Saturday, December 18, 2010

Johannes Brahms: Not a May Flower But a December Rose

Brahms took this:

. . . and he turned it into this:

The collection of eleven chorale preludes, from which 'Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming', is taken, is Brahms' swan song, the last piece of music he finished before his death on 3rd of April in 1897.

Remarkable for his time and place, Brahms was never anti-Semitic. "Toward the end of his life," Jan Swafford notes, "responding to the antisemitism that had become endemic in Austrian politics, Brahms was heard to growl, 'Next week I'm going to have myself circumcised!' . . . Brahms may have idolized Bismarck and the authoritarian Prussians, but he remained a liberal and a democrat at heart."

On the morning Brahms's life ended in Vienna in 1897--he was almost 64, felled by liver cancer long before he was ready to go--there was no death-bed conversion, no regret for living a godless life. The industrialist Artur Faber had come to the sick man's bed that morning to give him a glass of wine for his thirst. "Oh that tasted fine. You're a kind man," Brahms said, his last recorded words.


Gary Freedman said...

Someone left this comment on the internet:

"I used to sit on stage with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in the Morehouse College Glee Club and just ascend into heaven for just a moment as the orchestra played the Leinsdorf transcription."

I first heard this piece in about 1996 during a televised concert of the Atlanta Symphony. I was struck by its beauty and just about two years ago found out what it was.

Gary Freedman said...

The mutual dislike of Brahms and Wagner was not just based on artistic grounds. They were on opposite ends of the moral spectrum.