hamburg philharmonic

Die Elbphilharmonie is a concert hall in the HafenCity quarter of Hamburg, Northern Germany. Construction work is scheduled to end in Oct 2016, with an announced opening date in Jan 2017. Parts of the building will be rented by the Westin Hotel Hamburg; the upper floors west of the concert hall will accommodate apartments.

Brahmsology 101
  • As a boy Brahms spent time on a farm in the country, where he would go for a swim at dawn, help with chores, and then be set free for the day. He would often carry a practice keyboard out into the fields. After he did not return for dinner one evening, his hosts found him asleep far from the farmhouse, snuggling with his little silent keyboard. He had been badly sunburned.
  • As is well known, he spent time as a young boy playing for low wages in dockside brothels. It is thought that he picked up two lifelong habits here: an unease in sexual relations with women, and an unremitting love of popular dance rhythms. 
  • One of Brahms’ early conducting gigs was as director of a ladies’ chorus in Hamburg. After rehearsals he could sometimes be found drinking in a public park; he liked to climb into a tree, from which point he would entertain the ladies in the chorus below. 
  • His heart may have belonged to Clara, but particularly as he aged he took an … interest … in a series of much younger women. He was particularly fond of women with beautiful singing voices and sharp wits.
  • Brahms had a mortal fear of traveling overseas. He was susceptible to extreme seasickness and only very rarely left the German-speaking countries of central Europe, the major exceptions being several trips to Italy. This dislike of sea-travel was the biggest factor in his refusal to travel to England to accept an honorary doctorate (twice). He was also self-conscious about his inability to speak languages other than German.
  • Especially in chamber and piano music, there is some evidence that Brahms often hastily sketched out the bass line and melodic foreground as two simple voices in their entirety before proceeding. These early sketches are rare because Brahms habitually destroyed them, but where they exist they correspond almost perfectly with the finished products, suggesting that he did much of the work of composition quickly and in his head. 
  • He was fastidiously, obsessively neat in the organization of his papers and of all matters related to music, but kept a dirty and disorganized household and dressed cheaply and sloppily regardless of his wealth.
  • For almost all his adult life, Brahms viewed himself as a failure for not having attained the leadership of the philharmonic in Hamburg, his hometown, and he blamed this failure for his lack of a wife and family. When the post was finally offered to him shortly before his death, he turned it down. Brahms avoided leadership posts in general because of his distaste for logistics and politics; but though he worked with many orchestras of quality far superior to Hamburg’s, he always coveted the post for sentimental, idealized reasons. 
  • Brahms was a great writer of elegant letters, but detested writing them.
  • He did not respond well to either criticism or praise, and would answer both with much the same gruff disregard.
  • Brahms in his maturity spent only a few spring and summer months of each year engaged in actual composition, typically at country homes or resort towns in the mountains such as Bad Ischl, which became his “second home.” Like his friend Johann Strauss Sohn, Brahms was most happy working outdoors, at a clerk’s standing desk.
  • Though he sometimes alienated friends with his distracted and brittle nature, he was a profoundly warm-hearted man who thrilled at the chance to give sweets to the beggar children who would often appear the kitchen windows of wealthy homes he visited. Brahms donated the majority of his wealth and property to various musical organizations, seldom checked his own bank balance, and showed no concern when he once lost a vast sum of money in an investment gaffe. He answered fan mail regularly, and seldom refused an opportunity to help a young musician – professionally or financially – if the suggestion came from a trusted source.
  • Brahms met Tchaikovsky almost by accident during a music festival. Brahms was fond of Tchaikovsky and said pleasant things about his music; Tchaikovsky, notoriously uptight and judgmental of himself and others, did not return the sentiment, and later spoke of Brahms as a talentless hack who drank too much. Their personalities clashed violently, but only the Russian master seemed to be aware of it and bothered by it. 
  • It is conceivable that among the well-known composers of the 19th century, none surpassed Brahms in scholarly knowledge and artistic mastery of pre-classical procedures and forms. His contrapuntal skill was extraordinary, at times jaw-dropping in its effortlessness, and he delighted in burying intricately wrought canons within his music, seldom overtly displaying his skill except in certain formal choral works and isolated passages elsewhere.
  • The city of Vienna came to life in celebration of Brahms’ 60th birthday. Quite embarrassed at the prospect, he secretly fled with a friend to Sicily and sent thank-you cards and telegrams back to Vienna. He spent his actual birthday taking care of his friend’s ankle after it was twisted in a fall.
  • When Brahms fell into his last illness he grew concerned that he was rapidly losing weight. His longtime landlady Celestine Truxa would secretly take in the seams of his clothes to alleviate this concern.  
  • Brahms wrote no music in the last months of his life, but his final composition had been an organ prelude on the Lutheran chorale, “O world, I must leave thee.” He expected it to be his last, though he did not let on to others that he knew himself to be finished. When news of Brahms’ death reached Hamburg, the flags of all ships in the harbor were dropped to half mast. Like his musician father, Brahms died from cancer of the liver.