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Johannes Brahms
Featured on:
Brahms cdc 011

Real Audio:
Variations Op. 56b
on a theme by Haydn for two
pianos (Tema, Andante)
"A man of young blood has arrived who as a child was watched over by the graces and the heroes. His name is Johannes Brahms ... he has all the external signs which declare: here is one of the chosen!". Such were the words which Robert Schumann used to herald the young composer in the "New Musical Review". Johannes began his career playing for a mark and a half an evening in the taverns of the back-alleys of Hamburg. He was taken around by his father Johann Jakob, a musician of little talent whose dream was that his son would follow the same career! However, he soon realised that in that thin and slight little boy endowed with two imposing and enormous hands and great creativity there was something which was much more than mere talent. Luckily enough, he decided to entrust his son to more able and skilled hands. In time Johannes would reveal his
genius and win a prominent place in the history of musical composition. Indeed, it was in thinking of him that Bulow invented the slogan of the three "Bs": Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.
Brahms had a complex personality and was at one and the same time both a Classical and a Romantic composer. As a young man he followed in the footsteps of Beethoven but later he took after Schumann. Although Brahms employed classical forms he manipulated them to achieve his special goals and he managed to use different techniques from very separate epochs in a successful way which respected traditional forms. His place in the nineteenth century reminds us of that of Bach in the eighteenth - both of these composers lived at the end of an epoch. When Brahms emerged the great generation of the Romantics had already Drawn portraitdisappeared, and believing that he was behind the times he sought to develop a more up-to-date language which was free of the Romantic features which had characterised his predecessors. This was something which created marked problems of identity, and Brahms ended up by being the most Classical of the Romantics.
His output was vast and varied - it included chamber compositions, Lieder in the style of Schubert and Schumann, and virtuoso pieces for the pianoforte. After reaching full maturity he drew near to the symphonic form and this period was to last for ten years. It began with the completion of the first symphony in 1876 (a process which had been long and difficult and which had lasted for twenty years) and ended in 1885 and the productionof the fourth symphony. The third symphony in F major op. 90 (1883) was a masterpiece. His "German Requiem", which was written in honour of his mother, would place him amongst the great composers of all time. Other important pieces from the Brahms corpus include "Quintet for clarinet, two violins, viola and cello in B minor op. 115" (1891), "Three intermezzi for pianoforte op. 117" (1892), and the large number of compositions for pianforte such as the "Variations", a work in which he expressed himself to the utmost.
Brahms made a notable contribution to the piano composition of the second part of the nineteenth century. His work offers many possibilities - for a solo pianist, for two pianists, for two pianos, or for four hands on the same piano. He also employed many forms - dances, brief pieces, intermezzi, capricci, rhapsodies, youthful sonatas, and above all else the "Variations". As Maestro Campanella has observed, the impact of this last work derives from the changeability of the episodes, from the contrasts in rhythm and speed, and from a constant change in the elements which themselves create a variety of atmosphere, and all this in a context of very developed virtuosity.

1833 Born (17 May) in Hamburg to Johann Jacob, a horn and contrabasso player, and to Johanna Henrike Christiane Nissen. In 1838 he began his first musical studies with his father.
1839 Goes to the private school of Heinrich Vob. Musorgski is born.
1840 Studies pianoforte under Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel. His first appearance in public as a pianist.
1843-1844 A pupil of Eduard Marxen and (1844) of Johann Friedrich Hoffmann. Dvorak is born.
1848 His first important public concert in Hamburg. Donizetti dies.
1850-1854 On tour with the violinist Remnyi. He meets Liszt, Hiller, Robert and Clara Schumann. On 17 February 1854 Schumann writes "Geister-Thema", in the same year he attempts suicide.
1855 On tour in Danzina with Clara Schumann and Joachim. Robert Schumann dies in 1856.
1858 He works with others on the complete version of Handel's operas. Puccini and Leoncavallo are born.
1859 The first performance (22 January) in Hanover of the "Concerto for pianoforte op. 15".
1860 With Joachim he writes a manifesto against the "neo-German school". Mahler is born.
1862 His first visit to Vienna. He works with others on a complete edition of Beethoven's works.
1864 "Sonata in F minor op. 34/b for two pianofortes" dedicated to Princess Anna D'Assia. He meets Wagner. R.Struass is born.
1868 Great success in Bremen of "Deutsches Requiem op. 45". Rossini dies.
1869 "Hungarian dances". Berlioz dies.
1873 Composes the "Variations on a theme by Haydn op. 56". In 1875 Ravel is born and Bizet dies.
1876 The first performance (4 November) in Karls ruhe of the first symphony op. 68.
1877 The first performance (30 December) in Vienna of the second symphony op. 73.
1878-1893 Works with Clara Schumann on the complete edition of Schumann's works.
1883 The first performance in Vienna (23 December) of the third symphony op. 90. Richard Wagner dies.
1885 The first performance (25 October) of the fourth symphony op. 98.
1889 Made an honorary citizen of Hamburg.
1896 Brahms last composition ("Elf Choralvorspiele for organ op. 22"). Clara Schumann dies on 20 May.
1897 Is present at his last public concert (7 March), the symphony in E minor conducted by H. Richter - his greatest Viennese triumph.
1897 Dies in Vienna on 3 April.

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