Brahms was born in Hamburg, Germany, on May 7, 1833, and died in Vienna on
April 3, 1897.
violinist Joseph Joachim introduced him to many leading musicians of the
day including Schumann who hailed him as a genius.
Schumann's death, Brahms maintained a long friendship with his widow,
the pianist Clara Schumann, whose advice he always valued.
moved to Vienna in 1863 where he earned his living as a conductor and
teacher. Brahms was one of the greatest 19th century composer after Beethoven
and he was regarded as the foremost romantic composer of instrumental
music in classical forms.
contributed masterpieces to almost every genre.
music was the object of bitter attacks by the followers of Wagner and Liszt.
was a gruff humorous man tolerated by those who valued his genius.
never married and never left Europe.
1897 Brahms died from cancer, aged 63, and was buried in Vienna.
wrote four symphonies, massive in structure, and all the result of long
periods of work and revision.
two early Serenades have their own particular charm, while the Variations
on a Theme by Haydn enjoy enormous popularity,
examples of a form in which Brahms had complete mastery.
overtures, the "Academic Festival Overture" and the "Tragic
Overture", with a arrangements of his "Hungarian Dances",
complete the body of orchestral music without a solo instrument.
concertos consist of two magnificent and demanding Piano Concertos, a
Violin Concerto and a splendid Double Concerto for violin and cello.
also wrote some 200 solo songs, vocal duets and quartets and several
choral pieces, contributing greatly to the repertoire of German Lied (art
"Liebeslieder Waltzes", Op. 52, for vocal quartet and piano
duet, are particularly delightful, while the solo songs include the moving
Four Serious Songs, Op.121, reflecting preoccupations as his life drew to
a close. "Wiegenlied" ("Cradle Song"), is one of a
group of five Songs, Op. 49; the charming "Vergebliches Staendchen"
("Vain Serenade") appears in a later set of 5 Romances and
Songs, Op. 84, and there are two particularly wonderful songs for
contralto, viola and piano, "Gestillte Sehnsucht"
("Tranquil Yearning") and the "Christmas Geistliches
Wiegenlied" ("Spiritual Cradle-Song"), based on the carol
"Josef, lieber Josef mein", Op. 91 ("Joseph dearest, Joseph
choral works by Brahms include the monumental "German Requiem",
Op. 45, a setting of biblical texts, the "Alto Rhapsody", Op.
53, with a text derived from Goethe, and the "Schicksalslied"
("Song of Destiny"), Op. 54, a setting of Hoelderlin.
two dozen pieces of chamber music are smaller in scale but no less
violin and piano there are three sonatas, Opp. 78, 100 and 108, with a
separate Scherzo movement for a collaborative sonata he wrote with
Schumann and Dietrich for their friend Joachim.
cello and piano he wrote two fine sonatas, Opp. 38 and 99.
are two late sonatas, written in 1894, for clarinet or viola and piano,
Op. 120, each version deserving attention, with a Trio for clarinet, cello
and piano, Op. 114 and a Quintet for clarinet and string quartet, Op. 115,
written 3 years earlier.
addition to this there are the three Piano Trios, Opp. 8, 87 and 101, the
Trio for violin, horn and piano, Op. 40, three Piano Quartets, Opp. 25, 26
and 60, a Piano Quintet, Op. 34 and three String Quartets, Opp.51 and 67.
Two String Sextets, Opp. 18 and 36, and two String Quintets, Opp. 88 and
showed a particular talent for the composition of variations, and this is
aptly demonstrated in the famous Variations on a Theme of Handel,
Op. 24, with which he first made his name in Vienna, and the "Paganini
Variations", Op. 35, based on the theme of the great violinist's
Caprice n. 24.
sets of variations show similar skill, if not the depth and variety of