For the love of Brahms

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Of all the great Romantic composers, Brahms is the most underrated. Yes, folks regard Brahms as great. But he really deserves a lot more love than he gets. Therefore, I’ll present you my five favorite works of his.

Johannes Brahms was born on May 7, 1833 in Hamburg but professionally, he spent most of his life in Vienna. He was lifelong friends with Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim.

Brahms died in 1897 with quite a bit of wealth. He remains one of the great German composers.

I’ll delve into his personality and how he was with women in another post. For now, I want to give you five pieces that you absolutely need to be familiar with.

Hungarian Dances

My wife and I went on a 10-day Alaskan cruise last year. We were some of the youngest people on the cruise.

The main lobby featured a trio that played a lot of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances. Those pieces got people to dance. Pretty impressive for songs over one hundred years old. As old as the folks were on the cruise, none of them were even a twinkle in their mothers’ eyes when Brahms wrote them.

He completed them back in 1869. None of them run very long, so they’re very accessible, even for folks who don’t really like Classical music.

Brahms Dual Concerto

I first heard this piece performed with Isaac Stern and Yo-Yo Ma. What a combination! Let me tell you – if you like concertos, you’ll love this piece. The beauty, the passion.

Violin Concerto

I rank this one four in my top violin concertos of all-time. That’s quite an honor be on that list. Paganini’s not even on this list and I both love and appreciate everything Paganini has done for the violin.

Brahms was a virtuoso on the piano. His buddy Joseph Joachim was a virtuoso on the violin. Dedicated to Joachim, this piece is known to be quite difficult, even for a virtuoso. But it’s not easy being a genius.

If you love the violin, I can guarantee you’ll love this piece.

Symphony #1

I get elated when I hear this piece. It takes me to a better, higher world. The greatest composers become their music after they die.

Critics called this symphony “Beethoven’s 10th” when it premiered. Some used his similarity to the great Beethoven as an insult. But they failed to see the differences. Brahms excelled at both being modern and traditional at the same time. How many composers can say that?

As much as I love Tchaikovsky, Brahms composed better second and third movements than Tchaikovsky did. Listen to this symphony and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Symphony #4

Last, but not at all least, his Symphony #4. Perhaps the most underrated symphony of all-time. This is easily one of the best pieces of music ever written. I love Herbert von Karajan’s performance. I also love Claudio Abbado’s.

Gorgeous throughout. Every single note is the right note.

From the very beginning, Brahms opens up with a lovely melody and keeps expanding it until it morphs into another lovely melody. No doubt, he had his own melodic style.

So, if you only have time to hear five pieces of Johannes Brahms, start off with these ones. You won’t be disappointed!

My third favorite composer, Brahms never had any problems meeting women
My third favorite composer, Brahms never had any problems meeting women

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