Is anyone else allergic to Brahms?

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Imperfect Pitch
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Is anyone else allergic to Brahms?

Post by Imperfect Pitch » Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:46 am

According to iTunes, I now have 14 days' worth of music on my iPod. If I could play all 5,119 songs from start to finish without interruption, it would stop two weeks later. The music spans every genre from blues to jazz, from folk to rock, from African a capella groups to Shaker songs, and of course classical. Within classical, every era from the Renaissance to the 20th Century is represented.

*BUT* I just discovered that I have almost nothing by Brahms save for a few minutes' worth of short solo piano pieces that I don't even remember putting there. I'm sure it's my loss, but I never could warm up to Brahms. I've always found his music to be rather tedious; I have no idea why.

Is anyone else turned off by this very prominent composer? And, for those who like him, which pieces would you say are most likely to cure someone of their aversion to him? I hate to change the station every time they play Brahms on the radio (which is quite often). Please, clue me in to what I've been missing!

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Post by karlhenning » Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:51 am

Whenever I think I might be allergic to Brahms . . . I remember how often Schumann's name comes up, on almost any thread here at CMG . . . and my appreciation for Brahms is reborn :-)

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by Donaldopato » Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:04 am

I would agree about Brahms and include Schumann and Mendelssohn in the same group. I do not dislike their music, it is just not on the top of my list. I have some of the above composers' music, most of which are recordings by Guido Cantelli as part of my effort to collect his recordings. Other than that, not much.

"Exit in case of Brahms."

proposed inscription over the doors of Boston Symphony Hall by critic Philip Hale

Edit: I wrote the above before seeing Lance's post. Seems Schumann was invoked as expected!
Last edited by Donaldopato on Thu Jan 24, 2008 11:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by BWV 1080 » Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:21 am

I love the Schumann-Brahms but am indifferent to the Beethoven-Brahms

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Post by Ralph » Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:33 am

I love Brahms!
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Post by MaestroDJS » Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:46 am

Johannes Brahms is one of the true greats of music, and I cherish just about everything he has written. It's hard to explain why I esteem his music so highly, so I'll let someone more knowledgable do the writing for me. :)

Here is some perspective by Brahms' near contemporary Max Bruch, a good composer who composed 3 or 4 truly great works. Their music has much in common, but many subtle differences as well. In 1907, ten years after the death of Brahms, Bruch offered this evaluation of the different qualities in their music and that of Brahms. This offers one of the clearest insights into the nature of talent and genius, and Bruch realized how talent can sometimes become genius. Bruch's comments highlight some of those special qualities which makes Brahms' music so great, and which I could never really put into words.

Original German:
Max Bruch wrote:Brahms ist zehn Jahre tot, doch noch immer wird über ihn gelästert, sogar unter den besten Musikkennern und Kritikern. Ich sage jedoch voraus, daß er im Laufe der Zeit immer mehr geschätzt werden wird, während die meisten meiner Werke nach und nach in Vergessenheit geraten werden. In 50 Jahren wird sein Glanz als der des überragendsten Komponisten aller Zeiten hell erstrahlen, während man sich meiner hauptsächlich nur wegen meines g-Moll-Violinkonzertes erinnern wird.

Brahms war aus verschiedenen Gründen ein weit größerer Komponist als ich. Vor allem war er von stärkerer Origina lität. Er ging stets seinen eigenen Weg. Er kümmerte sich überhaupt nicht um die Reaktion des Publikums oder die Meinung der Kritiker. Das große Fiasko seines d-Moll-Klavierkonzerts hätte die meisten Komponisten entmutigt. Nicht aber Brahms! Der Tadel, der auf ihn niederprasselte, nachdem Joachim sein Violinkonzert im Leipziger Gewandhaus im Jahre 1880 aufführte, hätte mich zermalmt.

Ein weiterer Umstand, der gegen mich sprach, war meine wirtschaftliche Lage. Ich hatte eine Familie zu ernähren und für die Ausbildung der Kinder zu sorgen. Ich mußte mit meinen Kompositionen Geld verdienen. Ich war deshalb gezwungen, gefällige und leicht verständliche Werke zu schreiben. Ich schrieb wohl nie für den Publikums geschmack; mein künstlerisches Gewissen ließ dies nicht zu. Ich schrieb immer gute Musik, aber solche, die leicht abzusetzen war.

Über meine Musik zu streiten, bestand eigentlich kein Anlaß. Ich beleidigte das Ohr der Kritiker nie durch jene wunderbaren, widerstreitenden Rhythmen, die so bezeichnend für Brahms sind. Auch hätte ich es nicht gewagt, beim Übergang von einer Tonart in eine andere Stufensequenzen auszulassen, was die Modulationen Brahms’ so kühn und aufregend macht. Und schließlich hatte ich nicht den Mut, in solch dunklen Farben in der Art Rembrandts zu malen.

