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Brahms - Piano Music

There are many stories of Johannes Brahms´s (1833-1897) prickliness, sarcasm and tactlessness – but it would be equally true to describe him as a generous and kind man.
Achieving considerable wealth in later years, he never spent it on himself, but helped his family as well as younger composers. A voracious reader throughout his life, he ended up with a well-used library of over 800 titles including poetry, fiction, drama, history, art, philosophy, religion and travel. Growing up in simple circumstances, Brahms gave piano lessons and played popular music at private gatherings and in restaurants.
All youthful efforts to compose fell victim to his intense self-scrutiny. A turning point came in 1853 when Brahms met Robert and Clara Schumann. Robert hailed Brahms as the true musician of the future in a famous essay ("Neue Bahnen") of the same year.
After Robert´s nervous breakdown and suicide attempt Brahms gave up everything he was doing to assist Clara, developing a strong romantic passion for her, while she probably viewed him more as a devoted son.
When Robert died Brahms and Clara went their separate ways, nevertheless remaining the closest of friends. Brahms went through a period of depression and low productivity, but renewed studies of counterpoint and early music enabled a glorious comeback in the 1860s with a series of chamber works (incl. string sextets, piano quintet, piano quartets) and piano pieces (Handel variations and Paganini variations).
The critical acclaim of his German Requiem, written after his mother’s death, established Brahms as a major composer, but he still struggled to master the string quartet and the symphony.
Not until he was 40 did he complete the first two quartets (Op. 51) that he considered worthy of publication; three years later came the Symphony no.1 in C minor, which had occupied him for at least fifteen years.
A steady stream of mature orchestral works followed, among them three more symphonies and the second piano concerto.

By 1890 Brahms was ready to retire from composing, but meeting the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld started a surge of creativity that enriched the repertory for that instrument remarkably, with two sonatas (Op.120), one trio (Op. 114) and one quintet (Op.115).
In his later years Brahms condensed his musical thought almost to the extreme. Examples of this compact and forward-looking style are the piano pieces Opp. 116-119, and the last piece Brahms published, Vier ernste Gesänge, written in connection with the death of Clara Schumann.

Major works:
Orchestral Music: four symphonies, two Piano Concertos, Violin Concerto, Double Concerto for violin and cello, two serenades, Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Academic Festival Overture, Tragic Overture, arrangements of Hungarian Dances.
Chamber Music: three violin sonatas, two cello sonatas, two clarinet or viola sonatas, clarinet trio, clarinet quintet, three piano trios, horn trio, three piano quartets, piano quintet, three String Quartets, two string sextets and two string quintets
Piano Music: three piano sonatas, Variations on a Theme of Handel, Paganini Variations, four Ballades and many shorter pieces, fantasias and intermezzos. Hungarian Dances and several other works and arrangements for piano four hands.
Vocal and Choral Music: German Requiem, Alto Rhapsody, Schicksalslied, Liebeslieder Waltzer (vocal quartet and piano duet), a large number of songs with piano (incl. Vier Ernste Gesänge, Wiegenlied, Vergebliches Ständchen, Gestillte Sehnsucht, Geistliches Wiegenlied)

George Bernard Shaw on Brahms: "He is the most wanton of composers [...] Only his wantonness is not vicious; it is that of a great baby [...] rather tiresomely addicted to dressing himself up as Handel or Beethoven and making a prolonged and intolerable noise."

