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Composers anecdotes

Brahm’s introduction in Vienna

in 1862, Brahms called to see Julius Epstein, a professor at the Vienna Conservatory.

“Joachim tells me – ha! – that you have written some really interesting music. Sent me your piano sonata in F minor to look over. Bring any new compositions with you?” he added, noticing Johanne’s portfolio.

“I have two piano quartets here,” the younger musician began.

“Quartets? – splendid. Ha! Must hear them.” He took out his watch and looked at it. “Believe there’s still time … Hellmesberger lives just around the corner. His quartet always rehearses this house. Frieda –” The impulsive Herr Epstein called his servant. “Run over and tell Herr Hellmesberger I’ve got a surprise for him here – ha! Tell him to bring the whole quartet.”

Joseph Hellmesberger was concertmaster of the Court Opera orchestra (that is, he headed the first-violin section), leader of the city’s chief string quartet, and witty czar of Viennese violindom. Each winter his quartet gave a series of concerts for the “Friends of Music” (the society sometimes mischievously referred to as the “Fiends’ of Music”).

“Got something interesting to show you!” cried Epstein when the men arrived. He introduced the guest from Hamburg and then thrust Johanne’s manuscript under Hellmesberger’s nose. “Like to try it over? Ha! Her Brahms is no doubt willing to play the piano part.”

As the music began, the old professor listened with growing excitement. Hellmesberger, exchanging nods of astonishment and delight with his fellow quartet members, was equally impressed. At the close of the stirring finale “all Zingarese” [final movement of Piano Quartet No 1, op. 25] he cast down his violin and rushed to Johannes and threw his arms around the startled composer’s neck.
“Magnificent!” he cried. “Music like this hasn’t been written since –” He broke off and his round face suddenly grew solemn. “Gentleman,” he said, “turning to the others, “this is Beethoven’s heir!”

Goss, Madeleine & Schauffler, Robert (1943) Brahms The Master. New York: Henry Holt and Company, pp.177-179.