Music Composers

Johannes Brahms-Part 12

Brahms built his music laboriously. It was his custom to keep his work in manuscript for some time and usually to hear one or two performances of it before allowing it to appear in print. He carried self criticism to the extent of rewriting works which had already been published. To Georg Henschel he said once, "One ought never to forget that by actually perfecting one piece one gains and learns more than by commencing or half finishing a dozen. Let it rest, let it rest and keep going back to it and working at it over and over again until it is completed as a finished work of art, until there is not a note too much or too little, not a bar you could improve upon. Whether it is beautiful also is an entirely different matter, but perfect it must be."

This is surely a great point and one of the secrets of the success of Brahms. Every composer becomes a better judge, a better critic of his own works when he lets them rest for a time, thus becoming like a stranger to his own creation and being more capable to judge of it objectively.

In the beginning of my article I said that Tschaikowsky had no sympathy for the music of Brahms. In one of his letters he gives the following remarkable appreciation of the German composer: "In the music of this master there is something dry and cold which repulses me. He never speaks out his musical ideas to the end. He excites and irritates our musical senses without wishing to satisfy them and seems ashamed to speak the language which goes straight to the heart. It is impossible to say that the music of Brahms is weak and insignificant. He is never trivial, but he lacks the chief thing - beauty. Brahms commands our respect. We must bow before the original purity of his aspirations; but to love him is impossible. I, at least, in spite of much effort, have not arrived at it."

The Etude Magazine April 1921





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