Brahms, Johannes great German composer, the preeminent guardian of the classical tradition in the late Romantic era; b. Hamburg, May 7, 1833; d. Vienna, April 3, 1897. His father, who played the double bass in the orch. of the Phil. Soc. in Hamburg, taught Brahms the rudiments of music. In 1840 he began to study piano with Otto F.W. Cossel, and made his first public appearance as a pianist with a chamber music group at the age of 10. Impressed with his progress, Cossel sent Brahms to his own former teacher, the noted pedagogue Eduard Marxsen, who accepted him as a scholarship student, without charging a fee. Marxsen not only oversaw Brahms’s training in piano but encouraged him to pursue intensive studies in the music of Bach and Beethoven. Brahms later remembered his mentor with the dedication of his Second Piano Concerto. At the age of 13, Brahms was on his own, and had to eke out his meager subsistence by playing piano in taverns, restaurants, and other establishments, some of ill repute. On Sept. 21, 1848, at the age of 15, Brahms played a solo concert in Hamburg under an assumed name. On April 14, 1849, he gave his first concert under his own name. In 1853 he met the Hungarian violinist Eduard Remé-nyi, with whom he embarked on a successful concert tour. While in Hannover, Brahms formed a friendship with the famous violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim, who gave him an introduction to Liszt in Weimar. Of great significance was his meeting with Schumann in Dusseldorf. In his diary of the time, Schumann noted: “Johannes Brahms, a genius.” He reiterated his appraisal of Brahms in his famous article “Neue Bahnen,” which appeared in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik on Oct. 28, 1853; in a characteristic display of metaphor, he described young Brahms as having come into ’life as Minerva sprang in full armor from the brow of Jupiter. Late in 1853, Breitkopf & Hàrtel publ, his 2 piano sonatas and a set of 6 songs. Brahms also publ., under the pseudonym of G.W. Marks, a collection of 6 pieces for piano, Four-Hands, under the title Souvenir de la Russie (Brahms never visited Russia). Schumann’s death in 1856, after years of agonizing mental illness, deeply affected Brahms. He remained a devoted friend of Schumann’s family; his correspondence with Schumann’s widow Clara reveals a deep affection and spiritual intimacy, but the speculation about their friendship growing into a romance exists only in the fevered imaginations of psychologizing biographers. Objectively judged, the private life of Brahms was that of a middle-class bourgeois who worked systematically and diligently on his current tasks while maintaining a fairly active social life. He was always ready and willing to help young composers (his earnest efforts on behalf of Dvorak were notable). Brahms was entirely free of professional jealousy; his differences with Wagner were those of style. Wagner was an opera composer, whereas Brahms never wrote for the stage. True, some ardent admirers of Wagner (such as Hugo Wolf) found little of value in the music of Brahms, while admirers of Brahms (such as Hanslick) were sharp critics of Wagner, but Brahms held aloof from such partisan wranglings with the exception of a publ, letter in 1880.
From 1857 to 1859 Brahms was employed in Det-mold as court pianist, chamber musician, and choir director. In the meantime he began work on his first Piano Concerto. He played it on Jan. 22, 1859, in Hannover, with Joachim as conductor. Other important works of the period were the 2 serenades for orch. and the first String Sextet. He expected to be named conductor of the Hamburg Phil. Soc, but the directoriat preferred to engage, in 1863, Julius Stockhausen in that capacity. Instead, Brahms accepted the post of conductor of the Singakademie in Vienna, which he led from 1863 to 1864. In 1869 he decided to make Vienna his permanent home. As early as 1857 he began work on his choral masterpiece, Ein deutsches Requiem; he completed the score in 1868, and conducted its first performance in the Bremen Cathedral on April 10, 1868, although the first 3 movements had been given by Herbeck and the Vienna Phil, on Dec. 1, 1867. In May 1868 he added another movement to the work (the fifth, “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit”) in memory of his mother, who died in 1865; the first performance of the final version was given in Leipzig on Feb. 18, 1869. The title of the German Requiem had no nationalistic connotations; it simply stated that the text was in German rather than Latin. His other important vocal scores include Rinaldo, a cantata; the Liebeslieder waltzes for Vocal Quartet and Piano, Four-Hands; the Alto Rhapsody; the Schicksalslied; and many songs. In 1869 he publ. 2 vols, of Hungarian Dances for Piano Duet; these were extremely successful. Among his chamber music works, the Piano Quintet in F minor; the String Sextet No. 2, in G major; the Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano; the 2 String Quartets, op.51; and the String Quartet op.67 are exemplary works of their kind. In 1872 Brahms was named artistic director of the concerts of Vienna’s famed Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde; he held this post until 1875. During this time, he composed the Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, op.56a. The title was a misnomer; the theme occurs in a Feld-partita for Military Band by Haydn, but it was not Haydn’s own; it was orig. known as the St. Anthony Chorale, and in pedantic scholarly eds. of Brahms it is called St. Anthony Variations. Otto Dessoff conducted the first performance of the work with the Vienna Phil, on Nov. 2, 1873.
For many years friends and admirers of Brahms urged him to write a sym. He clearly had a symphonic mind; his piano concertos were symphonic in outline and thematic development. As early as 1855 he began work on a full-fledged sym.; in 1862 he nearly completed the first movement of what was to be his First Sym. The famous horn solo in the finale of the First Sym. was jotted down by Brahms on a picture postcard to Clara Schumann dated Sept. 12, 1868, from his summer place in the Tirol; in it Brahms said that he heard the tune played by a shepherd on an Alpine horn; and he set it to a rhymed quatrain of salutation. Yet Brahms was still unsure about his symphonic capacity. The great C-minor Sym., his First, was completed in 1876 and first performed at Karlsruhe on Nov. 4, 1876, conducted by Dessoff. Hans von Bülow, the German master of the telling phrase, called it “The 10th,” thus placing Brahms on a direct line from Beethoven. It was also Bülow who cracked a bon mot that became a part of music history, in referring to the 3 B’s of music, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. The original saying was not merely a vacuous alphabetical generalization; Bülow’s phrase was deeper; in answering a question as to what was his favorite key, he said it was E-flat major, the key of Beethoven’s Eroica, because it had 3 B’s in its key signature (in German, B is specifically B-flat, but by extension may signify any flat)—1 for Bach, 1 for Beethoven, and 1 for Brahms. The witty phrase took wing, but its sophisticated connotation was lost at the hands of professional popularizers.
Brahms composed his Second Sym. in 1877; it was performed for the first time by the Vienna Phil, on Dec. 30, 1877, under the direction of Hans Richter, receiving a fine acclaim. Brahms led a second performance of the work with the Gewandhaus Orch. in Leipzig on Jan. 10, 1878. Also in 1878 Brahms wrote his Violin Concerto; the score was dedicated to Joachim, who gave its premiere with the Gewandhaus Orch. on Jan. 1, 1879. Brahms then composed his Second Piano Concerto, in B-flat major, and was soloist in its first performance in Budapest, on Nov. 9, 1881. There followed the Third Sym., in F major, first performed by the Vienna Phil., under the direction of Richter, on Dec. 2, 1883. The Fourth Sym., in E minor, followed in quick succession; it had its first performance in Meiningen on Oct. 25, 1885. The symphonic cycle was completed in less than a decade; it has been conjectured, without foundation, that the tonalities of the 4 syms. of Brahms—C, D, F, and E—correspond to the fugai subject of Mozart’s Jupiter Sym., and that some symbolic meaning was attached to it. All speculations aside, there is an inner symmetry uniting these works. The 4 syms. contain 4 movements each, with a slow movement and a scherzo-like Allegretto in the middle of the corpus. There are fewer departures from the formal scheme than in Beethoven, and there are no extraneous episodes interfering with the grand general line. Brahms wrote music pure in design and eloquent in sonorous projection; he was a true classicist, a quality that endeared him to the critics who were repelled by Wagnerian streams of sound, and by the same token alienated those who sought something more than mere geometry of thematic configurations from a musical composition.
The chamber music of Brahms possesses similar symphonic qualities; when Schoenberg undertook to make an orch. arrangement of the Piano Quartet of Brahms, all he had to do was to expand the sonorities and enhance instrumental tone colors already present in the original. The string quartets of Brahms are edifices of Gothic perfection; his 3 violin sonatas, his Second Piano Trio (the first was a student work and yet it had a fine quality of harmonious construction), all contribute to a permanent treasure of musical classicism. The piano writing of Brahms is severe in its contrapuntal texture, but pianists have continued to include his rhapsodies and intermezzos in their repertoire; and Brahms was able to impart sheer delight in his Hungarian rhapsodies and waltzes; they represented the Viennese side of his character, as contrasted with the profound Germanic quality of his syms. The song cycles of Brahms continued the evolution of the art of the Heder, a natural continuation of the song cycles of Schubert and Schumann.
