Johannes Brahms was a romantic-era composer who lived during the 1800s in Vienna, Austria. Despite humble beginnings, he made a name for himself through sheer talent and hard work. Here are five more things you may not have known about this great composer.
He was an excellent pianist
Brahms’ career as a pianist started early; he began piano lessons at the age of seven in Germany. As an adolescent, Brahms contributed to his family’s meager income by playing piano in dance halls and inns. Early biographers were appalled by the fact that he played in such common venues, and tended to leave it out of their writings.
Brahms became so talented on the piano that he debuted many of his own compositions for the instrument.
He was generous
Brahms may have started out poor, but as he gained popularity he soon became quite wealthy. Despite his abundant means, he chose to continue living simply in a small apartment. Brahms was free with his money and quietly gave away large sums to friends and aspiring musicians. He also liked children and often brought candy on his walks to give to them.
He was a perfectionist
Brahms began composing at age 11, but, being a terrific perfectionist, he found many of his early works embarrassing and destroyed them.
Brahms worked for roughly fifteen years on his First Symphony, and he continued to make changes to it right up until the time the score was published. Brahms is also said to have composed and discarded some 20 string quartets before he presented his official first composition.
His music was unique
Brahms’ musical style was like no other: he meticulously honored the traditional forms and theories of composition, yet still expressed a deeply romantic style. His compositions were influenced by baroque, classical and romantic composers. Brahms held Beethoven (a classical-era composer) and Schumann (romantic) in particularly high regard.
He was part of The War of the Romantics
This “war” was basically a musical argument between those composers who were experimenting with new forms and styles of music and those who were more traditional in their approach. Brahms and Clara Schumann were viewed as more traditional, while Liszt and Wagner were seen as “radical”. The opposing sides sometimes resorted to public shaming of their opponents, and Brahms was openly criticized by Wagner for his adherence to traditional forms and tonality.
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