Few could have imagined that Johannes Brahms from Hamburg’s lower middle classes, the son of a musician who appeared primarily in dance halls, would become one of the most respected composers. From an early age, Brahms showed talent as a pianist and composer of piano works. The violinist Joseph Joachim arranged his meeting with Robert Schumann, who wrote of the great future he saw for the 20-year-old.
However, to the self-proclaimed musicians of the future around Richard Wagner, Brahms would later be regarded as a man of the past. In fact, Brahms took up the Romantic rediscovery of Bach and Handel, and broadened his view by studying even earlier composers. He succeeded in creating a unique synthesis of his unmistakable late-Romantic idiom with aspects of the musical language of the Classical and Baroque periods. His Deutsches Requiem became a great success, and in later years, the composer could live with no financial worries in his adopted home of Vienna from the sales of his works and his performances as a pianist and conductor. Johannes Brahms appeared with the Berliner Philharmoniker performing his own works on several occasions. The chief conductors Hans von Bülow and Wilhelm Furtwängler felt a strong commitment to the composer and contributed to the fact that the split between Brahms and Wagner followers faded. Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle also devoted themselves intensively to Brahms’ orchestral works.