Brahms to Clara Schumann, 24 Feb, 1858
BRAHMS to CLARA
Hamburg, Wednesday, Feb. 24.
I ought not to wait till there is something to answer. Your bad arm and your renewed concert activities must teach me patience. To cheer you up let me tell you of a little musical episode that has happened here. The Schubert Duet is already back at my place and will not be performed. Grund told me that on the piano he did not like the work at all, but that the instrumentation was beautiful – the work itself tedious and unmelodious. They tried it once the other day and after the rehearsal the conductor Lindenau and the rest confirmed this verdict and the work was laid aside.
There are no melodies in it!
It is boring!
Otten’s concert was not very good. They hurried the Schubert Symphony to death and the Overture to the Bride of Messina fared even worse…. A boring Concerto by Spohr and an even more boring one by Bott himself were also not edifying. The lady singer was fairly good and the Robespierre Overture concluded the entertainment. The score lay open on the desk. Otten looked into it, caught hold of it, held it up in the air, shut the book up and handed it to Boie, who stared at him with astonishment. Then Otten extended his two wings and – started off with all the wondrous beauties, which his magic wand was to conjure out of the orchestra, in his own head.
I did not see Otten again, but I really must decide to go out to him one of these days. On the other hand he might also have contrived to give me a word of thanks for playing at his old penny popular…
Do not be surprised, dear Clara, if I do not speak about my own works. I do not like to and I cannot do so. All of you, particularly you, think me different from what I am. I am never, or very seldom, in the least bit pleased with myself. I never feel quite happy, but fluctuate between contentment and depression. But I am so little given to complaining to others about my lack of genius and skill, and dislike doing it so much, that I naturally look different from what I feel. In addition I feel so happy when at times I am able to please other people and particularly yourself, for instance, that people notice my mood and think that I am self-satisfied and confident of victory. Oh, if one could only look inside oneself and find out how much of the divine one has in one’s constitution!
Write and let me know how your arm is getting on, and let me tell you that I have been suffering for some weeks with a bad finger, which looks as though it were going to last for some time, as I am constantly forgetting to dress it and make no attempt to restrict my playing on account of it. It is a sort of fissure which has been aggravated by the cold and the heat. Farewell, beloved being. Write to me at length about yourself. Your JOHANNES
Everybody sends you greetings.
Litzmann, Berthold, Ed., Letters of Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms 1853-1896, Vol. I, Edward Arnold & Co. 1927, pp. 82-83.