Johannes Brahms: ever the perfectionist

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was seen as a perfectionist and excessively self-critical. A bachelor all his life, he was intent on composing music of lasting value and despised the trends of the day. He never wrote anything as popular as an opera.

Brahms came from a Hamburg family of musicians and even in his youth he had to perform with them in taverns. In Hamburg Brahms is honoured at the Brahms Museum and by memorial plaques and statues in the Laeiszhalle, in the town hall and on Johannes-Brahms-Platz.

The young Brahms rose quickly to prominence thanks to the support of Liszt and Schumann. He adored and revered Schumann's wife Clara, the great pianist, and he remained her friend all his life. But Brahms only became genuinely successful when he reached Vienna, where he wrote the Hungarian Dances and was hailed as 'the successor to Beethoven'.

In Meiningen, where Brahms conducted the premiere of his 4th Symphony in 1885, there is a Brahms memorial celebrating his long association with the Meiningen Court Orchestra. At the Brahms House in Baden-Baden it is still possible to view some of the rooms where the composer liked to spend his summers.

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