All dies und manches mehr sprach gegen Brahms, aber gerade diese Merkmale werden das Bild, das man sich in 50 Jahren von ihm macht, bestimmen, weil diese Eigenschaften ihn zu einem Komponisten von bezeichnender Originalität stempeln. Ich halte Brahms für eine der bedeutendsten Persönlichkeiten in den Annalen der Musik.
English translation:
Max Bruch wrote:Brahms has been dead ten years but he still has many detractors, even among the best musicians and critics. I predict, however, that as time goes on, he will be more and more appreciated, while most of my works will be more and more neglected. Fifty years hence, he will loom up as one of the supremely great composers of all time, while I will be remembered chiefly for having written my G minor violin concerto.

Brahms was a far greater composer than I am for various reasons. First of all he was much more original. He always went his own way. He cared not at all about the public reaction or what the critics wrote. The great fiasco of his D minor piano concerto would have discouraged most composers. Not Brahms! Furthermore, the vituperation heaped upon him after Joachim introduced his violin concerto at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1880 would have crushed me.

Another factor which militated against me was economic necessity. I had a wife and children to support and educate. I was compelled to earn money with my compositions. Therefore, I had to write works that were pleasing and easily understood. I never wrote down to the public; my artistic conscience would not permit me to do that. I always composed good music but it was music that sold readily.

There was never anything to quarrel about in my music as there was that in Brahms. I never outraged the critics by those wonderful, conflicting rhythms, which are so characteristic of Brahms. Nor would I have dared to leave out sequences of steps in progressing from one key to another, which often makes Brahms’modulations so bold and startling. Neither did I venture to paint in such dark colours, à la Rembrandt, as he did.

All this, and much more, militated against Brahms in his own day, but these very attributes will contribute to his stature fifty years from now, because they proclaim him a composer of marked originality. I consider Brahms one of the greatest personalities in the entire annals of music.
karlhenning wrote:Whenever I think I might be allergic to Brahms . . . I remember how often Schumann's name comes up, on almost any thread here at CMG . . . and my appreciation for Brahms is reborn :-)
Uh-oh! I've been translating some more of Robert Schumann's writings into English. Shall I give you 2 weeks' notice before I post any of them here? ;)
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Post by karlhenning » Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:48 am

MaestroDJS wrote:
karlhenning wrote:Whenever I think I might be allergic to Brahms . . . I remember how often Schumann's name comes up, on almost any thread here at CMG . . . and my appreciation for Brahms is reborn :-)
Uh-oh! I've been translating some more of Robert Schumann's writings into English. Shall I give you 2 weeks' notice before I post any of them here? ;)
Nay, nay; you always evince an excellent sense of balance and proportion, mon vieux! :-)

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by RebLem » Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:55 am

I love Brahms and Schumann & agree with MaestroDJS. Not so sure about Mendelssohn, however. Felix is OK, but except for the Italian Symphony, the Violin Concerto, and a few chamber pieces, his music seems rather limited in scope, like Max Bruch's.

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Post by diegobueno » Thu Jan 24, 2008 11:21 am

What's there to be allergic to with Brahms? Four of the supreme examples of chamber music are by him, and they just happen to include the clarinet. You've just got to love anyone who could lavish his genius so generously on the clarinet (I do, in any case).

He also wrote some pretty nice stuff for orchestra and for piano. 8)

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Post by jbuck919 » Thu Jan 24, 2008 11:55 am

I'm late here because of my hospitilization, but I can't let such a topic pass. IMO, Brahms is the most important (yes, if you will, the greatest) composer chronologically after Beethoven. Since such statements invite brickbats here, I hope you'll at least let me echo Ralph with impunity, "I love Brahms." It is impossible to support such an assertion, opinion, or expression of taste with much in the way of objective analysis that does not end up sounding self-serving, but it is a widely held opinion by strong listener's not just John B.'s flight of fancy.

Also, I think that many listeners will agree that Brahms, together with Wagner, represents a clear demarcation point in music. After those two things could not fail to be qualitatively different or to one extent or another in their shadow. This is not the same as saying that either is the last great composer; I deliberately avoided that thread. But in terms of appreciation, it seems to me that anyone who has not come to terms with Brahms is missing a very great deal indeed, and if any composer bears trying again, he is the one.

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Post by aurora » Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:03 pm

this allergy seems to be going around. The same topic is currently being discussed on another board.
Last edited by aurora on Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Fernando Almeida » Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:06 pm

I really like Brahms, but I have to say that I understand what you mean.

