What is the course about?
Brahms’s music epitomises many aspects of nineteenth-century culture that seem to be the complete opposite of Wagner: intensive study of the traditions of the past, a concern with old-fashioned genres like symphonies and string quartets, and a lack of obvious interest in musical story telling. But the picture is more complex than it looks – and his life and works provide a fascinating insight into the hot topics of the day, from nationalism and originality to religion and the art world at large. We will trace the major events of his career, and study a range of compositions across different forms and genres.
What will we cover?
- The key events of Brahms’s biography
- The political events of his lifetime, including the unification of Germany and German-British relations
- The so-called 'War of the Romantics’ and the culture clash with Wagner
- The ways in which Brahms adapted and developed traditional musical forms such as the symphony and sonata
- Brahms’s relationship with the music of the past, from those of his immediate predecessors to Baroque and Renaissance models
- Brahms’s performance career, and his work as an edittor of other composers’ music
- Information about important figures in his circle, including Clara Schumann, Joseph Joachim and Elizabeth von Herzogenberg.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Outline the key details of Brahms’s biography
- List some of the key characteristics of his musical style, and the genres in which he worked
- Describe the important interchange of public and private performance spaces in the nineteenth century
- Describe the major cultural arguments of nineteenth-century music with which he was involved
- Make a more informed assessment of Brahms’s musical achievements.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
No prior knowledge of the subject is required. You do not need to read music to take this course (although we will look at music notation for time-to-time). You will be asked to do some reading in class and between sessions.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Tutor presentation and explanation, including handouts, powerpoint slides or writing on a whiteboard
Guided listening and watching of audio and audio-visual examples
Class discussion and debate
Listening and reading outside class is encouraged and once enrolled further online resources will be recommended.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Please bring a notebook and pen.
You may wish to buy some of the music or books recommended in class.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
To find out more about music history classes and to read our year-long selection of courses, please see the blog post Music history: your guide to the 2019/20 programme which lists our full programme of classes ordered by term, and by day of the week. You may then click on each title to read the full course outline.