Brahms was sociable and made friends easily; he traveled to Italy, and liked to spend his summers in the solitude of the Austrian Alps. But he was reluctant to appear as a center of attention; he declined to receive the honorary degree of Mus.D. from the Univ. of Cambridge in 1876, giving as a reason his fear of seasickness in crossing the English Channel. He was pleased to receive the Gold Medal of the Phil. Soc. of London in 1877. In 1879 the Univ. of Breslau proffered him an honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy, citing him as “Artis musicae severioris in Germania nunc princeps/’ As a gesture of appreciation and gratitude he wrote an Akademische Festouvertüre for Breslau, and accepted the invitation to conduct its premiere in Breslau on Jan. 4, 1881. In 1887 he was presented with the Prussian Order “Pour le Mérite” In 1889 he received the freedom of his native city of Hamburg; also in 1889, Franz Joseph, the Emperor of Austria, made him a Commander of the Order of Leopold. With success and fame came a sense of self- sufficiency, which found its external expression in the corpulence of his appearance, familiar to all from photographs and drawings of Brahms conducting or playing the piano. Even during his Viennese period, Brahms remained a sturdy Prussian; his ideal was to see Germany a dominant force in Europe philosophically and militarily. In his workroom he kept a bronze relief of Bismarck, the “Iron Chancellor/’ crowned with laurel. He was extremely meticulous in his working habits (his MSS were clean and legible), but he avoided wearing formal dress, preferring a loosely fitting flannel shirt and a detachable white collar, but no cravat. He liked to dine in simple restaurants, and he drank a great deal of beer. He was indifferent to hostile criticism; still, it is amazing to read the outpouring of invective against Brahms by George Bernard Shaw and by American critics; the usual accusations were of dullness and turgidity. When Sym. Hall was opened in Boston in 1900 with the lighted signs “Exit in Case of Fire,” someone cracked that they should more appropriately announce “Exit in Case of Brahms.” Yet, at the hands of various German conductors, Brahms became a standard symphonist in the U.S. as well as in Europe. From the perspective of a century, Brahms appears as the greatest master of counterpoint after Bach; one can learn polyphony from a studious analysis of the chamber music and piano works of Brahms; he excelled in variation forms; his piano variations on a theme of Paganini are exemplars of contrapuntal learning, and they are also among the most difficult piano works of the 19th century. Posterity gave him a full measure of recognition; Hamburg celebrated his sesquicentennial in 1983 with great pomp. The 100th anniversary of his death was widely commemorated in 1997. Brahms had lived a good life, but died a bad death, stricken with cancer of the liver.
orch.:2 piano concertos: No. 1, in D minor, op.15 (1854-58; Hannover, Jan. 22, 1859, Brahms, soloist, Joachim conducting) and No. 2, in B-flat major, op.83 (1878-81; Budapest, Nov. 9, 1881, Brahms soloist, Erkel conducting); 4 syms.: No. 1, in C minor, op.68 (1855-76; Karlsruhe, Nov. 4, 1876, Dessoff conducting), No. 2, in D major, op.73 (Vienna, Dec. 30, 1877, Richter conducting), No. 3, in F major, op.90 (Vienna, Dec. 2, 1883, Richter conducting), and No. 4, in E minor, op.98 (1884-85; Meiningen, Oct. 17, 1885, Brahms conducting [private perf.]; public perf., Oct. 25, 1885, Biilow conducting); 2 serenades: No. 1, in D major, op.11 (first version, for small orch., 1857-58; Hamburg, March 28, 1859, Joachim conducting; 2nd version, for larger orch., 1859; Hannover, March 3, 1860, Joachim conducting) and No. 2, in A major, op.16 (1858-59; Hamburg, Feb. 10, 1860, composer conducting; rev. 1875); Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, op.56a (the theme, from the St. Anthony Chorale, is not by Haydn; Vienna, Nov. 2, 1873, Dessoff conducting); Violin Concerto in D major, op.77 (1878; Leipzig, Jan. 1, 1879, Joachim, soloist, composer conducting); Akademische Festouvertüre, op.80 (1880; Breslau, Jan. 4, 1881, composer conducting); Tragische Ouverture, op.81 (Vienna, Dec. 26, 1880, Richter conducting; rev. 1881); Concerto in A minor for Violin, Cello, and Orch., op. 102, the Double Concerto (Cologne, Oct. 18, 1887, Joachim, violinist, Hausmann, cellist, Wüllner conducting); also 3 Hungarian Dances arranged for Orch. (1873): No. 1, in G minor; No. 3, in F major; No. 10, in F major. chamber: Piano Trio No. 1, in B major, op.8 (1853-54; N.Y., Nov. 27, 1855; rev. 1889); Sextet No. 1, in B-flat major, for 2 Violins, 2 Violas, and 2 Cellos, op.18 (1858-60; Hannover, Oct. 20, 1860); Piano Quartet No. 1, in G minor, op.25 (Hamburg, Nov. 16, 1861); Piano Quartet No. 2, in A major, op.26 (1861-62; Vienna, Nov. 29, 1862); Piano Quintet in F minor, op.34 (1861-64; Paris, March 24, 1868); Sextet No. 2, in G major, for 2 Violins, 2 Violas, and 2 Cellos, op.36 (1864-65; Vienna, Feb. 3, 1867); Cello Sonata No. 1, in E minor, op.38 (1862–65); Trio in E-flat major for Violin, Horn or Viola, and Piano, op.40 (Karlsruhe, Dec. 7, 1865); String Quartet No. 1, in C minor, op.51 (18657-73?; Vienna, Dec. 1, 1873); String Quartet No. 2, in A minor, op.51 (1865?-73?; Vienna, Oct. 18, 1873); Piano Quartet No. 3, in C minor, op.60 (1855-75; Ziegelhausen, Nov. 18, 1875); String Quartet No. 3, in B-flat major, op.67 (Berlin, Oct. 1876); Violin Sonata No. 1, in G major, op.78 (1878-79; Vienna, Nov. 29, 1879; also arranged for cello and publ, in 1897); Piano Trio No. 2, in C major, op.87 (1880-82; Frankfurt am Main, Dec. 28, 1882); Quintet No. 1, in F major, for 2 Violins, 2 Violas, and Cello, op.88 (Frankfurt am Main, Dec. 28, 1882); Cello Sonata No. 2, in F major, op.99 (Vienna, Nov. 24, 1886); Violin Sonata No. 2, in A major, op.100 (Vienna, Dec. 2, 1886); Piano Trio No. 3, in C minor, op.101 (Budapest, Dec. 20, 1886); Violin Sonata No. 3, in D minor, op.108 (1886-88; Budapest, Dec. 22, 1888); Quintet No. 2, in G major, for 2 Violins, 2 Violas, and Cello, op.Ill (Vienna, Nov. 11, 1890); Trio in A minor for Clarinet or Viola, Cello, and Piano, op.114 (Berlin, Dec. 1, 1891); Quintet in B minor for Clarinet and String Quartet, op. 115 (Berlin, Dec. 1, 1891); 2 sonatas: No. 1, in F minor, and No. 2, in E-flat major, for Clarinet or Viola, and Piano, op. 120 (1894; Vienna, Jan. 7, 1895); also a Scherzo in C minor for Violin and Piano, a movement from the Sonata in A minor by Brahms, Schumann, and A. Dietrich. In 1924 a copy from the original score of a Trio in A major, presumably composed by Brahms when he was about 20 years old (see letter to R. Schumann, 1853), was discovered in Bonn; it was publ, in 1938. keyboard: piano solo: Scherzo in E-flat minor, op.4 (1851; Vienna, March 17, 1867); Sonata No. 1, in C major, op.l (1852-53; Leipzig, Dec. 17, 1853); Sonata No. 2, in F-sharp minor, op.2 (1852; Vienna, Feb. 2, 1882); Sonata No. 3, in F minor, op.5 (1853; Vienna, Jan. 6, 1863); Variations on a Theme by Schumann in F-sharp minor, op.9 (1854; Berlin, Dec. 1879); 4 Ballades, op. 10: D minor, D major, B minor, and B major (1854); Gavotte in A minor (1854); Gavotte in A major (1855); 2 Gigues: A minor and B minor (1855); 2 Sarabandes: A minor and B minor (1855; Vienna, Jan. 20, 1856); Variations  on a Hungarian Song in D major, op.21 (1853; London, March 25, 1874); Variations  on an Original Theme in D major, op.21 (1857; Copenhagen, March 1868); Variations  and Fugue on a Theme by Handel in B-flat major, op.24 (Hamburg, Dec. 7, 1861); Variations  on a Theme by Paganini in A minor, op.35 (1862-63; Zurich, Nov. 25, 1865); 16 Waltzes, op.39 (1865); 8 Piano Pieces, op.76 (1871-78; Leipzig, Jan. 4, 1880); 2 Rhapsodies: B minor and G minor, op.79 (1879; Krefeld, Jan. 20, 1880); Fantasien, op.116 (1892); 3 Intermezzos: E-flat major, B-flat minor, and C-sharp minor, op.117 (1892); Piano Pieces , op.118 (1892; London, Jan. 1894); Piano Pieces , op.119 (1892; London, Jan. 1894); also 5 Studien for Piano (I, Study after Frédéric Chopin, in F minor, an arrangement of Chopin’s Étude No. 2, op.25; II, Rondo after Carl Maria von Weber, in C major, an arrangement of the finale of Weber’s Moto perpetuo, op.24; III and IV, Presto after J.S. Bach, in G minor, 2 arrangements of the finale of BWV 1001; V, Chaconne by J.S. Bach, in D minor, an arrangement of the finale of BWV 1016); Theme and Variations in D minor (an arrangement of the slow movement of the Sextet No. 1; 1860; Frankfurt am Main, Oct. 31, 1865); Gavotte in A major (an arrangement from Gluck’s Paris ed Elena; Vienna, Jan. 20, 1856; publ. 1871); 10 Hungarian Dances (an arrangement of nos. 1-10 from the original version for Piano, 4-Hands; publ. 1872); 51 Exercises (publ. 1893); cadenzas to concertos by Bach (Harpsichord Concerto No. 1, in D minor, BWV 1052), Mozart (Piano Concertos Nos. 17, in G major, K. 453; 20, in D minor, K. 466; and 24, in C minor, K. 491), and Beethoven (Piano Concerto No. 4, in G major, op.58). 