2. LESS IS MORE – January 11, 2016
So, I’m at the stage of cutting material out of the biographical narrative for the performance of Brahms – Biography in Music. A writer friend calls it “killing kittens.” It’s agonizing.
Here, then, is one of my dead kittens: When Brahms was young – a teenager – he identified so much with E.T.A. Hoffman’s protagonist, “Johannes Kreisler” (who also inspired Schumann’s Kreisleriana) that he even signed his letters with the pseudonym “Young Kreisler,” and his early scores with his initials. It was a romantic thing, I guess, to have an alter-ego. But somehow it’s touching to me that the iconic musical genius with the grisly beard, was once a 14 year old boy, who pretended he was someone else. I guess he didn’t know he was going to be Brahms.
Here is Brahms/Young Kreisler in his teens:
And now: the snake that bites his own tail. This a bit complicated, but here goes. Knowing that Brahms identified so with Kreisler, one can imagine his bemusement when a 7-year-old violin prodigy – bearing that name – entered the conservatory in Vienna and lunched in the same musician’s restaurant that he did. Here is that same violinist, Fritz Kreisler, being interviewed in 1955, where he talks of meeting Brahms and being the first to play some of his violin works, at age 12 or so.