While touring with Reményi during April and May of 1853,
Brahms met Joseph Joachim, who would become a lifelong friend, and was
introduced to Franz Liszt at the Court of Weimar. Later in the year, Joachim
gave Brahms a letter of introduction to Robert Schumann. After taking a walking
tour of the Rhineland, Brahms set off for Düsseldorf and arrived at the
Schumann's doorstep on September 30. In the Schumann's household, he performed
for Robert and Clara his Piano Sonata in C major among other works. The
Schumann's were so astounded by Brahms's talents that they wholeheartedly
welcomed him into their home. Later that month, Schumann published an article titled
"Neue Bahnen" ("New Paths") in which he praised Brahms as one "destined
to give ideal expression to the times." After Schumann's attempted suicide and
confinement to an insane asylum, Brahms virtually became head of the Schumann
household. He and Clara developed a deep, lasting friendship and it is
uncertain, and likely to never be adequately proven, whether the relationship
After Schumann's death in 1856, the remainder of Brahms's
life was relatively quiet. For a short time he conducted a ladies' choir which
he had formed in Hamburg, and also served as court music teacher and conductor
in Detmold. In 1863, he accepted the post of conductor of the Vienna Singakademie.
Though he resigned the post a year later, Brahms soon settled permanently in
Perhaps feeling the pressure of Schumann's prophecy, Brahms
composed steadily throughout the 1850s and 60s, touching nearly every major
compositional genre. His initial works, however, sparked mixed reviews among
critics. Praised by some, he was also criticized as being too "old-fashioned"
by the supporters of the so-called "New German School" led by Liszt and Wagner.
While Brahms, in fact, praised some of Wagner's music and Wagner, in like
manner, called Brahms's music "properly understood good old tradition," he
nevertheless did not agree with ideals of the New German School nor the
direction it was taking. In 1860, Brahms, Joachim and others attempted to
organize a protest against the growing excesses of the New German School.
Brahms and Joachim jointly wrote a manifesto. Unfortunately, a premature
publication of the manifesto led to a public embarrassment for Brahms. Brahms
never again entered into the heated musical debate that engulfed much of Europe
during the latter 19th century.
After Wagner's death in 1883, Brahms became the sole leading
German composer. Compositions like Ein Deutches Requiem and his First
Symphony not only had fulfilled the prophecies of Schumann, but had thrust
Brahms into the Viennese limelight. Also unlike many composers, Brahms was
financially sound, supported by a steady income from the sale of his
Brahms's health deteriorated in his final years. Upon
learning of Clara's death in 1896, he rushed to catch her funeral. Though he
arrived late, it is likely that during this trip, between the weather and
fatigue, he caught his final illness. The following year, on April 3. Brahms
died at the age of 63.
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