Personalities of the musicians

Dividing the concert takings

In 1866 Brahms and the violinist Joachim gave a concert tour through Switzerland.  One of their concerts was in Aarau.

After the program, Brahms and Joachim went to a tavern, where they opened several bottles of the best vintage Swiss wine, including the popular vin mousseux of Lausanne.  Brahms felt decidedly genial.

“How did we do this evening, my friend?” he asked the concert manager.

“Very well, very well!” the small, meek-looking manager replied, rubbing his hands together.  “I have all the receipts in here,” he whispered, pointing to a small sack which he held close to his side.

“Give it to us!’ exclaimed Joachim, seizing the bag.  “Here, Hannes, we’ll divvy up the swag.”

“Gentlemen – but, please, I haven’t yet made up my accounts,” the little man cried anxiously.

“No matter – we’ll divide it anyhow.  Here, Hannes – a five-franc piece for you.” He tossed a silver coin to Brahms.

By this time a crowd had gathered round to watch the fun.  Piece by piece the “swag” was doled out – one to Yussuf, one to Johannes.  Finally, nothing was left but a twenty-franc note.  “I’ll take that,” said Joachim, non-nonchalantly putting the bill in his pocket.

“Hold on – that’s mine!” Brahms shouted in an outraged voice.

“And how do you figure that out?” “

Why, I played the best part of the program – all my own solos, and your accompaniment besides.”

“Listen -” Joachim addressed the company. “That fellow is a complete egotist.” He fixed Johannes with an accusing eye.  “Didn’t you insist that your name should be printed first on all the programs?”

“Correct alphabetical order,” grumbled Johannes.¨

“Alphabetical order? Musical sequence is more important than anything else.  It should be:¨

Joachim Brahms

“Why,” he went on, “I was playing in concerts – a big artist – when you were still in the nursery.” (Nursery! thought Brahms, remembering the Hamburg dance-Halls [where he played as a boy].) “Yes,” Joachim insisted, “this money rightfully belongs to me.”

“On guard!” shouted Johannes in mock fury, seizing a tall alpenstock that stood near, and thrusting another into Yussef’s hands.  “We’ll fight for it.”

“Gentlemen! Gentlemen!” begged the anguished manager; but no one paid any attention to him.  Then suddenly he left the room.  Just as the two friends were about to attack each other, the little man returned, waving two ten-franc notes.

“Stop!” he cried.  “See – here is change – !”

Madeleine & Schauffler, Robert (1943) Brahms The Master. New York: Henry Holt and Company, p.213-14.

By Greg

Australian composer and pianist