About Brahms, I think his music is not easy to listen, though he's very representative of the late Romantism. Some of his works are really long and intrincated.

I started liking his music after I listened to his symphonies a lot of times...

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Post by absinthe » Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:19 pm

Fernando Almeida wrote:I really like Brahms, but I have to say that I understand what you mean.

About Brahms, I think his music is not easy to listen, though he's very representative of the late Romantism. Some of his works are really long and intrincated.
Brahms seems to be a clacissist almost through and through. He wrote a few romantic-sounding tunes but was filling in the Beethovenian formula with his symphonies, extending Beethoven's harmony perhaps a little. His fourth symphony is easy to listen to.

I have that allergy though. His earlier works bring me out in a rash so it's probably those musically transmitted diseases at work.
.

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Post by lmpower » Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:24 pm

One man's meat is another man's poison. I agree with John though that Brahms is the greatest composer since Beethoven. I prefer the late "Brahmsian" Brahms to either the Schumanesque or Beethovenesque Brahms. There is a unique autumnal and nostalgic quality about the clarinet quintet. Brahms expressed a profound sadness and world weariness in his last works, though he does not succumb to total despair. His music will never seem boring to anyone who has understood his soul searching message.

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Post by Barry » Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:29 pm

I also agree that Brahms is the best since Beethoven (actually, I'd take him over anyone before LvB too). Each one of his symphonies and concertos (arguably with the exception of the double concerto) is nothing short of a masterpiece. He also ranks among the top few composers of chamber music IMO.

While I'd say Beethoven's best was better than Brahms' best, I think Brahms was probably the most consistently good composer ever.
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Re: Is anyone else allergic to Brahms?

Post by SONNET CLV » Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:32 pm

Imperfect Pitch wrote: I'm sure it's my loss, but I never could warm up to Brahms. I've always found his music to be rather tedious; I have no idea why.

I envy you.

You won't have to struggle with the decision about whether or not to purchase the upcoming 60-CD box set of the Complete Brahms ...

Image

... and you'll save all that money.

I envy you. But I also worship at the shrine of Brahms. He remains truly one of the greatest masters.

And for my game, worship bests envy anyday.

Image


--SONNET CLV--

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Post by Ken » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:02 pm

If I developed an allergy to Brahms I'd surely suffer a sweet death by anaphylaxis.
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Post by absinthe » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:05 pm

My textbook has the following to say about Brahms (inter alia):

"Brahms is a fellow you can't help liking even if some of his music seems unutterably cluttered. He was a comfortably fat man with a big bushy beard rather like Edward Lear or W G Grace and he often conducted with one hand in his pocket - jingling the money he got in advance....

...On the whole he had an uneventful life which he tried to brighten by being rude to most people and collecting tin soldiers. He did things that a lot of people would have liked to have done - like falling asleep while Liszt was playing the piano...

...Taking your cue from Brahms, you may be very rude about his music and no one will mind in the least. Most women adore Brahms symphonies and these hardly need recommending..."

(Peter Gammond)

;)

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Post by karlhenning » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:06 pm

Although I like Brahms a great deal, I cannot listen to more than about an hour's worth of his music at a time.

I don't think this maps onto his being necessarily 'greater' than other composers, to whose work I can listen for rather greater periods at a stretch.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by Fernando Almeida » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:13 pm

absynthe,

Hm, I still think he's quite romantic at least in some of his musical ideas and in some of his dramatic lines, as the beginnig of the violin concerto.

Anyway, I think you're right. You certainly can consider him a classicist in the form he used to write, and many would even say that he's a Beethoven's follower (though, in my opinion, Beethoven was neither completely classicist or romantic).

The fourth symphony is easy, but I think that some of his quartets, piano solo pieces, among others, are not that easy to listen to.

Best regards!

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Post by diegobueno » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:16 pm

I think the amount of time one can spend listening to a certain composer's music is a questionable measure of greatness. Some music is facile enough to serve as sonic wallpaper for large stretches of time. Some music is so intensely concentrated as to strain one's mental energies so that one hour may indeed be as much as a listener can take. Brahms falls more into the latter category, but the effort spent during that hour is well repaid by the music.

I generally find that an hour and a half is about as much time at a stretch as I care to listen to any kind of music.

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Post by piston » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:41 pm

I generally find that an hour and a half is about as much time at a stretch as I care to listen to any kind of music.
In some cases I get a spontaneous migraine.

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Post by slofstra » Thu Jan 24, 2008 2:15 pm

aurora wrote:this allergy seems to be going around. The same topic is currently being discussed on another board.
That's a good article from the Washington Post. Although the writer seems to be revising his opinion of Brahms as the column progresses.

