A comparison of the 1854 and 1891 versions of the Piano Trio in B, op. 8, explores how musical allusion can be interpreted to convey Johannes Brahms’s attitudes to critics, friends, other composers and his own past. The young Brahms’s attachment to E. T. A. Hoffmann’s literary alter ego Johannes Kreisler helps explain the extent to which the music of others makes itself heard in the first version of the trio. Changing standards of criticism affected the nature and scope of Brahms’s revision, which expunged perceived allusions; the older Brahms’s more detached compositional approach shared elements with Heinrich Schenker’s analytical perspective. There are also parallels between Brahms’s excisions and the surgical innovations of his friend and musical ally Theodor Billroth. Both Brahms and Billroth were engaged with the removal of foreign bodies in order to preserve organic integrity, but traces of others – and of the past – persist throughout the revised trio.