Saturday, 7 March 2009


“Our ideals, like the gods of old, are constantly demanding human sacrifices.” - George Bernard Shaw

German pianist and composer Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was celebrated during his life as a worthy successor to Beethoven. He is famous for his symphonies and chamber music, but also for his monumental “German Requiem”. He is ranked among the masters of the Romantic era. Although he showed talent at the piano at an early age, he spent much of his young life performing rather than composing. Brahms's career was given a boost by composer Robert Schumann (1810-56) and his pianist wife Clara (1819-96).

His close relationship with Clara Schumann, especially after she was widowed, has been the source of much speculation ever since. The pair exchanged passionate letters and went on holiday together, but Brahms opted to leave her behind to pursue his career and a life of bachelorhood. By the end of the 1860s he'd settled in Vienna, where he lived until his death from cancer in 1897. Musically he maintained the Romantic tradition of Ludwig van Beethoven, in opposition to the rise of composers such as Richard Wagner and Brahms's friend, Franz Liszt.

His most famous composition is the lullaby, "Lied Wiegenlied" ("Cradle Song"), popularly known as simply "Brahms' Lullaby." His compositions include German Requiem (1866), Violin Concerto in D (1878) and Piano Concertos in B Flat (1878-81). Here is the 3rd movement, Poco allegretto, from his Symphony No. 3 in F Major. It is an absolutely delicious piece. Poignant and melodic, imbued with a wistfulness and nostalgia that is immensely winsome. The movement has been thought to reflect Brahms’ love for Clara Schumann.

Enjoy the weekend!

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