4-hands: Variations on a Theme by Schumann in E-flat major, op.23 (1861; Vienna, Jan. 12, 1864); 16 Waltzes, op.39 (1865; Vienna, March 17, 1867); Liebeslieder, 18 waltzes, op.52a (1874; an arrangement from the original version for 4 Voices and Piano, 4-Hands); Neue Liebeslieder, 15 waltzes, op.65a (1877; an arrangement from the original version for 4 Voices and Piano, 4-Hands); Hungarian Dances (21 dances in 4 books; 1852-69). 2 pianos: Sonata in F minor, op.34b (1864; Vienna, April 17, 1874); Variations on a Theme by Haydn, op.56b (1873; Vienna, March 17, 1882); also arrangements of Joachim’s Demetrius Overture and Overture to Henry IVorgan: Fugue in A-flat minor (1856); O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid, chorale prelude and fugue in A minor (1856; Vienna, Dec. 2, 1882); 2 preludes and fugues: A minor and G minor (1856–57); 11 Choralvorspiele, op.122 (1896). vocal: choral:Mass: Kyrie for Chorus and Keyboard, and Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei for Chorus a cappella or with accompaniment (1856); Geistliches Lied for Chorus and Organ or Piano, op.30 (1856); Ein deutsches Requiem for Soprano, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch., op.45 (1857-68; 1st 3 movements, under Herbeck, Vienna, Dec. 1, 1867; movements 1-4 and 6, under Brahms, Bremen, April 10, 1868; first complete perf., under Reinecke, Leipzig, Feb. 18, 1869); Ave Maria for Women’s Voices, and Orch. or Organ, op. 12 (1858); Begrabnisgesang for Choir and Wind Instruments, op.13 (1858; Hamburg, Dec. 2, 1859); Marienlieder for Chorus, op.22 (Hamburg, Sept. 19, 1859); 4 Songs for Women’s Voices, 2 Horns, and Harp, op. 17 (1859–60); Der 13. Psalm for Women’s Voices and Organ or Piano, with Strings ad libitum, op.27 (1859; Hamburg, Sept. 19, 1864); 2 Motets for Chorus, op.29 (1860; Vienna, April 17, 1864); 3 Sacred Choruses for Women’s Voices, op.37 (1859–63); 5 Soldatenlieder for Men’s Chorus, op.41 (1861–62); 3 Songs for Chorus with Piano ad libitum, op.42 (1859–61); 12 Songs and Romances for Women’s Voices, with Piano ad libitum, op.44 (1859–63); Rinaldo, cantata for Tenor, Men’s Chorus, and Orch., op.50, after Goethe (1863-68; Vienna, Feb. 28, 1869); Rhapsodie for Contralto, Men’s Chorus, and Orch., op.53, after Goethe’s Harzreise im Winter (1869; Jena, March 3, 1870); Schicksalslied for Chorus and Orch., op.54 (1868-71; Karlsruhe, Oct. 18, 1871); Triumphlied for Chorus, Baritone, and Orch., op.55 (1870-71; Karlsruhe, June 5, 1872); 7 Songs for Chorus, op.62 (1874); Nanie for Chorus and Orch., op.82, after Schiller (1880-81; Zurich, Dec. 6, 1881); 2 Motets for Chorus, op.74 (1877; Vienna, Dec. 8, 1878); Gesang der Parzen for Chorus and Orch., op.89, after Goethe’s Iphigenie auf Tauris (Basel, Dec. 10, 1882); 6 Songs and Romances for Chorus, op.93a (1883-84; Krefeld, Jan. 27, 1885); Tafellied for Chorus and Piano, op.93b (1884; Krefeld, Jan. 28, 1885); 5 Songs for Chorus, op.104 (1888; Vienna, April 3, 1889); Fest- und Gedenksprüche for a Double Chorus, op.109 (1886-88; Hamburg, Sept. 14, 1889); 3 Motets for Chorus, op.110 (1889; Cologne, March 13, 1890); also 13 Canons for Women’s Voices, op.113 (1860–67); Deutsche Volkslieder (26 songs arranged for 4-part Chorus; 1854-73; publ, in 2 books, 1864 and 1926-27). quartets: For Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass, and Piano: 3 Quartets, op.31 (1859–63); Liebeslieder, 18 waltzes, with Piano, 4-Hands, op.52 (1868-69; Vienna, Jan. 5, 1870); 3 Quartets, op.64 (1862–74); Neue Liebeslieder, 15 waltzes, with Piano, 4-Hands, op.65 (1874; Mannheim, May 8, 1875); 4 Quartets, op.92 (1877–84); Zigeunerlieder, op.103 (1887); 6 Quartets, op.112 (1888–91); also Liebeslieder, Nos. 1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9, and 11 from op.52 and No. 5 from op.65, with Orch. (1870); Kleine Hochzeitskantate (1874). duets: With Piano Accompaniment: 3 Duets for Soprano and Alto, op.20 (1858-60; Vienna, Jan. 29, 1878); 4 Duets for Alto and Baritone, op.28 (1860-62; Vienna, Dec. 18, 1862); 4 Duets for Soprano and Alto, op.61 (1874); 5 Duets for Soprano and Alto, op.66 (1875; Vienna, Jan. 29, 1878); 4 Ballads and Romances, op.75 (1877–78). songs: With Piano Accompaniment: 6 Songs, op.7 (1851–52); 6 Songs, op.3, for Tenor or Soprano (1852–53); 6 Songs, op.6, for Soprano or Tenor (1852–53); 8 Songs and Romances, op.14 (1858); 5 Poems, op.19 (1858); Romances  from L. Tieck’s “Magelone” (1861–68); Songs , op.32 (1864); 7 Songs, op.48 (1855–68); 4 Songs, op.43 (1857–64); 5 Songs, op.47 (1860–68); 4 Songs, op.46 (1864–68); 5 Songs, op.49 (1868); Songs , op.57 (1871); Songs , op.58 (1871); Songs , op.59 (1871–73); Songs , op.63 (1874); 4 Songs, op.70 (1875–77); 9 Songs, op.69 (1877); 5 Songs, op.72 (1876–77); 5 Songs, op.71 (1877); 6 Songs, op.86 (1877–79); 6 Songs, op.85 (1877–82); Romances and Songs  for 1 or 2 Female Voices, op.84 (1881); 2 Songs for Alto, Viola, and Piano, op.91 (publ. 1884); 5 Songs, op.94 (1884); 7 Songs, op.95 (1884); 4 Songs, op.96 (1884); 6 Songs, op.97 (1884–85); 5 Songs, op.105 (1886); 5 Songs, op.106 (1886); 5 Songs, op.107 (1886); Vier ernste Gesange for Baritone, op.121 (1896); also Mondnacht (1854); Regenlied (1872); 5 Songs of Ophelia for Soprano, with Piano ad libitum (1873); 14 Volks-kinderlieder, arrangements for Voice and Piano (1858); 28 Deutsche Volkslieder, arrangements for Voice and Piano (1858; publ. 1926); arrangement of Schubert’s Memnon for Voice and Orch. (1862); arrangement of Schubert’s An Schwager Kronos for Voice and Orch. (1862); arrangement of Schubert’s Geheimes for Voice, Horn, and Strings; 8 Gypsy Songs, an arrangement of op.103, nos. 1-7 and 11, for Voice and Piano (1887); 49 Deutsche Volkslieder, arrangements for Voice and Piano (1894).
collected works, source material: H. Gál and E. Mandyczewski prepared the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde of Vienna edition; it was publ, as J. B.: Sämtliche Werke (26 vols., Leipzig, 1926-28). A new historical-critical edition of the complete works, the J. B.: Gesamtausgabe, with editorial coordination by the Research Center in Kiel in conjunction with the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, began publication in Munich in 1997. When completed, this monumental edition will consist of approximately 65 vols. A thematic catalogue was prepared by N. Simrock, Thematisches Verzeichniss sämmtlicher im Druck erschienenen Werke von J. B.(Berlin, 1897; 3rd éd., 1909; Eng. tr. and aug. ed. by J. Braunstein as Thematic Catalogue of the Collected Works ofB., N.Y., 1956; rev. by M. McCorkle, N.Y., 1973). The standard thematic and bibliographic catalogue is found in M. McCorkle, J. B. Thematisch-Bibliographisches Werkverzeichnis (Munich, 1983). Other sources include A. von Ehrmann, J. B.: Thematisches Verzeichnis (Leipzig, 1933); L. Koch, B.- Bibliografia (Budapest, 1943); G. Bozarth, E. Auman, and W. Parsons, The Musical Manuscripts and Letters of J. B. in the Collections of the Music Division, Library of Congress (Washington, D.C., 1983); R. Pascali, ed., B.: Biographical, Documentary and Analytical Studies (Cambridge, 1983); M. Musgrave, éd., B. 2.: Biographical, Documentary and Analytical Studies (Cambridge, 1987); S. Antonicek and O. Biba, eds., B.-Kongress, Wien 1983: Kongressbericht (Tutzing, 1988); T. Quigley, J. B.: An Annotated Bibliography of the Literature Through 1982 (Metuchen, N.J., 1991); T. Quigley and M. Ingraham, J. B.: An Annotated Bibliography of the Literature From 1982 to 1996 With an Appendix on B. and the Internet (Lanham, Md., 1998); L. Botstein, The Compleat B.(N.Y., 1999). correspondence: A major ed. of his correspondence was publ, by the Deutsche Brahmsgesellschaft as J. B.: Briefwechsel (16 vols., Berlin, 1906-22). See also B. Litzmann, éd., Clara Schumann-]. B.: Brief e aus den Jahren 1853-1896 (2 vols., Leipzig, 1927; Eng. tr., n.d.); K. Stephenson, éd., J. B.: Heimatbekenntnisse in Briefen an seine Hamburger Verwandten (Hamburg, 1933); O.