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Johannes Brahms' Cultivation Of Musical Architecture

2113 words - 9 pages

Johannes Brahms, a striking individual of unmistakable character, is defined by his compositions as meticulous and enlightened. His comprehensive grasp on classical and baroque form, with his familiarity of counterpoint and musical development, allowed him to effortlessly traverse and cultivate upon the musical architecture laid out by the likes of Bach and Beethoven. Born in Hamburg in 1833, he was the son of Johann Jacob Brahms, who travelled from North Germany, in which the family name “Brahms(t)” propagated (Musgrave 4). His father being a musician by profession instigated Brahms into his own domain of music. With Brahms’ first instruments being the violin, cello and the natural horn (predecessor of the French horn), it was discovered that the genius possessed absolute pitch and had also developed a system of notation on his own even before formal introductions into music (Musgrave 9). His astonishing understanding of musical rudiments was further cemented at age seven by his first teacher Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel, with piano literature ranging from Bach to Schubert to Clementi (Musgrave 10). The young gifted talent quickly matured, with his compositions being sedulously characterized in craft similar to the seasoned taste of aged liquor. Following in the wake of Beethoven, his style of romanticism seemed restrained, and viewed as being confined to classical forms. With his preference towards absolute music, his works demonstrated “as [Ian] McEwan/ [Clive] Linley would have it, at the intersection of emotion and reason” and of “powerful intellect and of passionate expressivity” (Platt and Smith 4). However, being the headstrong romantic that he is, he manipulated the limiting factor into an area of expanse, in which he developed his music into seriously emotional, imaginative works of art. Despite the conservative nature of his compositions, his reverence for the past cannot disparage his quintessence of the future. Unlike other willful romanticists pushing forward for the purpose of advancement, with his own intuitive use of harmony, theme, counterpoint, and form, Brahms develops his art in the most meaningful and evocative manner, as all truly creative endeavours transpire, he becomes a progressive romanticist in his own right.

This romantic persona was not evident at a young age and surface assumptions of conservatism drew from this part of his life, which he established his principal musical knowledge. After five years with Cossel, Brahms became the student of a new mentor, Eduard Marxsen. Marxsen was considered Hamburg’s leading teacher (Musgrave 10) and with him, Brahms discovered the works of Beethoven, greatly shaping his view of music. His teacher initially focused on the classics, noting that “Brahms did not get to know either Chopin or Schumann, let alone Liszt’s transcriptions… Marxsen’s lessons had the goal of making him into an outstanding pianist. That was what the progressive studies and fundamental grounding in...

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