Imperfect, may I suggest the scherzo of the Fourth Symphony. If that doesn't stir the blood, nothing will. (I'm by no means suggesting this as the pinnacle of Brahms, but as a very accessible Brahms).

I've also enjoyed listening to some of the piano transcriptions - to help find or foreground the melodic lines in some of the pieces.
Last edited by slofstra on Thu Jan 24, 2008 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by karlhenning » Thu Jan 24, 2008 2:28 pm

diegobueno wrote:I think the amount of time one can spend listening to a certain composer's music is a questionable measure of greatness. Some music is facile enough to serve as sonic wallpaper for large stretches of time. Some music is so intensely concentrated as to strain one's mental energies so that one hour may indeed be as much as a listener can take. Brahms falls more into the latter category, but the effort spent during that hour is well repaid by the music.

I generally find that an hour and a half is about as much time at a stretch as I care to listen to any kind of music.
Excellent post.

It does make me wonder, What if Brahms had composed an opera?

Schoenberg is another composer, like I his music ne'er so well, usually my ears max out at the 60-minute mark; Moses und Aron is two hours well spent, but at the end of that two hours, my ears do feel spent . . . .

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by Imperfect Pitch » Thu Jan 24, 2008 3:34 pm

Thanks for all the replies. I didn't realize there was a Beethoven-Brahms, a Schumann-Brahms, and even a Brahmsian Brahms. How interesting. I'm glad the man eventually found himself :-)

Based on the comments above, I'll have to give Symphony #4 a shot, as it seems to be one of his more accessible works. That, and maybe a clarinet quintet or trio. I enjoyed the Washington Post link - glad to know I'm not alone! And, I like the "Exit in case of Brahms" quote. As for the Peter Gammond excerpt, those must be some of the finest backhanded compliments ever written. And I mean that sincerely :-)

P.S. Bruch's comments on Brahms remind me of Haydn's praise of Mozart. (Thanks for the translation, Maestro.)

P.P.S. Is it just me, or does the 60-CD set bear a striking resemblance to a case of Guinness?
.

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Re: Is anyone else allergic to Brahms?

Post by slofstra » Thu Jan 24, 2008 3:35 pm

SONNET CLV wrote:
Imperfect Pitch wrote: I'm sure it's my loss, but I never could warm up to Brahms. I've always found his music to be rather tedious; I have no idea why.

I envy you.

You won't have to struggle with the decision about whether or not to purchase the upcoming 60-CD box set of the Complete Brahms ...

Image

... and you'll save all that money.

I envy you. But I also worship at the shrine of Brahms. He remains truly one of the greatest masters.

And for my game, worship bests envy anyday.

Image


--SONNET CLV--
Solidarité. I choose to join you in the struggle.

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Post by Seán » Thu Jan 24, 2008 6:49 pm

This is a great thread
Fernando Almeida wrote:IAbout Brahms, I think his music is not easy to listen, though he's very representative of the late Romantism. Some of his works are really long and intrincated.

I started liking his music after I listened to his symphonies a lot of times...
The fact that some of Brahm's music does not have instant appeal, requires effort to listen to and to get familiar with it is something that definitely appeals to me.

However, to my shame the only music written by Brahm's that I've listened to is his First Symphony and I really liked it.
Seán

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Post by aurora » Thu Jan 24, 2008 7:42 pm

Imperfect Pitch wrote: P.P.S. Is it just me, or does the 60-CD set bear a striking resemblance to a case of Guinness?
.
Well of course! Deep...dark... rich...too bad I don't actually like beer. Swap the Guiness out for a honkin' big Lindt chocolate bar & that's my kinda heaven.

I think it was his symphonies that first got me on to him as well. My earliest memories of liking Brahms goes back when CD's were first becoming popular. I taped a bunch that belonged to a friend (a violist... they always love Brahms ), they included the 4th symphony & I got hooked. It was my first favourite of his & all symphonies.... now I tend to waffle between that & whichever Brahms I've heard or played most recently (the same usually goes for his string 4tets ). Still dying for a chance to play the 3rd symphony.

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Post by The Ninth » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:36 pm

I've loved Brahms since I bought his piano concertos and Haydn Variations.

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Post by Teresa B » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:48 pm

I think Brahms can be an acquired taste, but I love him. I do find that I prefer his later works.

The emotions that run through his late piano pieces are stunningly poignant.