-G. Billroth, Billroth und B. im Briefwechsel (Vienna, 1935); R. Litterscheid, éd., J. B. in seinen Schriften und Briefen (Berlin, 1943); E. Müller von Asow, éd., J. B. und Mathilde Wesendonck: Ein Briefwechsel (Vienna, 1943); H. Barkan, éd., J. B. and Theodore Billroth: Letters from a Musical Friendship (Norman, Okla., 1957); K. Stephenson, J. B. und Fritz Simrock, Weg einer Freundschaft: Briefe des Verlegers an den Ko-mponisten (Hamburg, 1961); K. Stephenson, J. B. in seiner Familie: Der Briefwechsel (Hamburg, 1973). biographical: H. Re-imann, J. B. (Berlin, 1897; 6th éd., 1922); A. Dietrich, Erinnerun-gen an J. B. in Briefen, besonders aus seiner Jugendzeit (Leipzig, 1898; Eng. tr. by D. Hecht in Recollections of]. B., London, 1899); J. Widmann, J. B. in Erinnerungen (Berlin 1898; 5th éd., 1947; Eng. tr. by D. Hecht in Recollections of J. B., London, 1899); J. Widmann, Sizilien und andere Gegenden Italiens: Reisen mit J. B. (Frauenfeld, 1898; 3rd éd., 1912); W. Hübbe, B. in Hamburg (Hamburg, 1902); M. Kalbeck, J. B. (8 vols., Berlin, 1904-14); H. Antcliffe, B. (London, 1905); J. Erb, B. (London, 1905); R. von der Leyen, J. B. ais Mensch und Freund (Dusseldorf and Leipzig, 1905); E May, The Life of]. B.(2 vols., London, 1905; 2nd éd., 1948; 3rd éd., rev., 1977); G. Henschel, Personal Recollections of]. B.(Boston, 1907); W Pauli, Moderne Geister: B.(Berlin, 1907); H. Colles, J. B. (London, 1908; 2nd éd., 1920); R. von Perger, B. (Leipzig, 1908); J. Fuller Maitland, B. (London, 1911); W. Thomas-San-Galli, J. B. (Munich, 1912; 5th éd., 1922); L. Misch, J. B. (Bielefeld, 1913; 2nd éd., 1922); E. Lee, B.: The Man and His Music (London, 1915); W. Niemann, J. B. (Berlin, 1920; Eng. tr., N.Y., 1929); P. Landormy, B. (Paris, 1921; rev. éd., 1948); G. Ophüls, Erinnerungen an J. B.(Berlin, 1921); W. Nagel, J. B. (Stuttgart, 1923); J. Pulver, J. B. (London, 1926; new éd., 1933); J. Cooke, J. B. (Philadelphia, 1928); M. Komorn, J. B. als Chordiri-gent in Wien und seine Nachfolger (Vienna, 1928); R. Specht, J. B.: Leben und Werk eines deutschen Meisters (Hellerau, 1928; Eng. tr., 1930); G. Ernest, J. B. (Berlin, 1930); P. Mies, J. B. (Leipzig, 1930); A. von Ehrmann, J. B.: Weg, Werk und Welt (Leipzig, 1933); R. Fellinger, Klange urn B.(Berlin, 1933); R. Hill, B. (London, 1933; 2nd éd., 1941); E. Hirschmann, J. B. und die Frauen (Vienna, 1933); L. Koch, B. in Ungarn (Budapest, 1933); J. Müller-Blattau, J. B. (Potsdam, 1933); W. Murdoch, B.: With an Analytical Study of the Complete Pianoforte Works (London, 1933); R. Schauffler, The Unknown B.: His Life, Character and Works, Based on New Material (N.Y., 1933); W. Schramm, J. B. in Detmold (Leipzig, 1933); K. Stephenson, J. B.’ Heimatbekenntnis (Hamburg, 1933); E. Blom, J. B. (N.Y., 1934); R. Hernried, J. B. (Leipzig, 1934); K. Geiringer, J. B.: Leben und Schaffen eines deutschen Meisters (Vienna, 1935; Eng. tr., London and N.Y., 1936; 3rd éd., rev. and enl, N.Y., 1981); K. Huschke, J. B. als Pianist, Dirigent und Lehrer (Karlsruhe, 1935); R. Lienau, Erinnerungen an J. B.(Berlin, 1935); K. Huschke, Frauen urn B.(Karlsruhe, 1937); A. Orel, J. B.s Leben in Bildern (Leipzig, 1937); R. Gerber, J. B. (Potsdam, 1938); M. Goss and R. Schauffler, B., the Master (N.Y., 1943); K. Laux, Der Einsame: J. B., Leben und Werk (Graz, 1944); W. and P. Rehberg, J. B.: Sein Leben und Werk (Zurich, 1947; 2nd éd., 1963); J. Culshaw, B.: An Outline of His Life and Music (London, 1948); P. Latham, B. (London, 1948; rev. ed. by J. Westrup, London, 1975); A. Orel, J. B.: Ein Meister und sein Weg (Vienna, 1950); F. Grasberger, J. B.: Varia-tionen um sein Wesen (Vienna, 1952); L. Henning, Die Freundschaft Clara Schumanns mit J. B.(Zurich, 1952); C. Rostand, B. (2 vols., Paris, 1954-55); L. Berger, Vom Menschen J. B.(Tubingen, 1959); F. Müller-Blattau, J. B. (Kònigstein, 1960); H. Gal, J. B.; Werk und Persônlichkeit (Frankfurt am Main, 1961; Eng. tr. as J. B.: His Work and Personality, N.Y., 1963); J. Laufer, B. (Paris, 1963); J. Bruyr, B. (Paris, 1965); W. Siegmund- Schultze, J. B. (Leipzig, 1966); Y. Tiénot, B.; Son vrai visage (Paris, 1968); K. Dale, B.: A Biography with a Survey of Books, Editions & Recordings (Hamden, Conn., and London, 1970); R. Heuberger, Erinnerungen an J. B.: Tagebuchnotizen aus den Jahren 1875-97 (Tutzing, 1971; 2nd éd., 1976); J. Burnett, B.: A Critical Study (London, 1972); J. Chissell, B. (London, 1977); K. Hocker, J. B.: Begegnung mit dem Menschen (Berlin, 1983); R. and K. Hofmann, J. B.: Zeittafel zu Leben und Werk (Tutzing, 1983); C. Schmidt, J. B. und seine Zeit (Laaber, 1983); P. Holmes, B.: His Life and Times (Southborough, 1984); J. Forner, J. B. in Leipzig: Geschichte einer Beziehung (Leipzig, 1987); I Keys, J. B. (London, 1989); W. Frisch, éd., B. and His World (Princeton, 1990); M. MacDonald, B. (London, 1990); M. Audiberti, B., un génie ordinaire (Paris, 1991); H. Becker, B. (Stuttgart, 1993); C. Schmidt, J. B. (Stuttgart, 1994); W. Gurtelschmied, J. B.: Sein Werk, sein Leben (Vienna, 1997); S. Kross, J. B.: Versuch einer kritischen Dokumentar-Biographie (Bonn, 1997 et seq.); H. Schaefer, J. B.: Ein Fiihrer durch Leben und Werk (Berlin, 1997); J. Swafford, J. B.; A Biography (N.Y., 1997). critical, analytical: L. Kòhler, J. B. und seine Stel-lung in der Musikgeschichte (Hannover, 1880); E. Krause, J. B. in seinem Werken (Hamburg, 1892); W Nagel, B. als Nachfolger Beethovens (Leipzig, 1892); G. Ophuls, B.-Texte (Berlin, 1898; 3rdéd., 1923); R. Barth, J. B. und seine Musik (Hamburg, 1904); G. Jenner, J. B. als Mensch, Lehrer und Kunstler: Studien und Erleb-nisse (Marburg, 1905; 2nd éd., 1930); W. Thomas-San-Galli, J. B. Eine musikpsychologische Studie (Strasbourg, 1905); J. Knorr and H. Riemann, J. B. Symphonien und andere Orchesterwerke erlautert (Berlin, 1908); M. Burkhardt, J. B.: Ein Fiihrer durch seine Werke (Berlin, 1912); E. Evans, Historical, Descriptive and Analytical Account of the Entire Works ofJ.B.(London; Vol. I, vocal works, 1912; Vols. II and III, chamber and orch. works, 1933 and 1935; vol. IV, piano works, 1936); W. Nagel, Die Klaviersonaten von J. B.: Technisch-asthetische Analysen (Stuttgart, 1915); M. Kalbeck, B. als Lyriker (Vienna, 1921); M. Friedlander, B.’ Lieder (Berlin and Leipzig, 1922; Eng. tr., London, 1928); P. Mies, Stilmomente und Ausdrucksstilformen im B.schen Lied (Leipzig, 1923); H. Meyer, Linie und Form: Bach, Beethoven, B. (Berlin, 1930); E. Markham Lee, B.’s Orchestral Works (London, 1931); H. Drinker, The Chamber Music of B.(Philadelphia, 1932); W. Blume, B. in der Meininger Tradition (Stuttgart, 1933); P. Browne, B.: The Symphonies (London, 1933); H. Colles, The Chamber Music ofB.(London, 1933); D. Mason, The Chamber Music of B.(N.Y. and London, 1933; 2nd éd., 1950); F. J. Harrison, B. and His Four Symphonies (London, 1939); S. Drinker, B. and His Women’s Choruses (Me-rion, Pa., 1952); I. Fellinger, Über die Dynamik in der Musik von J. B.(Berlin, 1961); A. Mitschka, Der Sonatensatz in den Werken vonJ. B. (Gütersloh, 1963); C. Dahlhaus, B., Klavierkonzert Nr. 1 d-moll op. 15, Meisterwerke der Musik (III, Munich, 1965); W. Moritz, J. B. und sein Verhaltnis zum deutschen Volkslied (Tutzing, 1965); J. Wetschky, Die Kanontechnik in der Instrumentalmusik von J. B.(Regensburg, 1967); S. Helms, Die Melodienbildung in den Liedern von J. B. und ihr Verhaltnis zu den Volksliedern und volkstiimlichen Weisen (Bamberg, 1968); J. Horton, B. Orchestral Music (London, 1968); K. Blum, Hundert Jahre “Ein deutsches Requiem” von J. B.(Tutzing, 1971); M. Harrison, The Lieder ofB.(N.Y., 1972); E. Sams, B. Songs (London, 1972); R. Jacobson, The Music of }. B.(London, 1977); A. Craig Bell, The Lieder of B.(Darley, Harrogate, 1979); C. Floros, B. und Bruckner: Studien zur musikalische Exegetik (Wiesbaden, 1980); J. Dunsby, Structural Ambiguity in B.(Ann Arbor, 1981); V. Hancock, B.’s Choral Compositions and His Library of Early Music (Ann Arbor, 1983); H. Mayer, Ein Denkmal fiir J. B.: Versuche über Musik und Literatur (Frankfurt am Main, 1983); W. Frisch, B. and the Principle of Developing Variation (Berkeley, 1984); M. Musgrave, The Music of B.(London, 1985); J. Kraus, J. B. als Klavierkomponist: Wege und Hinweise zu seiner Klaviermusik (Wilhelmshaven, 1986; Eng. tr., 1988); M. Rohn, Die Coda bei J. B.(Hamburg, 1986); P. Gülke, B., Bruckner: Zwei Studien (Kassel, 1989); G. Bozarth, éd., International B. Conference (1983: Washington, B.C.): B. Studies: Analytical and Historical Perspectives: Papers Belivered at the International B. Conference, Washington, DC, 5-8 May 1983 (Oxford, 1990); J. Jost, ed., B. als Liedkomponist: Studien zum Verhaltnis von Text und Vertonung (Stuttgart, 1992); U. Mahlert, J. B.: Klavierkonzert B-Dur, op.83 (Munich, 1994); M. Musgrave, The Music of B. (Oxford, 1994); L. Stark, A Guide to the Solo Songs of J. B.(Bloomington, Ind., 1995); A. Craig Bell, B.: The Vocal Music (Madison, N.J., 1996); W. Frisch, B.: The Four Symphonie (N.Y., 1996); M. Musgrave, B.: A German Requiem (Cambridge, 1996); R. Ulm, éd., J. B.: Das symphonische Werk: Entstehung, Deutung, Wirkung (Kassel, 1996); D. Brodbeck, B.: Symphony No. 1 (Cambridge, 1997); G.-H. Falke, J. B.: Wiegenlieder meiner Schmerzen: Philosophie des musikalischen Realismus (Berlin, 1997); C. Floros, J. B., ”frei aber einsam:” Eine Lebenfiir eine poetische Musik (Zurich, 1997); J. Frorner, B.: Eine Sommerkomponist (Frankfurt am Main, 1997); W. Gieseler, Die Harmonik bei J. B. (Essen, 1997); H.-W. Heister, ed., J. B., oder, die Relativierung der “absoluten” Musik (Hamburg, 1997); R. Knapp, B. and the Challenge of the Symphony (Stuyvesant, N.Y., 1997); K. Kòrner, Die Violinsonaten von . B.: Studien (Augsburg, 1997); H. Stekel, Sehnsucht und Distanz: Theologische Aspekte in den wortgebundenen religiosen Composition von J. B.(Frankfurt am Main, 1997); C. Lawson, B.: Clarinet Quintet (Cambridge, 1998); L. Stark, B.’s Vocal Duets and Quartets With Piano: A Guide With Full Texts and Translations (Bloomington, Ind., 1998).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire
