Johannes Brahms: Escaping Beethoven's Shadow

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The piano meant everything to Johannes Brahms, and he used it in almost every genre he composed in. A formidable pianist, he performed a massive literature, often in public, and was said to be able to make an orchestra of a piano.

Brahms settled in Vienna in 1863, a city blessed with the traditions of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Brahms was the heir of Beethoven and did not have the nerve to write his first symphony until he was 43, feeling the tramp of Beethoven's mighty footsteps at his heels. Vienna was also the home to a thriving musical life with the Vienna Philharmonic, many chamber and choral organizations as well as all the important soloists giving concerts, including Liszt's greatest pupil, Carl Tausig, from whom Brahms asked his advice on many figurations and technical problems in his Paganini Variations.

As Brahms created in Vienna one masterwork after another, the great pianist and conductor Hans von B├╝low dubbed him, "the third 'B'" in the triumvirate of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.


Capriccio for Piano in F sharp minor, Op. 76 No. 1 / Wilhelm Kempff

Variations (28) for Piano on a theme by Paganini, Op. 35 / (Book I - No. 10; No. 11; Book II - No. 10; No. 4; No. 14) / Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

Ballades for Piano, Op. 10 No. 4 / Artur Rubinstein

Intermezzo for Piano in B minor Op. 119 No. 1 / Stephen Kovacevich

Hungarian Dances for Piano solo, No. 1 / Julius Katchen

Intermezzo for Piano in E Flat Major, Op. 117 No. 1 / Emmanuel Ax

Sonata for Piano in F minor, Op. 5 No. 3 - Scherzo / Emmanuel Ax

Intermezzo for for Piano, Op. 118 No. 2 / Frank Levy

Waltz for Piano 4 hands, Op. 39 / Dinu Lipatti & Nadia Boulanger