Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms is a famous composer and is often referred to as one of the three Bs, placed in significant comparison to both Bach and Beethoven. Brahms is most famous for his Hungarian Dances, and for his ability to compose counterpoint melody. He was an excellent piano player, but he composed chamber and orchestra pieces as well.

Origins of Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms was born on May 2, 1833 in Hamburg, Germany. Brahms father was a musician and encouraged him in his music. He began lessons at the age of seven. Brahms performed publicly for the first time at the age of fifteen. He did study other instruments briefly, but primarily focused on the piano. When he was twenty, Brahms moved close to Robert Schumann who proved to be a great mentor and influence on Brahms. Brahms later helped to create a memorial for Schumann. He was also influenced by Johann Strauss II and was good friends with him during his lifetime. Brahms also greatly admired Beethoven and Bach’s style of music, and you can hear the Baroque influence in his music.


Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877 and it recorded sound onto wax cylinders, which then could be played back to hear the sound. Edison thought that phonograph had a variety of uses including preserving history and sharing music with others. As the phonograph was developed, they were able to reduce the cost of the model and mass produce the cylinders so that music could be recorded and shared with people who could not attend concerts. 

Hungarian Dance #1

Brahms "Hungarian Dance #1" is most famous because an associate of Thomas Edison recorded it on the phonograph. The recording has been preserved since 1889 and is one of the oldest musical recordings that is still intact. Brahms announced the musical number and then played the song on the piano. There are sound recordings of this available to listen to on the Internet which isn't the entire song, but a shortened version of it.

The Work of Johannes Brahms

Brahms wrote a great deal of music during his lifetime. He wrote four symphonies as well as several concertos for the piano and violin. He also wrote choral music with his most famous choral piece being "A German Requiem". His most famous pieces are the Hungarian Dances, which were primarily arrangements of traditional folk songs. The most common song that most people know is "Hungarian Dance No. 5", which is the classic lullaby song that children grow up listening to. Brahms piano arrangements were his most popular work while he was alive.

Johannes Brahms worked as a choir director, conductor, and music teacher in his adult life. He traveled a great deal performing and conducting music while he worked on his pieces. He later moved to Vienna, Austria where he took an active part in the musical world there. He composed songs that were popular at the time, and focused on pleasing the public as much as creating masterpieces. Brahms passed away in 1897.