I subscribe to the Composer’s Datebook daily newsletter. I find it an interesting source of trivia and more, and I learn a lot from it.

And not just about music.

Take today’s topic for instance.

On 12 December, 1891, two works were premiered in Berlin; great works for clarinet in particular, and chamber music in general. The first a Trio (clarinet, piano, cello) and a Quintet (clarinet, string quartet).

Brahms’ creativity had been at a low ebb, he was exceptionally moody and grumpy.

I have tormented myself to no purpose lately,” he told one friend. “Till now I never had to do so at all, things always came easily to me.” 

Then in the beginning of 1891, he heard an exceptionally gifted clarinettist, one Richard Mühlfeld, in the Duke of Meiningen’s orchestra. Suddenly Brahms was alive again, so taken was he by this man’s playing. He spent all of the summer writing the two works.

The point comes home again and again when one studies the lives of these musical giants, that they all experienced self-doubt, low patches, just like the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they never quite gave up.

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