Brahms met a Hungarian refugee and violinist by the name of Eduard Remenyi in 1850, and was introduced to a whole range of folk and gypsy music that massively influenced his composing style.
Although Brahms began composing his first symphony in 1854, it wasn’t premiered until November 1876, 22 years later. The whole piece underwent severe edits until he was completely happy with it.
When Schumann died in 1856, Brahms immediately went to Düsseldorf to be with Schumann’s wife, Clara.
The so-called War of the Romantics was basically a musical argument between composers like Wagner and Liszt, who represented a more radical approach to music, and more conservative artists like Brahms and Clara Schumann. As a result, Brahms has always been seen as something of an old-fashioned composer, despite still being extremely popular today.
Brahms was very much an outdoors sort. When he wasn’t travelling around Europe for concert tours, he was fond of travelling to the hills of Italy for walking holidays and to retreat for solitary composing.
When his mother died in 1865, Brahms was overcome with grief. It is speculated that this led him to compose his German Requiem, one of the most celebrated works from his career.
When he was 57, Brahms announced that he was finished with composing. However, he was clearly unable to stop his creativity – he produced some incredible late-period works, especially for the clarinet, like his Clarinet Sonatas, Trio and Quintet.
Brahms died of cancer on April 3rd 1897. The British composer Hubert Parry composed a musical tribute to him, his Elegy for Brahms, in the same year.