Sunday, 24 April 2011

Johannes Brahms

NAME Johannes Brahms

WHAT FAMOUS FOR German composer

BIRTH b May 7, 1833 Hamburg

FAMILY BACKGROUND Johannes came from a humble but happy background. His father, Johann Jakob Brahms, was a poor (financially) musician who played the double bass in the orchestra of the Stadtheatre at Hamburg. He died in 1872.
His mother, Henrika Christiane Nissen, was a seamstress never previously married, who was seventeen years older than he was. Johannes had an older sister and a younger brother.

CHILDHOOD As a child, Johanne's two passions were toy soldiers and music. His father gave him his first musical training then he studied piano from the age of seven with Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel. Owing to the family's poverty, as a boy Brahms played in dance halls and brothels – some of the seediest places in Hamburg – surrounded by drunken sailors and prostitutes.

EDUCATION Johannes hated French at school which resulted in a life long hatred of the nation. (He also hated the English).
He was twice invited to accept an honary doctorate at Cambridge. He never made it as he hated the sea and the thought of crossing the choppy English channel put him off.
After studying the violin and cello with his father, Johannes mastered the piano and began to compose under the guidance of the German music teacher Eduard Marxsen,
For a time, he also learned the cello, although his progress was cut short when his teacher absconded with Brahms' instrument.

CAREER RECORD From the age of 10 Brahms helped to supplement the rather meagre family income playing the piano in dockside dance halls, cafes, theatres, inns and later brothels. He would have a book of poetry in front of him to distract him from the noisy crowd.
1848 At the age of 15 Brahms gave his first formal recital as a solo pianist.
Spring 1853 Brahms' first concert tour with Hungarian gypsy violinist Edvard Remery.
1856-59 Brahms divided his time between Hamburg, where he formed and conducted a ladies' choir, and the principality of Detmold, where he was court music-teacher and conductor
1859-62 Travelled in Switzerland and Germany
1862-64 Conductor of Singakademie (Choral Academy) at Vienna.
1864-68 More composing and teaching. A hard taskmaster, Brahms never gave any of his students a word of praise.
1868 As a result of success of his German Requiem, Brahms was able to abandon teaching and began career as a composer-performer.
1874 Devoted himself to composition.
1890 The 57-year-old Brahms resolved to give up composing. However, as it turned out, he was unable to abide by his decision, and in the years before his death he produced a number of acknowledged masterpieces.

APPEARANCE As a young man, long flaxen hair and beautiful blue eyes, Brahms was clean shaven until he was well past 40, then made up for it with a distinctive, flowing white beard. Slim, but grew fatter as he became more successful. Though Brahms, had the chest development of a tall man, but his legs were so short they barely reached his piano pedals.

FASHION I can't say whether he dressed like a gentleman as I never saw Brahms dress.

CHARACTER Brahms was deeply emotional, like a cat on hot bricks, but lonely, insecure about his work and incapable of expressing himself in anything except his music. He tended to bottle things up.
Though agreeable, charitable and charming, to adults Brahms was often brusque and sarcastic, and he sometimes alienated other people. His pupil Gustav Jenner claimed that he was a pussycat really. He wrote: "Brahms has acquired, not without reason, the reputation for being a grump, even though few could also be as lovable as he.”

SENSE OF HUMOUR Brahms' sarcasm was a mask against his shyness. Once after a series of offensive remarks to a group of friends, he left the room with the parting words "if there is anyone here whom I have not insulted I beg his pardon."
He was aware of his shortcomings. On one occasion, a small child offered Brahms a rose and he responded, "Is that meant to represent my prickly nature."
A practical joker, Brahms would seat visitors in his trick rocking chair which unceremoniously tipped over to the accompaniment of Brahms’ loud guffaws.

