Works Dedicated to Brahms

The extensive series of works dedicated to Brahms underscores once again the central place that the composer held in European musical life of the second half of the nineteenth century. That Brahms granted special attention to these works is evinced by a list of “dedications” that he personally maintained. In extensive research, the Institut has found 92 compositions that were composed between 1953 and 1902 and dedicated to Brahms. The compositions, which are now almost all contained in the Lübeck collection, provide a reflection of Brahms’ own genre-preferences. Piano works dominate the group, making up over a third, followed by chamber music with over 25 percent and orchestral works with 10 percent. Choral works and songs make up a smaller portion of the works, and, revealingly, an opera is lacking entirely in this catalogue of dedications.

Further aspects allow for a differentiated ordering of the works: first of all there are eight works that were dedicated to Brahms’ posthumously, between 1897 and 1902. They have been included, in contrast to the later works of the twentieth century, because, firstly, they were created under the immediate impression of the death of the composer, and secondly, were still created in the time frame of the publication of his last work with an opus number, the Choral Preludes op. 122, printed in 1902. The dedicated works include requiem-like works like Rheinberger’s Mass (1897), various pieces of chamber music, two piano pieces by Max Reger (one with the eloquent title Resignation), but also two symphonic works from 1901 and 1902 that bear on the title page the words “in memory of Brahms” and thus are stylistically written in honor of the composer. 

Another group of works are those composed by close friends of Brahms and in part were reactions to works that Brahms dedicated himself had dedicated to them: these include the piano works by Clara and Robert Schumann from the first years of their acquaintance with Brahms, works by prominent acquaintances such as Johann Strauss and Antonín Dvorák or friends of many years like Joseph Joachim, Julius Otto Grimm, Carl Georg Peter Grädener, Albert Dietrich, Robert Fuchs, Julius Stockhausen or Theodor Kirchner, to name just a few. Written remarks suggest that Brahms did not consider dedications a meaningless gesture: he wrote to Ernst Rudorff in 1869:

“In any case, dedicating a work seems to be the most honorable and amicable gift that can be given or received”, or to Bernhard Scholz in 1878, “There is no better gift than a dedication” — but he could also be intentionally ambiguous in his praise when something displeased him. He thanked Joseph Rheinberger for the piano pieces dedicated to him with the following: “I have to admit that while playing them I sometimes have to sigh. One can sense the lovely domesticity in which you live and work.”

The institute was supported by three additional libraries that contributed 17 dedicated works that were still lacking in the institute’s collection for the Internet presentation. Our thanks to the music division of Munich’s Bayerische Staatsbibliothek for allowing us to scan the 13 works located there and now making them accessible via direct link from the website of the Brahms-Institut. The libraries of the Universität der Künste, Berlin and Wissenschaftliche Stadtbibliothek Mainz sent their scores to Lübeck so that they could be digitized on site.

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