Johannes Brahms - History

Johannes Brahms - History

German composer known for his Variations on a Theme of Haydn, German Requiem, sonatas for piano, and a multitude of other works. Colloquially referred to as one of the Three B's (the others being Bach and Beethoven) who occupy the pantheon of musical greatness.

The Love Story of Clara Schumann

Clara Wieck was born on September 13 th , 1819, in Leipzig, Germany near the beginning of what is generally referred to as the Romantic Era in music. Her father, Friedrich Wieck, chose her name because it meant brilliant and bright. He fully expected her to be a brilliant musician, trained by him from birth. She grew up in a household where the sounds of music were heard constantly. Her father gave piano lessons to many students who came and went, and sold instruments at their shop in Leipzig.

The family would go on walks together daily. It was a habit that Clara loved and would later attribute to her health and longevity. An entry into her childhood diary, which her father started for her, reveals that she did not speak until the age of four. Even after she began to speak, her parents assumed that she was hard of hearing because she was so self absorbed and appeared unconcerned with what was happening around her. The myth that she was ‘slow’ arose because of this.

She loved piano lessons with her father and learned music without difficulty. It was words that she had difficulty with. It appears that there was great tension between Clara’s parents. Her self-absorption might well have served as a buffer to the harsh words she endured as a child. Music, on the other hand, was not angry or threatening. It was a refuge. All her life it would be a safe place where she could go to gain relief from tragedy and pain.

The Wieck home was always a gathering place for local and traveling musicians. Their home was always a great place to hear new sounds and meet new people and because of this Clara grew up within the presence of many great romantic era musicians.

Although a little shy, Clara was a child prodigy. She had actively belonged to some of the most elite circles of musicians in Leipzig. She was musically stimulated not only by her father's teachings but by so many German Romantics.

Clara’s Career

Clara Wieck at the age of 16, in Hannover, Germany. On the piano is the solo part of the third movement of her Concerto op. 7. Lithograph by J. Giere, 1835.

Her first performances were at home and for Leipzig and Dresden friends. In 1828 her family takes a trip to nearby Dresden where she gives private performances to local musicians and friends. Those who attended were impressed and the young musician began to build a reputation early in her life, at this time only 8 years old. The trip to Dresden was so successful that the family briefly considered moving to that town.

She was invited to play in an ensemble at the Gewandhaus on October 20, 1828. Clara and her father built upon an already impressive reputation in the musical community of the time. The family would return to Dresden from time to time, and in 1831 Clara goes on her first extended tour.

She is an instant success everywhere she plays and is invited to many events. Aristocratic ladies vied with each other to bestow rings, chains, and earrings on Clara. Her father was careful to make sure that her head was not turned by praise and gifts. He wrote in his journal, “If I notice anything the least bit damaging, I will leave immediately, so that she can be in orderly middle-class surroundings. I am too proud of her unpretentiousness to exchange it for any worldly honors.”

Robert Schumann

The Summer of 1830 was spent preparing for her first solo concert in Leipzig. But something took place that was to have a profound impact on Clara's life. In October, a new student moved into the Wieck household named Robert Schumann. He had arrived in Leipzig earlier that year in order to pursue his passion for music after abandoning a career in law. Clara's father was like a legend to Robert and he felt quite lucky to be taking piano lessons from Mr. Wieck.

It was obvious that Clara was becoming attracted to Robert. Her father quickly began to worry that she would become distracted from her music if she were to fall in love. In September of 1831 her father takes her on tour throughout Germany and France, spending months in Paris. Her father brings another boy along with them to help shift her attention away from Robert, and for the time it works.

They did not return home to Leipzig until April of the following year. While they were gone Robert had started a relationship with another girl, Ernestine, which by now was quickly cooling. Robert and Clara once again begin spending time together, practicing music and taking walks like before.

Clara's journal reveals that Robert stimulated all of her most noble and artistic qualities. Their relationship had many elements. They improvised and played piano together, shared memories and experiences, and fantasized about music they might create. In 1831, Clara dedicates a work of hers, Opus 3, to Robert.

When Robert would leave to visit family, she would write him letters to make sure he kept an interest in the musical scene in Leipzig and an interest in her. She usually ended her letters with a cautious neutrality: "Your friend, Clara Wieck." At this time only 13 years old, Clara viewed him as a special friend.

By 1835, Robert had ended his relationship with Ernestine. Clara is now 16, and still performing locally. Robert respected that she was a young and impressionable girl, and as such remained only her close friend, even thought it was apparent throughout his journal entries that he did feel love for her.

But after her 16 th birthday he abandons all principles and assures her that his relationship with Ernestine is over. Robert's diary reveals how he feels for Clara during their first months together. He writes: "Clara's birthday … her eyes and her love … Lovely hours spent in her arms in the evenings. A wonderful Christmas spent together."

Clara was deliriously happy. She wrote to him later, "When you gave me that first kiss, I thought I would faint everything went blank and I could barely hold the lamp that was lighting your way out." The two become daily companions.

A Break with Clara's Father

At first Clara's father was oblivious to their relationship. But when his suspicions were at last aroused, his first reaction was to remove his daughter from Leipzig in January of 1836. At first Robert persisted in the belief that Clara's father would approve of their marriage. He thought that Mr. Wieck would be overjoyed to see his daughter together with a talented musician such as himself. Unfortunately this was not the case.

The struggle between Wieck and Robert for Clara was complicated by the fact that Robert and Clara both needed Wieck at this point in their lives. Robert longed to be a son and son-in-law to his old piano teacher. He was shocked to discover that he could not have a relationship with both Clara and Wieck.

Clara knew that she was in love with Robert. But she loved her father and the musical success she enjoyed as a result of all his hard work as a father. Her music and career still remained the center of her life.

Wieck wrote letters to Robert informing him that all connections with their household were over. He and Clara continued touring together. It was a miserably unhappy tour. For almost a year and a half, Clara and Robert did not see each other and rarely communicated. Within the next two years, however, Clara would take her first faltering steps on her own towards love.

During this long separation, Robert threw himself into his work, composing, studying, writing, and collaborating with some of the Romantic era's great musicians. These were the years when Robert Schumann created some of his best known works.

The Engagement

During the summer of 1837, a mutual friend began exchanging letters between Robert and Clara. On August 13, Robert wrote to her:

"Are you still firm and true? As indestructible as my belief in you is, yet the strongest spirit loses confidence when nothing is heard of the one who is loved more than anyone else in the world. And you are that to me. I have thought it over a thousand times, and everything says to us, It must be, if we wish it, and act. Write me just a simple "yes" if you will give your father a letter from me on your birthday. Just now he is well disposed toward me and will not reject me if you add your pleas to mine."

