Born in Hamburg into a Lutheran family, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms's popularity and influence were considerable; following a comment by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the "Three Bs".
Brahms composed for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus. A virtuoso pianist, he premiered many of his own works; he worked with some of the leading performers of his time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed some of his works and left others unpublished.
Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. He was a master of counterpoint, the complex and highly disciplined art for which Johann Sebastian Bach is famous, and of development, a compositional ethos pioneered by Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and other composers. Brahms aimed to honour the "purity" of these venerable "German" structures and advance them into a Romantic idiom, in the process creating bold new approaches to harmony and melody. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by subsequent figures as diverse as Arnold Schoenberg and Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms's works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers.
1.1 Early years
1.2 Meeting Joachim and Liszt
1.3 Brahms and Schumann
1.4 Detmold and Hamburg
1.5 Years of popularity
1.6 Later years
2 Music of Brahms
2.2 Style and influences
3.1 Religious beliefs
4 International Johannes Brahms Competition
6 Further reading
7 External links
7.1 Sheet music
Brahms's father, Johann Jakob Brahms (1806–72), came to Hamburg from Dithmarschen, seeking a career as a town musician. He was proficient in several instruments, but found employment mostly playing the horn and double bass. In 1830, he married Johanna Henrika Christiane Nissen (1789–1865), a seamstress never previously married, who was seventeen years older than he was. Johannes Brahms had an older sister and a younger brother. Initially, they lived near the city docks, in the Gängeviertel quarter of Hamburg, for six months, before moving to a small house on the Dammtorwall, a small city in the Inner Alster.
Photograph from 1891 of the building in Hamburg where Brahms was born. Brahms's family occupied part of the first floor (second floor to Americans), behind the two double windows on the left hand side. The building was destroyed by bombing in 1943.
Johann Jakob gave his son his first musical training. He studied piano from the age of seven with Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel. Owing to the family's poverty, the adolescent Brahms had to contribute to the family's income by playing the piano in dance halls. Early biographers found this shocking and played down this portion of his life. Modern writers have pointed to this as a reason for Brahms's later inability to have a successful relationship for marriage, etc., his view of women being warped by his experiences. Recently, Brahms scholars Styra Avins and Kurt Hoffman have suggested that this legend is false. Since Brahms himself originated the story, however, some have questioned Hoffman's conclusion.
For a time, Brahms also learned the cello. After his early piano…