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Krasovsky, Emanuel

Picture: Krasovsky, Emanuel

Vilna (Lithuania). null

Biography

BRAHMS, Johannes

Picture: BRAHMS, Johannes

Hamburg, 1833 - Vienna, 1897. Brahms was born in Hamburg. His father, who gave him his first music lessons, was a double bassist. Brahms showed early promise on the piano and helped to supplement the rather meager family income by playing the piano in restaurants and theaters, as well as by teaching. Although it is a widely-told tale that Brahms had to play the piano in bars and brothels, recent research, for example that by Kurt Hoffman, suggest that this is probably false. For a time, he also learned the violoncello, although his progress was cut short when his teacher absconded with Brahms's instrument. The young Brahms gave a few public concerts, but did not become well known as a pianist (although in later life he gave the premieres of both his Piano Concerto No. 1 in 1859 and his Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1881). He also began to compose, but his efforts did not receive much attention until he went on a concert tour with Eduard Reményi in 1853. On this tour he met Joseph Joachim, Franz Liszt, and later was introduced to the great German composer Robert Schumann. Reményi was, however, offended by Brahms' failure to praise Liszt's 'Sonata in B minor' wholeheartedly on a visit to the Court of Weimar where Liszt was the court musician. Many of Brahms' friends cited that Reményi, being the polished courtier, had expected the younger Brahms to conform to common practice of politely applauding a celebrity's piece which Brahms either failed to do or did not appear to do so with condescending compliment. He told Brahms that their friendship must end although it was not clear as to whether Liszt felt offended or otherwise. Joachim, however was to become one of his closest friends, and Schumann, through articles championing the young Brahms, played an important role in alerting the public to the young man's compositions. Brahms also became acquainted with Schumann's wife, the composer and pianist Clara, 14 years his senior, with whom he carried on a lifelong, emotionally passionate, but always platonic relationship. Brahms never married. In 1862 he settled permanently in Vienna and began to concentrate fully on composing. With work such as the German Requiem, Brahms eventually established a strong reputation and came to be regarded in his own lifetime as one of the great composers. This may have given him the confidence finally to complete his first symphony; this appeared in 1876, after about ten years of work. The other three symphonies then followed in fairly rapid succession (1877, 1883, 1885). Brahms frequently traveled, both for business (concert tours) and pleasure. He often visited Italy in the springtime, and usually sought out a pleasant rural location in which to compose during the summer. In 1890, the 57-year-old Brahms resolved to give up composing. However, as it turned out, he was unable to abide by his decision, and in the years before his death he produced a number of acknowledged masterpieces, including the two clarinet sonatas Op. 120 (1894) and the Four Serious Songs (Vier ernste Gesänge) Op. 121 (1896). While completing the Op. 121 songs Brahms fell ill of cancer (sources differ on whether this was of the liver or pancreas). His condition gradually worsened and he died on April 3, 1897. Brahms is buried in the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna.

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