Her answer, simple and beautiful, sealed the bond with Robert. For the rest of their lives they considered the following day, August 14 th , 1837, the day of their engagement. In his diary Robert wrote, "A union for eternity."

Clara declared to her father her intention to move away and to marry Robert. The letters exchanged between the two lovers over the next few weeks are beautiful. The letters reveal so much joy as the two pledge themselves to each other, even as Clara's father continued to adamantly disapprove of their relationship.

The Marriage

In September of 1839, Clara asked her father for some of her earnings during their tours together to act as a dowry, but he refused. She thus resolved to provide her own dowry of sorts by performing on her own. The young artist was clearly a little nervous about the new life ahead of her. Her diary shows her questioning how the two would support themselves on their own, as well as whether or not Robert really did find her physically attractive. These doubts would quickly disappear.

There was some delay of their wedding due to legal matters regarding a blessing from Clara's father. The time Clara and Robert spent together in Berlin and Leipzig while they were waiting for these issues to be resolved during the long months of 1839 and 1840 were some of their happiest. They made music together, and went on daily walks just as Clara had done when she was a child. They both had a hard time communicating with words, and so composing music together was a wonderful form of communication for them.

They were married on September 12 th , 1840, the day before Clara's 21 st birthday. Robert was 30 years old. This settled the dispute between Clara and her father, she was now the wife of Robert Schumann.

The marriage between Robert and Clara Schumann was unique in musical history. They were attracted to each other not only because of their common love of music and physical attraction, but also because their creative tendencies complemented each other so well.

The early years of their marriage were some of the happiest of Clara's life. When they were at last together, they began a marriage journal, the Ehetagebuch, in which they both made entries alternating weekly. The journal was particularly helpful since they both had such a hard time communicating with words.

Her father apparently scoffed at their domestic bliss. An entry in their marriage journal in February of 1841 reveals: "We are enjoying a happiness that I never knew. My father always mocked at the so-called domestic bliss. How I pity those who do not know it they are only half alive."

On December 5 th , 1840, Clara writes in the marriage diary, "We have been married a quarter of a year today, and it is the happiest quarter of a year of my life." However she goes on to express the continued sadness of the break with her father. That Christmas, their first together, she writes three songs for Robert as his Christmas present.

A Touching Birthday Present

For Robert's 31 st birthday, his first birthday during their marriage, Clara was inspired to give him a present that would stay with him forever. She writes music to a poem that had always shown how she felt for him. On June 8 th , 1841, she presents her song to to him, Liebst du um Schönheit, with words by Friedrich Rückert:

Liebst du um Schönheit
O nicht mich liebe!
Liebe die Sonne,
Sie trägt ein goldnes Haar!

Liebst du um Jugend
O nicht mich liebe!
Liebe den Frühling
Der jung ist jedes Jahr!

Liebst du um Schätze
O nicht mich liebe!
Liebe die Meerfrau
Sie hat viel Perlen klar.

Liebst du um Liebe
O ja, mich liebe!
Liebe mich immer
Dich lieb ich immerdar!

If you love for beauty
Oh do not love me!
Love the sun
It has gold hair!

If you love for youth
Oh do not love me!
Love the spring-time
That is young each year!

If you love for wealth
Oh do not love me!
Love the mermaid
She has many clear pearls.

If you love for love
Oh yes, love me!
Love me forever
I will love you forevermore!

Robert and Clara jointly publish music together, including this song. The title page of the collection, listed as Opus 37/12, gives no indication as to the authorship of each song. Although Robert composed nine of the songs and Clara composed three, they feel that they have composed all of them together.

Almost exactly one year after marriage, Clara gave birth to their first and most loved child, Marie. Over the next 13 years they have seven more children. Clara loved her family dearly but did not let it put an end to her love of performing music. They both continued to tour occasionally, enjoying much success. By 1842 she enjoyed a full revival of her solo career.

Robert's Sickness and a Move to Dresden

In August of 1844, Robert suffers a severe mental and physical breakdown. He had pains, he trembled, wept, could not sleep, and eventually becomes so weak that he cannot even walk across a room by himself. Clara abandons plans for another concert tour and devotes herself entirely to Robert and his health. Several cures are attempted but nothing seems to help.

In December of 1844, the family moves to Dresden, a four hour ride from Leipzig on a newly built train. They had always thought they would someday move back to Leipzig, but never did. It is thought that they moved to Dresden to have a quieter life, and to be closer to Clara's father, with whom there had been a sort of reconciliation.

Johannes Brahms

In 1853 a young man comes by the Schumann household looking for Robert. One of their children tell the man that their parents are out but will be home the next day. The next day the man meets Robert and asks if he might take piano lessons from him. He begins to play but Robert quickly stops him, rushing to bring Clara in so she can hear the music along with him. The music played on the piano is some of the most marvelous they have heard in years and they are both overjoyed to have such a talented young musician in their house again. The young man's name is Johannes Brahms.

Robert, Clara, and Brahms spend the entire month of October together that year. They teach Brahms composition and writing techniques that help turn him into a truly brilliant musician.

The support and teaching from Clara made Brahms come to very much love and appreciate her. Exactly what happened between the two will never be known, but it is known that their relationship went far beyond mere infatuation. He had a faith and trust in her that he never found in another. In a letter to friend in June of 1854 Brahms writes:

"I often have to restrain myself forcibly from just quietly putting my arm around her and even - I don't know, it seems to me so natural that she could not misunderstand. I think I can no longer love an unmarried girl - at least I have quite forgotten about them. They but promise heaven while Clara shows it revealed to us."

Robert experienced good and bad days. But his nervousness and health continued to deteriorate. By February of 1854, Robert insists that he go to an insane asylum, as he felt that he had lost control of his mind. Clara writes in her journal on February 26:

"He was so melancholy that I cannot possibly describe it. When I merely touched him, he said, 'Ah Clara, I am not worthy of your love.' He said that, he to whom I had always looked up with the greatest, deepest reverence."

Brahms makes himself a part of the family. Taking care of the children while Clara is out touring or taking care of her husband. Clara describes him as a true friend. Brahms gave Clara his youth, support, passionate admiration, and the opportunity to share in the ideas and work of a creative genius.

Robert Passes

Brahms does what he can to comfort Clara over the state of her husband. She visits Robert in the hospital for two days in July of 1856, sharing wine together. She leaves briefly one afternoon, and returns to find him passed away on July 29 th of 1856. She writes that although she is sad, she feels quite relieved that his suffering is over. She writes in her diary:

"I stood at the body of my dearly loved husband and was calm all my feelings were of thankfulness to God that he was finally free, and as I knelt at his bed I had such a holy feeling. It was as if his magnificent spirit hovered above me, oh - if he had only taken me with him! I saw him today for the last time - I placed some flowers on his brow - he has taken my love with him!"

