Coblence on the Rhine, February 26.
Brahms and I were the soloists at the orchestral concert which took place last night under Maszkowski’s conductorship. The day before was the final full rehearsal (“Generalprobe”) to which in most places in Germany the public are admitted. Brahms had played Schumann’s Concerto in A Minor and missed a good many notes. So in the morning of the day of the concert he went to the Concert Hall to practice. He had asked me to follow him thither a little later and to rehearse with him the songs – his, of course – he was to accompany me in the evening. When I arrived at the hall I found him quite alone, seated at the piano and working away for all the worth, on Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasia” and Schumann’s Concerto. He was quite red in the face, and, interrupting himself for a moment on seeing me stand beside him, said with that childlike, confiding expression in his eyes: “Really, this is too bad. Those people tonight expect to hear something especially good and here I am likely to treat them to a hoggish mess. I assure you, I could play today, with the greatest ease, far more difficult things, with wider stretches for the fingers, my own concerto for example, but those simple diatonic runs are exasperating. I keep saying to myself: ‘But Johannes, pull yourself together, – Do play decently,’ – but no use; it’s really horrid.”
After our little private rehearsal of the songs Brahms, Maszkowski, who had in the meantime joined us, and I repaired to Councillor Wegeler’s, Brahms’ host, in accordance with an invitation to inspect the celebrated and really wonderful wine-cellars of his firm, and to partake of a little luncheon in the sample room afterwards. Toward the end of the repast, which turned out to be a rather sumptuous affair, relished by Brahms as much as by any of us, a bottle of old Rauenthaler of the year ’65 was opened, with due ceremony, by our host. It proved indeed to be a rare drop, and we all sat in almost reverential silence, bent over the high, light-green goblets, which we held in close proximity to our respective noses. Wegeler at last broke the silence with the solemn words: “Yes, gentlemen, what Brahms is among the composers, this Rauenthaler is among the wines.” Quick as lightning Brahms exclaimed: “Ah, then let’s have a bottle of Bach now!”
The concert went of well, as did the supper afterward. Brahms was in particularly high spirits. The many proofs of sincere admiration and affection he had received during his stay in Coblence had greatly pleased and touched him, and he went so far as to make a speech – a very rare thing with him.
Rauenthaler wine is still available today.