Brahms was a master in every form of comp. except opera, which he never attempted. He eschewed programme-mus. and wrote in the classical forms, yet his nature was essentially romantic. His 4 syms. are superb examples of his devotion to classical mus. architecture within which he introduced many novel thematic developments. In the chamber mus. practically every work is a masterpiece; his 4 concs. are indispensable features of concert life, and his songs, numbering nearly 200, are closely based on Ger. folk-songs but are polished and refined to a highly sophisticated degree. His prin. comps. are:SYMPHONIES: No.1 in C minor, Op.68 (1855–76; f.p. Karlsruhe, 6 Nov. 1876, cond. Dessoff); No.2 in D major, Op.73 (1877; f.p. Vienna, 30 Dec. 1877, cond. Richter); No.3 in F major, Op.90 (1883; f.p. Vienna, 2 Dec. 1883, cond. Richter); No.4 in E minor, Op.98 (1884–5; f.p. Meiningen, 25 Oct. 1885, cond. Bülow).CONCERTOS: pf., No.1 in D minor, Op.15 (1854–8; f.p. Leipzig, 27 Jan. 1859, Brahms soloist); No.2 in B♭ major, Op.83 (1878–81; f.p. Budapest, 9 Nov. 1881, Brahms soloist); vn., in D major, Op.77 (1878; f.p. Leipzig, 1 Jan. 1879, cond. Brahms, Joachim soloist); vn. and vc. in A minor, Op.102 (1887; f.p. Cologne, 15 Oct. 1887, soloists Joachim (vn.), R. Hausmann (vc.), cond. Brahms).CHAMBER MUSIC: str. sextets No.1 in B♭ major, Op.18 (1858–60), No.2 in G major, Op.36 (1864–5); str. qts., Op.51, No.1 in C minor, No.2 in A minor (1859–73), No.3 in B♭ major, Op.67 (1876); str. quintets, No.1 in F major, Op.88 (1882), No.2 in G major, Op.111 (1890); cl. quintet in B minor, Op.115 (1891); pf. qts., No.1 in G minor, Op.25 (1861), No.2 in A major, Op.26 (1861–2), No.3 in C minor, Op.60 (1855–75); pf. quintet in F minor, Op.34 (1864); pf. trios, No.1 in B major, Op.8 (1853–4, rev. version 1889), No.2 in C major, Op.87 (1880–2), No.3 in C minor, Op.101 (1886); hn. trio in E♭ major, Op.40 (1865); vc. sonatas, No.1 in E minor, Op.38 (1862–5), No.2 in F major, Op.99 (1886); vn. sonatas, No.1 in G major, Op.78 (1878–9), No.2 in A major, Op.100 (1886), No.3 in D minor, Op.108 (1886–8); cl. (or va.) trio in A minor, Op.114 (1891); cl. (or va.) sonatas, Op.120, No.1 in F minor, No.2 in E♭ major (both 1894); Scherzo in C minor, vn., pf. (1853).MISC. ORCH.: Serenades, No.1 in D, Op.11 (1857–8), No.2 in A, Op.16 (1858–9, rev. 1875); 3 Hungarian Dances (1873); Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op.56a (1873); Akademische Festouvertüre (Academic Festival Overture) Op.80 (1880); Tragic Ov., Op.81 (1880, rev. 1881).CHORUS & ORCH.: Ein Deutsches Requiem, sop., bar., ch., and orch., Op.45 (1857–68); Rinaldo, ten., male ch., and orch., Op.50 (1863–8); Rhapsody for cont., male ch., and orch., Op.53 (1869); Schicksalslied, ch. and orch., Op.54 (1871); Triumphlied, ch. and orch., Op.55 (1870–1); Nänie, ch. and orch., Op.82 (1880–1); Gesang der Parzen, ch. and orch., Op.89 (1882).PIANO: sonatas, No.1 in C major, Op.1 (1852–3), No.2 in F♯ minor, Op.2 (1852), No.3 in F minor, Op.5 (1853); Scherzo in E♭ minor, Op.4 (1851); Variations on a Theme by R. Schumann, in F♯ minor, Op.9 (1854); 4 Ballades (No.1 in D minor, No.2 in D, No.3 in B minor, No.4 in B), Op.10 (1854); Variations on a Theme by R. Schumann, in E♭, Op.23, pf. duet (1861); Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op.24 (1861);Hungarian Dances (21 pf. duets) (1852–69); Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op.35 (1862–3); 16 Waltzes, Op.39, pf. duet (1865, arr. for solo pf. 1867); Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op.56b (2 pf.) (1873); Liebesliederwalzer, Op.52, 18 waltzes for SATB and pf. 4 hands (1868–9); Op.52a (without vocal parts) (1874); Neue Liebesliederwalzer, Op.65, 15 waltzes for SATB and pf. 4 hands (1874); Op.65a, without vocal parts (1875); pf. quintet in F minor, Op.34, arr. for 2 pf. as Op.34a; rhapsodies, intermezzos, and studies.ORGAN: 11 Choral Preludes, Op.122 (pubd. 1896 in 2 books) Bk. I: 1, Mein Jesu, der du mich. 2, Herzliebster Jesu. 3, O Welt, ich muss dich lassen. 4, Herzlich tut mich erfreuen. Bk. II: 5, Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele. 6, O wie selig seid ihr doch, ihr Frommen. 7, O Gott, du frommer Gott. 8, Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen. 9, Herzlich tut mich verlangen. 10, O Welt, ich muss dich lassen (II); Fugue in A minor (1856); Prelude and Fugue in A minor (1856); Prelude and Fugue in G minor (1857).PART-SONGS etc.: 4 Part-Songs, Op.17, women's vv., 2 hns., harp (1860); 7 Marienlieder, Op.22, mixed ch.; Ps. XIII, Op.27, women's vv., pf. (1859); 2 Motets, Op.29, unacc. ch. (1860); Geistliches Lied (Lass dich nur nichts dauern), Op.30, ch., org. or pf. (1856); 3 Quartets, Op.31, solo vv., pf. (1859–63); 3 Sacred Ch., Op.37, unacc. women's vv. (1859–63); 5 Soldatenlieder, Op.41, unacc. male ch. (1861–2); 3 Lieder (incl. Abendständchen), Op.42, unacc. mixed ch. (1859–61); 12 Lieder und Romanzen, Op.44, unacc. women's vv. (1859–63); 7 Lieder, Op.62, unacc. (1874); 3 Quartets, Op.63, 4 solo vv., pf. (1862–74); 2 Motets, Op.74, unacc. (1863–77); 4 Quartets, Op.92, solo vv., pf. (1877–84); 6 Lieder und Romanzen, Op.93a, unacc. (1883–4); Tagelied, Op.93b, unacc. (1884); 11 Zigeunerlieder, Op.103, 4 vv., pf. (1887); 5 Lieder, Op.104, unacc. (1888); Deutsche Fest- und Gedenksprüche, Op.109, unacc. double ch. (1886–8); 3 Motets, Op.110, unacc. (1889); 6 Vocal Quartets, Op.112, unacc. (1889–91); 13 Canons, Op.113, women's vv., pf. (1863–90); also 14 Ger. Folksongs, unacc. (1864); 14 Volks-Kinderlieder, vv., pf. (pubd. 1858).SONG-CYCLES: Die schöne Magelone, Op.33, v. and pf., 15 Romanzen from Magelone (L. Tieck, 1773–1853): 1, Keinen hat es noch gereut. 2, Traun! Bogen und Pfeil. 3, Sind es Schmerzen, sind es Freuden. 4, Liebe kam aus fernen Landen. 5, So willst du des Armen. 6, Wie soll ich die Freude. 7, War es dir? 8, Wir müssen uns trennen. 9, Ruhe, Süssliebchen. 10, So tönet denn. 11, Wie schnell verschwindet. 12, Muss es eine Trennung geben. 13, Geliebter, wo zaudert dein irrender Fuss. 14, Wie froh und frisch. 15, Treue Liebe dauert lange. (1861–8); Vier ernste Gesänge, Op.121, low v., pf. (orch. by Sargent) (1896).SONGS: Brahms published over 200 songs, from his Op.3 (1852–3) to his Op.107 (1886). Among the best known, with poets’ names, are: Abend-dämmerung (Schack), Op.49, No.5 (1868); Am Sonntag Morgen (Heyse), Op.49, No.1 (1868); An eine Aeolsharfe (Mörike), Op.19, No.5 (1859); Auf dem Kirchhofe (Liliencron), Op.105, No.4 (1886); Blinde Kuh (Kopisch), Op.58, No.1 (1871); Botschaft (Daumer), Op.47, No.1 (c.1860); Dein blaues Auge (Groth), Op.59, No.8 (1873); Es liebt sich so lieblich (Heine), Op.71, No.1 (1877); Feldeinsamkeit (Allmers), Op.86, No.2 (1877–8); Geistliches Wiegenlied (Geibel), with va. obb., Op.91, No.2 (1884); Gestillte Sehnsucht (Rückert), with va. obb., Op.91, No.1 (1884); Immer leise (Ling), Op.105, No.2 (1886); Der Jäger (Halm), Op.95, No.4 (1884); Kein Haus, keine Heimat (Halm), Op.94, No.5 (1884); Komm bald (Groth), Op.97, No.5 (1884); Der Kranz (Schmidt), Op.84, No.2 (1881); Lerchengesang (Candidus), Op.70, No.2 (1877); Liebestreu (Reinick), Op.3, No.1 (1853); Das Mädchen spricht (Gruppe), Op.107, No.3 (1886); Die Mainacht (Hölty), Op.43, No.2 (1868); Mein Herz ist schwer (Geibel), Op.94, No.3 (1884); Mit vierzig Jahren (Rückert), Op.94, No.1 (1884); Die Nachtigall (Reinhold), Op.97, No.1 (1884); Nachtigallen schwingen (Fallersleben), Op.6, No.6 (1853); O kühler Wald (Brentano), Op.72, No.3 (1876–7); Salome (Keller), Op.69, No.8 (1877); Sapphische Ode (Schmidt), Op.94, No.4 (1884); Sonntag (Uhland), Op.47, No.3 (c.1865); Ständchen (Kugler), Op.106, No.1 (1886); Steig auf, geliebter Schatten (Halm), Op.94, No.2 (1884); Therese (Keller), Op.86, No.1 (1877); Vergebliches Ständchen (trad.), Op.84, No.4 (1881); Verzagen (Lemcke), Op.72, No.4 (1877); also several duets and 7 vols. containing 49 Ger. folk-song settings.