The cause of Robert Schumann's illness and death have been subjects of much controversy. It is suggested that Schumann had a major affective disorder. Inadequate medical treatment may have caused depression and a nervous condition aggravated by overwork. The cause of death may have ultimately been self starvation.

The Later Years

In July of 1856, Clara invites Brahms and his sister on a one month vacation with them to the Rhine valley and Switzerland. Here they discuss their future, possibly even marriage. It seems evident however, that the two reach a decision that they must part.

The two remain lifelong friends. Brahms sends her manuscripts he had written asking for her opinion and advice, and keeps her informed about what he is writing and planning. Clara would never remarry.

His deepest love for her was revealed in his last great songs, the Vier ernste Gesange, written in May of 1896 while she lay dying in Frankfurt. The songs were played to a group of close friends immediately following Clara's funeral. A copy was sent to Clara's daughter Marie with these words:

"I wrote them during the first week of May… Deep inside us all there is something that speaks to us and drives us, almost unconsciously, and that may emerge at times sounding as poetry or music. You will not be able to play through these songs just now because the words would be too affecting. But I beg you to regard them… as a true memorial to your beloved mother."

Clara passes on May 20 th , 1896. Brahms dies eleven months later.

Love covereth all sins.
Proverbs 10:12

Originally published May 6, 2017
Researched and Written by: Thomas Acreman

Clara Schumann by Nancy B. Reich
Concerto by Bertita Harding
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No matter our origin, there is a great chance that we were once lulled to sleep as infants. A lullaby is a soft, gentle song which is meant to put a baby to sleep. Lullabies are often referred to as cradle songs, and they are very calming and melodious which have been sung for centuries to soothe babies and small children to sleep.

The singing of lullabies is not pecul i ar to a given culture as they have been sung in virtually every language known to man. Lullabies are made of a few simple, rhythmic verses which are either sung or played on an instrument. In some of the cases, these lullabies are accompanied by a gentle back and forth rocking motion in a cradle or the arms which have been effective in soothing the baby to sleep. The slow and uneven tempo of the lullabies are similar to the mother’s heartbeat which is felt by the baby even before birth thus making lullabies an excellent means of bonding with and calming an infant.

Today, just as it has been mentioned earlier, the act of singing lullaby has been improved in such a way that the song can be accompanied or played on piano or other instruments. These instruments are used to determine the category of the lullaby being played for example is Brahms lullaby instrumental.

From time immemorial, simple melodies and music from the world’s greatest composers have been sung or hummed by loving parents or caregivers with the aim of comforting and calming the babies. The soft, gentle and melodious sound of the music gives the infant or small children a feeling of serenity and security which facilitates the rate at which they fall asleep.

While the melody or tune of these songs may sound quite appealing to the ears there are times they may not be as pleasant or touching as the story behind them. These songs come with a great history and lesson which everyone ought to learn about. Focusing on this strength, we shall channel the rest part of this article into sharing the history of Brahms’ Lullaby.


Brahms’ lullaby was originally a German song with the title “Wiegenlied: Guten Abend, gute Nacht”, which when translated, means “Lullaby: Good evening, good night”.

This is perhaps one of the most well-known and easily recognizable of all lullabies published in 1868. It was written by Johannes Brahms for his friend Bertha Faber, to commemorate the birth of her second son.

This song is mostly found in mobiles hanging above baby cribs, music boxes and are often integrated into children’s toys or played over an instrument. Brahms Lullaby piano is also used as a refrain that accompanies a cartoon character that has been knocked on the head.

When next you hear Brahms’ lullaby piano or Brahms’ lullaby instrumental, know that it goes beyond just a song but one that has been dedicated to the birth of a wonderful child.

Brahms based the music of his "Wiegenlied" partially on "S'Is Anderscht", a duet by Alexander Baumann [de] published in the 1840s. [2] [3] [4] The cradle song was dedicated to Brahms's friend, Bertha Faber, on the occasion of the birth of her second son. [5] [6] Brahms had been in love with her in her youth and constructed the melody of the " Wiegenlied " to suggest, as a hidden counter-melody, a song she used to sing to him. [7] Simrock published Brahms's Op. 49 in November 1868. [6] The lullaby was first performed in public on 22 December 1869 in Vienna by Luise Dustmann (singer) and Clara Schumann (piano). [6] [8]

The song has been described as deceptively simple. [3] In its original publication it only had a single verse. [6]

Lyrics Edit

The lyrics are from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a collection of German folk poems: [7] [9]

Guten Abend, gut' Nacht,
mit Rosen bedacht,
mit Näglein besteckt,
schlupf' unter die Deck':
Morgen früh, wenn Gott will,
wirst du wieder geweckt.

Good evening, good night,
With roses covered,
With cloves adorned,
Slip under the covers.
Tomorrow morning, if God wills,
you will wake once again.

Later, [ when? ] Brahms adapted a second verse from a 1849 poem by Georg Scherer [de] : [5] [6] [3]

Guten Abend, gut' Nacht,
von Englein bewacht,
die zeigen im Traum
dir Christkindleins Baum:
schlaf nun selig und süß,
schau im Traum 's Paradies.

Good evening, good night.
By angels watched,
Who show you in your dream
the Christ-child's tree.
Sleep now blissfully and sweetly,
see paradise in your dreams.

Melody Edit

In 1877, Brahms based the second theme of the first movement of his Second Symphony on the lullaby's tune. [10] The melody is first introduced in bar 82 and continues to develop throughout the movement. [ citation needed ]

The " Wiegenlied " is one of Brahms's most popular songs. [5]

Arrangements Edit

In 1922, Australian pianist and composer Percy Grainger arranged the " Wiegenlied " as one of his "Free Settings of Favorite Melodies" for solo piano. This study was characterized by much use of suspensions and arpeggiation, with the first statement of the melody placed in the tenor range of the keyboard. This last practice was a favorite one of Grainger. [11]

Cultural references Edit

A 1936 biographical film of Brahms with Albert Florath as the composer, took its title from the opening lines of this song, Guten Abend, gute Nacht. [12]

Wendy Cope's poem "Brahms Cradle Song" refers to this song. [13]

Cultural interpretations Edit

In an article published in 2005, Karen Bottge analysed Brahms's "Wiegenlied" as an expression of the maternal voice, basing her reflections on writings by theorists such as Friedrich Kittler, Michel Chion, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Theodor W. Adorno. [3]

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (pronounced joːˈhanəs ⲋ⠚ːms 7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms's popularity and influence were considerable following a comment by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the Three Bs.

