By Ariel Margolin
Two musical greats meet on the field of battle today, and although this is no Stamford Bridge, a hand will be raised. Johannes Brahms, one of the “3 B’s” of Classical Music (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms), gave the Romantic Era of music his German intensity and structure. Frederic Chopin, a half-Polish, half-French Pianist, is known for adding just a honey-comb of melancholy to his music. Although his name is unknown to most, his music is instantly recognizable for its use in many a movie's score.
In order to understand the music, it is the men behind it we must see, for music is “the mirror to the heart.” Chopin was born on March 1st 1810 to a Frenchman who tutored the Polish Aristocracy and married a daughter of one of his employer’s empty-pocketed relatives. Brahms was born on the 7th of May in 1833 to a well-to-do Protestant family in Holstein. The origins of the composers are important to note as they both reflect their homelands, Brahms in his manic German perfectionism, and Chopin in his Mazurkas and various Polish odes. Yet this is not to say these men were confined to these particular modes. Brahms was no unblinking Funnybot; his complex overtures had deep romantic elements and Chopin only wrote Nationalistic pieces as an occasional thank-you to his “Day-Ones.” Both men were quite similar in personality; they were both irascible introverts. Chopin hated delivering live performances more than an orca at Seaworld, and Brahms took frequent arms-behind-back strolls through the Viennese forests.
To me, the defining difference between the two is the impression of their music; Chopin’s music sounds like a Godiva commercial with but a teardrop to finish, and Brahms’ makes you want to make it onto a Forbes list. Chopin ties the perfect dour bow-tie to his musical gifts, whereas Brahms has this grandiosity to make the foundations of the world shake. Chopin’s Spring Waltz has a crystalline texture that feels like a melting snowflake as you listen. Brahms’ beauty does not come in a delicate package, but in an intense listening experience. Even the calm periods of his music have this intensity as if crouching before jumping. Give a listen to Hungarian Dance No. 5 and Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 to hear the opposing styles if you think I’m a “Phoneygraph.”
There is no better or worse composer; they both simply have their own mood. Cafe Americano vs. Espresso, Suntanning vs. Cliff-Diving, Safari vs. Sandals; they can’t be considered “better” or “worse,” for they compete in different categories, sports even. They each have their time and place; I wouldn’t play Brahms for expectant mothers, as I wouldn’t play Chopin in a D.D.R. tournament. For us Oyster Bayers it is important to peek outside the shell, for it’s a big world out their children. Try making yourself more cultured than a yogurt, your quality of life will show, money back guarantee.
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