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Post by gfweis » Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:07 pm

I'm late to the discussion here, but I feel obliged to confess my utter devotion to Brahms. After more than four decades of serious listening, I find that there is much music that moves and expands me, including a lot of Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and Bruckner, for example, as well as the music of many others. But overall, Brahms is closest to my heart. This morning I happened to have listened to the Op. 114 clarinet trio, played by Leister, Donderer, and Eschenbach, and I was simply transported into a complex emotional world that was at once intimate and new. All of this is so subjective, of course, but I somehow feel confident that all people who give it a serious try, at some point in their lives will identify with the ardency and love (perhaps a lost love) that finds expression in so much of Brahms music, for example in the wonderful Op. 8 piano trio (not really an early work, as most readers will know, but a thoroughly-revised-by-the- mature-Brahms work).
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Post by piston » Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:11 pm

He is my connection with the whole romantic era, a human portal that reminds me that it's not a period of excessive emotions totally unrelated to human experience. The assessment of a musical genius, in my case, isn't strictly musical. There has to be some realistic foundation, realistic in the sense of how I understand historical periods. Interestingly, many do not view famous composers like they do famous writers. Not possible in my case. Brahms is to romantic music what writers such as Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac are to literature. Realistic within the aesthetic norms of their time.

A transgression hopefully overlooked by the moderators. Take a good look at Hugo's lover:
Image

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Post by Harold Tucker » Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:34 pm

I have long held a theory that Brahms main appeal is to a more mature listener. A lot of the emotional content appeals to those of us beyond youthful exuberance or whatever. I really can't imagine listening to that craftmanship and finding it tedious, though I am sure that I once did.

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Re: Is anyone else allergic to Brahms?

Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:21 pm

Imperfect Pitch wrote:I've always found his music to be rather tedious; I have no idea why.

Is anyone else turned off by this very prominent composer? And, for those who like him, which pieces would you say are most likely to cure someone of their aversion to him? I hate to change the station every time they play Brahms on the radio (which is quite often). Please, clue me in to what I've been missing!
There's two kinds of Brahms I like. One is the uncharacteristic extrovert of the first orchestral serenade. That's about the only orchestral Brahms I can tolerate. The other kind of Brahms I like is the intimate, somewhat dour Eeyore-ish fellow of the clarinet quintet and the late piano pieces like Op 116-118, and a handful of songs. His intimations of mortality are among the most exquiste in western music.
Harold Tucker wrote:I have long held a theory that Brahms main appeal is to a more mature listener. A lot of the emotional content appeals to those of us beyond youthful exuberance or whatever. I really can't imagine listening to that craftmanship and finding it tedious, though I am sure that I once did.
I think you may be onto something there, Harold. I never warmed to Brahms until my 30s. I thought his Symphonies were interesting, but never quite appealing emotionally.
Corlyss
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Anton Webern

Post by Anton Webern » Thu Jan 24, 2008 11:12 pm

Personally, i think part of the problem with Brahms is that his music is extremely hard to get right in performance. You need a fierce level of technical mastery to tackle all the "complexities" (particularly those of the "vertical" kind) but the music still needs to sound fluid and spontaneous. Unfortunately, superior virtuosity and great musicianship rarely seem to go together, you either get one or the other.

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Post by Wallingford » Fri Jan 25, 2008 1:22 am

Heaviness aside: the late Arthur Fiedler reiterated in interviews, "All the great composers wrote music for fun." And so it goes with Brahms: we've got the Hungarian Dances (though none of those tunes are his), the Liebeslieder Waltzes, & the Waltzes, Op.39, for piano-four-hands. These are certainly an accessible intro.
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That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
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Jack Kelso
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Post by Jack Kelso » Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:53 am

What a nice collection of multi-colored posts! Brahms lovers, those bored by Brahms, the "Super-Brahmsians" and lots of others are in the cast. I am one of the "middle-of-the-roaders".

No question, Brahms wrote four of the supreme symphonies of all time. They are equal in all musical aspects to the best of Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Bruckner, Franck and Tschaikowsky. Just different.

I know Brahms' works as well as those of any other composer. Yet, unlike all other great composers, I can't seem to accept certain of his chamber works as anything more than "filling in the forms" and as being written in the "masterpiece style" (as one critic put it). In a word, for me they lack that "magic of creative inspiration", which Beethoven and Schumann possessed. I can admire the technique, however.

For many composers and musicians, Brahms "over-composed" many works (piano concerti, Double-Concerto, several chamber works, etc.) and this may be the "Beethoven-Brahms" than was mentioned before. There are those moments when Brahms is trying just a little too hard to be someone he's not---and to create something that just won't come naturally.

To set the record straight, Schumann and Wagner are regarded as the composers after Beethoven who possessed the greatest genius and originality---the two who, in different ways, influenced over a century of Romantic Era music---directly into the modern era to Webern and beyond.

Brahms is important as carrying on the Schumann (and Schubert, Mendelssohn, as well) ideals--as he himself stated.

