|Full name||: Johannes Brahms|
|Alias||: Johannes Brahms|
|Animals||: The Snake|
|Father||: Johann Jakob Brahms|
|Mother||: Johanna Henrika Christiane Nissen|
|Siblings||: Friedrich Brahms, Elise Brahms|
|Activists||: Composer , Pianists|
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the prominent musicians of the Romantic phase in the 19th century. His birth place being Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he eventually became the leader of the prevalent musical era in Europe. Brahms finally earned so much recognition and influence that the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, honored Johannes Brahms by associating him with ‘Johann Sebastian Bach’ and ‘Ludwig van Beethoven’ as one of the Three Bs! Throughout his life, Brahms not only composed for piano, symphony orchestra, and chamber ensembles, but also for voice and chorus. His music is deeply rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. His greatness lied in honoring the "purity" of these esteemed "German" structures and developed them into a Romantic idiom, in the process inventing bold new approaches to harmony, rhythm, and melody, which became the foundation and a motivation for a generation of composers to come.
Meeting Joachim And Liszt
As expected, Brahms started composing at a very young age, but surprisingly later destroyed most copies of his first works; his great compositions received public commendation only in April and May 1853 when he went on a concert tour as accompanist to the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi. During his tour, he met Joseph Joachim at Hanover (one of the most significant violinists of the 19th century), and also visited the Court of Weimar where he met Franz Liszt (19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor), Peter Cornelius, and Joachim Raff. Reményi was disappointed when Brahms supposedly fell asleep during a performance of Liszt's Sonata in B minor and he didn’t praise Liszt sincerely for his work. Brahms later made an excuse that he was so tired during travelling, that he just couldn’t resist sleeping during the performance.
Brahms And Schumann
Joachim had given Brahms a letter of introduction to Robert Schumann (a German composer and influential music critic), and after completing a walking tour in the Rhineland, Brahms reached Düsseldorf, and visited the Schumann family who welcomed him whole-heartedly. Schumann was so astounded by the 20-year-old's talent that he claimed, that “Brahms is destined to give ideal expression to the times." While he was in Düsseldorf, Brahms participated with Schumann and Albert Dietrich in writing a sonata for Joachim known as the "F–A–E Sonata".
Brahms became very friendly with Schumann's wife, Clara who was herself a composer and pianist. Clara was fourteen years senior to him. Brahms and Clara were rumored to have a lifelong and passionate relationship. But Brahms never got married, despite strong emotions for quite a few women. He was even engaged to Agathe von Siebold in Göttingen, which broke in 1859. After suffering with a renewal of the symptoms, Schumann attempted suicide, though rescued and subsequently confined in Dr. Franz Richarz's mental sanatorium near Bonn in February 1854. After Schumann's death, Brahms rushed to Düsseldorf and for the next two years lived in an apartment above the Schumann's house, and he put a hold to his career to take care of Clara. The relationship between Clara and Brahms is perhaps the most mysterious in music history, similar to that of Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved!"
Detmold And Hamburg
After Schumann's death at the sanatorium in 1856, Brahms worked between Hamburg (where he formed and conducted a ladies' choir) and Detmold in the Principality of Lippe (where he worked as a court music-teacher and conductor). In 1859, he became the soloist at the premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 1. He first visited Vienna in 1862, and in 1863, he was chosen as a conductor of the Vienna Singakademie. Though he resigned the position the following year, he settled down in Vienna and soon made his home there. He refused an honorary doctorate of music from University of Cambridge in 1877, but acknowledged one from the University of Breslau in 1879, and composed the Academic Festival Overture as a gesture of appreciation.
His works were not always appreciated! Infact, his compositions were largely considered as old-fashioned by the 'New German School' who were more influenced by the contemporary works of Richard Wagner and Liszt. Though Brahms admired some of Wagner's music and well-liked Liszt as a great pianist, but the conflict between the two schools, known as the War of the Romantics, soon included the entire musical Europe. In 1860, Brahms even took the initiative to organize a public protest against some of the wilder extremes of the Wagnerians' music.
Years Of Popularity
Brahms destiny took a big leap when his largest choral work ‘A German Requiem’ was premiered in Bremen in 1868. This premium created and enhanced Brahms’s European reputation and many people also acknowledged that he conquered Beethoven and the symphony! This success inspired him to complete some of his other works, which he has struggled with over a number of years such as the ‘Cantata Rinaldo’, his first string quartet, third piano quartet, and most remarkably his ‘First Symphony’. His first symphony appeared in 1876, though it had begun in the early 1860s. From here, Brahms never looked back! Brahms also finished the other three symphonies in 1877, 1883, and 1885 respectively. All thanks to his first great success with ‘A German Requiem’!
Earliest Piano Recording
Interestingly, Brahms also experimented with the earliest piano recording, which was quite a break-through in scientific inventions. In 1889, Theo Wangemann, a delegate of the one of the greatest American inventors - Thomas Edison, visited Brahms in Vienna and invited him to make an experimental recording. Brahms played a condensed version of his first Hungarian dance on the piano. The recording was later issued on an LP of early piano performances. Although the spoken preface to the short piece of music is quite apparent, the piano playing is mostly inaudible due to heavy surface noise. Nevertheless, this remains the earliest recording made by a major composer, so it has its own specialty! In 1889, Brahms was commended as an ‘honorary citizen of Hamburg’, until 1948 the only one born in Hamburg.
Brahms was the offspring of Johann Jakob Brahms (1806–72) and Johanna Henrika Christiane Nissen (1789–1865). His father Johann Jakob Brahms moved to Hamburg from Dithmarschen, to become a town musician and professionally played the horn and double bass for his livelihood. In 1830, he married Johanna Henrika Christiane Nissen, a skilled seamstress, who was seventeen years older than Brahms’s father. Johannes Brahms had two siblings - an elder sister and a younger brother. Initially, they lived near the city docks, in the Gängeviertel quarter of Hamburg, for six months, before relocating to a small house on the Dammtorwall, a small city in the Inner Alster. Brahms received his first musical training from his father. He studied piano from the tender age of seven with Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel. To meet ends as a young boy, Brahms played in dance halls and brothels, which were deemed as shabby and dingy places in Hamburg. After receiving his initial piano lessons with Otto Cossel, Brahms extended his piano knowledge with Eduard Marxsen. Following which, young Brahms appeared in a few public concerts in Hamburg, but did not receive acclaim as a pianist until he made a concert tour at the age of nineteen.
In 1890, when Brahms was 57 years old, he decided to give up composing. Nevertheless, he couldn’t resist himself from the world of music and compositions, and in his last years before his death he crafted a number of accredited masterpieces. His admiration for Richard Mühlfeld, (a German clarinettist) inspired Brahms to compose the ‘Clarinet Trio’, ‘Clarinet Quintet’ (1891), and the two ‘Clarinet Sonatas’ (1894). He also wrote several cycles of piano pieces, ‘the Four Serious Songs’ (1896) and ‘the Eleven Chorale Preludes’ for organ (1896). While completing the Op. 121 songs, Brahms developed cancer (still unclear whether it was of the liver or pancreas). His condition eventually deteriorated and he expired on April 3, 1897 at the age of 63. Brahms was buried in the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna. Later that year, the British composer Hubert Parry, who was greatly influenced by Brahms, wrote an orchestral Elegy to give him tribute. Sadly, this was not even played in Parry's lifetime, and was first performed at a memorial concert for Parry himself in 1918.