|Johann Strauss II and Johannes Brahms|
His first and most devoted supporter, Robert Schumann (1810-56), called him "another John the Baptist, whose revelations will puzzle many of the Pharisees, and every one else, for centuries."
Brahms's father, Johann Jakob Brahms, came to Hamburg from Schleswig-Holstein, seeking a career as a town musician. He was proficient on several instruments, but found employment mostly playing the horn and double bass. He married Johanna Henrika Christiane Nissen, a seamstress, who was seventeen years older than he was. Initially, they lived near the city docks, in the Gängeviertel quarter of Hamburg, for six months before moving to a small house on the Dammtorwall, located on the northern perimeter of Hamburg in the Inner Alster.
Johann Jakob gave his son his first musical training. He studied piano from the age of seven with Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel. Brahms showed early promise (his younger brother Fritz also became a pianist) and helped to supplement the rather meager family income by playing the piano in restaurants and theaters, as well as by teaching. It is a long-told tale that Brahms was forced in his early teens to play the piano in bars that doubled as brothels; recently Brahms scholar Kurt Hoffman has suggested that this legend is false. Since Brahms himself clearly originated the story, however, some have questioned Hoffman's theory.
Johannes Brahms, Hungarian Dance No. 5