Johannes Brahms


Brahms says good-bye as he leaves a dinner party:

      “If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted, I beg his pardon.”

Brahms on the importance of craftsmanship:

       “Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.”

Brahms on inspiration:

       “The idea comes to me from outside of me - and is like a gift.  I then take the
        idea and make it my own - that is where the skill lies.”

Brahms on children:

        “The only true immortality lies in one’s children.”

Brahms on Bach:

        “Study Bach, there you will find everything .”

Brahms on Mozart:

        “How lucky is the man who, like Mozart and others, goes to the tavern of an
        evening and writes some fresh music. For he lives while he is creating.”

Brahms on inspiration:

        “Straightaway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God.”

Brahms on Beethoven:

        “To follow in Beethoven’s footsteps transcends one’s strength.”

Brahms on his music:

        “My things really are written with an appalling lack of practicality!”

Brahms on composing:

        “It is not hard to compose but it is wonderfully hard to let the superfluous notes
        fall under the table…So many melodies fly about, one must be careful not to
        tread on them.”

Brahms on “stealing”:

        Reviewer: “One of your themes was very similar to one of Beethoven’s!” 

        Brahms:  “Of course it is. Everyone steals - the important thing is to do it

Brahms on composing:

        “One should never forget that by actually perfecting one piece one gains and
        learns more than by starting or half-finishing a dozen,”

Brahms on composing a symphony:

        “A symphony is no joke.”

Brahms on life:

        “Those who enjoy their own emotionally bad health and who habitually fill their
        minds with the rank poison of suspicion, jealousy and hatred, as a rule take
        umbrage at those who refuse to do likewise, and they find a perverted relief in
        trying to denigrate them.”

Brahms on performing (written to Clara Schumann):

        “I think of you as going to the concert hall like a priestess to the altar. This, of
        course, is just as it should be. But I have never had that feeling, as I only know
        the public from a distance. I shun its proximity.”

Clara Schumann on Brahms:

        “I see how difficult it will be for Johannes’s works tp be understood. Robert’s
        music (Schumann) is always soft and melodious and sweet, which is not always
        the case with Johannes. As with the man himself, the roughest husk conceals
        he sweetest kernel, but not every commonplace person is able to discover it.”

Wagner on Brahms:

        “Compose, compose, compose, even when you have no ideas!  I know famous
        composers whom you can meet at concert masquerades, today in a ballad
        singer’s disguise..tomorrow in Handel’s Hallelujah wig, another time as a Jewish
        czardas player, and then again as a genuine symphonist decked out out  as a
        number ten.”

Brahms on love (written to Clara Schumann):

        “I wish I could write to you as tenderly as I love you and tell you all the good
        things that I wish you. You are so infinitely dear to me, dearer than I can say…If
        things go on much longer as they are at present I shall have sometime to put you
        under glass or to have you set in gold.  If only I could live in the same town with
        you and my parents…Do write me a nice letter soon. Your letters are like

Robert Schumann on Brahms:

        “He is truly one of the handsomest of young men, and one of the greatest

Brahms, when asked for details on his life by the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung:

      “Unless I have got something very fine and serious to tell you, I tend to find my        
        music rather more interesting!”


Here are some famous and not-so-famous quotes by the composer, giving an idea of his views on music and musicians, as well as thoughts on the life of an artist.