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Total pieces by Brahms: 154

Collections - Brahms
Brahms - Concertos (1 pieces)
Brahms - Eight Pieces (Klavierstück) (8 pieces)
Brahms - Fantasies (7 pieces)
Brahms - Four Ballades (4 pieces)
Brahms - Four Pieces (4 pieces)
Brahms - Hungarian Dances (four hands) (21 pieces)
Brahms - Hungarian Dances (solo piano) (10 pieces)
Brahms - Liebeslieder Waltzes (18 pieces)
Brahms - New Liebeslieder Waltzes (15 pieces)
Brahms - Piano Studies (6 pieces)
Brahms - Six Pieces (6 pieces)
Brahms - Sonatas (3 pieces)
Brahms - Three Intermezzi (3 pieces)
Brahms - Two Rhapsodies (2 pieces)
Brahms - Variations (6 pieces)
Brahms - Waltzes (four hands) (16 pieces)
Brahms - Waltzes (solo piano) (16 pieces)
Brahms - Miscellaneous Pieces (8 pieces)

Posts in the piano forum about Brahms:

xx Re: Brahms as a pianist
May 29, 2007, 07:17:31 PM by pianistimo

i would speculate that brahms would have liked beethoven's 9th violin sonata the best.  the 'kreutzer.'  that is because brahms liked to make his phrasing sound like that of the violin or voice.  you can listen to this masterpiece if you google 'beethoven's 9th violin sonata' and then listen under wikipedia's recording.

somehow, i always think of brahms as 'holding in his feelings' while at the same time writing the most emotional music a composer ever has.  his german requiem is so amazingly taunt and yet spills over this lovely melodiousness that beethoven, mendelssohn, schubert, and schumann had.  with him - it just goes on forever. 

Hugo Leichtentritt (whoever he is) gave a lecture at harvard and said this: 'bach is his great-grandfather, mozart and beethoven are his two grandfathers.  schubert is his uncle.  mendelssohn is his elder cousin, and robert schumann is his father.'

if i remember right - brahms was somewhat self-taught as a pianist and used to 'hang out' at the schumann household both as a youth and in his later life.  i'm sure he picked up some tips from clara - and robert probably discussed composition ideas with him.  schumann probably remembered how hard he had it - to make a breakthrough with clara's father mr wieck - and robert schumann was not hardened towards young brahms when he made his first entreaty for whatever it was.  whether lessons or friendship or whatever.  i can't remember how they first met.  despite the growing awareness that schumann had over brahms adoration of clara - i think he truly accepted brahms and never troubled his thoughts over him.  it seems that these musicians found ways to relate to each other through their music.  floristan and eusebius took on a hidden meaning that was both two sides of robert's personality - and also distinctly robert and johannes.

xx for the brahms lovers!
June 08, 2005, 10:17:47 AM by Tash

if you're obsessed with brahms then you should be somewhat happy to know that i'm starting to get into his music! like before i was like yeah i'm not hearing anything special, but after a few piano and violin concertos, symphonies, clarinet quintets, piano music, and who knows what else, i'm starting to like good old brahms quite a bit. my one issue is that i don't know what defines his music. so tell me, what's special about brahms, what are some of the typical characteristics of his music. i'd like to add brahms to my list of composers i can identify after just a few bars of listening (well i managed to the other week, after my lecturer mentioned the composer was on our listening list and i guessed brahms cos i couldn't recognise the composer!)

in summary, have a nice subjetive rant about brahms!

xx Elements of Scottish folk music in works of Brahms!
February 17, 2005, 05:27:47 PM by pianowelsh

Hi It is much talked about that Brahms was profoundly influenced by the scottish folk literature such as 'Edward ballade' and obviously his late pieces. Have any opf you explored this relationship further are there any good publications that examine this aspect of his music and indeed the trend prevelent in the germanic composers of that era? Roll Eyes

xx Brahms-works need large hands?
January 23, 2005, 07:40:48 AM by juliuskrause

in my last piano lesson i talked with my teacher about my oppinion to the Brahms Sonatas I like them very much - he told me: 'especially for Rach and Brahms - you need large hands'

i got small hands, i play only a year, and now i can play a none
- so i looked in the score of the f-minor sonata by brahms, and already in the second line i saw a nice 5-voice-chord (e-flat, g, b-flat, e-flat, g) - well, it's a arpeggiert (how do you call this in england? ;-) one, but can you play such things

there are so many women which play brahms, but women mostly have small hands than men - it's true isn't it?!

i'm very curious about your advices

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