J o h a n n e s B r a h m s (1833 - 1897)
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and virtuoso pianist and he premiered many of his own works. He was the great master of symphonic and sonata style in the second half of the 19th century. He composed for symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, piano, organ, voice and chorus. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed some of his works and left others unpublished. He was a deeply reserved man whose approach to composition caused controversy. He stayed well out of the fray, seemingly content to let his music speak for him.
Life in Vienna : In the early 1860`s Brahms made his first visit to Vienna and in 1863 he was named director of the Singakademie, a choral group where he concentrated on historical and modern a cappella works. From the time Brahms made Vienna his permanent home his life proceeded in a well ordered manner. His musical fortunes fluctuated from time to time, but overall his reputation rose steadily. By the early 1870`s he was principal conductor of the Society of Friends of Music. He also directed the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for three seasons. Following the death of his mother in 1868 he finished "A German Requiem", a composition based on Biblical texts and often cited as one of the most important pieces of choral music created in the 19th century. The multi-layered piece brings together mixed chorus, solo voices and a complete orchestra. Brahms` contributions covered light ground too including waltzs and two volumes of "Hungarian Dances" for piano duet.
Early Years : Johannes Brahms , born 7th May 1833 in Hamburg into a Lutheran family and died 3rd April 1897 in Vienna. Brahms father, Johanne Jakob Brahms (1806-72), was from the town of Heide in Holstein. There his family owned an inn and other small businesses. Johanne Jakob pursued a career in music, taking lessons from a local musician. Johanne Jacob`s musical career culminated when he became a member of the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1830, he married Johanna Henrika Christiane Nissen (1789 - 1865), a seamstress never previously married who was 17 years Johanne Jakob`s senior. Brahms began playing the piano at the age of 7 and at the age of 10 played in a concert including a Beethoven piano quartet. By the age of 13 Brahms was playing in local inns, brothels and along the city docks to ease the family`s poverty. Brahms also learnt to play the cello. He conducted choirs from his early teens and became a proficient choral and orchestral conductor. 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 19. In 1853 Brahms was introduced to the renowned German composer and music critic Robert Schumann. Schumann became close friends with Brahms and saw great hope for the future of music in Brahms. Schumann`s words of kindness towards Brahms made the young composer a known entity in the music world. In 1854 when Schumann fell ill, Brahms assisted Schumann`s wife Clara with the management of her household affairs. It is said that Brahms fell in love with her but this was not reciprocated by her.
TURNING POINT - 1868
Later Years : Stubborn and uncompromising, Brahms was also known to be brusque and sarcastic with adults. With children he showed a softer side, often handing out penny candy to children in his neighbourhood. He enjoyed nature and frequently went for long walks in the woods. Brahms remained in Vienna for the rest of his life. Summers found him travelling extensively throughout Europe, while concert tours also put him on the road as well. During these times Brahms either conducted or performed strictly his own material. During his final decade, Brahms wrote several chamber music pieces, teaming up ith clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld for a succession of songs that included "Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano" as well as "Quintet for Clarinet and Strings". In 1890 Brahms claimed he was giving up on composing, but the stance was short lived and before long he was back at it again.Over his last years, Brahms completed "Vier ernste Gesange" which drew on work from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. It was a revealing piece for the composer, damning what was found on earth and embracing death as a relief from the material world`s excesses and pains. In 1896 his old friend Clara Schumann passed away after years of health problems. Around this time, Brahm`s own health began to deteriorate. Doctors discovered his lever was in poor condition. Brahms gave his last performance in March 1897 in Vienna. He died a month later on 3rd April 1897 from complications due to cancer.