Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg in 1833 as the second of three children. His father was a double bass player, and Johannes was introduced to the piano at the age of seven. In a very short time it was realised that here was a child with a musical gift.
As a young lad he played for pocket money in Hamburg bars – an unpleasant experience considering the typical clientele in the pubs of such a large port. By the age of seventeen he was already an accomplished musician, and while still twenty he visited and played for the composers Robert and Clara Schumann. This was the beginning of a great friendship which was tragically affected by the loss of Robert Schumann’s mental health and his premature death.
In 1857 he was appointed Director of Music to a princely court near Hanover, and in his time there he composed his first piano concerto. By the time he was thirty he was living in Vienna, and his music was selling well (no small thanks to Clara Schumann who played his piano pieces). Brahms completed his first symphony in 1876, and his 40s and 50s were recognised as his golden period.
Johannes himself was a shy person and led a simple life; he rarely expressed his inner feelings except in letters to close friends and through his music. He died of cancer in April 1897.

The 2012 Championship test piece was the Academic Festival Overture by Johannes Brahms, arranged for flutes by Philip Walton.
Brahms composed the overture as a means of thanking the University of Breslau for awarding him an Honorary Doctorate. Apparently he had planned to write a note of thanks, but was advised that protocol demanded much more.
Brahms conducted the premier himself in January 1881, and the piece has been a regular concert favourite ever since. The composer was well known for his sense of humour and he included a number of student drinking songs – which didn’t go down well with some of the “stiffer” academics present in the audience.