Composer Corner: Brahms

May 08, 2017

May's composer of the month is Johannes Brahms.


Born: May 7, 1833

Died: April 3, 1897


Five facts:

• As a young man, Brahms was required to play piano in area dance halls, inns, and brothels to make money for his family, as they were very poor.

• The composer began writing his First Symphony in 1854, but it wasn't premiered until November of 1876.

• When Robert Schumann died in 1856, Brahms went to be with Schumann's wife, Clara. It's unclear what sort of relationship they had (though apparently, they destroyed a number of letters to each other, possibly hiding any evidence of a romantic relationship). While Brahms was engaged for a short time, he never married.

• Brahms attempted to retire from composing in 1890. It didn't take. He went on to write a clarinet trio, a clarinet quintet, two clarinet sonatas, a number of song cycles for piano, and the Eleven Chorale Preludes for Organ.

• The last time Brahms appeared in public was March 3, 1897, at a performance of his Fourth Symphony (the piece received a standing ovation after each movement). He died exactly one month later at the age of 63.


Three important works:

• Variations on a Theme by Haydn (1873)

• Symphony No. 3 (1883)

• Clarinet Quintet (1891)