Author Topic: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)  (Read 240042 times)

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Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1120 on: October 22, 2021, 08:43:30 PM »
I noticed a mildly curious pattern when Brahms assigned the keys to his symphonies:

Schumann                           Brahms

No. 1 in B flat major             No. 1 in C minor
No. 2 in C major                   No. 2 in D major
No. 3 in E flat major             No. 3 in F major
No. 4 in D minor                   No. 4 in E minor

Brahms assigned the next key of the ones by Schumann, whether a semitone or a tone upper, and exchanging major-minor in the case of the 1st Symphony.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2021, 08:50:27 PM by Symphonic Addict »
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Offline Madiel

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1121 on: October 22, 2021, 10:11:55 PM »
Noting that Schumann's symphonies were not, in fact, written in that order.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1122 on: October 23, 2021, 06:32:53 AM »
Someone put me on to this quite recently, like a couple of weeks ago. It’s nice. I don’t listen to the music often but I noticed a change in me - I’ve started to prefer the first sonata to the second, it used to be the opposite, I think - I mean 30 years ago!



https://www.discogs.com/fr/release/14671957-Johannes-Brahms-Rama-Jucker-Werner-Giger-Les-Deux-Sonates-Pour-Violoncelle-Et-Piano
« Last Edit: October 23, 2021, 06:35:57 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1123 on: October 23, 2021, 12:32:59 PM »
Noting that Schumann's symphonies were not, in fact, written in that order.

True. It wouldn't have made any sense taking it with that order. I found it amusing, though.
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Offline DaveF

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1124 on: October 23, 2021, 12:44:53 PM »
I noticed a mildly curious pattern when Brahms assigned the keys to his symphonies:

All a whole-tone higher, in fact.  If it were any other two composers, you would dismiss it as coincidence, but being Schumann and Brahms makes me wonder, especially given other similarities - the opening of Brahms 3 is a clear nod to the beginning of the Rhenish, for example.  Of course, there are many factors that determine a composer's choice of key for a symphony - the key in which the inspiration first comes to them, for example, if they have absolute pitch.  So I can't quite believe Brahms deliberately went for Schumann +1, but I also can't believe that he wouldn't have noticed and been rather pleased.  At least Brahms's symphonies are superior to Schumann's in one respect ;D (do I need to run for cover now?)
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Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1125 on: October 23, 2021, 03:09:19 PM »
All a whole-tone higher, in fact.  If it were any other two composers, you would dismiss it as coincidence, but being Schumann and Brahms makes me wonder, especially given other similarities - the opening of Brahms 3 is a clear nod to the beginning of the Rhenish, for example.  Of course, there are many factors that determine a composer's choice of key for a symphony - the key in which the inspiration first comes to them, for example, if they have absolute pitch.  So I can't quite believe Brahms deliberately went for Schumann +1, but I also can't believe that he wouldn't have noticed and been rather pleased.  At least Brahms's symphonies are superior to Schumann's in one respect ;D (do I need to run for cover now?)

I think the same there.

Is that respect quality?  0:)
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1126 on: October 24, 2021, 02:46:46 AM »
It seems not unlikely that the c minor of Brahms's first could be because of Beethoven's 5th. Similarly, the Schumann B flat major could be because of Beethoven's 4th to which it bears some resemblance and the "Rhenish" has the "heroic" E flat major.
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Offline Scion7

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1127 on: October 26, 2021, 02:38:39 AM »
In Quarter Notes and Bank Notes: The Economics of Music Composition in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Harvard professor Frederic M. Scherer writes that few famous composers earned even a bourgeois living. A group of the 23 highest-paid composers, ranked by the size of the estates they left, shows Rossini to have been by far the richest, with an estate worth, in today's dollars, $9 million. Clementi, Handel, Paganini, Verdi and Brahms come next.

Yes, Brahms was spectacularly successful and was generous to his friends and those composers he wished to financially 'prop up' when they were trying to become established.  But the man himself lived a mean existence devoid of luxury (outside of some travelling) - his rooms were dire and devoid of comforts, consisting of a piano, books, reams of music, and the bare furnishings required for living. He often didn't wear socks, and the same suit was worn for years at a time.  His lunching in Vienna was always at cheap cafes eating the most economical of meals.  He was often uncouth and didn't spare the cutting remark from time to time.

And yet this man wrote music of burning passion and of great technical accomplishment ...
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1128 on: October 29, 2021, 09:38:59 AM »
In Quarter Notes and Bank Notes: The Economics of Music Composition in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Harvard professor Frederic M. Scherer writes that few famous composers earned even a bourgeois living. A group of the 23 highest-paid composers, ranked by the size of the estates they left, shows Rossini to have been by far the richest, with an estate worth, in today's dollars, $9 million. Clementi, Handel, Paganini, Verdi and Brahms come next.

Yes, Brahms was spectacularly successful and was generous to his friends and those composers he wished to financially 'prop up' when they were trying to become established.  But the man himself lived a mean existence devoid of luxury (outside of some travelling) - his rooms were dire and devoid of comforts, consisting of a piano, books, reams of music, and the bare furnishings required for living. He often didn't wear socks, and the same suit was worn for years at a time.  His lunching in Vienna was always at cheap cafes eating the most economical of meals.  He was often uncouth and didn't spare the cutting remark from time to time.

Brahms could never get rid of his stern, grim and  workaholic North German Protestant heritage, not even while living in Vienna most of his life; Rossini, otoh, remained the cheerful, easygoing and lazy Italian Catholic even while living in Paris most of his life. Needless to say, my kudos go to Gioacchino.  ;D
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1129 on: October 29, 2021, 11:54:57 PM »
I don't think it was only/mainly protestant heritage. Timing is a factor here. Brahms really was rather poor in his youth and didn't become rich until well into middle age (similar to Verdi, I think). He could not have retired in 1872 at 39 years old whereas Rossini was a star composer already in his early 20s.

