James Huneker, a critic with the New York Courier, wrote about the impact of Brahms’ music on him:
Brahms dreams of pure white staircases that scale the infinite. A dazzling, dry light floods his mind, and you hear the rustling of wings – wings of great terrifying monsters; hippogrifs of horrid mien; hieroglyphic faces, faces with stony stare, menace your imagination. He can bring down within the compass of the octave moods that are outside the pale of mortals. He is a magician, spectral at times, yet his songs have the homely lyric fervour and concision of Robert Burns. A groper after the the untoward, I have shuddered at certain bars in his F sharp minor Sonata, and wept with the moonlight tranquility in the slow movement of the F minor Sonata. He is often dull, muddy pated, obscure, maddeningly slow. Then a rift of lovely music wells out of the mist; you are enchanted, and cry: “Brahms, master, anoint again with thy precious melodic chrism our thirsty eyelids!”
Reprinted in Musical Times, April 1921. Cited in: Scholes, Percy (1947) The Mirror of Music. London: Novello and Company, vol. 1, p.431.