meagre income, the couple lived in the poorest district of Hamburg. Further, the exercised the utmost in frugality to raise their three children upon Johann's meagre income. Nevertheless, their home was a happy one; for, they drew enjoyment from the simplest of pleasures. The Brahms's only desire was to educate their children to allow them to rise in the world. This was not difficult in young Johannes's case. For, he demonstrated outstanding musical talent at an early age. Beginning at the age of seven, he was instructed by F. W. Cossel, a fine German pianist. He made such progress that only after three years he could take part in a chamber-music concert.
After his debut performance, an impresario attempted to induce the Brahms family to travel to the United States. This venture would have undoubtedly made their family exorbitantly wealthy. Nevertheless, Cossel, aware of how an early concert tour endangered Johannes's artistic growth, pleaded against it. He enlisted the efforts of Eduard Marxsen, Hamburg's most renowned music teacher, to keep the family in Hamburg. He persuaded Marxsen to take Johannes as his pupil without charge. Such an outstanding offer decided the matter.
Marxsen, a competent composer, instructed the young Johannes in music theory. Thus, he laid the foundation for Brahms's future career. He developed into an outstanding pianist. This, however, only appeared to him to be an avocation, for he expected to devote himself to composition. His talent for the piano earned a much-needed supplementary income. From the age of thirteen, Johannes performed in taverns, restaurants, and nightclubs, often late into the night. Whatever monies remained after contributing to the family expenses, he spent on books. These he devoured most avidly.
A recital he gave in the year of 1848 made little impression on a Hamburg audience more accustomed to more glamourous virtuosos. The audience was unaware of the young composers abilities as just that, a composer. After this turning point in his life, he was determined to leave Hamburg to make it on his own in the music world. His chance came at the age of twenty. Eduard Reményi, a Hungarian violinist whom Brahms had previously accompanied in a recital, offered Brahms the opportunity to perform withe him on a concert tour.
His venture, which began upon 19 April, 1853, was not very financially profitable. Further, it ended in a quarrel between the two. Nevertheless, the acquaintances he had garnered during the tour would mould the rest of his life. He became the close friend of a violin virtuoso, Joseph Joachim, who from the outset had recognised Brahms's genius. Even more important was his relations with the Düsseldorf composer, Robert Schumann. An excellent concert pianist, Brahms's was able to demonstrate his talents to Schumann. This prompted Schumann to recommend Brahms to his publishers, and he wrote an essay in his magazine, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, entitled Neue Bahnen. His essay more than glorified Brahms and his abilities--it created a sensation. The young composer felt obligated to fulfill these glowing descriptions, and so he bombarded himself withe a barrage self-criticism. This prompted him to discard several works as he would be wont to do in his later years.
The years 1854-1856 were mostly passed withe Joachim at Göttingen or near the Schumann residence. These few years were an emotionally trying few. Robert Schumann tormented withe a nervous disorder attempted to take his own life and had to be removed to an asylum. His wife, Clara, had six children withe a seventh forthcoming. Thus, Brahms stayed near feeling somewhat obligated to the Schumann family.
Brahms's initial friendship withe Clara turned into ardent love. Nevertheless, Clara was loyal to her institutionalised husband. Further, she could not burden a young, maturing genius withe seven children and a wife fourteen years his elder. Moreover, she recognised Brahms's nature. He required freedom and independence. Even when her husband died in July, 1856, shed did not marry him; for, she knew he could not commit. Brahms struggled between his love of Clara and his love for freedom until the latter prevailed. His love for her manifested itself into a life-long friendship.
In 1857, Brahms received his first official post when he was engaged by the princely court of Detmold as pianist in-residence and conductor of the choral society, part-time duties he performed for three years. This post provided him withe bothe practical work experience and time to pursue his own compositional ventures. Further, it provided him withe a work ethic that led to a higher yield in his compositions. Brahms left for Vienna in September 1862, as he awaited the opening and offering of a position, in Hamburg, to him. He never received the position of conductor of the Philharmonic Concerts. Instead, in 1863, it was given to a friend of his Julius Stockhausen. This upset him greatly. Nevertheless, the Viennese atmosphere nurtured his artistic abilities far greater than Hamburg could have ever done.
In 1863, he accepted an invitation to take over direction of the Singakademie, a fine choral society; his concerts, distinguished by interesting programs, were well-appreciated. After a year, however, he declined to continue direction of the group due to arguments over public policy. Some time after, he was offered, in 1872, a post as artistic director of the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, a venerable organisation founded in 1812 that counted Beethoven and Schubert among its members. He remained in this post for three years opting to retire due to impatience withe his administrative duties. Nevertheless, he was ecstatic to be free and independent again. This was the last time that he would accept a post. Consequently, many offers were made to him.
Gradually, Brahms's renown spread past Germany and Austria. In April 1876, the University of Cambridge, England, offered him the honorary degree of doctor of music. The university's statutes call for the degree to be presented in person. Brahms begged them to reconsider, for he could not attend the ceremony. His fear of seasickness made him reluctant to cross the English Channel. Further, he dislike formal ceremonies. To make up for the loss of the Cambridge degree, the Philharmonic Society of London bestowed him with their gold medal in 1877. The University of Breslau conferred the honorary degree of doctor of music on him in 1879. The composer thanked the university withe his composition of the Academic Festival Ouverture which he conducted in person at the university.
