Johannes Brahms (May 7, 1833 – April 3, 1897), composer and pianist, was one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms’s popularity and influence were considerable; following a comment by the nineteenth century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the Three Bs.
Brahms composed for piano, for chamber ensembles, for symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus. An accomplished pianist, he gave the first performance of many of his own works; he also worked with the leading performers of his time, including the virtuoso pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. Many of his works have become staples of modern concert repertoire. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed many more works than he published.
Brahms was at once a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and classical masters. He was a master of counterpoint, the complex and highly disciplined method of composition for which Bach is famous. Yet within these structures, Brahms created bold new approaches to harmony and timbre which challenged existing notions of tonal music. His contribution and craftsmanship has been admired by subsequent figures as diverse as Arnold Schoenberg and Edward Elgar. Brahms’s works were a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers, including Schoenberg, who eventually abandoned tonality.