BBC Music Magazine
The bearded, avuncular Brahms familiar from photos dates from 1878 onwards, when he surprised friends with a change of look. The last years of his life, during which he wrote his Clarinet Quintet, saw the German composer enjoying the close friendship of Johann Strauss II and spending summers at his residence in Bad Ischl, Austria, where he wrote much of his later music. His initial announcement that he was to retire from composing in 1890 (see right) was followed by another one in 1894. In fact his final works, written in 1896, were his Eleven Chorale Preludes for organ.