Brahms composed for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus. A virtuoso pianist, he premiered many of his own works he also worked with some of the leading performers of his time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed many of his works and left some of them unpublished.

Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. He was a master of counterpoint, the complex and highly disciplined art for which Johann Sebastian Bach is famous, and also of development, a compositional ethos pioneered by Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Brahms aimed to honor the "purity" of these venerable "German" structures and advance them into a Romantic idiom, in the process creating bold new approaches to harmony, melody and, especially, rhythm. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by subsequent figures as diverse as Arnold Schoenberg and Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms's works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers.

Brahms's father, Johann Jakob Brahms (1806�), came to Hamburg from Dithmarschen, seeking a career as a town musician. He was proficient in several instruments, but found employment mostly playing the horn and double bass. In 1830, he married Johanna Henrika Christiane Nissen (1789�), a seamstress never previously married, who was seventeen years older than he was. Johannes Brahms had an older sister and a younger brother. Initially, they lived near the city docks, in the Gängeviertel quarter of Hamburg, for six months, before moving to a small house on the Dammtorwall, a small city in the Inner Alster. Photograph from 1891 of the building in Hamburg where Brahms was born. Brahms's family occupied part of the first floor, behind the two double windows on the left hand side. The building was destroyed by bombing in 1943.

Johann Jakob gave his son his first musical training. He studied piano from the age of seven with Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel. Owing to the family's poverty, as a boy Brahms played in dance halls and brothels – some of the seediest places in Hamburg – surrounded by drunken sailors and prostitutes that often fondled the boy as he played. Early biographers found this shocking and played down this portion of his life. Modern writers have pointed to this as a reason for Brahms's later inability to have a successful relationship for marriage, etc., his view of women being warped by his experiences. Recently, Brahms scholars Styra Avins and Kurt Hoffman have suggested that this legend is false. Since Brahms himself clearly originated the story, however, some have questioned Hoffman's theory.

For a time, Brahms also learned the cello. After his early piano lessons with Otto Cossel, Brahms studied piano with Eduard Marxsen, who had studied in Vienna with Ignaz von Seyfried (a pupil of Mozart) and Carl Maria von Bocklet (a close friend of Schubert). The young Brahms gave a few public concerts in Hamburg, but did not become well known as a pianist until he made a concert tour at the age of nineteen. (In later life, he frequently took part in the performance of his own works, whether as soloist, accompanist, or participant in chamber music.) He conducted choirs from his early teens, and became a proficient choral and orchestral conductor.

Meeting Joachim and Liszt

He began to compose quite early in life, but later destroyed most copies of his first works for instance, Louise Japha, a fellow-pupil of Marxsen, reported a piano sonata, that Brahms had played or improvised at the age of 11, had been destroyed. His compositions did not receive public acclaim until he went on a concert tour as accompanist to the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi in April and May 1853. On this tour he met Joseph Joachim at Hanover, and went on to the Court of Weimar where he met Franz Liszt, Peter Cornelius, and Joachim Raff. According to several witnesses of Brahms's meeting with Liszt (at which Liszt performed Brahms's Scherzo, Op. 4, at sight), Reményi was offended by Brahms's failure to praise Liszt's Sonata in B minor wholeheartedly (Brahms supposedly fell asleep during a performance of the recently composed work), and they parted company shortly afterwards. Brahms later excused himself, saying that he could not help it, having been exhausted by his travels.

Brahms and Schumann

Joachim had given Brahms a letter of introduction to Robert Schumann, and after a walking tour in the Rhineland, Brahms took the train to Düsseldorf, and was welcomed into the Schumann family on arrival there. Schumann, amazed by the 20-year-old's talent, published an article entitled "Neue Bahnen" (New Paths) in the 28 October 1853 issue of the journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik alerting the public to the young man, who, he claimed, was "destined to give ideal expression to the times." This pronouncement was received with some skepticism outside of Schumann's immediate circle, and may have increased Brahms's naturally self-critical need to perfect his works and technique. While he was in Düsseldorf, Brahms participated with Schumann and Albert Dietrich in writing a sonata for Joachim this is known as the "F𠄺𠄾 Sonata" (German: Frei aber einsam). He became very attached to Schumann's wife, the composer and pianist Clara, fourteen years his senior, with whom he would carry on a lifelong, emotionally passionate relationship. Brahms never married, despite strong feelings for several women and despite entering into an engagement, soon broken off, with Agathe von Siebold in Göttingen in 1859. After Schumann's attempted suicide and subsequent confinement in a mental sanatorium near Bonn in February 1854, Brahms was the main intercessor between Clara and her husband, and found himself virtually head of the household.

After Schumann's death, Brahms hurried to Düsseldorf and for the next two years lived in an apartment above the Schumann's house, and sacrificed his career and his art for Clara's sake. The question of Brahms and Clara Schumann is perhaps the most mysterious in music history, alongside that of Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved." Whether they were actually lovers is unknown, but their destruction of their letters to each other may point to something beyond mere privacy.

Detmold and Hamburg

After Schumann's death at the sanatorium in 1856, Brahms divided his time between Hamburg, where he formed and conducted a ladies' choir, and Detmold in the Principality of Lippe, where he was court music-teacher and conductor. He was the soloist at the premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 1 in 1859. He first visited Vienna in 1862, staying there over the winter, and, in 1863, was appointed conductor of the Vienna Singakademie. Though he resigned the position the following year, and entertained the idea of taking up conducting posts elsewhere, he based himself increasingly in Vienna and soon made his home there. From 1872 to 1875, he was director of the concerts of the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde afterwards, he accepted no formal position. He declined an honorary doctorate of music from University of Cambridge in 1877, but accepted one from the University of Breslau in 1879, and composed the Academic Festival Overture as a gesture of appreciation.

He had been composing steadily throughout the 1850s and 60s, but his music had evoked divided critical responses, and the Piano Concerto No. 1 had been badly received in some of its early performances. His works were labelled old-fashioned by the 'New German School' whose principal figures included Liszt and Richard Wagner. Brahms admired some of Wagner's music and admired Liszt as a great pianist, but the conflict between the two schools, known as the War of the Romantics, soon embroiled all of musical Europe. In the Brahms camp were his close friends: Clara Schumann, the influential music critic Eduard Hanslick, and the leading Viennese surgeon Theodor Billroth. In 1860, Brahms attempted to organize a public protest against some of the wilder excesses of the Wagnerians' music. This took the form of a manifesto, written by Brahms and Joachim jointly. The manifesto, which was published prematurely with only three supporting signatures, was a failure, and he never engaged in public polemics again.

