Composer Johannes Brahms taking a stroll in Vienna with the lieder singer Alice Barbi towards the Ringstrasse (in front of the Hotel Imperial), 1892.
Johannes Brahms was once invited to dinner by a noted wine connoisseur. In the composer’s honor, the man opened one of his finest bottles. “This,” he announced to his assorted guests, “is the Brahms of my cellar." Brahms nodded, carefully examining the wine - inhaling its bouquet, swirling it in his glass, and holding it up to the light - before setting it down without further comment. "How do you like it?” the host asked with anticipation. “Well,” Brahms replied, “better bring out your Beethoven.” (Sources: A. Rubinstein, My Young Years; Specht, Johannes Brahms)
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818) by Caspar David Friedrich, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Northern Germany. Friedrich (1774 - 1840) was a German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He’s best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins. His primary interest was the contemplation of nature - his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. His paintings characteristically set a human presence in diminished perspective amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale that, according to the art historian Christopher John Murray, directs “the viewer’s gaze towards their metaphysical dimension”.
Friedrich was born in the Pomeranian town of Greifswald at the Ostsee (Baltic Sea), where he began his art studies very young. He studied in Copenhagen, Denmark until 1798, before settling in Dresden, Germany. He came of age during a period when, across Europe, a growing disillusionment with materialistic society was giving rise to a new appreciation of spirituality. As Germany moved towards modernization in the late 1800′s, a new sense of urgency characterized its art, and his contemplative depictions of stillness came to be seen as the products of a bygone era. The early 1900′s brought a renewed appreciation of his work, beginning in 1906 with an exhibition of 32 of his paintings and sculptures in Berlin. By the 1920s his art had been discovered by the Expressionists; in the 1930s and early 40s Surrealists and Existentialists frequently drew ideas from his work. The rise of Nazism in the early 1930s again saw a resurgence in Friedrich’s popularity, but this was followed by a sharp decline as his paintings were, by association with the Nazi movement, interpreted as having a nationalistic aspect. It was not until the late 1970s that he regained his reputation as an icon of the German Romantic movement and a painter of international importance.
I want a big, strong lumberjack to sweep me off my feet and drive us into the Yukon bush to a cabin in his 1992 Ford F150 where we’ll live happily ever after with our 20 dogs. Long hair optional, beard mandatory. No city-slicker hipsters allowed either.
Bonn is one of the oldest cities in Germany, and sits on the Rhine river. Originally built to enable the military to move easily about the city, the street known as Heerstrasse Bonn is now famous for its cherry blossom canopy. The Japanese Cherry Blossom lined street blooms around April. towards the end of the season, the petals drop, like pink snowflakes, into the street below.
Dolly Haas as Pat Caverley in Girls Will Be Boys [d: Marcel Varnel, 1934]
This is in no way the English version of the previous year’s German Viktor und Viktoria, (it doesn’t have the knowing sophistication of that film’s genderswapping, for a start, although the ‘reveal’ scene is not at all coy) or the following year’s American Sylvia Scarlett (how I love the mid-30s trend for women dressing as men) but it’s a lovely little comedy, has Esmond Knight at his dark-eyed thick-haired swooniest as the romantic interest, and Dolly Haas is bloody marvellous as Pat; adorable, boyish, bolshy and delivers my menswear trifecta of tweed/dressing gown/chunky knit, with bonus evening wear.
No.7: Franz Liszt (22 October 1811 - 31 July 1886)
With the Romantic era came the rise of the virtuoso performers, touring musicians throughout Europe who amazed concert goers with their incredible technique. Liszt was one of these pianist-composers whose abilities brought on cheering audiences and swooning women. Sure the young Liszt marveled at the fame of this bygone era, but as he aged and matured into a more serious composer he became less interested in technical flair for the sake of the show, instead falling in love with the dramatic, poetic, and constructive aspects of music. He used music as a stage for stories, as a canvas with detailed brushstrokes, as spiritual and introverted reflection. The trajectory of his life was wild; touring and performing and sleeping around, to composer/writer, and joining the Church as a cleric toward the end. This direction shows a man getting quieter and more inward, seeking some universal truth. My favorite pieces by him are the Sonata in b minor, the second Ballade, the bleak Funerailles, his spiraling Variations on a theme by J.S.Bach, the late piano works La Lugubre Gondola and Nuages Gris, and his giant suite, the three Years of Pilgrimage