Another precocious talent, at the age of 10 Brahms gave his first public concert, but because he came from a modest family, he contributed to the family's income by playing in local clubs as did his father, a popular musician. At twenty he met the great violinist, Joseph Joachim, who introduced him to Liszt
and to Schumann
. Schumann recognized Brahms' genius and he introduced him to his family circle: the deep affection felt was mutual (Brahms stayed by his side until the end along with Clara). His concert activity continued until the '70's, often together with Joachim. Even if Brahms' technique was not particularly brilliant, the musical qualities of his performances were enchanting.
In 1857 he returned to Hamburg where he directed a woman's chorus, an activity that he continued later when he moved to Vienna permanently. The long experience he had in choral work led to his paying particular attention to vocal music. In the Hapsburg capital, Brahms made other acquaintances that were to prove fundamental: Wagner and the well-known orchestra director, Hans von Bülow, who became one his chief admirers.
The last twenty years of his life he devoted to composing.
He died in Vienna in 1897. Brahms is one of the greatest musicians of the 1800's (the so called three B's: Bach
, Brahms). He was perpetually on the verge between Romantic spirit and Classic form and it is in this apparent contradiction that he discovered his writing style and his own poetry.
Not a very prolific writer, all of his work is of the highest level, among them four symphonies, two overtures (Academic and Tragic) and two serenades, two concertos for piano and one for violin, chamber music with and without piano, works for piano solo (the three sonatas, the series of variations, four ballades, waltzes, intermezzos and the op. 116, 177, 118 and 119), vocal pieces with and without orchestra, for organ and more than 300 Lieder for canto and piano.