Johannes Brahms

Variations on a Theme by Haydn, op. 56a

            Good things often come in modest packages, and this work is unquestionably one of those.  Many have observed that Johannes Brahms was the major successor to the legacy of Beethoven in a century filled with musical progressives who moved in other directions.  The darlings of that time—and in many regards, of today, as well—were those, like Wagner and Liszt, who opted for hyper expressive means that explored new forms and which relaxed the conventions of the classic style.  Brahms was the champion of those who eschewed extra-musical associations (stories and ideas, if you will), and persisted in composing music that referred to nothing but itself.  He resisted more than anyone the blandishments of Wagner and company.

Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77

            The music of Johannes Brahms has come to stand at the center of the best of Western art music; that it is so is owing to the composer’s firm grounding in the traditions of musical style and forms that lead directly back to the Viennese masters of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven.  Seriousness of purpose, respect for tradition, and a formidable technical mastery led to a musical style practically unexcelled in artistic integrity.   At a time when much of musical Europe was pushing out into new forms, harmonic boldness and freedom, and an emotional content untrammeled by any restraints, Brahms trod the more conservative and traditional path, and was seen by many as the inheritor of the mantle of Beethoven.   It would be a mistake to imagine Brahms as waging artistic war a