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Johaness Brahms (1833-1897)

Johannes Brahms photo as a young man To some people, Brahms has been seen as something of an enigma in the course of music development. The Romantic movement was well underway in the first half of the 19th century, set in early motion by Beethoven and then kindled by Mendelssohn, Berlioz and Schumann, before being transformed by Liszt, Verdi and Wagner. It seemed like all composers of the day, despite differences in style and scale, were united in seeking a new freer means of expression. Brahms however chose the stricter conventions of the classical period, and as a result received much criticism from his more adventurous peers and later composers. Yet Brahms demonstrated time and again that it wasn't necessary to abandon the old forms in forwarding the ideals of Romanticism.

Johannes Brahms photo as an older man Compared to many musicians and composers, Brahms was a late developer. Brahms' early music career was as a pianist giving recitals in his late teens and 20s, and his exceptional skills on this instrument brought him attention from the violinist Joachim, and Robert and Clara Schumann who were to befriend him. It was not until he reached his 30s that he began to compose with any regularity, and his first Symphony was complete in 1876 at the age of 43. Part of this reticence was the enormous historical figure of Beethoven in whose musical footsteps Brahms was to follow, and indeed his music was compared to Beethoven to the extent that the first Symphony was dubbed "Beethoven's 10th". Having put those first tentative steps behind him, Brahms went on to compose many great works in the remaining 2 decades of his life. His legacy is the melding of form and content, of powerful expression yet great economy.

For an insight into Brahms the composer and pianist, we recommend our review of a recording of his piano music played on period pianos. The review called Historical Timbres is by Jeffrey Dane and contains a wealth of historical detail. The article If Brahms Had Lived... A Conjectural Obituary speculates on what Brahms may have achieved if he had lived a further 15 years.

Johannes Brahms - major works

    Johannes Brahms: The Four Symphonies - Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic (boxed set)
  • Symphony No. 1 in C minor - nicknamed "Beethoven's 10th"
  • Symphony No. 2 in D
  • Symphony No. 3 in F
  • Symphony No. 4 in Em - the sublime culmination of Brahms' talents using forms dating back to the days of Bach
  • A German Requiem
  • 2 Piano Concertos in Dm and B-flat - immense pieces of the scale and power of Symphonies
  • Violin Concerto in D - dedicated to his friend Joachim
  • Double Concerto in Am - for violin and cello
  • Set of Variations on Haydn's St. Anthony Chorale - two versions, one for piano duet and one for Orchestra
  • Many Chamber works including String Quartets, a Clarinet Quintet, Trios and Sonatas for Violin, Cello and Piano
  • Variations on a theme of Paganini - the same theme later used by Rachmaninoff, and Lloyd Webber in the music to become associated with "The South Bank Show"
  • Many other keyboard works (some of which have been orchestrated), including Rhapsodies, Ballades, Hundarian Dances and Waltzes
  • Songs including "Wiegenlied", the famous Brahms' Lullaby

There are currently 3 pieces representing Brahms' output on mfiles:

Here is the Waltz no.15 for piano (from a set of 16 Op.39). You can download this as a page of Sheet Music, as a MIDI file or as an MP3 file.

Here is the Intermezzo Op.118 No.2, a beautiful piano piece. Again can be downloaded as PDF Sheet Music, as a MIDI file or as a (computer generated) MP3 file.

From Brahms' significant range of chamber music, here is the 1st movement from his Sonata No.1 for Cello and Piano (Op.38) with PDF sheet music and individual parts for cello and piano. You can also download this as a MIDI file or as an MP3 file.

Brahms' Lullaby (No.4 from his 5 Lieder or songs Op.49) is available in several versions: the Original Song with alternative parts so that it can be played as an instrumental by a variety of instruments with piano accompaniment, and different arrangements for Easy Piano or Guitar. All these versions include scores (and parts where appropriate) with midi and mp3 files).

Johannes Brahms - Recommended Sheet Music

Here are some further links to good sheet music by Brahms:

Johannes Brahms - Selected Albums:

These albums provide a selection of Brahms' major and best-loved works:

    Johannes Brahms: Violin and Double Concertos - album CD cover
  • The (Four) Symphonies - Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (boxed set of 3 CDs) - Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
  • The 2 Piano Concertos, 2 overtures and Variations on a theme of Haydn - Daniel Barenboim (piano) with Sir John Barbirolli conducting (2 CDs) - Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
  • Violin and Double Concertos (2 CDs) - Julia Fischer (violin) and Daniel Muller-Schott (cello) Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
  • A German Requiem - Rudolf Kempe conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
  • cartoon of Brahms playing the piano
  • Hungarian Dances - Istvan Bogar conducting the Budapest Symphony Orchestra Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
  • String Quartets Op.51 No.1 & 2, Op.67 - played by the Alban Berg Quartet (2 CDs) Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
  • Complete Chamber Music for Clarinet (2 Sonatas, Trio and Quintet) - Hans Christian Braein (clarinet) (2 CDs) Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
  • Cello Sonatas Op.38 and Op.99 - Mstislav Rostropovich (cello) and Rudolf Serkin (piano) - Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
  • Violin Sonatas Op.78, Op.100 and Op.108 - Josef Suk (violin) and Julius Katchen (piano) - Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
  • Complete Piano Music (for solo piano) - Gerhard Oppitz (piano) (boxed set of 5 CDs) - Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com