Years of popularity

It was the premiere of A German Requiem, his largest choral work, in Bremen, in 1868, that confirmed Brahms's European reputation and led many to accept that he had conquered Beethoven and the symphony. This may have given him the confidence finally to complete a number of works that he had wrestled with over many years, such as the cantata Rinaldo, his first string quartet, third piano quartet, and most notably his first symphony. This appeared in 1876, though it had been begun (and a version of the first movement seen by some of his friends) in the early 1860s. The other three symphonies then followed in 1877, 1883, and 1885. From 1881, he was able to try out his new orchestral works with the court orchestra of the Duke of Meiningen, whose conductor was Hans von Bülow. He was the soloist at the premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1881, in Pest.

Brahms frequently travelled, both for business (concert tours) and pleasure. From 1878 onwards, he often visited Italy in the springtime, and he usually sought out a pleasant rural location in which to compose during the summer. He was a great walker and especially enjoyed spending time in the open air, where he felt that he could think more clearly.

In 1889, one Theo Wangemann, a representative of American inventor Thomas Edison, visited the composer in Vienna and invited him to make an experimental recording. Brahms played an abbreviated version of his first Hungarian dance on the piano. The recording was later issued on an LP of early piano performances (compiled by Gregor Benko). Although the spoken introduction to the short piece of music is quite clear, the piano playing is largely inaudible due to heavy surface noise. Nevertheless, this remains the earliest recording made by a major composer. Analysts and scholars remain divided, however, as to whether the voice that introduces the piece is that of Wangemann or of Brahms. Several attempts have been made to improve the quality of this historic recording a "denoised" version was produced at Stanford University which claims to solve the mystery.

Later years

In 1890, the 57-year-old Brahms resolved to give up composing. However, as it turned out, he was unable to abide by his decision, and in the years before his death he produced a number of acknowledged masterpieces. His admiration for Richard Mühlfeld, clarinetist with the Meiningen orchestra, moved him to compose the Clarinet Trio, Op. 114, Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115 (1891), and the two Clarinet Sonatas, Op. 120 (1894). He also wrote several cycles of piano pieces, Opp. 116�, the Four Serious Songs (Vier ernste Gesänge), Op. 121 (1896), and the Eleven Chorale Preludes for organ, Op. 122 (1896).

While completing the Op. 121 songs, Brahms developed cancer (sources differ on whether this was of the liver or pancreas). His condition gradually worsened and he died on April 3, 1897, aged 63. Brahms is buried in the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna.

Works Lists of compositions by Brahms by genre and and by opus number

Brahms wrote a number of major works for orchestra, including two serenades, four symphonies, two piano concertos (No. 1 in D minor No. 2 in B-flat major), a Violin Concerto, a Double Concerto for violin and cello, and two companion orchestral overtures, the Academic Festival Overture and the Tragic Overture.

His large choral work A German Requiem is not a setting of the liturgical Missa pro defunctis but a setting of texts which Brahms selected from the Lutheran Bible. The work was composed in three major periods of his life. An early version of the second movement was first composed in 1854, not long after Robert Schumann's attempted suicide, and this was later used in his first piano concerto. The majority of the Requiem was composed after his mother's death in 1865. The fifth movement was added after the official premiere in 1868, and the work was published in 1869.

Brahms's works in variation form include, among others, the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel and the Paganini Variations, both for solo piano, and the Variations on a Theme by Haydn in versions for two pianos and for orchestra. The final movement of the Fourth Symphony, Op. 98, is formally a passacaglia.

His chamber works include three string quartets, two string quintets, two string sextets, a clarinet quintet, a clarinet trio, a horn trio, a piano quintet, three piano quartets, and four piano trios (the fourth being published posthumously). He composed several instrumental sonatas with piano, including three for violin, two for cello, and two for clarinet (which were subsequently arranged for viola by the composer). His solo piano works range from his early piano sonatas and ballades to his late sets of character pieces. Brahms was a significant lieder composer, who wrote over 200 songs. His chorale preludes for organ, Op. 122, which he wrote shortly before his death, have become an important part of the organist's repertoire.

Brahms strongly preferred writing absolute music that does not refer to an explicit scene or narrative, and he never wrote an opera or a symphonic poem.

Despite his reputation as a serious composer of large, complex musical structures, some of Brahms's most widely known and most commercially successful compositions during his life were small-scale works of popular intent aimed at the thriving contemporary market for domestic music-making indeed, during the 20th century, the influential American critic B. H. Haggin, rejecting more mainstream views, argued in his various guides to recorded music that Brahms was at his best in such works and much less successful in larger forms. Among the most cherished of these lighter works by Brahms are his sets of popular dances—the Hungarian Dances, the Waltzes, Op. 39, for piano duet, and the Liebeslieder Waltzes for vocal quartet and piano𠅊nd some of his many songs, notably the Wiegenlied, Op. 49, No. 4 (published in 1868). This last was written (to a folk text) to celebrate the birth of a son to Brahms's friend Bertha Faber and is universally known as Brahms's Lullaby.

Later that year, the British composer Hubert Parry, who considered Brahms the greatest artist of the time, wrote an orchestral Elegy for Brahms. This was never played in Parry's lifetime, receiving its first performance at a memorial concert for Parry himself in 1918.


Brahms began composing a D minor symphony in 1854, but this work underwent radical change before much of it was finally recast as his first Piano Concerto, also in D minor. [1] The long gestation of the C minor Symphony which would eventually be his first, may be attributed to two factors. First, Brahms's self-critical fastidiousness led him to destroy many of his early works. Second, there was an expectation from Brahms's friends and the public that he would continue "Beethoven's inheritance" and produce a symphony of commensurate dignity and intellectual scope – an expectation that Brahms felt he could not fulfill easily in view of the monumental reputation of Beethoven.

It was probably 1868 when Brahms finally realized what would become the final structure of his first Symphony. In September of that year, he sent a card to his lifelong friend Clara Schumann sketching the Alphorn tune which would emerge in the symphony's Finale, along with the famous message "Thus blew the shepherd's horn today!" Despite the evidence of the work's development, the symphony would not premiere for eight more years, in 1876. [2]

Fritz Simrock, Brahms's friend and publisher, did not receive the score until after the work had been performed in three cities – and Brahms still wished trial performances in at least three more.

The manuscript to the first movement apparently does not survive, yet the remainder has been reproduced in miniature facsimile by Dover Publications. The autograph manuscript of the second, third, and fourth movements is held by the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

The symphony is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones (fourth movement only), timpani and the string section.

Although Brahms commonly specified "natural" (valveless) horn tunings in his compositions (e.g., Horn in F), performances are typically delivered on modern valved French horns.

