Cover image for A Brahms reader
A Brahms reader
Musgrave, Michael, 1942-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xviii, 344 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library ML410.B8 M865 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



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.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 womenÄand 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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 writingsÄas well as from the writings of musicians and scholars influenced by himÄMusgrave 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.ÄBarry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Brahms, Musgrave (emer., Univ. of London, UK) has developed a new and refreshing narrative of Brahms's life. For example, he has incorporated recent scholarship that calls for caution in describing Brahms's youth as squalid. Musgrave has given other frequently told Brahms stories sharp scrutiny: the composer's relationships to women, his reticent personality, and his brusqueness of manner, to name just a few. Musgrave quotes liberally from Brahms's friends to give the reader a close-up view, as if one were a member of the inner circle. The quotes from Brahms are not the ones found elsewhere; thus, Brahms emerges from these words with a fresh personality. Musgrave devotes sections to the man, the composer, the performer, the music scholar, Brahms's friendships and travel, and his critical reception. Each section develops an image of Brahms, and together they show the richness of Brahms's person. For straight biography one looks elsewhere, but for insight into Brahms and the 19th-century world, one can do no better than to read this well-crafted book. One might wish that the interesting commentary in the endnotes had been in footnotes and thus more immediately accessible to the reader. The illustrations are excellently printed and have full, enlightening captions. All libraries. C. Cai; Kenyon College

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