Six days after the Hamburg debut of his First Piano Concerto, on January 28, 1859, Johannes Brahms wrote an assessment to violinist Joseph Joachim in Leipzig:

Dearest Friend–Even though I’m still quite stunned by the sublime delights that have assaulted my eyes and ears for the last few days via the sight and sound of the wise men of our musical town, I will force this hard and pointed steel pen to tell you how it happened that my concerto has been here a brilliant and decisive–failure.

First off I have to say that it was really done very well. I played far better than I did at Hanover, and the orchestra was excellent.

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The first rehearsal sparked no kind of feeling either in the performers or in the audience. No audience at all came to the second, and not a performer moved a muscle of his face.

In the evening Cherubini’s Elisa Overture was performed, and then an Ave Maria by him was sung softly….The first and second movements of the concerto were listened to without the least manifestation of feeling. At the end three pairs of hands were brought together very slowly until an unmistakable hissing from all sides ruled out any such demonstration.

There’s nothing more to say about this episode, for not a soul has said a word to me about the work! With the exception of David, who took a great interest in it, and was very kind and went to a lot of trouble to say something about it….

This failure has made no impression whatsoever on me, and any feeling of depression I may have had evaporated when I heard Haydn’s C major symphony and [Beethoven’s] Ruins of Athens. In spite of everything, the concerto will meet with approval when I have perfected its form, and the next one will be quite different.