The symphony is in four movements, marked as follows:

  1. Un poco sostenuto — Allegro – Meno allegro (C minor, ending in C major) sostenuto (E major)
  2. Un poco allegretto e grazioso (A ♭ major) — Più andante — Allegro non troppo, ma con brio – Più allegro (C minor – C major)

I. Un poco sostenuto — Allegro Edit

The first movement is in sonata form with an extended introduction, featuring a drawn-out and highly elaborated variation of the movement's theme.

Introduction Edit

Unique among Brahms symphonies, the First Symphony is ushered in via a formal introduction (an 1862 score of the symphony originally started with the second, Allegro, section). After a processional "poco sostenuto" opening section featuring chaotic syncopated rhythms underpinned by pulsating timpani, the woodwinds and pizzicato strings play with thematic phrases to be fully explored in the following exposition. A short and stormy return to the original development, this time in the dominant of G and supported by rolling timpani, is finally followed by further melodic introductions played by oboe, flute and cellos before resolving in a drawn-out 9
8 transitional passage ending with a plucked G note in the cellos.

Exposition Edit

The exposition begins abruptly, echoing the introduction's plucked final note with an orchestral exclamation, followed by a short motto which leads to the main theme, which is initially played, stridently, by the violins. The overall mood is "savagely energetic" [2] and "scherzo-like" in 6
8 time. As the responsibility for the main theme shifts from the violins to the woodwinds, the strings and timpani begin to sound out a da-da-da-DUM rhythm which is strongly reminiscent of the "fate" rhythm of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. [3]

An extended transition leads to the arrival of the key of E ♭ major which in turn introduces the flowing and heart-easing second theme. This theme, which is related to the motto used to open the movement, is carried out in the wind section, led by oboe and clarinet with support from the bassoon and eventually the French horns. Strong intervention from the violas ends this peaceful passage with a descending minor key sequence which opens to a new closing theme leading up to a final bombastic passage wrapping up the exposition. The score then calls for a full repeat, which requires an abrupt return to C minor.

Development Edit

The action in the development section begins with a full step descent into B major, and instability ensues as interplay between the "fate" motif and phrases from the original theme are played off each other. A series of modulations, each seeming to lead further away from the tonic, eventually leads the path back to the recapitulation. Starting with a murky rumble in the basses, the music gathers strength with a thrilling set of arpeggios in the violins with support from the brass, which repeat the "fate" motif with great alacrity. Finally, a "shocking digression" [3] in the bass line leads to a modulation to F ♯ , setting the stage for the recapitulation.

Recapitulation and coda Edit

A somewhat nebulous start to the recapitulation is followed by a foreshortened restatement of the first theme, allowing the music to proceed in the tonic, rather than taking up the tonal progressions originally followed in the exposition. The coda begins with pizzicato strings which quickly decrescendo, leading to a set of modulations played out in the strings with their bows leading to the closing cadence. The movement ends peacefully in C major.

II. Andante sostenuto Edit

The E-major second movement is in modified ternary form (A–B–A'). Written in 3
4 time, it possesses a "profound, but essentially lyrical" character. [2]

A Section Edit

A rising, flowing theme is introduced by the strings, initially doubled by bassoon. The initial phrase is finished by a darker, falling dotted rhythm passage underpinned by low horns. A swelling second phrase follows, featuring syncopated interplay of the higher strings set against the low strings and woodwinds.

After a short transitional passage, the oboe introduces a rising, song-like theme which is initially accompanied only by the violas and the other winds. As the theme moves through a sweeping crescendo, the rest of the strings provide lush harmonic support. As before, this theme is ushered out with a somewhat darker, falling passage, which is resolved with a closing statement led by the strings.

B Section Edit

PART I. A "lilting, leaping dotted rhythm" [3] is introduced by the strings. As the theme rises, the violins and violas develop it further, before it turns downwards to be joined with the low strings. Eventually, the mood darkens into C-sharp minor leading to the section's second part.

PART II. The oboe again emerges with a long, gentle solo in C-sharp minor. It is again initially paired with delicate support from the strings. This time, however, the clarinet picks up the main theme as the mood brightens briefly. After a short while, supporting action from the woodwinds is joined by string accompaniment, but the woodwinds eventually drop out, leaving the strings to move to darker harmonic territory. Finally, the music moves into a softer, mysterious transitional session, leading to the final section.

A' Section Edit

In a quasi-recapitulation, the winds enter brightly on a theme which is closely related to the movement's opening. After a series of passages which parallel—but do not echo—the opening A section, the principal violin enters with a rendition of the first oboe theme, this time with soft accompaniment from the horns.

Coda Edit

Solo horn quotes the beginning of the movement's second "oboe" theme, which is subsequently elaborated by the principal violin in solo.

III. Un poco allegretto e grazioso Edit

Like the second movement, the third movement is in ternary form. It is composed of the 2
4 Allegretto and contrasting 6
8 trio section, followed by a reprise of the Allegretto material and coda. A notable aspect of this movement is Brahms’s careful attention to symmetry.

The form could be described as:

Allegretto Edit

The Allegretto is in the key of A ♭ major and begins with a calm, stepwise melody in the clarinet. The four-bar figure is extended to an irregular five bars through a small bridge between the phrases by the strings. The clarinet rounds off the A theme in the Allegretto with an inversion of the first five bars heard.

The B theme enters in measure 11 and features a descending dotted-eighth-note pattern in the flute, clarinet, and bassoon with the strings echoing the rhythm in rising and falling figures. After eight measures, A1 appears with the violins iterating the first theme and a longer, chromatic bridge section that extends the phrase structure to seven bars. B1 is presented with an extension into C.

The C and D themes differ from the first two in that they are shorter and more angular rhythmically. The A and B themes feature an almost constant eighth-note pizzicato in the strings, whereas C and D are more complex with an interlocking sixteenth-note pattern accompanying the winds. Movement from the major mode to F minor also marks these sections as apart from preceding material. This obvious contrast in character and mood can lend one to think of the C and D sections as a sort of trio within the first Allegretto section in the larger ternary form displayed by the movement as a whole. [4] The symmetry within one section reflects the symmetry of the whole.

A2 closes off the first major section with the clarinet stating the first theme, much as it did in the beginning, finishing with a transition to the trio.

Trio Edit

The Trio offers a change of key, as well as a change of time. The key moves to B major, an enharmonic minor third away from A ♭ . This key movement balances with the C and D sections in F minor, also a minor third away from the home key but in the opposite direction. The time signature changes from a stately 2
4 to a more pastoral and dancelike 6
8 . The flute, oboe, and bassoon introduce a joyful melody in stepwise motion as in the A theme. The strings add a downward three-note arpeggio. These two motives make up the bulk of the trio material. Restatement and development of those themes ensue until the brass and winds join together for a final repeat of the melody. The second ending brings the orchestra back into 2
4 time and to A3.

