Johannes Brahms

Johannes BrahmsOn this day in 1833, the great German composer Johannes Brahms was born. As you may know, I’m not a big fan of Romantic music. But that’s mostly because the period brought out the worst in mediocre composers. Pretty much any Classical composer could grind out an acceptable piece of music. But that just isn’t so in the Romantic period. I blame Beethoven who inspired many people who shouldn’t have been inspired. Although in a fundamental sense Beethoven was the greatest composer of the period (although I generally think of him as transitional), I prefer to listen to Brahms.

Brahms was a protege of Robert Schumann, who was probably the biggest influence on the young composer. They became friends when Brahms was only 20 years old. This may be why Brahms was considered a conservative composer, at least compared to the other dominant composers of the time. But this gets to my general problem with Romantic music. The excesses of the period are well on display in Wagner and Liszt. What’s more, I find Brahms constantly innovative, just not in such a flashy way. His Symphony No 1 is a great example of restrained brilliance. Not that he couldn’t be more ostentatious as he is in the Violin Concerto in D.

But of the most interest to modern listeners is probably Brahms’ work with folk tunes. That’s especially true of the Hungarian Dances. And since I know from experience that people will not listen to hour long symphonies or concertos, here is the most famous of those dances, No 5 in F♯ Minor:

Happy birthday Johannes Brahms!

3 thoughts on “Johannes Brahms

  1. I like Brahms. My parents listened to a lot of classical music. His fourth symphony, third movement is probably my favorite. I was going to recommend the Scottish Fantasy as a superior entry to the Hungarian Dances, but that is Bruch. It is quite good. I do still enjoy classical, but I never listen to it anymore. I don’t listen to music much at all anymore. A few months ago I pulled up Spring from The Four Seasons on my phone for my daughter. She danced around to it probably five times.

  2. @Lawrence – The problem with classical music is that it mostly isn’t in bite size chunks. So it’s hard to find the time to sit down and listen to an hour long piece of music. But this morning I listed to a couple of hours worth of Brahms. It was nice. But I think he is the most classical of the romantics, so I’m drawn to him. Mozart and Haydn are still my guys. I don’t know quite what it is, but that stuff just seems to be the sweet spot for me in terms of intellectual and emotional content.

    Your daughter has good taste! I especially liked Vivaldi when I was younger. He’s also great fun to play. I especially loved his Flute Concerto in D Major:

    [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uwr–MXX6I[/youtube]

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