How to get an audience

Johannes Brahms and the violinist Eduard Remenyi had been concertizing to great success in Cello and Lüneberg. 

By this time the two musicians were so elated over their success that they decided to try a concert in the city of Hildesheim entirely on their own.  They had no one there to herald their coming, write advance notices, and prepare the way.  Since they were unknown, the concert hall was almost empty.  When the program was ended, Remenyi packed up his violin and turned ruefully to his companion.  "Let's go to the tavern and celebrate."

"Celebrate?" repeated Hannes ironically.

"Yes – celebrate the big audience we'll have next time!"

When they opened the tavern door they heard a gay chorus of singing.  That was the place where the young blades of Hildesheim spent most of their evenings, draining endless steins of beer and making merry.  The merrier they grew, the louder they sang.

"Hail, hail! Here comes a musician" they cried when they saw the violin under Remenyi's arm.  "Join our group, gentlemen, and give us a tune on your fiddle."

Johann and his companion soon found themselves the center of an animated circle.  Remenyi played some dazzling gypsy melodies that swept the young Hildesheimers so far off their feet that they responded in a burst of choric song.

"Why – you are first-class musicians!" cried the leader of the company.

Hannes and Remenyi exchanged glances.  "You have probably heard my name, gentlemen," said the Hungarian importantly.  "I am the violinist Remenyi, and this is my accompanist, Herr Brahms.  We just gave a concert here this evening."

"Pity we weren't there to hear you," said one of the young men, draining his stein of beer.

"Yes, it was a pity," answered Remenyi.  "We didn't have much of an audience…"

"Tell you what," exclaimed another; "why don't you repeat the program tomorrow evening? We'll tell all our friends about it.  I know!" He banged his stein down on the table. "Let's go serenade the Baroness.  She's the wealthiest person in Hildesheim, and a great music-lover."

Everyone was enthusiastic about the idea.  With one accord the merry crowd left the tavern, and presently found itself under the window of a large house on the outskirts of Hildesheim.  Remenyi played a czardas and a furiant; then the young men cleared their throats, and Hannes gave the signal for a choral explosion.

The scheme worked perfectly.  Not only was the Baroness enchanted, but all Hildeshiem heard about the serenade.  Next evening, the two musicians appeared before a packed hall.


Source: Goss, Madeleine & Schauffler, Robert (1943) Brahms The Master. New York: Henry Holt and Company, pp.105-107.