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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53 replies
  1. Maestro1906
    Maestro1906 says:

    It’s great to learn things about my favorite composers that I never knew before. It’s good to know Brahms was not only talented but generous as well. Makes me like him even more.

  2. melbasha
    melbasha says:

    Interesting that he was a perfectionist, but also not surprising. Funny how he threw away so many, I picture him getting upset and tossing them in a waste basket. Shows his persistence though.

  3. viola09161947
    viola09161947 says:

    I played Brahms 1st Symphony in an all-city high school orchestra — what a marvelous piece! So lush and beautiful. I still can hear my part when I listen to a recording.

  4. Iahnee
    Iahnee says:

    I enjoyed reading this very much. I wish that he would have saved his other compositions instead of throwing them out. I’m sure that today, many people would have enjoyed them greatly.

  5. Chrystal
    Chrystal says:

    Im amazed that he made changes to his score up until it was published. Obviously he was a perfectionist but it also proves how creative he was, creating a beautiful score at the beginning and perfecting it making it even more beautiful than the last update. Tx for sharing

  6. Emi Smith
    Emi Smith says:

    I love that after so many years, he’s still known as a generous man. It shows you how far generosity and modesty truly get you! Brahms was not only an amazing composer, but an amazing man as well.

  7. Alec Damiano
    Alec Damiano says:

    This was an interesting post. You’d never think of composers publicly shaming each other for using different methods of composing.
    It’s also sad how dangerous perfectionism can be for us musicians. Imagine how awesome it would be if those early works he had destroyed still existed.

  8. Dianne Adkins
    Dianne Adkins says:

    Brahms takes a lot of mental and physical stamina to play in orchestra. The movements are long and often involve a lot of counting and paying attention. They can also be technically demanding is spots.

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