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Brahms, Johannes locked

  • George S. Bozarth
  •  and Walter Frisch


(b Hamburg, May 7, 1833; d Vienna, April 3, 1897). German composer. The successor to Beethoven and Schubert in the larger forms of chamber and orchestral music, to Schubert and Schumann in the miniature forms of piano pieces and songs, and to the Renaissance and Baroque polyphonists in choral music, Brahms creatively synthesized the practices of three centuries with folk and dance idioms and with the language of mid- and late 19th-century art music. His works of controlled passion, deemed reactionary and epigonal by some, progressive by others, became well accepted in his lifetime.

George S. Bozarth

Brahms was the second child and first son of Johanna Henrika Christiane Nissen (1789–1865) and Johann Jakob Brahms (1806–72). His mother, an intelligent and thrifty woman simply educated, was a skilled seamstress descended from a respectable bourgeois family. His father came from yeoman and artisan stock that originated in lower Saxony and resided in Holstein from the mid-18th century. A resourceful musician of modest talent, Johann Jakob learnt to play several instruments, including the flute, horn, violin and double bass, and in 1826 moved to the free Hanseatic port of Hamburg, where he earned his living playing in dance halls and taverns. In 1830, as a condition for gaining citizenship (...

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