He [Brahms] sat down and began the sonata which had so impressed Joachim [a violinist]. As he played, a swift change transformed [Robert] Schumann’s impassive features. The Master listened with growing interest, then suddenly sprang to his feet.
“Please”, he cried. “Will you wait just a moment? Clara -” He hurried to the door and threw it open. “Clara, come here – quickly!”
Nonplused, Johannes stopped playing. Frau Schumann, a handsome woman in her mid-thirties, came hurrying in. “What is it, Robert?” she asked anxiously.
Laughing with the excitement, the Master pushed his wife into a chair. “You must hear this, my dear. Something quite extraordinary, I assure you. Music such as you have never listened to before. Young man, begin again.”
After he had finished the sonata, Brahms was made to play all of his compositions, one after the other, and both Robert and Clara became more and more enthusiastic. Hannes was quite overwhelmed by their praise.
“Truly, you are the one I have been waiting for!” Schumann cried, patting the young musician on the shoulder. My boy you and I understand each other.”
The lady of the house suddenly realized that it was growing late. “Why, it’s dinner-time!” she exclaimed. “Her Brahms, you must stay and share our meal with us.”
There was such a friendly, gracious expression on her face that Hannes fell at once under the spell of her compelling personality.
At the table Johannes found himself surrounded by a bevy of little people. The Schumanns now had six children (one son had died when only a year old). Marie, the eldest, was twelve, and the youngest, Eugéne – not yet two. They made friends with the visitor at once. Hannes forgot his self-consciousness when he was with youngsters. His own childlike nature responded immediately to their companionship, and he was always a great favorite with the little folks in the households he visited. In Brahms’ later years, this love of children was one of the main compensations for his solitary existence.
Before the meal had ended, Hannes felt almost one of the family. He had never known real home life. His early struggle for existence had been too strenuous to allow leisure for gracious living. Now, at the Schumanns’, for the first time he was to know the joys of a cultured, well-ordered environment.
Source: Goss, Madeleine & Schauffler, Robert (1943) Brahms The Master. New York: Henry Holt and Company, pp.124-5.