Dr Caroline Rae features in the BBC’s latest iWonder Guide

22 October 2014

'Love him or hate him – what's the trouble with Brahms?' is the question posed by a new BBC iWonder Guide presented by Tom Service in association with Dr Caroline Rae, Senior Lecturer at the School of Music.

The BBC's innovative new iWonder series aims to unlock learning potential in BBC content and is designed to create a permanent library of online material exploring thought-provoking answers to questions sparked by BBC programmes.

This latest in the BBC's iWonder series was launched to coincide with BBC Radio 3's week-long Brahms Experience event and has featured links on the BBC's News Page as well as BBC Radio 3's homepage.

Although one of the most widely performed composers of all time, Johannes Brahms was heavily criticised by other great composers through the years, including Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Benjamin Britten. The BBC iWonder Guide explores these criticisms – asking if they are an accident of history or a product of musical and personality flaws in the complex, elusive character of the composer.

Dr Rae said: "Brahms hid himself behind a mask of reservation which might have promoted certain views about him being a dry and academic composer, but when you listen to his music and realise how effusive, expressive and personal it is, you start to understand how his late works are some of the greatest gems we have in Western music."

In interviews filmed for the Guide, Dr Rae and Tom Service discuss the reception of history of Brahms's music, and Brahms's impact on popular culture, especially in France. In another video on the site, Dr Rae explains how Brahms became caught up in the 'War of the Romantics' – an aesthetic schism that developed in Germany, with German composers, in the second half of the 19th century.

The Guide, describing Brahms as a 'marmite' composer, also offers readers the opportunity to take part in a simple vote to say whether you like Brahms 'yes', 'no' or 'sometimes'.