Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)

May 07, 1833, Hamburg, Germany
Died: April 03, 1897, Vienna, Austria

Johannes Brahms, a German pianist and composer, is ranked among the masters of the Romantic era. Although he showed talent at the piano at an early age, he spent much of his young life performing rather than composing.

He studied the piano from the age of seven and theory and composition, with Eduard Marxsen, from 13, gaining experience as an arranger for his father's light orchestra while absorbing the popular alla zingarese style associated with Hungarian folk music.

Brahms's career was given a boost by composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and his pianist wife Clara (1819-1896). Brahms's artistic kinship with Robert Schumann and his profound romantic passion (later mellowing to veneration) for Clara Schumann, 14 years his elder, never left him. He had a close passionate friendship with Clara, especially after she was widowed.

By the end of the 1860s he'd settled in Vienna, where he lived until his death from cancer in 1897. Musically he maintained the Romantic tradition of Ludwig van Beethoven, in opposition to the rise of composers such as Richard Wagner and Brahms's friend, Franz Liszt.

Brahms wrote his 21 Hungarian Dances originally for piano four-hands, and he later orchestrated only #1, #3 and #10. #2 here is in a version by a Swedish conductor named Hallen, #4 is in an arrangement by composer Paul Juon, #5-7 are as transcribed by Schmeling, #8-9 were arranged by Gal, the bandmaster Parlow did #11-16, and Dvorak orchestrated #17-21. In general, the first 10 dances have the most Hungarian flavour and are the most frequently performed.

11 months after Clara's death in 189, Brahms died from cancer, aged 63, and was buried in Vienna. Brahms remained unmarried.

Brahms’s style is said to be fundamentally reserved, logical and studious in general. Another of his most important development technique in the piano music is variation, whether used independently (simple melodic alteration and thematic cross-reference) or to create a large integrated cycle in which successive variations, contain their own thematic transformation.

~ Written by Boon Sin Ler

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