The German composer, pianist, and conductor Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was one of the most significant composers of the 19th century. His works greatly enriched the romantic repertory.
Johannes Brahms stands midway between the conservative purveyors of the classic tradition, that is, the imitators of Felix Mendelssohn, and the so-called musicians of the future such as Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. Brahms infused the traditional forms with romantic melody and harmony, respecting the inheritance of the past but making it relevant to his own age. His position of moderation effected a necessary balance in the creative output of the romantic century and led to high critical esteem by his contemporaries.
Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg on May 7, 1833, the son of Johann Jakob and Christina Nissen Brahms. The father, an innkeeper and a musician of moderate ability, earned a precarious living for his family of five. Johannes received his first music instruction from his father.
At the age of seven Johannes began studying piano. He played a private subscription concert at the age of 10 to obtain funds for his future education. He also learned theory and composition and began to improvise compositions at the piano. To help out with family finances, Brahms played the piano in sailors' haunts and local dance salons. This contact with the seamier side of life may have conditioned his lifelong revulsion from physical intimacy with the women he idealized and loved.
The late hours proved taxing to the 14-year-old boy and impaired his health. Brahms was offered a long recuperative holiday at Winsen-an-der-Luhe, where he conducted a small male choir for whom he wrote his first choral compositions. On his return to Hamburg he gave several concerts, but, failing to win recognition, he continued to play at humble places of amusement, gave inexpensive piano lessons, and began the hackwork of arranging popular music for piano.
In 1850 Brahms became acquainted with the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi, who introduced him to the rich tradition of gypsy dance tunes that were to be influential in his mature compositions. In the next few years Brahms composed several works for piano that are still in the repertoire: the Scherzo in E-flat Minor (1851), the Sonata in F-sharp Minor (1852), and the Sonata in C Major (1853). Reményi and Brahms embarked on several successful concert tours in 1853. At Hanover they met one of the greatest German violinists, Joseph Joachim, who arranged for them to play before the King of Hanover and gave them an introduction to Liszt at Weimar. Joachim also wrote a glowing letter to Robert Schumann expressing his enthusiasm for the young composer.
The next move was obviously to visit Weimar, where Liszt received them warmly and was greatly impressed with Brahms's compositions. Liszt hoped to recruit him for his coterie of composers, but Brahms could not adapt to the superficiality of Liszt's music. Although no open breach occurred, the two musicians did draw apart.
Friendship with the Schumanns
In 1853 Brahms wrote the Piano Sonata in F Minor. Later that year he met Schumann and his wife, Clara, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. Schumann's enthusiasm for the young composer knew no bounds. In a long article in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Schumann wrote of him, "I thought that someone would have to appear suddenly who was called upon to utter the highest expression of his time in an ideal manner…." Schumann also arranged for Brahm's first compositions to be published. During 1854 he wrote the Piano Trio No. 1, the Variations on a Theme of Schumann for piano, and the Ballades for piano.
Brahms was summoned to Düsseldorf in 1854, when Schumann had a mental breakdown and attempted suicide. For the next few years he stayed close to the Schumanns, assisting Clara in whatever way he could and remaining near her even after Schumann's death in 1856. To earn his living, he taught piano privately but also spent some time on concert tours. Two concerts given with the singer Julius Stockhausen served to establish Brahms as an important song composer.
In 1857 Brahms went to the court of Lippe-Detmold, where he taught the piano to Princess Friederike and conducted the choral society. Many of his folk-song arrangements were made for this choir. During the summer he went to Göttingen to be near Clara Schumann, for whose children he also arranged several folk songs. There can be no question but that he was in love with Clara, 14 years older than he, but either her wisdom prevailed and the idyllic relationship terminated or Brahms suffered from his lifelong inability to consummate his love for a woman he idealized. Whatever the reason, it speaks well for both of them that love was replaced by a warm friendship that lasted to Clara's death. While at Göttingen he became passionately interested in the soprano Agatha von Siebold, but this romance, although it brought him nearer to marriage than any other, soon terminated.
Works of the Middle Years
Brahms's Piano Concerto in D Minor (1858) was performed the next year with Joachim conducting at Hanover, Leipzig, and Hamburg. Only in Hamburg was it favorably received. During the Lippe-Detmold period Brahms produced the two Serenades for small orchestra, an evocation of an 18th-century form. He was also appointed conductor of a ladies' choir in Hamburg, for whom he wrote the Marienlieder.
In 1860 Brahms became enraged at the propaganda that the avant-garde theories of the "New German" school headed by Liszt were being accepted by all musicians of consequence and took part in a press manifesto against this group of musicians. During this period Brahms moved to Hamburg and buried himself in compositional activities with frequent public appearances sandwiched in. In the year of the manifesto he completed the Sextet for Strings in B-flat Major and the Variations on an Original Theme for piano, performed by Clara Schumann; the next year, the Piano Quartets in G Minor and A Major and the well-known Variations on a Theme of Handel for piano.
In 1862 his friend Stockhausen was appointed conductor of the Hamburg Philharmonic and the Singakadamie. Although Brahms was happy for his friend, he deeply resented being passed over for these important posts. He became more and more attracted to Vienna, and in 1863 he gave a concert there to introduce his songs to the Austrian public. They were well received, especially by the critic Eduard Hanslick, with whom Brahms became a fast friend. Brahms also met Wagner at this time, and, although the famous manifesto of 1860 made relations between the two composers difficult, each was still on occasion able to admire some things in the other's work.
In 1863 Brahms became conductor of the Singakademie in Vienna. A year later he resigned, but for the rest of his life Vienna was home to him. He began to do what he had always wished—to make composing the main source of his income—and as his fame and popularity grew, he composed more and more with only some occasional teaching and performing. In Baden-Baden in 1864 on a visit to Clara Schumann, he wrote the Piano Quintet in F Minor, and a year later the Horn Trio in E-flat Major.
In 1865 Brahms's mother, long estranged from her husband, died. During the next year he worked on the German Requiem in her memory.
The next years saw a proliferation of activity as a composer. His most important publications were the Variations on a Theme of Paganini for piano, the String Sextet in G Major, and several song collections. It is not always possible to date Brahms's compositions exactly because of his penchant for revising a work or adding to it frequently. Thus, the German Requiem, practically finished in 1866, was not published in its final form until 1869 and given its first complete performance that year. Yet some of the germinal material used in the Requiem dates back to the period around Schumann's final illness and death. The year 1869 also witnessed the composition of the Liebeslieder Waltzes for piano duet and vocal quartet and the Alto Rhapsody for contralto, male chorus, and orchestra, as well as the publication of his Hungarian Dances for piano duet.
Brahms's father died in 1872. After a short holiday at Baden-Baden, Brahms accepted the post of artistic director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Friends of Music) in Vienna. Imposing masterpieces continued to pour from his pen. In 1873 came the Variations on a Theme of Haydn in two versions, one for orchestra and the other for two pianos; the String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2; and the Songs, Op. 59. The next year produced the Piano Quartet No. 3; the Songs, Op. 63; and the Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes. Against this background of activity the details of his everyday life seem trivial. He composed, went on concert tours chiefly to foster his own music, and took long holidays.
