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Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist who wrote symphonies, concerti, chamber music, piano works, and choral compositions.
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The multi-layered piece brings together mixed chorus, solo voices and a complete orchestra.
Brahms' contributions covered light ground too. His compositions from this period included waltzes and two volumes of "Hungarian Dances" for piano duet.
Brahms never married. Following his failed attempt at making Clara Schumann his lover, Brahms went on to have a small string of relationships. They included an affair with Agathe von Siebold in 1858, which he quickly, for reasons never really understood, withdrew from.
It does seem as though Brahms fell in love easily. One account has him having to deny giving a woman piano lessons because of his attraction to her.
Stubborn and uncompromising, Brahms was also known to be brusque and sarcastic with adults. With children, he showed a softer side, often handing out penny candy to kids he encountered in his neighborhood in Vienna. He also enjoyed nature and frequently went for long walks in the woods.
Brahms remained in Vienna for the rest of his life. Summers found him traveling extensively throughout Europe, while concert tours also put him on the road as well. During these performances, Brahms either conducted or performed strictly his own material.
The wealth of compositions for him to draw from continued to grow in the 1880s and '90s. His work included "Double Concerto in A Minor," "Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor" and the "Violin Sonata in D Minor." In addition, he finished "String Quintet in F Major" and "String Quintet in G Major."
During his final decade, Brahms wrote several chamber music pieces, teaming up with clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld for a succession of songs that included "Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano," as well as "Quintet for Clarinet and Strings."
These later years for the composer saw him living a comfortable life. His music, since 1860 anyway, had sold well, and Brahms, far from flamboyant or excessive, lived a frugal life in his simple apartment. A shrewd investor, Brahms did well in the stock market. His wealth, however, was rivaled by his generosity, as Brahms often gave money to friends and young musical students.
Brahms' commitment to his craft showed he was a perfectionist. He often destroyed finished pieces he deemed unworthy, including some 20 string quartets.
In 1890 Brahms claimed he was giving up composing, but the stance was short-lived, and before long he was back at it again.
Over his last years, Brahms completed "Vier ernste Gesange," which drew on work from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. It was a revealing piece for the composer, damning what was found on earth and embracing death as a relief from the material world's excesses and pain.
Brahms himself certainly had death on his mind. On May 20, 1896, his old friend Clara Schumann passed away after several years of health problems. Around this time, Brahms' own health began to deteriorate. Doctors discovered that his liver was in poor condition. Brahms gave his last performance in March 1897 in Vienna. He died a month later, on April 3, 1897, from complications due to cancer.
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