May 7 - Beethoven! Brahms! Tchaikovsky!


    Posted on May 7, 2022

This is an update of my post published on May 7, 2011:

Today we celebrate the birthdays of German composer Johannes Brahms (1833) and Russian composer Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840). It's also the anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven's world premiere of his Ninth Symphony (1824).

Wow! Big day in musical history, huh?

Let's take these in order:

Ludwig van Beethoven

1824 – Beethoven's Ninth Symphony played for the first time!

Remember, Beethoven didn't take a lot of time and trouble to name his musical works. This particular symphony's actual name is Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125. This was Beethoven's final complete symphony, and it is considered one of the best-known and greatest musical compositions ever written.

Have you ever heard this bit, called Ode to Joy?

Johannes Brahms

1833 – Johannes Brahms born in Germany.

Because Brahms was German, like Beethoven, many people considered him Beethoven's successor. I imagine that this made Brahms feel a little insecure, when he was young—how do you live up to greatness?—and apparently he resisted writing a symphony for years because he was “afraid his work would not be as good.”

Brahms at age 20

Eventually he got over his fear and produced four symphonies, and Brahms is often included with Bach and Beethoven in the “Three Bs.”

You may have heard Brahms' Lullaby.

1840 – Pytor (Peter) Ilich Tchaikovsky born in Russia.

As a kid, Peter Tchaikovsky was a good musician. But his parents didn't think that was an “acceptable” profession, and they made him go to law school to prepare for a job in the civil service. He continued to study and work on music on the side. After three years in the civil service, and against his family's wishes, he quit his job and studied music full-time.

A wealthy widow became Tchaikovsky's patroness, sending him money every year so he could concentrate on composing music. She made sure that they would never meet face-to-face, but they exchanged more than a thousand letters over the course of 14 years!

You probably know Tchaikovsky's ballets The Nutcracker Suite  (which we can hear in the Disney movie Fantasia), The Sleeping Beauty (which we can hear in the Disney movie of the same name), and Swan Lake. Another super-famous piece he wrote is Romeo and Juliet Theme.


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