On 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!