Return of the Allegretto Edit

A major difference between A3 and the earlier iterations of A is the lingering effect of the trio upon the movement. The monotone call from the opening of the trio melody appears over the clarinet melody in the flute, oboe, and bassoon. The rhythmic effect of triplets also invades the pure eighth-note world of the A theme, producing polyrhythms. Instead of the inversion of the theme we expect in the second phrase of A, the strings take over and offer an entirely different melody, but with essentially the same contour as the inversion. B2 occupies a significantly larger space of the reprise than it does in the previous Allegretto. It leads through an extended transition to the last, quiet statement of A in unison by the strings. Strings of dotted eighth notes end the movement proper with ideas from the B theme.

Coda Edit

The entry to the coda is marked poco a poco più tranquillo and the movement ends with the gentle throbbing of triplets quoted from the trio section. The final few bars end somewhat abruptly with the downward arpeggio of the strings in the trio finishing on the downbeat of a new bar.

IV. Adagio — Più andante — Allegro non troppo, ma con brio — Più allegro Edit

As with the first movement, Brahms begins the final movement with a formal introduction in C minor. The finale, noted for its "vast scope" resolves all the tensions that the first movement had raised but was (magnificently) unable to dissipate. [2] Except for the cut-time ( ) Più allegro coda, the movement is in common ( ) meter.

Introduction (Adagio — Più andante) Edit

PART I (Adagio - C minor). The extended introduction begins with a murky and ominous descending four-note sequence in the strings, which is followed by a tragically-rendered "anticipation" of the movement's joyous 'Alphorn' theme. [3] This is followed by a passage of pizzicato string notes, plucked in two-note groups passed between the high- and low-pitched instrument sections, which rises in tempo and volume until the prior tragic theme re-emerges in a short reprise. This is followed by a second passage of pizzicato strings, which is resolved in a sudden shift to a rising set of modulations in the woodwinds followed by a set of rapid arpeggios in the strings leading to the grand entrance of the Alphorn theme in C major.

PART II (Più andante - C major). The horns, including the first entry of the trombones, introduce the Alphorn theme with a "noble and grand presentation" over a "shimmering cloudscape" of strings, [3] in "one of the classic orchestral moments of the nineteenth century". [2] As the horns conclude the performance of the Alphorn tune, it is given to the flutes to recite. This leads to a mellow chorale in the brass, to be concluded with the transition to the exposition. The first three notes of the Alphorn theme create are presented in a swelling crescendo which resolves in a drawn out conclusion over pounding timpani followed by a quiet chord dying in the brass.

Exposition Edit

The main theme commences immediately in C major, a "famous, grandly striding tune" which was likened by many to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony "Freude" theme mainly because it was the "solitary one among hundreds. great enough to suggest the resemblance". [5] This was an assertion which irritated Brahms, but which he nevertheless acknowledged--"any ass can see that". The theme is introduced in the violins and violas in alto register accompanied softly by horns and underpinned by pizzicato bass. After a few bars, the strings undulate through the second phrase with support from the bassoons. The woodwinds then pick up the song, with the strings in pizzicato accompaniment with gently trilling timpani. Finally, the full orchestra is unleashed in an energetic rendition which quickly fragments into transitional struggle. A passage led by arpeggio strings accompanied by bassoon and contrabassoon follows, including a brief variation of the Alphorn tune leading directly to the second theme.

The second theme arrives as a falling four note figure related to the opening sequence and related to the Alphorn tune. The theme is introduced softly in the low strings, and elaborated upon by the violins. The second statement of the theme is joined first by the bassoons, followed by the flutes and oboes. After an energetic transitional passage in the strings, the oboe continues with an inverted variation of the theme in G major but eventually modulates back to E minor, leading to the conclusion of the exposition.

Development/Recapitulation Edit

The development section begins with a full restatement of the movement's main theme the last time it will be heard in its entirety. The development section in fact provides a full recapitulation of both of the symphony's main themes and leads directly to the movement's coda there is no separate recapitulation section in the movement.

The recapitulation of the main theme is 'richly scored', with full strings carrying the tune supported by 'punctuating chords' in the winds and gently rolling timpani. The oboe leads a transition to E-flat and a development-heavy section marked by key instability and fragmented restatements and elaborations of phrases in the melody. These are parried between the winds, led by flutes, and (softly) by the horns and bassoons with pizzicato strings providing additional momentum. An energetic restatement of the theme by the orchestra follows, but this quickly digresses into a transitional section marked by string arpeggios and the arrival of a new thematic element for further development.

A distinctive 'turning' motif, derived from the main theme, appears in the winds, traded between flute and oboe with lush string harmony accompaniment. This is followed by an energetic passage, mainly in the strings, featuring falling arpeggio figures and elements of the main theme recited in C minor/F minor. [3]

The turning motif returns in a thrilling rendition led by the horns, followed by powerful syncopated descending figures which are traded between the strings and the wind instruments. This finally leads back to a rendition of the Alphorn theme, which begins tragically in the strings, but is recovered by a soothing harmonic motion initiated in the winds and followed by a major key restatement in the horns, this time without the shimmering strings of the exposition. The music begins to lose momentum as the strings play a descending procession that sounds as if it may lead to closing material for the section.

Instead, the second theme immediately follows in a full recapitulation, which is restated with little change from its original appearance in the exposition. However, after the theme's restatement is complete, a subtle change in the final passage avoids the key modulation taken in the exposition section, which allows the section to end in C minor. A lengthy coda follows without pause, which returns to C major, restates the chorale from the introduction, and ends with a triumphant pair of plagal cadences.

The value and importance of Brahms's achievements were recognized by Vienna's most powerful critic, the staunchly conservative Eduard Hanslick. [1] The conductor Hans von Bülow was moved in 1877 to call the symphony "Beethoven's Tenth", due to perceived similarities between the work and various compositions of Beethoven. [6] It is often remarked that there is a strong resemblance between the main theme of the finale of Brahms's First Symphony and the main theme of the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Also, Brahms uses the rhythm of the "fate" motto from the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. This rather annoyed Brahms he felt that this amounted to accusations of plagiarism, whereas he saw his use of Beethoven's idiom in this symphony as an act of conscious homage. Brahms himself said, when comment was made on the similarity with Beethoven, "any ass can see that". [7] Nevertheless, this work is still sometimes (though rarely) referred to as "Beethoven's Tenth". [8]

The symphony begins with a broad introduction wherein three key elements are heard simultaneously: the low drumming, the rising figure in the strings, and the falling figure in the winds. This introduction was constructed after the remainder of the piece had been scored. The Allegro section of the movement is a large orchestral sonata, wherein musical ideas are stated, developed, and restated with altered relationships among them.

