The Music Plays On — Brahms and Tchaikovsky

Piotr Tchaikovsky/Johannes Brahms

We just finished celebrating the birthday of two composers who are loved the world over. As May 7 passes us by every year, it always comes as a little shock that these two were born on the same day, Brahms in 1833, and Tchaikovsky in 1840. Not only because they’re so famous, but because they famously didn’t like each other’s music! Tchaikovsky, particularly, had very harsh things to say about Brahms. “A giftless bastard,” Tchaikovsky wrote in his diary about Brahms, 1886

This all changed, however, when they finally had the opportunity to meet each other at the house of the violinist, Adolph Brodsky, in Leipzig on January 1, 1888. Here’s an account from Anna Brodsky, the wife of the famed violinist:

What astounds me about this is that we usually read about this first meeting between the two without hearing that Edvard Grieg was also there that evening! Anna further reflects:

They would meet again for lunch on March 12, 1889 in Hamburg while they were both of tour. Brahms delayed his departure so as to hear the first rehearsal of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony №5 that morning. Tchaikovsky’s friend, Nicolay Kashkin, would later recall,

So, it seems as though they ended their lives as colleagues who, at the very least, greatly respected each other.

The fact is, their music is very dissimilar and it’s not surprising that their artistic personae didn’t mesh at all. Here are similar forms of music written by both composers at about the same time that prove this point.

Tchaikovsky String Quartet №2 1874

Brahms String Quartet №3 1875

Tchaikovsky Symphony №3 1875

Brahms Symphony №1 1876

Tchaikovsky Symphony №4 1877

Brahms Symphony №2 1877

Tchaikovsky Grand Piano Sonata in G 1878

Brahms Klavierstücke op 76 1878

Tchaikovsky Piano Trio in A Minor, 1882

Brahms Piano Trio №2, 1882

Tchaikovsky Manfred Symphony, 1885

Brahms Symphony №4, 1885

Music Director of the California Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic

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