May 7, 1833-April 3, 1897 • Born in Hamburg, Germany • Middle of three children • Had to play piano at Dance Halls to help support his family • At age 19 became famous for his piano skills • In late teens he became a choral and orchestral conductor
Meeting the Schumanns • In 1853 He traveled to Dusseldorf where he met the Schumann family • Schumann was very impressed with the young Brahms’s piano skills, and wrote an article about his talents • Brahms fell in love with his wife, Clara Schumann, also a composer and pianist
War of the Romantics • Brahms’s music was called “old fashioned” by the New German School, led by Wagner and Franz Lizst. • Brahms disagreed with some of the musical choices of the Wagnerians, and tried to protest against some of the more flamboyant musical choices, but it was wildly unsuccessful
Style • Brahms was a huge fan of Beethoven, and many of his works were directly influenced by Beethoven’s music. • Was influenced by many classical composers, such as Haydn and Mozart • His style looks both “forward and backward”… he has classical tendancies. His exploration of rhythm and harmony is more towards 20th century styles, but his chord progression and tonalities lie in the classical realm. • He bridges the Romantic and 20th century eras together.
Popularity • In 1868, his German Requiem achieved great success, and was said to put him on par with Beethoven. • This gave him the confidence to compose more efficiently and with less perfectionist tendencies. • His next three symphonies followed in quick formation: in 1877, 1883, and 1885
Giving up Composing • In 1890, he resolved to quit composing music to focus on conducting • He could not keep his promise, and continued to compose, creating some of his best works, such as VierernsteGesänge(Four Serious Songs) for piano, as well as several pieces for Clarinet.
Nänie (1881) • Translates to, “Funeral Song” • Written after one of his friends had died Also Beauty must perish! What gods and humanity conquers, Moves not the armored breast of the Stygian Zeus Only once did love come to soften the Lord of the Shadows, And at the threshold at last, sternly he took back his gift Nor can Aphrodite assuage the wounds of the youngster That in his delicate form the boar had savagely torn. Nor can rescue the hero divine his undying mother, When, at the Scaean gate now falling, his fate he fulfills But she ascends from the sea with all the daughters of Nereus, And she raises a plaint here for her glorified son. See now, the gods, they are weeping, the goddesses all weeping also, That the beautiful must fade, that the most perfect one dies. But to be a lament on the lips of the loved one is glorious,
German Requiem(1867) • Written as a response to his mother’s death (and possibly to Schumann’s as well, though this is unclear). • Unlike normal requiems, the text is from a German bible, not from Latin. • In normal requiem masses, the opening text is a prayer for the dead, “Grant them eternal rest, O LORD.” But Brahms opens his requiem with a Beatitude: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”
Symphony No. 4 in E Minor (1885) • This was Brahms’s final symphony composed • Has Bach and Beethoven influences • May be inspired by the play Antonin and Cleopatra • Was first premiered as a smaller version for two pianos, one played by Brahms. • One of the page turners said of the first movement, “For this whole movement I had the feeling that I was being given a beating by two incredibly intelligent people.” • He later changed his opinion on the piece.