Johann Straus II - Vergnügungszug (Pleasure Train), op. 281

Johann Strauss II , known for his waltzes and lively compositions, had a unique approach to his creative process. He consistently sought contemporary and relevant themes to serve as the driving force behind his new musical compositions. This approach ensured that his work remained fresh and connected with the audiences of his time.  One notable instance of this creative approach was the composition of this polka, composed in 1864. This piece of music was specifically crafted for a summer concert held in the picturesque Russian town of Pavlovsk. It's fascinating to note that Strauss drew inspiration for this composition from the world around him. In this case, he found it in the emerging technology of the time, namely, the steam locomotive. The composition itself is a testament to Strauss's ability to capture the essence and energy of the subject matter. The rhythm of this dance piece mirrors the rhythmic chugging and movements of the old-fashioned steam trains that were prevale

Johannes Brahms - Forbidden love

In the summer of 1853, twenty-year-old Johannes Brahms was desperate. He had just had a fight with his best friend, the Hungarian violonist Eduard Remènyi, who had mediated for a meeting with the great pianist Liszt, whom he hoped to impress. But Brahms failed to praise Liszt's latest work, thereby undermining any hope of progress from that direction.

Faced with failure, Brahms wrote to violonist Joseph Joachim, who had supported him along the way, asking for his help. Joachim recommended him to visit Dusseldorf in order to meet the distinguished composer Robert Schumann and his pianist wife Clara. On September 30th, thronging with excitement, Brahms sat down to play in front of the woman who was destined to steal his heart forever.

A brilliant young pianist

The sketch of 20-year-old Brahms.
It was done on Robert Schumann's
Robert Schumann, middle-aged and afflicted by various nervous disorders, distinguished Brahm's face as the billiant young pianist he once had. He was heaped praise on him and wrote praise for him in his newspaper, the New Journal for Music. Although he learned not to reveal his feelings, Brahms responded warmly to these expressions of excitement, thus sealing a close friendship with the Schumann family.

His devotion was so great that six months later, in February 1854, when Robert attempted suicide by falling into the Rhine waters, Brahms abandoned everything and rushed to Clara's side. He found a woman on the verge of collapse. She may have made ends meet with the household, her seven children and her flourishing career, but not with a mentally ill husband, who would soom be locked up in a mental hospital and forbidden to visit him.

Though inexperienced in managing a house, Brahms filled the void Schumann had left, as if he were born for that role. He kept detailed accounts of the proceeds from Schumann's published projects and investments, as well as all expenses - from rent, servant's wages and tuition, to the steepest expenses for buying stamps.

Family routine

He rented a room nearby and adapted to a family routine that was meant to last two years. Clara had blind confidence in him. When she returned to the concertow, after the birth of her eighth child, Brahms willingly took on the role of educator. He helped care for younger children while overseeing the progress of the older children at school.

Meanwhile, his own career as a concert pianist had been halted, much to the concern of his parents. They admired him for being there for his friends, but they were anxious for his career. Brahms had no such qualms. He was not fascinated by the idea of earning a living playing the piano and preferred to try his luck as a composer. As his cramped apartment could not fit a piano - which he couldn't get with his meager allowance - he took advantage of the amazing Schumann instrument.

Clara Schumann, whom Brahms fell
desperately in love.

Strong, romantic love

In 1856, after two excruciating years, Schumann died in the asylum, without having found his sanity again. At the time, Brahms's deep devotion to Clara had turned into a great, romantic love. However, he didn't dare talk to her about his feelings. His extremely restrained nature, combined with the tragic circumstances that had brought them together, forbade such a confession.

After Robert's death, Brahms took almost a year to find the courage and confess his love to her.

Clara always knew that the talented young composer loved her, and it didn't discourage him when she needed him so much. Although fourteen years older than him, she was also interested in him and, now that Robert was gone, she was increasingly seeking his friendship and support. At the same time, however, he knew that they had become the subject of gossip and was always trying to keep up appearances.

Spent passion

So it seems rather doubtful whether this relationship ever crossed the line of platonic love. Two years after Schumann's death, Brahms had fallen in love again and his passion for Clara faded. A deep, mutual love took the place of this passion and the two of them remained close friends for forty years.

Clara returned to the concert circuit, captivating Europe for the next 35 years, while Brahms became Germany's gratest living composer. They met whenever they could. Sometimes he'd accept some invitations to towns near where Clara liver, just to see her.

In 1862, having gone to attend the Rhine Music Festival in Cologne, he visited her in Bad Munster am Stein-Ebernburg, while in 1887 he interrupted his summer vacation in Hofstetten to visit her in Frankfurt, where she was giving a concert.

They kept correspondence and sent scores to each other for comment. Brahms was interested in Clara's opinion of his compositions, but he rarely changed anything unless he fully agreed with her. However, Clara first performed ten of his works, in Leipzig in 1854, with the Sonata in F minor.

Clara also comforted him when his First Piano Concerto was staged five years later. He often checked Brahms's compositions for any mistakes. In their rare encounters, such as when he had attended the unveiling of a monument in hor of Schumann in Bonn, in 1880, Clara was fighting him for "sloppy playing" because he did not study regularly. She wrote him endless letters about her family woes, especially when three of her children died, and Brahms spent countless pages of paper reminding her of his eternal support. And, as if she wanted to pay him back for the days when he took care of her home, she took over to put his finances in order when the profits from the versions of his works began to arrive.

Clara's death

Suddenly, in 1890, Brahms inexplicably destroyed many of his personal documents, including Clara's first responses to his fiery love confessions. The magnitude of their passion and the nature of their relationship remained so unclear. The secred died with Clara on May 20, 1896.

Brahms was shocked to hear the news the next day. Although he had realized that Clara's end was nearing, after she had suffered two strokes, the fait accompli of the event severd him mentally. He missed his train and did not make it to her funeral, but he was present in Bonn when she was vuried by her husband's side.

Several of Brahms's friends said Clara's loss also physically shattered him. He managed to compose in her memory his best vocal works, The Four Serious Songs, before succumbing to liver cancer less than a year later, on April 3, 1897, a month before his 64th brithday.