Unfortunately, a good many of Brahms' more famous works are not as consistent in holding the inspiration as well as those of Beethoven and Schumann. But I believe Brahms should be judged by his BEST work and those are the symphonies, many of the songs, parts of "Ein Deutsches Requiem", the Violin Concerto, late piano works and a handful of chamber works (e.g., 1st Piano Quartet, op. 25, the Piano Quintet, op. 34, the two sextets).

Most music-lovers seem to know Brahms better than Schumann. If they would learn the masterpieces of both equally, they would discover that rare relationship of style that transcends any negative critique.

Tschüß!
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by Jack Kelso » Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:01 am

karlhenning wrote:Whenever I think I might be allergic to Brahms . . . I remember how often Schumann's name comes up, on almost any thread here at CMG . . . and my appreciation for Brahms is reborn :-)

Cheers,
~Karl
Yes indeed, Karl----you do mention Schumann a lot. But then again, the connection of Schumann to Brahms is certainly a lot closer than "Beethoven and Brahms"......which constantly "comes up" 8) .

Curious how one's musical preferences can be manipulated by another's taste.....

Tschüß!
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by MaestroDJS » Fri Jan 25, 2008 7:16 am

karlhenning wrote:Whenever I think I might be allergic to Brahms . . . I remember how often Schumann's name comes up, on almost any thread here at CMG . . . and my appreciation for Brahms is reborn :-)
Jack Kelso wrote:Yes indeed, Karl----you do mention Schumann a lot. But then again, the connection of Schumann to Brahms is certainly a lot closer than "Beethoven and Brahms"......which constantly "comes up" 8) .
A few years ago I chanced upon the famous 1853 article by Robert Schumann "Neue Bahnen" [New Paths] in which he proclaimed Johannes Brahms to the world. Hitherto I had read only a few excerpts in English translations (e.g. "sonatas, or rather veiled symphonies"), but there was the entire article in its original German. Woohoo! Our June 2006 newsletter reprinted this article, plus my English translation. When one considers that Brahms was only 20, and Schumann had seen and heard only a few of his works, this is a prophetic article. On the other hand, during his career Schumann also praised other composers who are now forgotten (such as Albert Dietrich, who is now remembered almost solely for his collaboration with Schumann and Brahms on the "F-A-E" Sonata for violin and piano). Nonetheless, it's fascinating to read.

Below is Schumann's original article in German, followed by my English transation.
Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms: One Genius Hails Another, by David Stybr
Reprinted from Maestro, Vol. 15, No. 5, June 2006
Classical Music SIG (Special Interest Group) of American Mensa
David Stybr, Coordinator

Many composers were critics, but Robert Schumann was more perceptive than most. After he heard Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for piano and orchestra Op. 2 by Frédéric Chopin, Schumann wrote in the Algemeine Musik-Zeiting in 1831: "Hut ab, ihr Herrn, ein Genie! [Hats off, gentlemen, a genius!]" Schumann founded the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik [New Journal for Musik] in 1834, and was its editor and principal contributor for its first decade. Tragically, by 1849 Chopin was dead, and in 1853, only 3 years before his own death, Schumann proclaimed Brahms to the world.
Original German:
Robert Schumann wrote:Robert Schumann: Neue Bahnen
Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Leipzig
Band 39, Nr. 18: 28. Oktober 1853

Es sind Jahre verflossen, — beinahe ebenso viele, als ich der früheren Redaktion dieser Blätter widmete, nämlich zehn —, daß ich mich auf diesem an Erinnerungen so reichen Terrain einmal hätte vernehmen lassen. Oft, trotz angestrengter produktiver Tätigkeit, fühlte ich mich angeregt; manche neue, bedeutende Talente erschienen, eine neue Kraft der Musik schien sich anzukündigen, wie dies viele der hochaufstrebenden Künstler der jüngsten Zeit bezeugen, wenn auch deren Produktionen mehr einem engeren Kreise bekannt sind. Ich dachte, die Bahnen dieser Auserwählten mit der größten Teilnahme verfolgend, es würde und müsse nach solchem Vorgang einmal plötzlich Einer erscheinen, der den höchsten Ausdruck der Zeit in idealer Weise auszusprechen berufen wäre, einer, der uns die Meisterschaft nicht in stufenweiser Entfaltung brächte, sondern, wie Minerva, gleich vollkommen gepanzert aus dem Haupte des Kronion spränge. Und er ist gekommen, ein junges Blut, an dessen Wiege Grazien und Helden Wache hielten. Er heißt Johannes Brahms, kam von Hamburg, dort in dunkler Stille schaffend, aber von einem trefflichen und begeistert zutragenden Lehrer [Eduard Marxsen] gebildet in den schwierigsten Satzungen der Kunst, mir kurz vorher von einem verehrten bekannten Meister empfohlen. Er trug, auch im Äußeren, alle Anzeichen an sich, die uns ankündigen: das ist ein Berufener. Am Klavier sitzend, fing er an wunderbare Regionen zu enthüllen. Wir wurden in immer zauberischere Kreise hineingezogen. Dazu kam ein ganz geniales Spiel, das aus dem Klavier ein Orchester von wehklagenden und lautjubelnden Stimmen machte. Es waren Sonaten, mehr verschleierte Symphonien, — Lieder, deren Poesie man, ohne die Worte zu kennen, verstehen würde, obwohl eine tiefe Gesangsmelodie sich durch alle hindurchzieht, — einzelne Klavierstücke, teilweise dämonischer Natur von der anmutigsten Form, — dann Sonaten für Violine und Klavier, — Quartette für Saiteninstrumente, — und jedes so abweichend vom andern, daß sie jedes verschiedenen Quellen zu entströmen schienen. Und dann schien es, als vereinigte er, als Strom dahinbrausend, alle wie zu einem Wasserfall, über die hinunterstürzenden Wogen den friedlichen Regenbogen tragend und am Ufer von Schmetterlingen umspielt und von Nachtigallenstimmen begleitet.

