"In him converge all previous streams of tendency, not as into a pool, stagnant, passive, motionless, but as into a noble river that receives tributary waters and bears them onward in and statelier volume."
-W.H. Hadow on Brahms
In Brahms, we have the final of the so-called "Three B's." And
if anyone is deserving of the honor of being including with the
likes of Bach and Beethoven, Brahms
surely lived up to it. His lifetime idol was, who else, Beethoven.
He thought of Beethoven so reverently that he did not compose a
symphony for quite some time in fear that it would not live up to
the standards set by Beethoven. Nonetheless, he was an ingenious
composer. He was truly a classicist at heart. He kept with the
classical form in his
music although his passages are true to the romantic times.
Nonetheless, his music is beautiful, powerful and quite exciting to
Johannes Brahms was born on May 7th, 1833 in Hamburg, Germany. His father was the town musician. He first studied music with his father, a double-bass player for the opera; subsequently he studied composition with Edward Marxsen. Brahms was a talented pianist, giving his first public recital at the age of fourteen, and making a living by playing in taverns and dance halls by the age of fifteen. This extra income allowed for Brahms to have a good education in music. He knew that he was capable of better compositions than he had thus far, and was simply waiting for his chance.
That chance came along with a man named Joseph Joachim. This famous Hungarian violinist was very impressed with Brahms' talents. He sent him to Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann to see whether either would take him under their wing. As for Liszt, Brahms was not very impressed with his musical talent. But he felt very comfortable with the Schumann family and they were also impressed with his playing abilities. Robert Schumann immediately claimed Brahms to be a musical genius, while his wife was impressed by his God-given talent. Brahms and Clara Schumann became very good friends. There are rumors that Brahms and Clara became more than friends, but those allegations have never been verified.
With the help of Schumann, he quickly rose to fame throughout Germany. However they both fell victim to the ongoing war between the two factions in Vienna. One faction believed that everyone should turn to the music of the future, while the other group upheld the virtuous beliefs of the classical age. Brahms fell into the later group, and was constantly criticized by composers of the day. Many of his malevolents were Hugo Wolf, Franz Liszt, Robert Wagner, and Peter Tchaikovsky. Nonetheless, Brahms continued to write his powerful music with classical ties.
Brahms only fear was the composition of a symphony. He waited until late in his life to compose his first. As soon as he had completed the composition, it was almost instantly dubbed "Beethoven's Tenth Symphony." With the fear of not living up to his idol's standards evanescent, Brahms concocted another three symphonies over the course of his life.
Brahms never married during his life. This is perhaps because his frightening youth where he would play in front of brothels and be treated like a plaything of the local prostitutes. Or perhaps it was because of some unknown passion for Clara Schumann, but still, he did not commit to matrimony during the course of his life. He came as close as being at the altar with a Agathe von Siebold, but at the altar, exclaimed that he could not marry her. Not only that but during the middle of Brahms' years Robert Schumann died. Many said he finally expressed his love for Clara, but for some unknown reason they went on their separate ways, never to see each other again.
He always had a deep love for Clara. But when news of her death
came in May of 1896 after she had been sick for months, he began to
compose Four Serious Songs. These deeply-felt heart wrenching tales
show us the compassionate side of Brahms. A year later in March of
1897, he attended the performance of his Fourth Symphony. This
would be his last. At the end of the performance, the crowd looked
to him in the balcony and knew they were saying goodbye to a
legacy. As he returned home, he began a deep rest. He wrote his
mother, "I've gone to bed awhile but only for the sake of variety."
Five days later he died, at the age of 63, on April 3rd, 1897.
Many of Brahms pieces were hits, others disasters, but the people of Germany and Vienna continued to grow to admire this man. He would write many beautiful pieces, but many he had to correct, change or add to before he felt they were perfect. A fine example is the German Requiem. He performed this piece and added to it, and then performed it again, following this cycle many times before he as well as the crowd was pleased with it. His first orchestral work, Variations on a Theme by Haydn, was also revised and eventually transformed into a two-piano version. But all his pieces ended up perfect and exciting to listen to.
His two powerful Piano Concerto's are some of the best known works for a solo piano. Its length, over four movements, is forty minutes of pure melody. Among his other concertos stands out the massive one for violin and the grand double concerto for violin and cello. However, when one must talk about Brahms, they must mention his symphonies, which second only to Beethoven, are among the top symphonies ever composed. The third is even nicknamed Eroica, just as Beethoven's third symphony was.
His chamber music pieces only total twenty, far less than his
idol. However their difficulty and overall merit are among the
highest ever written. The second String Sextet, in
dedication to Agathe, spells out her name with its melody(In
German. 'H' is actually B Natural). His Piano Quintet in F Minor is
almost a symphony in itself. Its forceful chords and progressions
make it the most noteworthy of his chamber pieces. There also the
few string quartets, which in themselves are masterpieces. His
First is imaginative
while his second
grows on the listener just as Brahms grew on the world during his
His Famous Compositions
His notable pieces include all of the aforementioned pieces as
well as the ever-popular Hungarian Dances. The Academic Festival
Overture is quite tumultuous and enjoyable. The German Requiem is
very good, as well as the Alto Rhapsody. For other chamber pieces,
his Clarinet Sonatas, Cello Sonatas, and his first Sextet are quite
delectable. His Clarinet Quintet and other quartets also should be
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