The second and third movements are lighter in tone and tension than the first and last movements. The slow movement, Andante sostenuto, exhibits gentle lyricism through three sections, the third of which is a new treatment of the themes from the first. The long violin solo is reminiscent of some of Beethoven's later works: the late quartets and Missa Solemnis. The third, scherzo-like movement, has an easy spirit yet is full of complex rhythms and interwoven textures.

The fourth movement begins with a slow introduction, where a new melody competes with "gloomy dramatic rhetoric". [1] In the Più andante section, the horns and timpani introduce a tune that Brahms heard from an Alpine shepherd with the words, "High on the hill, deep in the dale, I send you a thousand greetings!" [1] This movement contains melodies reminiscent of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The last section—Allegro non troppo, ma con brio—contains a grand melody in a major key, as the novel, Beethoven-like main subject of the grand finale.

Johannes Brahms is Born

Today in Masonic History Johannes Brahms is born in 1833.

Johannes Brahms was a German Composer.

Brahms was born in Hamburg, Germany on May 7th, 1833. His father played several instruments and earned a meager living. When Brahms was young his father gave him his first music lesson. By the age of 7 Brahms was taking piano lessons. Since the family was living in poverty, Brahms had to contribute to the families finances. He played in various dance halls. Anecdotal evidence has Brahms composing starting at the age of 11. Brahms was often not a fan of his own works and his works from the age of 11 were destroyed. The only reason it's known the work existed was a fellow pupil of Brahms claimed to have seen it. Along with the piano, Brahms briefly studied the Cello.

Brahms played several concerts in his teens around Hamburg, he did not become famous as a pianist until the age of 19 when he went on a tour. He also conducted choirs and became a proficient choral and orchestra conductor.

In 1853, Brahms had traveled to Hanover and then to Weimer where he met several other prominent composers of the time including Franz Liszt. On their first meeting, Liszt performed one of Brahms pieces. Brahms fell asleep during the performance, he later stated he was sorry for it and the travel had taken too much out of him.

In Weimer, Brahms had met Joseph Joachim. Joachim gave him a letter of introduction to Robert Schumann. Brahms went to Düsseldorf and there was welcomed into the Schumann family. Brahms formed a close relationship with Schumann's wife Clara. There are indications Brahms had strong feelings for Clara, and the two corresponded frequently. In fact all of the pieces Brahms wrote in the future went through Clara's hands. When Schumann passed away in 1856, Brahms distanced himself form Clara physically, although they continued to correspond.

In 1890, at the age of 57 and after composing many musical pieces, Brahms was resolved to stop composing. He was unable to abide by his own decision and continued to compose until his passing.

On April 3rd, 1897, Brahms passed away from a form of cancer (it is debated whether it was liver or pancreatic).

Brahms is listed in many books and publications as a mason. Although Brahms did compose several pieces of masonic music, there is no evidence he ever joined the fraternity. Brahms lived much of his life in Vienna and Freemasonry was illegal there during Brahms life. This information was obtained thanks to support from the German National Masonic Museum.

Hungarian Dances

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Hungarian Dances, set of 21 dances composed by Johannes Brahms. Originally intended for two pianists, the dances were published in that form in two sets in 1869 and in 1880. Some were orchestrated by Brahms himself, and others were orchestrated by his colleagues, including Antonín Dvořák.

The Hungarian Dances capitalized upon two musical trends of the 19th century. One such trend was for dance-style pieces written for piano four-hands (a single piano played by two pianists). The other was for compositions inspired by Europe’s diverse blend of minority cultures, particularly the Roma (Gypsy) culture, which was, if not specifically Hungarian, at least strongly identified with that nation.

Both Hungarian-style music and piano four-hands music made early entrances into Brahms’s life. He discovered the excitement of Central European folk music as a youth and began writing piano duets while still in his 20s. One important influence was the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi, whom Brahms had heard in concert at age 17. Three years later Brahms served as Reményi’s accompanist at the piano. Brahms’s familiarity with piano four-hands music and his exposure to authentic Hungarian dances led him to try his hand at composing Hungarian-style pieces, for which he knew there would be a ready-made audience.

Most of the dances are rapid, energetic pieces. Imitating the mercurial spirit of Hungarian folk music, some of the dances change tempo midway, as in the fourth dance, where a languid, melancholy introduction gives way to exuberance. The fifth dance begins with a quick tempo, then becomes even more frenzied.

May 07, 1833 - April 03, 1897

Johannes Brahms was born in 1833 in the German city of Hamburg. His father was a musician who played several instruments. Brahms loved music, too. By the time he was six, he'd invented his own system for writing notes down on a page. Of course, he took instrument lessons, learning to play cello, horn, and piano. By the time he was ten, he was such a good pianist that he performed in public, as part of a chamber music concert. Brahms also loved books and read everything he could find including novels, poetry, and folk tales.

When Brahms was older, he toured as an accompanist, playing piano for a Hungarian violinist. That music -- and the gypsy bands Brahms heard later on when he traveled to Hungary -- inspired his Hungarian Dances, which were a hit with the public. He wrote 21 dances in all. The most famous one is the Hungarian Dance No. 5.

Many people considered Brahms to be the successor to Beethoven. For a long time, he didn't want to write a symphony, because he was afraid his work would not be as good as Beethoven's. Brahms ended up writing four symphonies, plus pieces in every musical form except opera. You may know one of his most famous pieces, the Lullaby.

In fact, Brahms became so famous, he is now known as one of the 3 B's -- Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms -- of classical music.

Hungarian Dance No. 5

Duration: 2:17
Composed in 1869 (Romantic Period)
Performed by Budapest Symphony Orchestra István Bogár, conductor

Reference Works

In addition to encyclopedia articles, such as Bozarth and Frisch and Schmidt 2000, the essential reference tools for Brahms include various handbooks, bibliographies, and catalogues, including a catalogue of Brahms’s extensive library of books and music. Much of his correspondence has been published, and numerous biographies drawing upon primary sources are available.

Bozarth, George S., and Walter Frisch, “Brahms, Johannes.” In Grove Music Online.

A dictionary article discussing the salient features of Brahms’s life and music (by genre), accompanied by an extensive bibliography and list of works with dates composed, published, and first performed.

Schmidt, Christian Martin. “Johannes Brahms.” In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Vol. 3. Edited by Ludwig Finscher, 626–715. Kassel, Germany: Bärenreiter, 2000.

After surveying the salient features of Brahms’s life, Schmidt considers eight aspects of his music: motivic integration and form variations the influence of early music his work in lyrical forms (character pieces and songs) the choral and orchestral works of large dimension Hausmusik and other social choral and instrumental music folksong and posthumous views of his music. Accompanied by an extensive bibliography and list of works with dates composed and published.

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