Wenn er seinen Zauberstab dahin senken wird, wo ihm die Mächte der Massen, im Chor und Orchester, ihre Kräfte leihen, so stehen uns noch wunderbarere Blicke in die Geheimnisse der Geisterwelt bevor. Möchte ihn der höchste Genius dazu stärken, wozu die Voraussicht da ist, da ihm auch ein anderer Genius, der der Bescheidenheit, innewohnt. Seine Mitgenossen begrüßen ihn bei seinem ersten Gang durch die Welt, wo seiner vielleicht Wunden warten werden, aber auch Lorbeeren und Palmen; wir heißen ihn willkommen als starken Streiter.

Es waltet in jeder Zeit ein geheimes Bündnis verwandter Geister. Schließt, die ihr zusammengehört, den Kreis fester, daß die Wahrheit der Kunst immer klarer leuchte, überall Freude und Segen verbreitend.
My English translation:
Robert Schumann wrote:Robert Schumann: New Paths
New Journal for Musik, Leipzig
Vol. 39, No. 18: 28 October 1853

Many years have passed, — almost just as many as I had earlier dedicated to the editorship of these pages, namely ten —, and in those years are memories of such rich terrain which once made itself heard to me. Often, from exerted productive activity, I felt stimulated; some new, important talents appeared, a new power in music seemed to announce itself, as shown by many of the high-rising artists of recent times, even if their productions are known mainly in narrow circles. I thought, that it would and that it must be, that someone would suddenly come along whose very calling would be that which needed to be expressed according to the spirit of the times and in the most suitable manner possible, one whose mastery would not gradually unfold but, like Minerva, would spring fully armed from the head of Jupiter. And now he has arrived, a young blood, at whose cradle graces and heroes kept watch. His name is Johannes Brahms, and he hails from Hamburg, where he works in dim seclusion having been educated in the most difficult of the rules of art by a good teacher [Eduard Marxsen]. He actually carried, also outwardly, all signs which announce to us: that is an appointing. Sitting at the piano, he began to explore most wonderful regions. We were drawn into more and more magical circles by his playing, full of genius, which made of the piano and orchestra of lamenting and jubilant voices. There were sonatas, or rather veiled symphonies; songs whose poetry might be understood without words; piano pieces both of a demoniac nature and of the most graceful form; sonatas for piano and violin; string quartettes, each so different from every other that they seemed to flow from many different sources. And then it seemed as if all those rushing stream combined as in a waterfall, carrying over over the downward-converging waves carried the peaceful rainbow, accompanied on the bank by the playing of butterflies and nightingale voices.

Whenever he bends his magic wand, there, when the powers of the orchestra and chorus lend him their aid, further glimpses of the magic world will be revealed to us. May the highest genius strengthen him! Meanwhile the spirit of modesty dwells within him. His comrades greet him at his first entrance into the world of art, where wounds may perhaps await him, but bay and laurel also; we welcome him as a valiant warrior.

