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(1833-1897).  In his early years, Brahms played popular folk music in waterfront taverns, though he was also inspired by the classical tradition of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven.

As Robert and Clara Schumann had helped him early on, so did he provide assistance to up and coming composers; he encouraged and aided young Antonin Dvorak, helping him gain publication of his works, and introducing him to many influential musicians.  Despite his contact with major romantic era figures like Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner, he remained an ardent classicist in his compositional outlook.

His compositions are in nearly every genre, except opera.  Brahms created the most inventive and profound symphonies since those of Beethoven, with the most intricate mastery of counterpoint since Bach.  His total command of the orchestra is demonstrated in his Variations on a theme of Haydn.  Brahms also displayed his equal command of the piano in his Paganini Variations.

His piano trios, quartets, quintets, and other chamber music are at the core of the repertoire, as are his Violin Concerto and his 2 Piano Concertos.  The solo piano music of his final years (Op. 116-119) yielded an intimate array of miniature piano gems.

His "German Requiem" is one of the towering choral achievements of the era.


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Johannes Brahms was one of the three Bs of classical music – the other two being Bach and Beethoven. He was a German composer, pianist, and conductor born on May 7, 1833 (Beethoven had been dead five years). For many years, he had to endure comparisons with Beethoven and Wagner – Wagner being one of the leaders of a new musical style which pointed toward Impressionism. However, Brahms never bothered to write an opera or a tone poem. His feet were firmly planted in a more formal, classical style. His music is nonetheless highly individual and original – his orchestrations are usually lush and full-bodied. It might be said that he was a beneficiary of many technical advances made in the construction of brass instruments during his lifetime, of which he took full advantage. Brahms harmonic palette was also quite his own. He is best known for his two piano concertos, his violin concerto, the double concerto (violin and cello), the German Requiem, the Hungarian Dances, the Haydn Variations, the four symphonies, and several chamber music pieces. Brahms is also noted for having worked on his first symphony for fifteen years, so determined was he that it should be as perfect as possible. Though Brahms began the study of music as a child, I am not aware that he ever attended a conservatory (for the purpose of learning) - he did, however, study the works of the old masters with great zeal and sometimes edited collections of their works. Brahms died in April of 1897 (Stravinsky was fifteen years old.)
This biography was most recently edited by...
steven - 8 Feb 2010
steven - 22 Sep 2009
violinhunter - 12 May 2009
violinhunter - 12 May 2009
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