I haven't read the book but to the author seems exaggerating the tight economical situation of famous composers. Of course it is hard to take into account precisely the differences between eras and everyone who has read Dickens knows that in the 19th century many reasonably well off people were often one untimely illness or one bad investment away from falling down hard, i.e. far more people with a middle or upper middle class lifestyle were in precarious situations, as soon as some disaster hit.

Of course many composers depended on performing for their income but this seems to be factored by the author because Paganini certainly earned his money mostly as performer.
But taking this into account, the only obviously poor famous composer that comes to mind was Schubert. There were some, like Beethoven or Wagner, with very variable circumstances but most were fairly solid middle class, at least after early/galley years.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1130 on: October 30, 2021, 02:14:15 AM »
I don't think it was only/mainly protestant heritage. Timing is a factor here. Brahms really was rather poor in his youth and didn't become rich until well into middle age (similar to Verdi, I think). He could not have retired in 1872 at 39 years old whereas Rossini was a star composer already in his early 20s.

True. Actually my remark was rather tongue-in-cheek.  :)

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Offline Scion7

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1131 on: October 30, 2021, 10:16:07 PM »
I haven't read the book but to the author seems exaggerating the tight economical situation of famous composers. ....
But taking this into account, the only obviously poor famous composer that comes to mind was Schubert.

His bona fides are impeccable - you can take what he has written to heart. Mussorgsky is just one example of the many famous composers who led lives of trying to come up with scratch ...
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1132 on: October 31, 2021, 12:52:00 AM »
I should have been more precise. The book might be detailed and good but that brief text in purple seems rather misleading to me. Mussorgsky is another cherry-picked example of an obviously struggling composer.
It mainly depends what one means with "bourgeois". Safe, comfortable, upper middle class (which usually was not as socially secure as most Western people are today) or merely middle class.
Almost all famous composers were middle class of their time (the most famous post 1600 composer we don't have a decent portrait of because he was too poor, might be Zelenka, anyone else somehow could afford to get painted, engraved etc., often several times during their life).
As I wrote above one has to take into account that 18th century middle class might mean precarious in many respects for our understanding.  Vivaldi died rather poor but he was not struggling/poor for most of his life; to claim this would be rather misleading and such a fate was not uncommon. Neither was the opposite as with Haydn or Brahms who came from very modest backgrounds and became rich as elderly men.

Mozart was often portrayed as struggling but this is severely misleading. He made typically as much or more money as a director or chief surgeon of the main hospital in Vienna (I read this probably in Braunbehrens' book "Mozart in Vienna") but he tended to live way above his means and therefore ran up debt.
Or Bach's status in Leipzig was probably comparable to a university professor but at this time this did not mean someone would not have to be quite thrifty, especially with many children.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Florestan

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1133 on: October 31, 2021, 05:44:14 AM »
Mussorgsky is another cherry-picked example of an obviously struggling composer.

Mussorgsky came from a wealthy family and in his youth was extremely elegant, refined and polite, even a tad foppish. His steep decline was mainly because of his ever-growing alcoholism and propensity to mingle mainly with other drunkards and dropouts.

Actually, the only 19-th century Russian composer I can think of who was destitute all throughout his (very short) life is Kalinnikov. All the famous ones, Glinka, Tchaikovsky, The Mighty Five save Mussorgsky, Glazunov, Rachmaninoff, Medtner, Scriabin were rather secure financially and enjoyed a comfortable, "bourgeois" life (although in their case one might better speak about an "aristocratic" life, given that many of them came from the lesser nobility).

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Offline kyjo

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1134 on: October 31, 2021, 06:18:46 AM »
(Cross-posted from the "blown away" thread) A performance that has blown me away recently: Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony's new recording of Brahms 4:



A recording that once again proves the prowess of Honeck and the PSO as one of today's most inspiring conductor/orchestra teams. The first movement is expansive, beautifully lyrical, yet urgent when required, especially in the coda. The slow movement maintains the crucial flow that eludes some conductors, and the string chorale at the climax is jaw-droppingly rich and sonorous. The scherzo sounds more dynamic, brilliant, and exciting than I've heard before. Honeck brings out the darkly tragic element in the finale, with keenly judged, flexible tempi. It's tremendously fiery and passionate, with the ethereal middle section providing the requisite contrast. While I cannot claim to be an expert in Brahms symphony recordings, I don't see any reason why this new version should not be one of the finest available. James MacMillan's solemnly moving Larghetto is a substantial bonus!
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
« Reply #1135 on: October 31, 2021, 06:27:50 AM »
Good point. I think one should try to keep in mind the relation to other professions, artistical or not. As I said, many solidly middle class people in the 19th century were one illness, death of the breadwinner, failed business or investment, or something like alcohol/opium addiction away from falling into poverty (or at least into a desperate struggle to keep up with some semblance of lower middle class). Obviously, artists with often widely fluctuating incomes (like Mozart) were especially precarious. But that doesn't mean they were living in a shack or attic like in La Bohème, even when over their head in debt.

In the 17th and 18th century I think the high level cantorial positions like Bach in Leipzig or Telemann in Hamburg were comparable to university professors or other middle-to-high-rank civil servants (e.g. in law or administration), and if the comparable positions at courts might have been more subordinate to specific court protocols, they were probably in some cases better paid. Of course, as with Haydn's first court position, even noblemen could get broke and have to close down their orchestras...
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)