With his high status among the composers of classical music and being one of the three great epithets (BBB) of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, it may seem very strange to find Johannes Brahms in a place of suspicion and criticism. We cannot deny that we hear Beethoven’s music echoing in Brahms symphonies! But what is Brahms of all this? Does he deserve his place among the best musicians in history, or is he a “villain, with no talent,” as Tchaikovsky said about him? Our art sometimes cannot tolerate the democracy of taste. However, this does not change the fact that there is absolutely no untouchable character.
It was his good fortune to be misunderstood by German people, who considered him a rival of Wagner (people always need a second side for rivalry), that he did not even compose important musical works, but rather lathered and frothed publishing many books. And now let’s take this harsh criticism and compare it with a more positive and biased impression of Brahms, musician Arnold Schoenberg wrote,” It was enough for Brahms to be creative that he relied only on the legacy of Mozart. Still, he did not live On inherited wealth, he has made his legacy. His work as a composer of chamber music and symphonies can not be described only as a lyric saga.”
Who is Johannes Brahms?
Now that we presented the two sides of critics of Johannes Brahms Let us go back a little bit and specifically to the nineteenth century in Germany. Let us take a closer look at this musician.
Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg in 1833, where his father, Johann Jacob Brahms, had moved from Schleswig to Hamburg to work as an itinerant musician, he was a proficient multi-instrumentalist. Brahms family lived in a poor street where Johannes the child received his first musical lessons from his father. He showed promising performances in playing the piano, until he started playing in restaurants and cafes, contributing to increasing his family’s meagre income. But, some researchers, considered this information wrong.
The young Brahms performed several concerts in Hamburg. Although he was not famous for being a pianist, he roamed the country between the fifties and eighties of the nineteenth century, performing several concerts. In the early years of his career, Brahms began to lead the choirs, and later became the leader of a high-class orchestra.
Johannes Brahms’ Professional career
Johannes started composing music very early in his life (he played the sonata on the piano with great improvisations, at the age of 11). Still, his efforts did not receive much attention until he accompanied the Hungarian violinist Eduard Rimini on several musical tours in the year 1853.
After that, In one of its tours with Rimini in Hanover, Johannes met with Joseph Joachim. Brahms proceeded to the court of Weimar where he met with Franz Liszt, Jansen Cornelius and Joachim Raff. And according to many witnesses, those who had attended the Brahms-Liszt meeting, Brahms did not play the “Scherzo Op.4″, and it was in front of him for the first time.
Rimini was very disappointed when Brahms failed to play a piece that was not sincerely Sonata in B minor (Brahms slept while Liszt was playing sonata in a previous meeting). And after this situation, Brahms and Rimini dispersed, it was not apparent if Franz had not felt insulted or no.
On September 30 of the same year, Brahms arrived in Dusseldorf to be welcomed by the Schumann family after the introductory letter sent by Joseph Joachim. The great musician Robert Schumann was impressed by the talent of the twenty-year-old boy, so he published an article entitled “New Paths” in his newspaper Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, pointing the attention of the public to that young genius, describing him “He was destined to give a fuller kind of expression at all times.”
During his stay in Dusseldorf, Brahms became attached to Schumann’s wife, composer and pianist Clara Schumann, who was 14 years older than him. Brahms had a deep affection for her, and he gave her a Platonic love that soaked her heart for life. Schumann’s attempt to commit suicide and his stay in the psychiatric institution near Bonn in February 1854, Brahms became the link between Clara and her husband and found himself an actual head of the family until Schumann’s death in 1856.
Brahms visited Vienna for the first time in 1862 and soon decided to settle in. Between 1872-1875 he worked as a parties manager at the Friends of Music Society in Vienna. After that, he did not receive any official position, and in 1877 he refused an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University, where he was worried about to be overly welcomed in England, his music there was very famous and well-known there.
Brahms continued to compose music steadily from the 1850s until the 1860s, but his music has always caused great controversy and differing opinions among critics. The first piano concerto has received poor criticism in its early performances. The “New German School” represented by Franz Liszt and Wagner described Brahms’ musical works as old-styled.
Brahms was very impressed with Wagner’s music, as he saw in Franz Liszt, a great pianist. However, in 1860 he tried to organize a public protest against what he considered dangerous transgressions in their compositions, but the petition was published prematurely and contained only three signatures. It failed an insulting failure and Brahms did not expose himself to public bickering again.
In Bremen in 1868, the first show of Brahms’ timeless masterpiece “Ein Deutsches Requiem” was his largest-ever choral work which proved to the public throughout Europe that Schuman’s prophecy had already been fulfilled. And perhaps this gave him the confidence to complete several works in which he had encountered difficulties by several years, such as his first string quartet, the first symphony that his last three symphonies followed in the years 1877,1883 and 1885 respectively. It was the most tender years of Brahms.
The icon dies and the prophecy is fulfiled
In 1890, 57-year-old Brahms decided to end his career as a composer, but as it turned out, he was not able to abide by his decision. In the years before his death, he produced a number of masterpieces, including several clarinet compositions and a series of pianos, as well as four series of songs Vier Ernste Gesänge Op.121 in 1896.
While working on completing the series Op.121 songs, Brahms discovered that he had cancer. The sources differed between being in the liver or the pancreas, and his condition gradually worsened until he died on April 3, 1897. He was buried in Vienna. Brahms was a hero in the period that saw the end of the romantic era. He did not give in to the criticisms of his contemporaries and appeared as a master of symphonic works in the last half of the nineteenth century.
His works paved the way for a number of great musicians, such as Gustav Mahler and Jan Sibelius. His music was not reactionary at all, but rather deep expressive with an epic spirit that moves feelings and rocks them to the extreme bonds.