Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Yes, Brahms is evil . . . "


I've just stumbled upon this with pleasure.

More on Brahms from his contemporaries:

I have played over the music of that scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless bastard!

-- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1886

The real Brahms is nothing more than a sentimental voluptuary... He is the most wanton of composers... Only his wantonness is not vicious; it is that of a great baby... rather tiresomely addicted to dressing himself up as Handel or Beethoven and making a prolonged and intolerable noise.
-- George Bernard Shaw, 1893

and

Brahms is just like Tennyson, an extraordinary musician, with the brains of a third rate village policeman.
-- George Bernard Shaw, 1893

I guess that's why we love him so much.

As Brahms himself said:

To realize that we are one with the Creator, as Beethoven did, is a wonderful and awe-inspiring experience. Very few human beings ever come into that realization and that is why there are so few great composers or creative geniuses in any line of human endeavor. I always contemplate all this before commencing to compose. This is the first step. When I feel the urge I begin by appealing directly to my Maker and I first ask Him the three most important questions pertaining to our life here in this world--whence, wherefore, whither? I immediately feel vibrations that thrill my whole being. These are the spirit illuminating the soul-power within, and in this exalted state, I see clearly what is obscure in my ordinary moods; then I feel capable of drawing inspiration from above, as Beethoven did. Above all, I realize at such moments the tremendous significance of Jesus' supreme revelation, "I and my Father are One." Those vibrations assume the forms of distinct mental images, after I have formulated my desire and resolve in regard to what I want--namely, to be inspired so that I can compose something that will uplift and benefit humanity--something of permanent value. Straightaway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God . . .


and, on another occasion, upon leaving a dinner party:

If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted tonight, I beg his pardon.

19 comments:

Sheila said...

Mamma mia, they didn't mince words, did they?

I don't know much about Brahms' life, but I love his music.

And according to the family lore, my mom's piano teacher studied piano under a student of Brahms. I've always thought that the coolest thing!

Janet said...

I love that quote!
AMDG,
Janet

Pentimento said...

Which one, Janet?

Now, Sheila, if that is true about your mom's piano teacher, and if your mother is still living, that actually makes her a vitally important link to issues of performance practice in Brahms's own day! Does your mom teach piano too?

dreshny said...

Every time I see your title, it reminds me of the ancient (c. 1998) "Bert is Evil" website: http://www.bertisevil.tv/index2.htm

Janet said...

The Brahms.
AMDG,
Janet

Pentimento said...

That is seriously crazy stuff, Dreshny.

Maclin Horton said...

Interesting coincidence--Amazon had Anna-Sophie Mutter's recording of the Brahms violin sonatas on sale for 99 cents today, so I grabbed it. As far as I can remember I've never heard them, and I'm looking forward to it. I know the symphonies pretty well, and love them, and one or two chamber works, but there's still a lot to discover.

I think George Bernard Shaw was a twit. I'll cut Tchaikovsky a little slack for professional jealousy.

cnb said...

Somewhere I have a book of "musical quotations", much of which is devoted to commenters of famous composers about other famous composers. They are often outrageous, probably due, as Maclin suggests, to professional jealousy. I suppose composers are also permitted to have strong opinions about what does and does not quality as good music.

Anyway, I don't remember seeing these quotes about Brahms before, so thank you. And I agree with Janet that the long quote from Brahms is amazing.

Janet said...

cnb-Does it remind you of Chesterton's "grace" in any way?

AMDG,
Janet

Janet said...

Pentimento--

cnb had something on his blog about Chesterton saying grace before other activities than meals, and there is something in that Brahm's quote that I think is similar.

AMDG,
janet

Pentimento said...

I don't know the Chesterton quote, Janet. Can you direct me to it?

I love the Brahms quote too. He was a North German Protestant who apparently rarely, if ever, darkened the door of a church, but he knew the Bible inside and out. He chose his own texts for the Deutsches Requiem, which is not really a Requiem, but a kind of benediction for those who mourn.

Mac, enjoy the sonatas. They are so good. My favorite of his works are his pieces for smaller forces. I love his ensemble chamber music - string quartets, piano quartets and quintets, and string sextets, and his solo piano music - and his Lieder, which I try to sing in public whenever I have a gig I can program freely.

Janet said...

http://cburrell.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/gilbert-keith-chesterton-maisie-ward/#comment-1330

I think that's the right spot.

AMDG,
janet

Janet said...

But, if it's not, you can just click on All Manner of Things on the LODW sidebar and scroll down to the Chesterton item.

AMDG,
Janet

Pentimento said...

Found it - thanks, Janet and Craig. I think I'm going to try to practice this myself.

Anonymous said...

Heh, I usually say grace (and ask pardon) before I play the organ. Then I play "The Lord Upholds the Faltering Feet" as a pre-service hymn...

Otepoti

Pentimento said...

Otepoti, do you use the pedal manual? Most organists I've heard would do well to start with that hymn . . .
:)

Sheila said...

Pentimento, no, my mom doesn't teach and hasn't really played for many years. A sad story hers, with many losses, but with an ending that brings more and more joy as it plays out.

But you've made me think there must be others in her hometown that might provide such a link...I'm thinking there is a fellow who went on to become a serious pianist. If I can find his name, would you like me to let you know?

Pentimento said...

Yes, Sheila, I'd be very interested. This pianist might have some information on how Brahms wanted his own pieces played, which would be exciting to know!

I'm glad to know your mom's story has joy in it.

Anonymous said...

"Faltering feet" is my private joke, yes!

Greetings to you all,

Otepoti