Johannes Brahms

Born 7 May 1833. Died 3 April 1897.
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Brahms: Tragic Overture

Franz Welser-Most conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in Brahms's Tragic Overture.

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Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist. Born in Hamburg into a Lutheran family, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria. In his lifetime, Brahms's popularity and influence were considerable. He is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the "Three Bs", a comment originally made by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow.

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 (the three were close friends). 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 Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed some of his works and left others unpublished.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.

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BBC Reviews

  1. Review of Works for Solo Piano: Volume 1 (piano: Barry Douglas)

    Works for Solo Piano: Volume 1 (piano: Barry Douglas) 2012

    Reviewed by Charlotte Gardner
    A triumph of Brahmsian thought, with playing that gets right to the heart of the composer.
  2. Review of Ein Deutsches Requiem (feat. conductor: John Eliot Gardiner; soprano: Katharine Fuge; baritone: Matthew Brook; Monteverdi Choir; Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique)
  3. Review of Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45

    Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 2010

    Reviewed by Graham Rogers
    An idiosyncratic account offering a wealth of authoritative insight.
  4. Review of Brahms: Complete Symphonies (Berlin Philharmonic, Sir Simon Rattle)

    Brahms: Complete Symphonies (Berlin Philharmonic, Sir Simon Rattle) 2009

    Reviewed by Charlotte Gardner
    This recording absolutely delivers on Brahms’ depth and beauty.
  5. Review of Brahms: Symphony 3 / Choral Works (Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique/Monteverdi Choir/John Eliot Gardiner)
  6. Review of Ein Deutsches Requiem

    Ein Deutsches Requiem 2007

    Reviewed by Charlotte Gardner
    The music comforts, calms, suggests hope, whilst still acknowledging the tragedy of...
  7. Review of Violin Concerto

    Violin Concerto 2007

    Reviewed by John Armstrong
    The concerto seems to be taking shape before your very ears - rugged, edge-of-the-seat...
  8. Review of Piano Concerto no. 1

    Piano Concerto no. 1 2006

    Reviewed by Andrew McGregor
    Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic are fabulously responsive partners to...
  9. Review of Cello Sonatas

    Cello Sonatas 2005

    Reviewed by Andrew McGregor
    These performances of Brahms' Cello Sonatas are intensely beautiful and perfectly...
  10. Review of Music for Two Pianos

    Music for Two Pianos 2005

    Reviewed by Helenka Bednar
    Flawless timing and remarkable musicianship from Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, in...
  11. Review of Violin Concerto, Hungarian Dances

    Violin Concerto, Hungarian Dances 2004

    Reviewed by Claire Rogers
    The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is becoming well known for its innovative performances...
  12. Review of Trios

    Trios 2004

    Reviewed by Alan Gregory
    They apply an autumnal glow with broad brushstrokes, taking all the time they need to...
  13. Review of Piano Quartet

    Piano Quartet 2004

    Reviewed by Andrew McGregor
    An extraordinary gathering of talents...Argerich's fire, Kremer's character, Maisky's...
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