Hogwood found the music in a book that belonged to the director of music in the German university town of Göttingen. "He saw signatures of the famous musicians who had come to dinner with him, including Liszt and Schumann – and was astonished to find this complete little work by Brahms, written when he was 20," said Tom Service, presenter of Music Matters and a Guardian classical music writer. "It was really thrilling to hear it in the studio – it felt like we were discovering something."
Roger Wright, controller of Radio 3, said the work was "an incredible discovery which gives a fascinating insight into the workings of this great composer".
The piece is especially significant as the tune reappears, in a different key, in the second movement of Brahms's horn trio, written 12 years later. Service said that although Brahms was assiduous at destroying all his unfinished pieces, "because he'd left this at somebody's house he couldn't".
"It shows that he'd been carrying around that tune for years. That could be the case with all the other music we thought he wrote later – it may have had all kinds of prehistories that he destroyed," he added.
Written on a single side of music manuscript, the piece bears Brahms's markings and dynamics and is, says Service, relatively easy to play. "It's a little Brahmsian gem that all pianists will surely want to play after they hear it in its belated premiere performance and broadcast next week, 159 years after it was composed."