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Notes on Major Compositions
listed by composer

Current Discography

Brief synopsis' of the most popular classical music compositions by
Johannes Brahms...
German, Hamburg, 7 MAY 1833 ~ Vienna, 3 APR 1897
4 Symphonies, 2 Serenades,
3 Quartets, 3 Trios, 2 Piano Concertos,
Violin Concerto, 230 Songs, Chamber, Keyboard Choral and vocal works

  1. Brahms Academic Festival Overture
    Op 80. The German pianist, conductor and composer was born in 1833 and died in Vienna in 1897. His Academic Festival Overture was written in 1880 and is based on four student songs. It was FP on January 4th, 1881 at Breslau University and was conducted by Brahms upon receiving an honorary degree.

  2. Brahms Double Concerto
    His last work for orchestra. He was fascinated by the task of writing the work. He called it his latest piece of folly, because the combination of a violin and a cello was quite unusual at that time. The work posed technical artistic problems as the solo parts a difficult. Each soloist must play to the background of a full symphonic orchestration. This makes the cooperation between the two soloist very demanding. It was written in 1887.

  3. Brahms German Requium
    Brahms was not a very religious man, in fact he started his career as a whorehouse pianist at the Hamburg docks. In his German Requium he considered removing any reference to God by calling it a Human Requium a thought which was rejected. He did have selected knowledge of the bible to select the texts for this work. It was composed in 1867, a cantata choral work on sacred texts for orchestra, chorus, two soloists and organ. It begins and ends on the words "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted".

  4. Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes (LEE bes LEE der)

  5. Brahms Piano Pieces

  6. Brahms Tragic Overture
    Op. 81. A companion peice to Brahms better known Academic Festival Overture. Both were composed in the summer of 1880. Brahms titled the work, "Tragic", for no specific reason. Some critics say the name refers to tragic works such as 'Hamlet' and 'King Lear'.

  7. Brahms PC No. 1
    Brahms wrote to his friend Clara Schumann in 1854..."I'm making a gentle portrait of you in the form of an adagio". This became the second MMT of his PC in D minor, which was described by a critic as a noble, searching and introspective concerto. The first version was completed in early 1858. FP in Hanover on Jan 22, 1859 with Brahms as soloist. It was later revised and published in 1862.

  8. Brahms PC No 2 in B-flat Op 83
    Starting quietly with a haunting horn theme, this is one of the most massive and powerful concertos in the classical form. In fact one 19th century critic called it a symphony with piano obligato. It's a four MMT concerto and was FP on Nov 9, 1881 with Brahms as soloist.

  9. Brahms "Violin Concerto" was written with his old friend Joachim, a popular violinist. Joachim corrected awkward passages for the solo part and wrote the cadenza in the first mmt. Joachim gave the FP on NYrs Day in Leipzig 1879. Like Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchikovsky, Elgar and Sibelius ...Brahms wrote only one concerto for violin.

  10. Brahms 'Serenade No 1' in d, Op 11
    1857-8. Scored for chamber group but was revised at the suggestion of Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim to be played by a larger orchestra. The FPO was in the chamber format in Hamburg March 28, 1859. In it's grander format it was FP in Hanover March 3, 1860.

  11. Brahms 'Serenade No 2' in A, Op 16
    Completed in 1859 it was published by Nicholas Simrock, of Bonn, the following year. Simrock and Brahms developed a close professional and social friendship which led to a lucrative association through their later years.

  12. Brahms Schicksalslied "Song of Destiny", Op 54
    Completed in 1871. The poem comes from the novel 'Hyperion' by Fredrich Holderin, an 18th century poet. "The Gods wander in light... but suffering humanity wanders in darkness".

  13. Brahms 'String Quartet No 2 in a
    After many failed attemps at composing a String Quartet he finally composed one he thought rivaled Mozart or Beethoven. His first two published quartets came in his 40th year. They are passionate minor key works and are amoung any of his finest compositions in any genre.

  14. Brahms Sym No 1 in c Op 68
    A work inspired by Beethoven's Ninth Sym, "The Choral", in fact conductor Hans Von Bulow called it Beethoven's tenth. Brahms finished it in September of 1874 after many years of neglect.

  15. Brahms Sym No 2 in D, Op 73
    Of the four Brahms Syms, the second is the most tranquil. It suggests country landscapes. Brahms sketched the work in 1855, but it took him more than 20 years to finish the score. Listen closely and you may think it inspired Stephen Foster's 'Beautiful Dreamer'.
    Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick called it, peaceful, tender and vivacious in its' golden serenity.

  16. Brahms Sym No 3 in F, Op 90
    The briefest of his 4 syms, but perhaps the most complex. It has many musical devices spanning the entire work. Themes link between the MMTs with lyrical melodies for an overall harmonious effect never heard before this work. It's scope was larger than any heard before this time. It has been called an 'Eroica', a 'Forest Idyl' and another 'Four Seasons'. It appears to have been inspired by Dvoraks' fifth symphony. It's a work of drama, majesty and lyrical beauty and ends without a cresendo...very quietly.. FP in Vienna Dec 2, 1882. It netted him a fee comparable to $9,000 in todays compensation.

  17. Brahms - Sym No 4 in e Op 98
    Perhaps his most colorful symphony of the four, this last one was not popular with audiences for many years. Composed in 1885 there are no literal repeats in the work, the finale is tragic in tone and the third movement is the only traditional fast movement in any of his four symphonies. We suspect he was influenced by Dvorak's seventh symphony . Listen for the solemn trombones in the finale the only movement where they are heard.

  18. Brahms Trio for Piano, violin and horn
    A mournful tribute to the passing of his mother. Composed in 1865.

  19. Brahms 'Variations on a Theme by Haydn' Op 56
    (Not really Haydn's)
    In 1870 Karl Pohl, a Haydn biographer, showed some unpublished divertimentos to Brahms who used one as a basis for his variations on a theme by Haydn. The 8 variations were FP at a concert by the Vienna PO in June of 1873 with Brahms conducting. It has become one of his most popular works. In recent years the theme has been attributed to annonymous sources. Not to Haydn at all.
    Haydn's work has the title 'St. Anthony's Choral'. Brahms work has the orchestral version as well as one for piano duo.

  20. Brahms Violin and Cello 'Double Concerto' in a Op 102
    Brahms was fascinated with his work on this concerto. It was called by many a piece of folly, because a work for violin and cello was very unusual. It was completed in 1887.

  21. Brahms VC in D Op 77
    He worked on this concerto during the summer of 1878 in a Austrian village where he had previously composed the lyrical Second Symphony and where in the following summer he was to compose the G major violin sonata.
    It was written for a close friend, the famous violinist Joseph Joachim who scored his cadenzas for his performances.

Johannes Brahms occupies a heady, prominent position in the pantheon of classical composers, yet he is also one of the most misunderstood. A great way into his music--with all its contradictions--is through the lyrically abundant Violin Concerto Brahms composed during his mature, fertile outburst of symphonic creativity. Check out our Get Started with Brahms Classical feature which includes an audio tour and essay, and let's experts introduce you to this immensely rewarding composer. Get Started with Brahms

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