During his earlier years Brahms had helped support both his mother and father. Now with that obligation over and with money coming in from all sides, he was exceedingly well off financially and could do as he pleased. He resigned the conductorship of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in 1875, for even those duties were onerous to him. That summer he worked on his Symphony No. 1 and sketched the Symphony No. 2.
In 1880 the University of Breslau offered Brahms a doctorate, in appreciation of which he wrote the Academic Festival Overture and, for good measure, the companion Tragic Overture. During the intervening years he had discovered Italy, and for the rest of his life he vacationed there frequently. Vacations for Brahms meant composing, and masterpiece now followed masterpiece: the Violin Concerto in D Major (1878), the Violin Sonata in G Major (1879), the two Rhapsodies for piano (1880), the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major (1881), the Symphony No. 3 (1883), and the Symphony No. 4 (1884). These are the highlights of years filled with innumerable other compositions and publications.
Much of the credit for the universal acceptance of Brahms's orchestral works was due to the activities of their great interpreter, Hans von Bülow, who had transferred his allegiance from the Liszt-Wagner camp to Brahms. In the composer's works he felt the logical continuation of the Beethoven tradition to be manifest, and Bülow lavished tremendous energy in seeing that these compositions received properly executed performances.
In his later works Brahms showed an austerity that is in a sense a reflection of his own growing inwardness. Always self-critical and impatient with insincerity, he now translated this reserve into the sparseness and restraint of his own compositions. This can be observed in the sonatas for various instrumental combinations written in 1886, the Concerto for Violin and Cello (1887), and the Violin and Piano Sonata No. 3 (1888).
His native Hamburg gave Brahms the keys to the city in 1889. As a thank offering, he composed the Deutsche Festund Gedenksprüche for eight-part chorus. He also became acquainted with the superb clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, for whom he wrote his exquisite clarinet works. They performed these compositions all over Germany.
When he was about 60 years old, Brahms began to age rapidly and the range of his production was noticeably reduced. He often spoke of having arrived at the end of his creative activity. Nonetheless, the works of this last period are awesome in their grandeur and concentration, and the last of his published works, the Vier ernste Gesänge (Four Serious Songs), are among the high points of his creativity.
Brahms's already precarious health was impaired even further by the news of the death of Clara Schumann in 1896. On April 3, 1897, he died, ravaged by cancer of the liver. He was buried next to Beethoven and Schubert, honored by all Vienna and the entire musical world.
A full treatment of Brahms's works is in Edwin Evans, Historical, Descriptive and Analytical Account of the Entire Works of Johannes Brahms (4 vols., 1912-1936). For personal reminiscences of Brahms see Florence May, The Life of Johannes Brahms (2 vols., 1905; new ed. 1948), and George Henschel, Personal Recollections of Johannes Brahms (1907). The best general work on Brahms is Karl Geiringer, Brahms: His Life and Work (1936; rev. ed. 1947). Also very useful is the short work in the Master Musicians Series by Peter Latham, Brahms (1948). Daniel Gregory Mason, From Grieg to Brahms: Studies of Some Modern Composers and Their Art (1921; rev. ed. 1927), gives historical background. □
The German composer (writer of music), pianist, and conductor Johannes Brahms was one of the most significant composers of the nineteenth century. His works combine the warm feeling of the Romantic period with the control of classical influences such as Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827).
Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg, Germany, on May 7, 1833, the son of Johann Jakob and Christina Nissen Brahms. His father, an innkeeper and a musician of moderate ability, taught him to play violin and piano. When Brahms was six years old he created his own method of writing music in order to get the melodies he created on paper. At the age of seven he began studying piano under Otto Cossel. He played a private concert at the age of ten to obtain funds for his future education. Also at ten years old he began piano lessons with Eduard Marxsen (1806–1887).
To help out his family, Brahms gave music lessons and played the piano in taverns and local dance halls while in his early teens. The constant work proved to be a strain on him and affected his health. Brahms was offered a chance to take a long rest at Winsen-an-der-Luhe, Germany, where he conducted a small male choir for whom he wrote his first choral compositions. Upon his return to Hamburg he gave several concerts, but after failing to win recognition he continued playing at taverns, giving inexpensive piano lessons, and arranging popular music for piano.
Impressing other musicians
In 1850 Brahms met the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi, who introduced him to gypsy dance songs that would influence his later compositions. In the next few years Brahms composed several works for piano. Reményi and Brahms went on several successful concert tours in 1853. They met the German violinist Joseph Joachim (1831–1907), who introduced them to Franz Liszt (1811–1886) at Weimar, Germany. Liszt received them warmly and was greatly impressed with Brahms's compositions. Liszt hoped to recruit him to join his group of composers, but Brahms declined; he was not really a fan of Liszt's music. Joachim also wrote a letter praising Brahms to the composer Robert Schumann (1810–1856).
In 1853 Brahms met Schumann and his wife Clara. Schumann's enthusiasm for the young composer knew no bounds. Schumann wrote articles praising Brahms and also arranged for the publication of Brahms's first compositions. During 1854 Brahms wrote the Piano Trio No. 1, the Variations on a Theme of Schumann for piano, and the Ballades for piano. Also that year Brahms was summoned to Düsseldorf, Germany, when Schumann had a breakdown and attempted suicide. For the next few years Brahms stayed close to the Schumanns, assisting Clara even after Schumann's death in 1856. To earn his living, he taught piano privately but also spent some time on concert tours. Two concerts given with the singer Julius Stockhausen served to establish Brahms as an important song composer.
Works of the middle years
Brahms's Piano Concerto in D Minor (1858) was performed the next year with Joachim conducting in the German cities of Hanover, Leipzig, and Hamburg. Only in Hamburg was it favorably received. Brahms was also appointed conductor of a ladies' choir in Hamburg, for whom he wrote the Marienlieder. In 1860 Brahms became enraged after hearing claims that all musicians were accepting the experimental musical theories of the "New German" school headed by Liszt. He criticized many of these musicians in the press. During this period Brahms moved to Hamburg and buried himself in composing, throwing in frequent public appearances.
In 1863 Brahms gave a concert in Vienna, Austria, to introduce his songs to the Austrian public. Brahms also met the composer Richard Wagner (1813–1883) at this time. Although Brahms had criticized Wagner in the press, each was still able to admire some things in the other's work on occasion. In 1863 Brahms became conductor of the Singakademie in Vienna. A year later he resigned, but for the rest of his life Vienna was home to him. He began to do what he had always wished: to make composing his main source of income. As his fame and popularity grew, he composed more and more with only some occasional teaching and performing. In 1865 Brahms's mother, long separated from her husband, died. During the next year Brahms worked on the German Requiem in her memory.
The next years saw an increase in composing activity. Brahms's most important publications were the Variations on a Theme of Paganini for piano, the String Sextet in G Major, and several song collections. It is not always possible to date Brahms's compositions exactly because of his habit of revising a work or adding to it frequently. Thus, the German Requiem, practically finished in 1866, was not published in its final form until 1869. It was also given its first complete performance that year.
Brahms's father died in 1872. After a short holiday, Brahms accepted the post of artistic director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Friends of Music) in Vienna. Masterpieces continued to pour from his pen. He composed, went on concert tours chiefly to improve his own music, and took long holidays. He now had plenty of money and could do as he pleased. He resigned as conductor of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in 1875, for even those duties had become a burden to him. That summer he worked on his Symphony No. 1 and sketched the Symphony No. 2.
In 1880 the University of Breslau offered Brahms a doctor's degree, in appreciation of which he wrote two orchestral concert pieces. By this time he had discovered Italy, and for the rest of his life he vacationed there frequently. Vacations for Brahms meant composing, and he produced symphonies (long and complicated compositions for symphony orchestras), piano and violin concertos (music written for one or more instruments), and many other compositions and publications.
Much of the credit for the worldwide acceptance of Brahms's orchestral works was due to the activities of their great interpreter, Hans von Bülow, who had transferred his loyalty from the Liszt-Wagner camp to Brahms. Bülow exerted tremendous energy in seeing that Brahms's compositions received properly executed performances.
When he was about sixty years old, Brahms began to age rapidly, and his production decreased sharply. He often spoke of having arrived at the end of his creative activity. Nonetheless, the works of this last period are awesome in their magnificence and concentration, and the last of his published works, the Vier ernste Gesänge (Four Serious Songs), are among the high points of his career. Brahms's health took a turn for the worse after he heard the news of the death of Clara Schumann in 1896. On April 3, 1897, he died of cancer of the liver. He was buried next to Beethoven and Franz Schubert (1797–1828) and was honored by Vienna and the entire musical world.
For More Information
Geiringer, Karl. Brahms, His Life and Work. 3rd ed. New York: Da Capo Press, 1982.
May, Florence. The Life of Johannes Brahms. 2nd ed. St. Clair Shores, MI: Scholarly Press, 1977.
Swafford, Jan. Johannes Brahms: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
Eminent composer of the late 19th century; b. Hamburg, Germany, May 7, 1833; d. Vienna, April 3, 1897. The standard biographies have traced the influences of poverty and sordid childhood circumstances on the composer's youth, character, and creative intuitions. It is clear that his lifelong friendships and correspondence with Clara Schumann (see schumann, robert) and the music amateur Theodor Billroth, among others, testify to his capacity for warm personal loyalties; and that in matters of musical opinion he remained true to the inner necessities of personal conviction, despite strong opposition from partisans of liszt, wagner, and bruckner. (Brahms was championed by the critic Eduard Hanslick, whose reviews kept the musical world of that day in a lively ferment of pro-and anti-Brahms debate.) From a religious point of view, however, still to be settled are (1) the relation, if any, between Brahms's "form-consciousness" and his ethical background, and (2) the influence of his type of Protestant piety on such works as A German Requiem, a nonliturgical setting of texts from Luther's translation of the Bible (1857–63). "The chaste Johannes," as Wagner called him, may, in rejecting the symphonic poem of Liszt and the music drama of Wagner, have been motivated by ethical convictions that favored the "orderliness" of Beethovenian sonata-form over the more amorphous cyclic utterances of berlioz and Liszt, although the idée fixe of Berlioz and the "motivic cell" of Liszt, like the leitmotiv of Wagner, led to a "formlessness" that was more apparent than real. Brahms, too, offered a contemporary and personal yet basically traditional solution to the problem of form in his four symphonies, four concertos (of symphonic proportions), and some two dozen major works in varying chamber combinations, as well as in more than 250 songs and a rich legacy of piano pieces. It may perhaps still be argued whether he should be labeled as a "classical romanticist" or a "romantic classicist" within his own compellingly expressive but rigorously disciplined personal idiom. Schoenberg saw in Brahams's epiclyric mastery of structural techniques a "development of the musical language" unequaled since Mozart.
