Johannes Brahms






    These are the three Bs of classical music: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Johannes Brahms (1833-97) was born in Hamburg, Germany and in his youth was already hailed by Robert Schumann as “the next Beethoven”.

    It is perhaps this claim that contributed to Brahms’ strict perfectionism. He would often destroy works that he deemed not good enough, reportedly burning 20 string quartets before he published his first one. Such attention to detail meant that every work he published was a work of art laboured over with great care. For instance, he spent 15 years working on his first published symphony and still felt compelled to swap the second movement with another after its premiere.

    His friendship with Robert Schumann gave him great professional benefits, for it opened many doors for him within the music circle, but it was also the cause for great personal anguish. Brahms became very close to Robert’s wife, Clara, and supported her and her husband’s marriage while Robert was being committed to a mental asylum. Although he destroyed much of his correspondence with Clara before his death, we can ascertain from the letters that Clara kept that he was very much in love with her but never acted on it even after Robert’s death in 1856 due to his great respect for the latter. 

    Such torment can be heard in his music, alongside a mastery of Classical forms and gypsy and Hungarian rhythms and melodies that permeated his youth playing in dance halls. At a time in history when composers were venturing out and looking to break the German traditions that had dominated classical music until this point, Brahms was seen as a defender of Classical forms and “pure music”. However, he in fact often looked forwards and backwards and combined tradition with innovation. As such, he influenced both budding modern and traditional looking composers of that time as well as far well into modern times today.

    Andrea Sim
    Andrea Sim
    Andrea Sim is the music director and principal conductor of the klpac String Orchestra. A seasoned orchestral violinist, she has led and played solo with numerous orchestras and plays regularly with various chamber groups. Andrea graduated with first class honours on a full scholarship from UCSI University’s Institute of Music with a Bachelor of Classical Music (Hons) degree.
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