A Brahms Reader

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Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was prominent not only as a composer but as a pianist, conductor, editor, scholar, collector, and friend of many notables. He was also, in private, an articulate critic, connoisseur of other arts, and traveler. In this enlightening book, the eminent Brahms scholar Michael Musgrave presents a comprehensive and original account of the composer's private and professional lives.

Drawing on an array of documentary materials, Musgrave weaves together diverse strands to illuminate Brahms's character and personality; his outlook as a composer; his attitudes toward other composers; his activities as pianist and conductor; his scholarly and cultural interests; his friendships with Robert and Clara Schumann and others; his social life and travel; and critical attitudes toward his music from his own time to the present.

The book quotes extensively from Brahms's own words and those of his circle. Musgrave mines the composer's letters, reminiscences of his contemporaries, early biographies, reviews, and commentary by friends, critics, and scholars to create an unparalleled source of information about Brahms. The author sets the materials in context, identifies sources in detail, includes a glossary of information on principal individuals, and notes recent research on the composer. This engaging biographical work, with a gallery of illustrations, will appeal to general music lovers as well as to scholars with a special interest in Brahms.

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Editorial Reviews

John Daverio
Elegantly written and broad in scope. A richly drawn portrait of one of [music’s] most significant—but elusive—figures.
Walter Frisch
This volume immediately takes its place as an indispensable publication on Brahms.
Richard Cormier
Unique and compellingly written. —Tampa Tribune Times
Hilary Finch
A lucid and comprehensive overview of Brahms documentation and scholarship. —BBC Music Magazine
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Of all the books about Brahms 1833-1897 that have appeared since the centenary of his death, none is more comprehensive than Musgrave's The Music of Brahms. This reader, while not a chronological narrative, examines various letters and reminiscences of Brahms's contemporaries, organized into broad categories: Brahms the Man; Brahms the Composer; Brahms the Performer; Brahms the Scholar and Student of the Arts; The Social Brahms: Friendship and Travel; and Brahms in Perspective. Musgrave, a visiting professor of music at the University of London, places Brahms's obsession with Clara Schumann, wife of his mentor Robert Schumann, in the broader context of the composer's difficult relationship with women--and Brahms fans should be prepared for shocks. The social reformer Ethel Smyth wrote this about Brahms: "If they [women] did not appeal to him he was incredibly awkward and ungracious; if they were pretty he had an unpleasant way of leaning back in his chair, pouting out his lips, stroking his mustache, and staring at them as a greedy boy stares at jam tartlets." The book bursts with Brahms's feelings about life and art, and completing the picture are the opinions of close colleagues Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim, composers who praised him Schoenberg and Mahler and those who condemned him Wagner, Liszt and Tchaikovsky, the latter of whom wrote, "I never could, and never can admire his music". Brahms called his requiem A German Requiem rather than The German Requiem. It is tempting to suggest the opposite for the title of this all-encompassing book, which might have been called The Brahms Reader. 24 illus. not seen by PW. Oct. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Musgrave (Univ. of London), the author or editor of several other works on Brahms, here presents a historical-cultural narrative and a fascinating compendium of Brahms-related correspondence and opinion. Using excerpts from the composer's own writings--as well as from the writings of musicians and scholars influenced by him--Musgrave has written a fine account of the composer's legacy. The book is divided into sections devoted to Brahms's personality, family, and relations, as well as his role as composer, performer, and student of the arts and the critical reception of his creative efforts. Although the book is both clearly written and exhaustive, it can be disorderly, with an occasionally confusing organization and some unnecessary repetition. Nevertheless, this important contribution to Brahms literature will complement Jan Swafford's excellent Johannes Brahms: A Biography (an LJ Best Book of 1997). Recommended for academic and public libraries.--Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300091991
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 402
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Table of Contents

Supporting Cast of Characters
I Brahms the Man
1 Physical Appearance, Temperament, and Personality 3
2 Upbringing and Education 11
3 The Critical Stages of Brahms's Life and Ambitions 21
4 Professional Outlook and Relationships 32
5 Brahms's Mode of Life 39
6 Brahms and Women 45
II Brahms the Composer
7 The Young Composer's Outlook 59
8 The Years of Study 67
9 The Mature Compositional Outlook 75
10 Attitude to Contemporaries 92
11 Brahms Reflects on His Achievement 116
III Brahms the Performer
12 Brahms the Pianist 121
13 Brahms the Conductor 136
IV Brahms the Music Scholar and Student of the Arts
14 Reading and Scholarship in Brahms's Life 151
15 A Student of History and the Arts 170
V The Social Brahms: Friendship and Travel
16 Friendship 187
17 Travel 199
VI Brahms in Perspective
18 Critical Reception During Brahms's Lifetime 213
19 Reverence and Reaction in the Twentieth Century 248
20 Toward a New Evaluation of Brahms 275
Notes 287
Index 333
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