The attitude of professional musicology toward the philosophical discipline of aesthetics hardly admits, yet, of a style-critical analysis that could "prove" the point of Brahms's Protestant piety as a tangible factor in the Requiem. One may instinctively sense, nevertheless, not only the presence of the elegiac, but also of the pessimistic in this and corresponding works, noting with Geiringer that in the Requiem "all mention of the name of Christ is expressly avoided." An early Missa canonica (c. 1855) survives in only its brief Benedictus. Settings of O bone Jesu, Adoramus te, and Regina coeli (Opus 37) are among the composer's somewhat unjustly neglected minor works. Eleven Chorale Preludes for Organ (Opus 122) brought his oeuvre to a close (1896) with a setting of "O Welt, ich muss dich lassen" (Oh world, I must leave you).
Bibliography: Briefwechsel, ed. deutsche brahmsgesellschaft, 16 v. (Berlin 1907–22). e. evans, Historical, Descriptive, and Analytical Account of the Entire Work of Johannes Brahms, 4 v. (London 1912–36). m. kalbeck, Johannes Brahms, 4 v. (Berlin 1904–14). k. geiringer, Johannes Brahms: His Life and Work, tr. h. b. weiner and b. miall (2d ed. New York 1947). p. c. landormy, Brahms (Paris 1948). p. mies, "Brahms und die katholische Kirchenmusik," Gregoriushlatt, 53.4 (Düsseldorf 1930). s. kross, Die Chorwerke von Johannes Brahms (Berlin 1958). a. schoenberg, "Brahms the Progressive," in Style and Idea (New York 1950). r. gerber, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949–) 2:184–212; "Das Deutsche Requiem als Dokument Brahmscher Frömmigkeit," Deutsche Musikleben (1959) no. 7–10. p. f. radcliffe, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom, 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 1:870–903. p. m. young, The Choral Tradition (New York 1962). p. h. lÁng, Music in Western Civilization (New York 1941). p. ackermann, "Liebeslieder: Brahms und der Wiener Walzer," Musiktheorie, 10 (1995) 11–20. r. atlas, "Text and Musical Gesture in Brahms's Vocal Duets and Quartets with Piano," Journal of Musicology, 10 (1992) 231–260. d. beller-mckenna, "How Deutsch a Requiem? Absolute Music, Universality, and the Reception of Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem, op. 45," 19th Century Music, 22 (1998) 3–19. w. ebert, "Brahms und Joachim in Siebenbürgen," Studien zur Musikwessenschaft, 40 (1991) 185–204. b. von haken, "Brahms und Bruckner: Zur Verbindung von Theorie und Geschichte in Hugo Riemanns Musik-Lexikon, " Musiktheorie, 10 (1995) 149–157. a. lindmayr-brandl, "Johannes Brahms und Schuberts Drei Klavierstücke D. 946: Entstehungsgeschichte, Kompositionsprozess und Werkverständnis," Die Musikforschung, 53 (2000) 134–144. m. musgrave, Brahms: "A German Requiem," (Cambridge, Eng. 1996). b. d. sherman, "Tempos and Proportions in Brahms: Period Evidence," Early Music, 25 (1997) 462–477. h. c. stekel, "Johannes Brahms und der Katholizismus," Musik und Kirche, 67 (1997) 84–89.
[f. j. burkley]
BRAHMS, JOHANNES (1833–1897), one of the most important Austro-Germanic composers of the second half of the nineteenth century.
Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg, but from 1862 spent the majority of his adult life in Vienna. Active in all the major genres of the period apart from opera and program music, he was also a virtuoso concert pianist, a conductor, and an editor of older music. His mature compositional style presents a remarkable synthesis—of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century choral music, Baroque music (especially Johann Sebastian Bach [1685–1750]), the Viennese Classics, Beethovenian rhetoric and technical procedures, Schubertian lyricism, and folk and popular idioms. Brahms's work was informed by a number of ideological positions, including historicism, Romanticism, later nineteenth-century political liberalism, proto-modernist strains, and aspects of the age's materialism. Such breadth of reference bespeaks an almost democratic artistic open-mindedness, and the latent political ramifications of this were sometimes overtly manifested. For example, the composer's Ein deutsches Requiem (A German requiem) op.45 (completed in its final form in 1868), which established Brahms as a major European composer, aspires toward a universal message (Brahms referred to it as a "human" requiem) rather than a specifically Christian one. Democratic artistic tendencies also placed Brahms at a tangent to the predominant artistic cult of originality, and the increasingly chauvinistic political atmosphere of his times—although it should be noted that Brahms himself could be deeply jingoistic.
Brahms achieved this flexibly synthetic style through self-conscious, almost scholarly contemplation and self-criticism, activities that were further to distinguish Brahms from his era, which often valorized the creative act in radically Romantic terms, as an unmediated overflow of expression. This self-consciousness also placed an intimate stamp on his music that led the music critic Paul Bekker (1882–1937) to describe Brahms in 1918 as an essentially bourgeois composer of chamber music; on the other hand, later writers (including Theodor Adorno [1903–1969] and Carl Dahlhaus [1929–1989]) saw it as a sign of progressiveness. Brahms, however, started out strongly within the orbit of Romanticism and the musical avant-garde: as a young man he read the Romantic literature of E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776–1822) and Jean Paul (1763–1825). His compositional style, while already eclectic in its sources (though not fully fused), could be oriented toward turbulent Romantic expression and formal fantasy, and also the up-to-date musical techniques of thematic transformation with which the composer Franz Liszt (1811–1886), whom Brahms met in Weimar in 1853, was then presently working. The composer Robert Schumann (1810–1856) famously wrote in 1853, the year he met Brahms, that each of Brahms's works was then "so different from the others that it seemed to stream from its own individual source."
Brahms transformed these creative sources into one synthesized compositional identity during the 1850s, leading in the first half of the 1860s to what the English music critic Sir Donald Francis Tovey (1875–1940) referred to as Brahms's "first maturity": a group of works (including the remarkably integrated Piano Quintet in F Minor, op. 34) that set the basic agenda for Brahms's compositional style for the rest of his life. The 1850s were also marked by intense interest in the music of the past (including a course of study in counterpoint)—a historicist tendency that remained with Brahms, and which is most famously expressed later by his dramatic use of the Baroque passacaglia form for the last movement of his Symphony no. 4, op. 98 (1885). Finally, the decade saw Brahms briefly withdraw from the arena of German musical life, resulting in compositional silence toward the end of the 1850s, and the formulation of a critical distance to the so-called New German School of composition and its claims to stand for the "music of the future." This latter move led, to Brahms's embarrassment, to his name appearing at the head of manifesto in 1860 asserting that the programmatic aspirations of Liszt and others were contrary to the "inner spirit of music." The repercussions were that Brahms became associated with the music critic Eduard Hanslick (1825–1904) and the idea of absolute music, and also scripted as an antipode to Richard Wagner (1813–1883)—misleadingly, since Brahms held Wagner, whom he met in 1862, and his music in high esteem. Such associations were only strengthened, particularly in 1876, by the milestone first performance of Brahms's First Symphony, which brought to an end the mid-century domination of orchestral symphonic music by the programmatic agendas of Liszt and his followers.
Scholarship around the turn of the twenty-first century has emphasized extra-musical elements and influences, but the association of Brahms with absolute music and musical formalism remains important. However surprising, lyrical, or Romantic its expressive appearance, Brahms's music is frequently grounded in the more purely musical parameters of what the composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) famously was to call "developing variation": a seamless and highly economical musical logic, where each moment in the score can be justified in terms of its motivic derivation from the preceding material. For Schoenberg, this marked Brahms as a protomodernist; and indeed, the increasingly material concentration of Brahms's music (culminating in such late examples as the Vier ernste Gesange [Four serious songs], op. 121) whereby entire musical structures are unified by webs of thematic and motivic cross-references and derivations, is remarkably prophetic. But such unifying techniques, which ground Brahms's music in quantifiable musical relations, also like Brahms strongly to the materialist predilections of European thought at that time, which rejected the metaphysical and idealist strains of early-nineteenth-century Romanticism for having contributed to the failure of the Revolutions of 1848 and thus sought a theoretical outlook, both within the arts (for example, in realism and naturalism) and the sciences (with positivism), orientated more toward the empirically verifiable constituents of existing reality. Ironically, though, Brahms's materialist credentials helped to distinguish him from the predominant musical culture of the second half of the nineteenth century, which was driven by a metaphysics of music inspired by the early-nineteenth-century philosopher Schopenhauer, and thus continued to align itself with the transcendental tendencies of Romanticism, if in a somewhat overdetermined form.
In the final analysis, Brahms is a slippery combination of seemingly contradictory positions (simultaneously modernist, retrospective, and contemporaneous) unique in the later nineteenth century. As a result, the man and his music have been open to appropriation by a number of divergent polemics, thus making him a fascinating subject for reception history in our own pluralistic postmodern world.
Frisch, Walter. Brahms and the Principle of Developing Variation. Berkeley, Calif., 1984.
Frisch, Walter, ed. Brahms and His World. Princeton, N.J., 1990.
Musgrave, Michael. The Cambridge Companion to Brahms. Cambridge, U.K., 1999.
——. The Music of Brahms. London, 1985.
Schoenberg, Arnold. "Brahms the Progressive." In Style and Idea: Selected Writings of Arnold Schoenberg, edited by Leonard Stein, translated by Leo Black. London, 1975.