Music: Hamburg Centenary

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Because in Hamburg 100 years ago an impoverished young bull-fiddler had a son born to him by a woman 17 years older than himself, because the lumpish German infant grew up to be Johannes Brahms, musical organizations everywhere this year have been paying court to the memory of one of the world's greatest composers. On his 100th birthday this week Hamburg listened reverently to Brahms's music, placed wreaths before the bust of the hulking, bearded old man at the entrance of its famed Musikhalle. Cincinnati last week heard Brahms music played at its 30th spring festival. Boston fortnight ago had five days of Brahms. This summer the Chicago Symphony will stage a Brahms Festival for World's Fair visitors, supplementing the Brahms programs which it, along with other U. S. orchestras, gave during the winter season.

Proud Bull-Fiddler Brahms wanted his son to be a musician but such tribute as is being paid this year was far beyond the scope of his imagination. Music. Father Brahms hoped, would earn his son a living. He was set to playing the piano almost as soon as he could toddle. Before he reached his teens he could tootle on a horn, play passably on the violin and 'cello. But to his father's despair he would go on scribbling music when he should have been practicing his scales and learning the dance tunes which would earn him a thaler or two and all the supper he could eat.

The dance tunes and the German folk songs which Johannes learned to please his father crept into the music he wrote for 50 years to follow. But it was his amazing piano repertory, compositions of his own that he had tucked away, which so impressed Eduard Remenyi. the gypsy violinist, that he engaged young Brahms to be his accompanist, introduced him to potent Violinist Joseph Joachim. Remenyi taught Brahms to love Hungarian dances. Joachim brought him to the attention of Composer Robert Schumann who just had time before his mental collapse to publicize the young Hamburger as the coming great composer.

Composer Robert Schumann's pianist-wife Clara gave to Brahms's life the romantic touch without which biographers never would have been satisfied. Brahms never married but Clara Schumann encouraged him through his failures, inspired him to compose love songs as deeply personal as any that have been written. The D Minor Concerto failed at its first hearing, partly because Brahms played the piano part himself more vigorously than accurately. It took Clara Schumann, who played it the length & breadth of Europe, to make it known for what it was worth. The premiere of the Violin Concerto was coolly received. It was lacking in fireworks and Brahms, who conducted it, supplied a diversion by going on stage with his suspenders unfastened. In Boston where the recent Brahms concerts were sold out to the doors and Beacon Hill ladies stamped their feet in approval. Critic Philip Hale once wrote in the Herald: "Over the exit door of Symphony Hall could well be written 'This way out in case of Brahms.' "

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