Johannes Brahms is one of the best-loved composers of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg in 1833, Brahms was brought up in a Lutheran family and received his first musical instruction from his father, who was a professional musician. Much to his parents’ dismay, the young Brahms showed much more interest in composing than performance, though he was still a highly talented pianist and violinist. Brahms soon came to know a number of important composers of the day, including Joseph Joachim, Franz Liszt, and eventually Robert Schumann, who was to become an important figure in Brahms’ life.
Schumann spoke very highly of Brahms, though this praise may have aggravated Brahms’ own sense of self-criticism, which was something he was to struggle for throughout most of his career. By the time of his maturity, Brahms had settled permanently in Vienna, where he was to remain for the rest of his life, becoming well-known in the Austrian capital as a conductor and composer. Many of his compositions have become staples of the orchestral and chamber repertoire, and he is often considered one of the ‘Three Bs’ of music alongside Bach and Beethoven.