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Composer Cagematch!: Schumann vs. Brahms

Geez, guys, you really had me worried there for a bit. For awhile it looked like Sibelius might win against Grieg, people, Grieg, and that’s just wrong, okay? But it all turned out right! After trailing for a bit, Team Edvard ended up taking down Team Jean by a decisive if not excessive margin. Which is how it SHOULD be.

And now for the juiciest match up yet! Because in this corner, going quite mad, it’s


And in this corner, definitely NOT having an affair with anybody‘s wife…

wait for it… wait for it…


Not that I mean to suggest any kind of interesting May-December thing went on between Clara Schumann and Brahms. There’s no reason why I would even bring it up. I mean, he only lived with them for a time. And Wikipedia only describes their relationship as “emotionally passionate.” Which is perfectly innocent at the core. Clearly.

What were we talking about again? Oh, right, this is the bit where I mention some great accomplishments of the two composers in question. Let’s see… Carnaval. Faust. “Rhenish” symphony. Or, The Academic Festival Overture. Hungarian Dances. The iconic Lullaby.

This is the most Team Jennifer/Team Angelina matchup yet — shiz just got serious!

* I chose this picture because it makes Schumann look vaguely like the guy who played Mr. Collins in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice.

** Updated to add that I am starting to feel that this photo, by contrast, makes Brahms look kinda like Jesse Spencer from House. I might be going nuts.

About Jenn

Despite being the former digital marketing intern at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Jenn German does not like Mozart. Beethoven could've totally beaten him up. Also she has an arts management graduate degree from American University, but this changes nothing.


20 thoughts on “Composer Cagematch!: Schumann vs. Brahms

  1. I wouldn’t doubt that German restraint kept Johannes’s love for Clara at a platonic, non-physical level, but he did love her. I don’t think Brahms would have fooled around with somebody’s wife in her own house with her husband living there.

    But it’s hard to make a choice. Who knows what else Robert Schumann might have accomplished had he not suffered from mental illness?

    I just happened to get back from listening to an album featuring the music of all three composers (Clara Wieck Schumann, Robert Schumann, and Brahms).

    I am not as familiar with R. Schumann’s chamber music as I ought to be, but I would take Brahms’s symphonies over Schumann’s by a hair, and Brahms’s music for cello and Piano over Schumann’s cello music.

    But only slightly.

    Schumann wins on Piano, for me.

    Posted by Michael | May 3, 2011, 8:31 am
  2. Why do you do this to me? Why? *Why?*

    I have to go listen to quartets to calm down now.

    Posted by Autumn | May 3, 2011, 8:54 am
  3. who knew Brahms was so hot? rumor has it that he had a yen for um, *schoolgirls*, so Clara would have been far too worldly for him.

    Brahms is winning by a landslide, which is as it should be, but RS is no slouch.

    I call bad matchmaking on this one. 😉

    Brahms vs Strauss? Now theres a cagematch for you…

    Posted by classicalbcast | May 3, 2011, 8:27 pm
  4. Well, there is the matter of the ‘Clara’ motif popping up all over Brahms’s output. But that’s a different matter.

    As we all know, the debate begins and ends with Ein deutsches Requiem. End of story.

    Then there’s also the fact that Brahms is reputed to have burned everything that wasn’t quite good enough–a practice I wish some other composers and self-styled “music critics” would adopt–and one I took up (metaphorically anyway) some time around my sophomore year of college.

    *Also, he really does look like Mr. Collins. You trying to stack the deck there, Jenn?

    Posted by Eric | May 4, 2011, 8:34 pm
    • What, do you mean to suggest that music lovers might be so shallow as to judge by appearance?!!

      Posted by Jenn | May 4, 2011, 11:27 pm
      • No, no. Not at all. Music lovers are all uniformly rational and deliberate about the making of choices. Classical music lovers especially. They always and without fail consider every question of preference very carefully and would never–not for a moment–ever even consider entertaining any sort of prejudice in any of its myriad forms. Ever.

        Posted by Eric | May 4, 2011, 11:55 pm
    • Oh, whew. For a second there I was afraid all my illusions might be shattered.

      Are you saying you’d do Chase before you’d do Mr. Collins?

      (For the record, my friend Bekah and I like to do his signature hand-to-mouth shut-myself-up move, so there is SOME love for Mr. Collins.)

      Posted by Jenn | May 5, 2011, 9:52 am
      • If I had to choose, I would say, yes, I would do Chase before Mr. Collins. That said, I would do The Doctor or Captain Jack Harkness long before either of them.

        Posted by Eric | May 5, 2011, 8:36 pm
    • For a second I thought you meant the Doctor from Voyager — then realized you meant Who, in which case you’ll have to wait till I’m done with his current incarnation.

      Posted by Jenn | May 5, 2011, 8:47 pm
  5. Schumann’s piano music tells the most exquisite and detailed stories. You can see the characters – especially his own Eusebius and Florestan – permeating each phrase.

    My son’s PIano Quintet just played Schumann’s joyful and exuberant piece of that genre. LOVE all his chamber music.

    Love Brahms’ too, and his symphonies are probably better, but you have to vote for someone, and Schumann takes it by a hair for me.

    Posted by Sheri | May 10, 2011, 4:21 pm
  6. I abstain…

    Posted by Robert Gable | May 13, 2011, 10:32 pm
  7. Howdy would you mind letting me know which web host you’re utilizing? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different internet browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most. Can you recommend a good web hosting provider at a honest price? Thank you, I appreciate it!

    Posted by Britt Courchene | September 22, 2011, 1:08 pm


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