RELATIONSHIPS Although linked with one or two Brahms didn't strike a chord with many women. He never came close to marriage, possibly as he had impossibly high standards. The objects of his affections had to like him. Basically his luck with his love life was not un-adjacent to that of the last dodo on earth. His best friend was Clara Schumann (see left), wife of the composer Robert Schumann, who was 14 years older than him. Whether they ever became lovers after the death of her husband is unknown, but their destruction of their letters to each other may point to something beyond mere privacy.
Another of Brahms’ relationships was with one Bertha Faber, who sung in his women’s choir at Hamburg. The composer renewed his acquaintance with her when he moved to Vienna, by which time she had married. Bertha had the honor of having this lullaby written to celebrate the birth of her eldest child, Hans.
Brahms only really achieved intimate female companionship with prostitutes. He treated the girls well and they returned his affection. After his death, when asked about his love life, his housekeeper would only say, "he was a very naughty old gentleman."
Brahms had a wide circle of friends. Those who remained his friends, despite his sarcasm were very loyal to him, and he reciprocated in return with equal loyalty and generosity. He was a lifelong friend with Johann Strauss II though they were very different as composers
The elderly Brahms met a 25-year-old composer called Claude Debussy in Vienna and took him out to dinner and then onto the court opera to see Bizet's Carmen.

MONEY AND FAME Brahms name first became known as a result of an article, The One who is to Come, by his buddy Robert Schumann after he and his wife invited him to play the piano.
Starting in the 1860's, when his works sold widely, Brahms was well off financially. He preferred a modest life style, however, living in a simple three-room apartment with a housekeeper. He gave away much of his money to relatives, and also anonymously helped support a number of young musicians.
His fans were known as Brahmins.

FOOD AND DRINK Brahms enjoyed eating out in Vienna's cheap cafes and restaurants, especially his daily visit to his favourite 'Red Hedgehog' tavern in Vienna. There, he would drink strong coffee (so strong only he could make it to his satisfaction).
On one occasion, Brahms fell ill and his doctor instructed him to go on a diet. "But this evening I'm dining with Strauss" he protested "and we shall have chicken paprika." That's out of the question the doctor told him. "In that case" said the composer, "please consider that I did not come to consult you until tomorrow."
According to the autobiography of English operatic soprano and composer Liza Lehmann, when she met Brahms, she was left unimpressed by his bluff and coarse manners, particularly when he gobbled up a whole tin of sardines at breakfast and then drank the oil from the tin.

MUSIC AND ARTS A famed conductor and pianist Brahms played everything by heart. He wrote four symphonies, wrote settings for piano and voice of 144 German folk songs, and many of his lieder reflect folk themes or depict scenes of rural life. However, he never wrote an opera, nor did he ever write in the characteristic 19th century form of the tone poem.
Brahms venerated Beethoven, perhaps even more than the other Romantic composers did. In the composer's home, a marble bust of Beethoven looked down on the spot where he composed.
A merciless self-critic, Brahms burned all that he wrote before the age of 19 as well as some sketches of later masterpieces. It is known that he frequently reworked pieces over a period of 10 to 20 years, and before achieving the final form he often transcribed them for several different combinations of instruments.
Here's a selection of his greatest pieces:
1868 Brahms’ Lullaby (The Cradle Song) was originally written by Brahms in 1868 under the title of “Wiegenlied: Guten Abend, gute Nacht” ("Good evening, good night"), and included in his op.49 set of five songs. The lullaby's melody is one of the most famous and recognizable in the world, used by countless parents to sing their babies to sleep.
Brahms wrote this for his friend Bertha Faber, after she gave birth to her first child. He took the first verse from a collection of German folk poems called Des Knaben Wunderhorn; the second stanza was written by Georg Scherer (1824–1909) in 1849. The melody is based on a Viennese song that Bertha used to sing to him. Brahms later suggested with tongue in cheek that there should be a special edition in a minor key for naughty children!
1868 A German Requiem Brahms composed this choral work in three major periods of his life. An earlier version of the second movement was first composed in 1854, not long after Robert Schumann’s attempted suicide, and was later finished and used in his first piano concerto. The majority of the Requiem was composed after his mother’s death in 1865. The fifth movement was later added after the official premiere in 1868. It was so called because the text is taken from Luther's German translation of the Bible rather than the Latin texts normally used. (He used a Bible that he was given as a child to choose the passages for the work.) The piece, cast in seven divisions, focuses on the sorrow of those who mourn, rather than speculating on the fate of the dead. A great success, the Requiem marked a turning point in Brahms' career and made him famous all over Europe.
1876 First Symphony Brahms started this in 1862 and due to its similarities in style to Beethoven it was nicknamed Beethoven's 10th Symphony. However despite its long gestation period, Brahms was still not happy with it. He wrote in a letter to Carl Reincke: "My first symphony is long and not exactly amiable."
1878 Violin Concerto in D Major, Written for his great friend, Josef Joachim,
according to the violinist Nigel Kennedy its the cat's whiskers. He regards it as his favorite piece of music.
In 1889, one Theo Wangemann, a representative of American inventor Thomas Edison, visited the composer in Vienna and invited him to make an experimental recording. Brahms played an abbreviated version of his first Hungarian dance on the piano. The recording was later issued on a record of early piano performances. Sadly, the piano playing is largely inaudible due to heavy surface noise, but this remains the earliest recording made by a major composer.

