Brahms stayed with the Schumann's for a few days, and Robert was so impressed with the music he heard from the young composer that he wrote an article for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal of Music) announcing Brahms to the musical world. The article titled Neue Bahnen (New Paths) begins with Schumann writing briefly about new and upcoming composers until he reveals the name of Brahms:
High praise that did as much harm as good, for it put undue pressure on a 20-year old composer that
...I thought of the paths of these chosen ones that pursued the art of music with the greatest participation, there must suddenly appear one who would be appointed to utter the highest expression of time ideally, one who did not bring us the championship gradually, but, like Minerva, would spring from the head of Zeus fully formed. And he has come, a young blood, at whose cradle Graces and Heroes stood guard. His name is Johannes Brahms... His appearance announced to us: this is an anointed one. Sitting at the piano he revealed wonderful regions. We were drawn into ever widening circles, which made an orchestra of wailing and loud cheering voices from the piano. There were sonatas, more like veiled symphonies; songs whose poetry you without knowing the words would understand, although a deep singing melody passed through all; single piano pieces, partly demonic, partly of the most graceful form; then sonatas for Violin and piano; Quartets for strings; and each so different from the others... May the highest Genius strengthen his genius!
Robert and Clara Schumann
was still finding his way. Brahms was self-critical by nature, and this passing of the mantle made him even more so.
When Schumann attempted suicide in early 1854, he voluntarily had himself put into a mental hospital for Clara and his children's sake. Brahms lived in the Schumann household intermittently from that time until Schumann's death in 1856. During this time he wrote two piano quartets, No. 1 In G minor opus 25, and No. 2 In A Major opus 26. He also drafted a third piano quartet in C-sharp minor, but this one wasn't to achieve its final form until almost twenty years later.
On the cover you must have a picture, namely a head with a pistol to it. Now you can form some conception of the music! I’ll send you my photograph for the purpose.Brahms remained somewhat dissatisfied with the work as it didn't have its premiere until 1875, a year after it was published. It is in 4 movements:
I. Allegro non troppo - Brahms was labeled as a musical conservative by the followers of the 'New Music' of Liszt and Wagner for a number of reasons, not least of all for his keeping with tradition by writing in the traditional forms of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. The writing of chamber music especially was considered old fashioned. But Brahms was did not slavishly keep to an academic model of these forms. He utilized sonata form in the broadest sense of the term, and was innovative in ways to use it. It is never an easy task to technically make your way through a major work of Brahms. The relationships of themes are often blurred as themes appear different that are actually closely related. And his use of modulation between keys is far from conservative. The first movement of this quartet is a good example of how he used all of these elements within a traditional form to suit his musical expression. This movement was one of the original two movement he wrote in 1855 for the quartet. It begins with octaves by the piano which are answered by a sighing figure. The piano again plays bare octaves, and is answered with a slight variant of the sighing theme. A short development leads to a downward figure that brings in the first theme. The second theme is first heard in the solo piano, after which there are 4 variations, each eight measures long like the theme. A variant of the first theme brings the exposition to a close. After a short section based on previous material, what appears to be a new theme in B major is loudly stated:
II. Scherzo: Allegro - This movement was perhaps composed in the 1860's, between the initial composition of the work and the final version. It is in C minor, the same key as the first movement. The music is terse and coarse as the scherzo plays through until a quasi-trio section begins with a new theme but continues in the same mood. The scherzo returns and is slightly shortened. A short coda brings the movement to a close with a Picardy Third, a term for the closing of a work in a minor mode with a major chord:
III. Andante - This movement along with the first movement is part of the music of the draft written in 1855. It is in E major, a key of four sharps that is somewhat far removed from the home key of C minor with 3 flats. It is the only movement of the quartet not in C minor. It begins with a long, sweet melody for the cello (an instrument that Brahms studied briefly in his youth) with piano accompaniment:
IV. Finale: Allegro comodo - The final movement returns to C minor and the piano plays a restless theme under the theme played by the violin: