Personal Recollections of Johannes Brahms (1907) by George Henschel: The Journal, p. 39, July 12 [1876]

July 12

I went to Brahms’ rooms last night. He had been reading, but put away his book, gave me a cordial welcome and began looking through my new manuscript songs. He too up the one in E flat “Where Angels linger,” (Henschel’s footnote. Afterwards published in Op. 34 (Bote & Bock). and said, “Now there is a charming song. In some of the others you seem to me too easily satisfied. One ought never to forget that by actually perfecting one piece one gains and learns more than by commencing or half-finishing a dozen. Let it rest, let it rest, and keep coming back to it and working at it over and over again, until it is completed as a finished work of art, until there is not a note too much or too little, not a bar you could improve upon. Whether it is beautiful also, is an entirely different matter, but perfect it must be. You see, I am rather lazy, but I never cool down over a work, once begun, until it is perfected, unassailable.”

Thus, he continued speaking, drawing, in the most amiable way, my attention to this little defect, that little blemish, so that I sat happy and silent, careful not to interrupt this to me so precious lesson.

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) Portrait of George Henschel 1889 Oil on canvas The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Notes

The portrait by Sargent is not in Henschel’s book.

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