For there exists in every age a secret bond of like spirits. You who belong together, draw the circle ever tighter, so that the truth of art shall burn more brilliantly, and spread joy and blessing too.
David Stybr, Personal Assistant and Der Webmeister to Denise Swanson, New York Times Best-Selling Author
http://www.DeniseSwanson.com
~ Devereaux's Dime Store Mysteries ~ Book 2: Nickeled-and-Dimed to Death, March 2013
~ Scumble River Mysteries ~ Book 15: Murder of the Cat's Meow, October 2012
Penguin ~ Obsidian ~ Signet, New York, New York

Imperfect Pitch
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Post by Imperfect Pitch » Fri Jan 25, 2008 12:12 pm

I think the comment about "filling in the forms" comes closest to describing my own reaction. Nevertheless, even though I don't "get" Brahms (yet), it's nice to hear people express such passion for his music. That, to me, is what music is all about. Hopefully, Brahms will start clicking for me one of these days.

Anton Webern

Post by Anton Webern » Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:38 pm

Wallingford wrote:Heaviness aside: the late Arthur Fiedler reiterated in interviews, "All the great composers wrote music for fun."
Well, if Arthur Fiedler said it, it must be truth.

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Post by karlhenning » Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:56 pm

Wouldn't it be a tiresome world, if all the great composers wrote music solely out of a sense of duty?

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jan 25, 2008 5:49 pm

karlhenning wrote:Wouldn't it be a tiresome world, if all the great composers wrote music solely out of a sense of duty?
About as tiresome as having to listen to crap out of a sense of duty.
Corlyss
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Post by keaggy220 » Fri Jan 25, 2008 6:49 pm

It's been a little over 3 years since I started listening to classical for the pure enjoyment of it. I haven't listened to the breadth of composers that many here have, but at this point I would put Brahms as my number 4 or number 5 favorite composer. His chamber music is outstanding and his 4th symphony can stand up to any symphony written. His other three are a blast to listen to as well.

James

Post by James » Fri Jan 25, 2008 7:05 pm

Love Brahms, prefer him so much more than either Mozart & Beethoven. To me; he's way ahead of them...the symphonies contain great profundity, and I'm usually allergic to that sort of large scale writing. Also the Ballades for piano and mixed piano/strings work (Trios, Quartets & Quintet), but above all... i especially like the delicate, balanced & reflective late pieces, which feel so deeply personal and introspective in nature. Symphony #4, the Clarinet Sonatas, the Clarinet Quintet & the Piano Pieces Op. 116-119.

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Post by Brahms » Fri Jan 25, 2008 8:56 pm

James wrote:Love Brahms, prefer him so much more than either Mozart & Beethoven. To me; he's way ahead of them...the symphonies contain great profundity, and I'm usually allergic to that sort of large scale writing. Also the Ballades for piano and mixed piano/strings work (Trios, Quartets & Quintet), but above all... i especially like the delicate, balanced & reflective late pieces, which feel so deeply personal and introspective in nature. Symphony #4, the Clarinet Sonatas, the Clarinet Quintet & the Piano Pieces Op. 116-119.


A very fine post, James ........

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Post by arglebargle » Sat Jan 26, 2008 1:39 am

His chamber music is outstanding
Indeed, it seems hardly necessary to make the assertion. The two string sextets alone are, well... classics. There's a certain characteristic warmth and sometimes muscularity to Brahms' chamber works.

To those allergic, are the symphonic works perhaps coloring your view of his chamber music? I spend far more time listening to the latter myself. For me, a given recording of almost any composers symphonic work, although especially the romantics, might sound heavy and labored - and sometimes oppressively so.

Bösendorfer
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Post by Bösendorfer » Sat Jan 26, 2008 2:04 am

For me it was also the chamber music (apart from the violin concerto) that first made me enjoy Brahms' music. I'd especially recommend initially:

-piano quintet
-cello sonata #1
-string sextet #1
-clarinet quintet

Florian

Jack Kelso
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Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Jan 29, 2008 1:20 am

Imperfect Pitch wrote:I think the comment about "filling in the forms" comes closest to describing my own reaction. Nevertheless, even though I don't "get" Brahms (yet), it's nice to hear people express such passion for his music. That, to me, is what music is all about. Hopefully, Brahms will start clicking for me one of these days.
Oddly, you are not alone---even a good assortment of musicologists hear that "filling in the forms" with a good many of Brahms' chamber works.

But if I'm not in the mood to listen for creative music-making, I do find myself enjoying works like the 3rd Piano Quartet, op. 60, the rather bland trios and the string quartets. I just let it "pour over me" and enjoy it for what's there.

Tschüß!
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

val
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Post by val » Tue Jan 29, 2008 5:25 am

Brahms has a superb sense of the form, and regarding the rhythm he is perhaps the greatest German composer after Beethoven. But, in the same time, he is a master of the variation, a much more free style of composition.

However, I think that the greatness of Brahms is in the fact that the beauty of his works does not expose it's structure. They sound natural and even spontaneous, with that warm lyricism and deep melancholic emotion.

If I had to chose one single work in his chamber music it would be the Clarinet Quintet.

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