Impassioned romanticism and classical principles are reconciled in the masterworks of Johannes Brahms (1833–1897). Almost everything he wrote remains indispensable to the concert hall repertoire. With his soaring melodies, rich harmonies, and rhythmic vigor, Brahms has taken his place among the immortals, his name linked with Bach’s and Beethoven’s as one of the “Three B’s” of classical music.
Opera and classical music expert Saul Lilienstein examines the breadth of Brahms’ extraordinary career, from his teenage years playing piano in the brothels of Hamburg to his sweeping triumphs in Vienna and international recognition as the greatest living symphonist. Explore the full range of his work—from symphonies, concertos, and overtures to chamber music, songs, and choral works—in this series highlighted by film clips and music recordings.
April 18 Music for Piano and Chamber Ensembles
Some of Brahms’ most beautiful music flows from the sounds of strings in the quintets, sextets, and septets beginning in 1853, continuing through the lyrical introspection of music for solo piano and in the clarinet quintet, written near the end of his life in 1894.
April 25 Choral Masterworks and Lieder
Brahms’ Requiem, first performed in 1868, confirmed his position as a composer of international notice. His elegiac Alto Rhapsody and dramatic Song of Destiny followed soon after; the expressive intimacy of the song form was of lifelong interest to him.
May 2 Concertos
Brahms’ career before a large public began in 1859 with his intense Piano Concerto No. 1 and ended in 1887 with his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello. In the intervening years, his Violin Concerto and Piano Concerto No. 2 established his dominance in the concerto form.
May 9 Symphonic Music, Part I
Beginning in 1873, an outpouring of grand symphonic conceptions brought Brahms eventual recognition as the greatest symphonist since Beethoven. Lilienstein discusses and analyzes recorded excerpts from Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Symphony No. 1, and Symphony No. 2.
May 16 Symphonic Music, Part 2
After the melodic, nostalgic charm of the Academic Festival Overture, Brahms concluded his orchestral output with Symphony No. 3 and Symphony No. 4.