Composers Datebook®

Brahms rediscovered

Composers Datebook - June 4, 2024


In the summer of 1853, Johannes Brahms had just turned twenty and was touring as the piano accompanist of Hungarian violinist Ede Reményi. On today’s date, they arrived in Gottingen, where they were hosted by Arnold Wehner, the music director of that city’s university.

Wehner kept a guest book for visitors, and over time accumulated signatures from the most famous composers of his day, like Mendelssohn and Rossini. Now, in 1853, Brahms was not yet as famous, but as a thank-you to his host, he filled a page of Wehner’s album with a short original composition for piano.

Fast forward over 150 years to 2011, when Wehner’s guest book fetched over $158,000 at an auction house in New York City, and this previously unknown piano score by Brahms attracted attention for many reasons.

First, few early Brahms manuscripts have survived, and second, the melody Brahms jotted down in 1853 showed up again in the second movement of his Horn Trio, published 12 years later.

Finally, there was a dispute about who had rediscovered the long-lost score: the auction house had the manuscript authenticated in 2011, but in 2012 British conductor Christopher Hogwood claimed he had discovered it while doing other research.

Music Played in Today's Program

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Albumblatt (1853); Sophie-Mayuko Vetter, piano; Hännsler 98048

On This Day


  • 1770 - possible birthdate of the British-born early American composer, conductor and music publisher James Hewitt, in Dartmoor

  • 1932 - American composer and jazz arranger Oliver Nelson, in St. Louis


  • 1872 - Polish opera composer Stanislaw Moniuszko, 53, in Warsaw

  • 1907 - Norwegian composer Agathe Backer-Groendahl, 59, in Kristiania (now Oslo)

  • 1951 - Russian-born American double-bass player, conductor and new music patron, Serge Koussevitzky, 76, in Boston


  • 1811 - Weber: opera, Abu Hassan in Munich

  • 1883 - Tchaikovsky: Festival Coronation March, in Moscow (Julian date: May 23). Tchaikovsky conducted this march at the gala opening concert of Carnegie Hall (then called just The Music Hall) in New York on May 5, 1891.

  • 1912 - Chadwick: tone poem Aphrodite in Norfolk, Connecticut, at the Litchfield Festival

  • 1914 - Sibelius: Oceanides, in Norfolk, Connecticut, at the Litchfield Festival, with the composer conducting

  • 1935 - Shostakovich: ballet The Limpid Stream, in Leningrad at the Maliiy Opera Theater

  • 1935 - R. Strauss: opera Die Schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman), in Dresden at the Staatsoper

  • 1994 - Philip Glass: opera La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast) based on the film by Jean Cocteau), by the Philip Glass Ensemble at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville (Spain), with Michael Riesman conducting

  • 1997 - Richard Danielpour: ballet Urban Dances, at New York State Theater by the New York Ballet, choreographed by Miriam Mahdaviani

  • 1999 - Esa-Pekka Salonen: Five Images after Sappho for voice and orchestra, at the Ojai Festival in California, with soprano Dawn Upshaw and the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, conducted by the composer

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®