First Loves: Conductor Marin Alsop - Bowled Over By Brahms

The topic of the week is "First Loves." Below, conductor Marin Alsop remembers the music and the moment that made her want to become a musician. What was the first piece of classical music you fell madly in love with? Tell us your story in the comments section below.

Conductor Marin Alsop i i

hide captionConductor Marin Alsop was bewitched by Brahms at an early age.

Grant Leighton
Conductor Marin Alsop

Conductor Marin Alsop was bewitched by Brahms at an early age.

Grant Leighton

I remember lots of "firsts" where music is concerned, but there's one that really stands out for me. When I was 14 years old or so, I started attending a summer chamber music camp where we played chamber music day and night.

As I was passing through the dormitory hallway on my way to dinner one evening, I heard strains of a recording coming through someone's door.  I was immediately drawn, almost like a magnet, to that closed door.

The music was mesmerizing, gripping and thrilling. Something happened to me that had never happened before: I felt deeply and profoundly moved by a piece of music. I gradually sank to the floor outside the door and found myself unexpectedly weeping, overcome by the beauty and power of the music.

Brahms: Sextet in B - 1. Allegro

The recording was the String Sextet in B-flat by Johannes Brahms, and I immediately asked my father to buy me a recording of the piece.  I listened to that Amadeus Quartet (and guests) recording so many times that I think I wore it down to a state of see-through vinyl! To this day, when I hear the opening three notes of the B-flat Sextet, I feel transported and transformed.

Brahms Sextet record label.

hide captionMarin Alsop's "First Love" — The 1966 Deutsche Grammophon record label of the Brahms Sextet in B-flat.

Deutsche Grammophon

I understood in that 14-year-old moment that music has the capacity to fundamentally touch and change each one of us, and I fell hopelessly in love with becoming a musician.

This emotional gravitation towards — and attachment to — the music of Brahms has lasted my entire life. And recording the Brahms Symphonies with the London Philharmonic was both deeply satisfying and hugely inspiring for me. I remember feeling again like a teenager in love … but that's what music can do for us all!

Marin Alsop is the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

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