When you hear the formidable first bars of Brahms' First Symphony or one of his "Lieder" (songs), you will be a convert. His classical music contains a powerful reflective strain of musical romanticism. He had a great influence on later composers such as Mahler and Schoenberg. Come with me as we explore the life and music of Brahms. Maybe he will have an influence on your music tastes too!
Brahms: The Genius Who Composed A German Requiem
In his personal life Brahms was a solitary figure who never married. But in music he was a master and one of history's greatest composers of symphonic music and songs.
The Life of Brahms
Born in 1833, Brahms was the son of a poor musician who played the double bass in the orchestra of the Hamburg State Theater. He received his early musical lessons from his father.
From the age of 15 Brahms played the piano in public with the Hungarian violinist Ede Remenyi. When he was 20 he was introduced to the violinist, Joseph Joachim, and the well-known composers, Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann. Through their encouragement and promotion, Brahms began to publish his compositions (especially his piano sonatas) and receive some recognition for his music.
His Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor was at first a failure when it was presented to the public, though later it became a success through the efforts of Clara Schuhmann, the great pianist and the wife of Robert Schumann.
In 1868 Brahms settled down in Vienna. He earned his living by being the director of the Wiener Singakademie (Vienna Academy of Singing] and later the concert director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde [Society of Friends of Music] -- while making the occasional public performances in the cities of Austria and Germany performing and conducting his own works.
It was during this period from 1868 he experienced his period of great creativity, publishing his symphonies, concertos, chamber and piano music, and almost two hundred Lieder [songs, as well as his greatest choral work, Ein Deutsches Requiem [A German Requiem] in 1868.
Brahms led a mostly solitary life and never married. He was a very close friend of Clara Schumann and in fact was in love with her. However, they did not marry after Robert's death in 1856. He was a political conservative and was a friend of the German statesman, Otto von Bismarck.
Brahms Symphony No.1 - 1st Movement
Dramatic opening ("fate knocking at the door")!
The Musical Works of Brahms
The works of Johannes Brahms included:
-- four symphonies (1877; 1878; 1884; 1886)
-- two piano concertos
-- one violin concerto
-- 180 Lieder (songs)
-- chamber music
-- three piano sonatas
-- three violin sonatas
-- the choral work, Ein Deutsches Requiem [A German Requiem] (1868)
Johannes Brahms - Hungarian Dance No. 5
The Heritage of Johannes Brahms
Brahms saw himself as continuing the Classical tradition from where Beethoven had reached. He regarded his music as firmly based on Classical foundations. To the people of his time, he was seen a strict formalist in his musical style.
However, he also had a strong strain of Romanticism (the movement that succeeded Classicism in music and which counted Liszt and Wagner as members). Much of his music contains strong rhapsodies with strong rhythms; his symphonies are replete with strong personal emotion; and his songs were full of lyricism and nostalgia (all characteristics of Romantic era music). He had a strong influence on later Romantic composers such as Gustav Mahler.