LITERATURE Brahms was passionate about Shakespeare "In him one has everything and everyone all in one," he dais of the great English playwright in a letter.

ANIMALS Cats got Brahms back up. The composer spent much time at his window in his Vienna home trying to hit neighbourhood cats with a harpoon manufactured from a bow and arrow. He would have gone down a riot at a cat lovers convention.

HOBBIES AND SPORTS A keen walker and lover of nature, Brahms often went walking in the woods around Vienna, when he often brought penny candy with him to hand out to children. He also enjoyed walking holidays in Italy. The press noted his style of walking with his hands firmly behind his back

PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY The theme of transition from anxiety to comfort runs throughout Brahms' German Requiem . However, although the Lord is the source of the comfort, asympathetic humanism persists through the work. In fact, Brahms purposefully omitted Christian dogma. In correspondence with Carl Reinthaler, when Reinthaler expressed concern over this, Brahms refused to add to the work references to "the redeeming death of the Lord", as Reinthaler put it, such as John 3:16.

SCANDAL As a promising young composer Brahms was introduced to the great Franz Liszt in Weimar who promptly played Brahms' Piano Sonata in C at a house recital, heaping praise on the young whippersnapper. Liszt then played his own piano sonata to which Brahms fell asleep to.

HEALTH AND PHYSICAL FITNESS In 1895 Brahms fell terminally ill with cancer of the liver though he was never told the nature of the disease.

HOMES From 1872 to his death, Brahms lived in a third floor apartment at Karlsgasse, Vienna. Presumably he had to do his own mousework.

TRAVEL In his last years being comfortable financially, Brahms could afford to do as he pleased. He frequently travelled, both for business (concert tours) and pleasure and often visited Italy in the springtime, and usually sought out a pleasant rural location there in which to compose during the summer.

DEATH Died 1897 of cancer of the liver in his bed watched over by his landlady. He retained consciousness to the last. Buried in Vienna's Zentralfriedhof (General Cemetery).

APPEARANCES IN MEDIA 1947 Robert Walker played Brahms in Song of Love" about the Schumanns and their marriage. Katharine Hepburn was Clara Schumann.
Francoise Sagan wrote a novel Aimez Vous Brahms?.

ACHIEVEMENTS 1. Brahms was a standard bearer of traditional music in the the late nineteenth century. One of the greatest composers of symphonic music and of songs.
2. "I believe Johannes to be the true Apostle, who will also write Revelations." said his good mate Robert Schumann

Sources My knowledge and Wikipedia

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