Johannes Brahms is one of my favorite composers, and he was the absolute favorite composer of my old piano teacher! This month I'll share some of Brahms' music and some stories of what it means to me!
Johannes Brahms (his first name is pronounced Yo- Hah-Ness) was born in Hamburg Germany in 1833, though when he grew up he lived and worked in Vienna. Do you know where Vienna is?!
He his one of the most important composers of the 1800s, and he wrote music in many forms, including symphonies, piano music, and chamber music. Here is a video of one of his most familiar melodies, the famous "Lullaby." (The original version is for a singer and pianist, with the singer singing in German. This version is performed by the world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma.)
Though Brahms was born in Germany and lived in Vienna, some of his most popular compositions are his "Hungarian Dances." Do you know where Hungary is?!
These pieces are for orchestra and are inspired by the folk music of Hungary, which has its own unique traditions that are quite different from German and Austrian music. Can you feel the excitement and energy in this music? Notice how the percussion instruments (especially the timpani, the triangle, and the cymbals) contribute to the fun spirit of this music.
Brahms was a fantastic piano player, something that you can tell by the way that he composed music for the keyboard! This is one of my favorite pieces of all time to play on the piano. I fell in love with this piece of music when I was in middle school, and put it on my "goal list." I learned how to play it a few years later, and it is a piece I love to play again and again, even many years later!
Brahms must have had some friends who were very talented pianists as well, because he wrote a lot of music for four hands at the piano! (Duets that are written for 2 pianists using one piano is called music for "four hands"!)
I don't know what other pianist might have performed these waltzes with Johannes Brahms, but he had many talented friends. In fact, he was close friends with Clara Schumann and her famous husband Robert (who was also a composer).
When I was a piano student, Brahms was my teacher's favorite composer, and she would often ask me to learn pieces from this set of four hand waltzes so that we could play duets together. This video has all 16 waltzes from this collection of pieces, but each waltz lasts only for about 1 minute! Feel free to listen to 1, 2, or all of these waltzes!
For most people, when they think of Brahms they think about his piano music, but they also think about his orchestral music. Brahms composed 4 symphonies that carried on the tradition of Beethoven's symphonies. You might remember that Beethoven composed 9 very famous symphonies. Brahms' music continues this grand tradition so carefully that some people have jokingly said that Brahms' First Symphony could be called "Beethoven's Tenth Symphony!"
Here's a short clip from Brahms' 3rd symphony, my favorite! When I was in college, I took a lot of difficult classes, and whenever I was feeling very stressed, I would put on a pair of headphones and listen to this beautiful movement from Brahms' Third Symphony to help remind me to stay calm!
In an earlier section I mentioned I had heard a piano piece by Brahms and made it a goal to play that piece. This piece is another piece that is still on my "goal list!"
Brahms composed this Piano Quintet (that means it's written for a string quartet + piano!) in 1864. The entire piece is made up of four movement and lasts for about 40 minutes! As you can imagine, it would take a lot of practice and planning to find four other musicians to perform this piece with, so I will keep this piece on my "goal list" until the time is right to finally learn it!
Enjoy this "excerpt" (or small section) from this Piano Quintet in F minor!
This piece is another piece that has been on my "goal list" for a long time! I started learning this piece when I was in high school; I would lock myself in the practice room at my school for hours at a time to practice this piece! I still have never performed this piece in public, but I still practice it occasionally!
Brahms' music is not easy to perform. It takes a lot of practice and patience to learn how to play his music, but the end result is worth it!
Can you follow along with the score for this music? ("Score" is another word for "sheet music")
Let's end our month of Brahms' music by hearing one more piece for "Piano Four Hands"! This is not a piece that I have ever played before, but I think it would be a lot of fun to play it!
Watch how many emotions you can see the pianists experiencing as they perform together. Can you imagine playing fun piano duets like this with other piano-playing friends?!
Thanks for learning about Johannes Brahms!
To finish out the month, you might like to see this silly commercial! A few years ago, this commercial came out to promote teaching kids about the arts! Have you ever had Raisin Bran cereal? Do you think a cereal called "Raisin Brahms" would taste any good?!?!