WRTI's Essential Classical Composer No. 6: Johannes Brahms

Feb 6, 2017

The lovable curmudgeon is on everyone’s short list of favorites, it seems, so it’s no surprise that Johannes Brahms is the No. 6 Most Essential Classical Composer by your vote. The symphonies, the Requiem, the concertos and chamber works, and piano pieces and songs—he wrote everything except an opera.

The sound of Brahms may be, to most ears, “the” sound of classical music.

Some things you may not have heard about him:

  • He burned—not just discarded—a great amount of his early works
  • He was famously gruff, once leaving a party by saying, “If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted, I beg his pardon.” 

  • In spite of that, he was a sought-out guest; he had many friends, and was generous
  • With extremely high standards in music, his nose was not in the air. The step-daughter of Johann Strauss, Jr. asked Brahms to autograph her fan. He wrote down the first few notes of the Blue Danube Waltz, and signed it, “Alas! Not by Johannes Brahms.”

  • To many, Brahms is the essence of Romanticism in music. And yet a great enemy of Romanticism, Arnold Schoenberg, favored guess who? Mm-hm: Brahms.

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