A bit about Johannes Brahms

This is Johannes Brahms, pianist and composer of the late Classical, early Romantic period. A very close friend with the Schumanns.

The picture was drawn by Willy von Beckerath, who drew several other illustrations of the composer, but this is by far the most well-known portraits of the man. In looking at it, I suddenly realized that it looked very much like the original illustrations of Doctor Dolittle, drawn by the author himself (see below). Not so much Brahms’s face, of course, but the legs and feet and his jacket and arms. Am I right or just going crazy from studying too long?

There’s just something charming about the simpleness of the lines.


Below is another of von Beckerath’s illustration of Brahms that I’m also particularly fond of, but that doesn’t look like Doctor Dolittle. I’m just including it because I like it.

My goodness.

I am semi-analyzing his Fugue in A flat minor (the key of seven flats!!!) for an essay on his organ works. I’m trying to figure out how D major could possibly enharmonically relate to A flat minor (it’s certainly not relatable otherwise!), a key that is probably one of the most unusual and cruel key signatures of all time. It’s fun to play though.

Now back to it! I guess I’ll skip analyzing for now and move on to his eleven choral preludes, written just before he died. Funny he should write four organ pieces when he first started his career, not touch the instrument for forty years, and come back to it four months before he died, composing incredibly intricate counterpoint (almost didn’t touch it in the official sense for his entire middle life) on Lutheran chorales (was never religious!) with such emotion and gravity that it seems like he needed to produce something that reflected his inner contemplations of death and could only fulfill them on one of the instruments he started his career on.  It’s a shame for organists that he didn’t write more works for the instrument, as it is obvious with his chorale preludes that he was more than capable of producing works equal to that of Bach, Mendelssohn, and even Franck. Yet the works we do have stand as some of the greater works in the organ repertoire, and offer an intimate representation of a man who made  considerable and priceless contributions to music as a whole, standing as a cornerstone in our history of classical music.


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