Art’s Unstoppable Zombie

Johannes Brahms Museum in Hamburg-Neustadt

Autor: Ryan Gresham. You have to wonder why so many people insist that classical music is dead, when there it always, unmistakably, is – still waltzing, still bassooning – in the soundtracks of scores of modern films. There it is, still alive, slinking in during that sad scene, and stomping around during that breathless one – unspooling slowly in the final credits. Today it’s just John Williams and Howard Shore instead of Handel and Liszt; Maurice Jarre and Hans Zimmer, not Mahler and Mendelssohn. Classical music isn’t dead: it’s just dragging itself through darkened movie theaters like a zombie from a horror flick whom the townsfolk thought was good and buried.

If you’re keen to see where many of today’s film composers of the classical bent got their chops, just look at the past masters. And if you’re in Hamburg, you can get an up-close glimpse of one of those early auteurs by stopping by the charming Johannes Brahms Museum on the Peterstraße.

Brahms, by any account, certainly gives the Hansestadt on the Elbe a serious dose of cultural cred: the native Hamburger, along with Bach and Beethoven, is one of Hans von Bülow’s “Three Bs” – that fabled troika of musical mavericks that has come to signify orchestral music at its most soaring. And the Brahms Museum, to its credit, has done a good job of chronicling the composer’s lofty spot in the pantheon; you’ll find biographical tidbits galore on display, including one of Brahms’s early keyboards: a gorgeous Baumgardten & Heins Tafelklavier that looks heavier than an Airbus 380.

If you catch a horror film this Halloween, be on the lookout for ghosts of another kind while watching: the spirits of Johannes Brahms and his cohorts haunting the soundtrack maybe. You might also be reminded that movie zombies aren’t the only things in the art world that refuse to die.

Johannes Brahms Museum, Peterstraße 39, Hamburg