In 1894, Brahms saw his lifelong wish fulfilled.
Hamburg, most eager to make amends for its behaviour, offered him the post
of conductor of its philharmonic orchestra, after having awarded to him,
five years earlier, the honorary freedom of the city. At the age of sixty-one,
he declined the new responsibilities called for by the post. His life was
to turn for the worse from then onward. He saw the deterioration of his
friend, Clara Schumann's health. She was, to him, "the most beautiful experience
of his life, its greatest wealth, and its noblest content." She died on
20 May, 1896. He travelled for forty hours to attend her funeral. Upon
his return to his summer trip, his friends were astounded to see the change
in his appearance. He felt that he suffered from a "petty bourgeois jaundice."
Nevertheless, doctors recognised it as an advanced state of an incurable
liver disease. On 03 April, 1897, he died in Vienna mourned by music lovers
around the world. His funeral was attended by music centres from all over
the world. In Hamburg, the flags on ships were at half mast. He was buried
in Vienna, the city he adopted as his home, near the graves of Beethoven
SYMPHONIES: No. 1 in C Minor,
op. 68 (1876); No. 2 in D Major, op. 73 (1877); No. 3 in F Major,
op. 90 (1883); No. 4 in E Minor, op. 98 (1885).
PIANO: No. 1 in D Minor,
op. 15 (1854-1858); No. 2 in B Flat Major, op. 83 (1881).
VIOLIN: op. 77 in D major (1878).
VIOLIN&CELLO: Double Concerto
in A Minor, op. 102 (1887).
WORKS: Two overtures; Academic
Festival, op. 80 (1880) and Tragic, op. 81 (1880); two serenades:
No. 1 in D Major, op. 11 and No. 2 in A Major, op. 16 (1857-1859);
Variations on a Theme by Haydn (Chorale St. Antoni), op. 56a (1873);
Hungarian Dances arranged form his own piano duets (published 1873).
SONATAS: Three for violin and
piano: No. 1 in G Major, op. 78 (1879), No. 2 in A Major,
op. 100 (1886), and No. 3 in D Minor, op. 108 (1886-1888); two for
cello and piano: No. 1 in E Minor, op. 38 (1862-1865) and No.
2 in F Major, op. 99 (1886); two for clarinet and piano, op. 120 (1894),
No. 1 in F Minor and No. 2 in E Flat Major.
WORKS: Two string sextets, two
string quintets, and three string quartets, one clarinet quintet, one piano
quintet; three piano quartets for violin, viola, cello, and piano; three
trios for violin, cello, and piano; one trio for clarinet (or viola), cello,
and piano; one trio for violin, horn (or cello or viola), and piano.
Solo Piano Music
SONATAS: No. 1 in C Major,
op. 1 (1852-1853); No. 2 in F Sharp Minor, op. 2 (1852); No.
3 in F Minor, op. 5 (1853).
VARIATIONS: Five sets, including
Variations on a Theme by Schumann, op. 9 (1854); Variations and
Fugue on a Theme by Handel, op. 24 (1861); Variations on a Theme
by Paganini, op. 35 (1862-1863).
WORKS: Countless ballads, capriccios,
fantasies, intermezzos, and rhapsodies, including Four Ballads,
op. 10 (1854); two Rhapsodies, op. 79 (1879); op. 116, 117, 118,119
PIANO DUETS: Variations on
a Theme by Schumann, op. 23 (1861); various waltzes, including Liebeslieder
waltzes, op. 52a (1874) and Neue Liebeslieder waltzes, op.
65a (1877); four sets of Hungarian Dances.
TWO PIANOS: Variations on
a Theme by Haydn, op. 56b (1873); Sonata in F Minor, op. 34b
(1864; an arrangement of his Piano Quintet, op. 34).
Two preludes and fugues; Fugue
in A Flat Minor; Chorale Prelude and Fugue in A Minor; and Eleven
Chorale Preludes, op. 122 (1896).
CHORAL MUSIC: Ein deutsches
Requiem, op. 45 (1857-1868); various sacred and secular works for female,
male, and mixed voices; some arrangements.
One hundred and seventeen German folk songs for four-part
chorus; various sacred songs, motets, secular part-songs, and canons for
female, male, and mixed voices.
SONGS: Two hundred and fourteen
solo songs withe piano, composed throughout the course of his life, published
in thirty-two sets, including Vier Ernste Gesänge, op. 121
QUARTETS: Twenty-five duets, mostly for soprano, contralto, and piano; sixteen quartets for soprano, contralto, tenor, and bass; Liebeslieder waltzes, op. 52 (1868-1869); and Neue Liebeslieder waltzes, for piano duet and voices ad lib, op. 65 (1874); and eleven Zigeunerlieder, op. 103 (1887).