Like Beethoven, Brahms was fond of nature and often went walking in the
woods around Vienna. He often brought penny candy with him to hand out to
children. To adults Brahms was often brusque and sarcastic, and he sometimes
alienated other people. His pupil Gustav Jenner wrote, "Brahms has acquired,
not without reason, the reputation for being a grump, even though few could
also be as lovable as he." He also had predictable habits which were noted
by the Viennese press such as his daily visit to his favourite 'Red
Hedgehog' tavern in Vienna and the press also particularly took into account
his style of walking with his hands firmly behind his back complete with a
caricature of him in this pose walking alongside a red hedgehog. Those who
remained his friends were very loyal to him, however and he reciprocated in
return with equal loyalty and generosity. He was a lifelong friend with
Johann Strauss II though they were very different as composers. Brahms even
struggled to get to the Theater an der Wien in Vienna for Strauss' premiere
of the operetta Die Göttin der Vernunft in 1897 before his death. Perhaps
the greatest tribute that Brahms could pay to Strauss was his remark that he
would have given anything to have written The Blue Danube waltz. An
anecdote dating around the time Brahms became acquainted with Strauss is
that the former cheekily inscribed the words 'alas, not by Brahms!' on the
autograph score of the famous 'Blue Danube' waltz.
Starting in the 1860's, when his works sold widely, Brahms was
financially quite successful. He preferred a modest life style, however,
living in a simple three-room apartment with a housekeeper. He gave away
much of his money to relatives, and also anonymously helped support a number
of young musicians.
Brahms was an extreme perfectionist. For instance, it is thought that the
symphony we know as the First may not have been the first he composed, since
Brahms very often destroyed completed works that failed to meet his standard
of quality. Another factor that contributed to Brahms's perfectionism was
that Schumann had announced early on that Brahms was to become the next
great composer like Beethoven, a prediction that Brahms was determined to
live up to. This prediction hardly added to the composer's self-confidence,
and may also have contributed to the delay in producing the First Symphony.
However, Clara Schumann noted before that Brahms' First Symphony was a
product that was not reflective of Brahms' real nature as she felt that the
final exuberant movement was 'too brilliant' as she was encouraged by the
dark and tempestuous opening movement when Brahms first sent to her the
initial draft. However, she recanted in accepting his sunny Second Symphony
and was a lifelong supporter of that famous work in D major, one of Brahms'
rare key usage.