Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Johannes Brahms and the Twilight of Romanticism

Johannes Brahms and the Twilight of Romanticism

Donna Getzinger, Daniel Felsenfeld
For ages 12 and up
Morgan Reynolds, 2004   ISBN: 978-1931798211

Johannes Brahms was born in Germany. One of three children, and the son of a relatively poor violinist, Johannes began to show his musical nature when he was still very young. His father did his best to support his gifted son, arranging for him to have lessons with famous teachers. At the same time though, Johannes’ father made his son go out every evening to play the piano in taverns and beer halls to make money for the family. The humiliations that he experienced in these places affected Johannes for the rest of his life.

Johannes was very lucky in that he made some very loyal, loving, and influential friends. First there was the famous violinist Joseph Joachim and soon after Johannes met Robert and Clara Schumann. The Schumann’s would become very dear friends to the young musician, supporting, teaching, and promoting his playing and his compositions as much as they could. Johannes also came to love Clara Schumann and though he and the virtuoso pianist never became a couple, even after Robert died, they were close friends for the rest of their lives.

Johannes was still very young when his career took off. With the support of his friends, his music began to receive the interest that it deserved. Many famous musicians, composers, and music critics said flattering things about Johannes’ music. It was performed in many cities and countries and unlike so many other musicians, Johannes never had to have a patron to support him financially; he was able to take care of himself by giving piano lessons, conducting, composing and having his music printed.

Though Johannes Brahms was successful and though he got the praise that he craved, he was never able to have the one thing that he wanted - a family. Johannes never married and throughout his adult life he mourned the fact that he was alone without a wife and children to make his life complete.

With great pathos the authors of this biography not only capture the personality of Johannes Brahms, by they also give the reader a very clear picture of what was happening in the world of music in the 1800’s. Tastes were changing and there were clashes between those who favoured the classic form of music and those who wanted to create and hear music that had a more modern flavour. Thus this is a portrait not just of a great man and his work, but also of his times and of the people who influenced the music of those times.