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The brilliant biographer of a quintessentially American, prototypically modern musician (Charles Ives) proves just as masterful in probing the life and art of a 19th-century German composer. Writing with passionate clarity that perfectly matches the genius of Brahms (1833-97), Jan Swafford traces the emotional wellsprings of this secretive man's music without trivializing art into mere autobiography. A composer himself, Swafford understands and lucidly conveys Brahms's unique position in musical history: beloved by many, emulated by few, the triumphant yet melancholy heir of a tradition coming to an end in his lifetime. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A definitive work about one of the 19th century's most influential classical music composers. Books coming out in anniversary years too often don't live up to the subject they celebrate. Such is most definitely not the case in Swafford's biography of Brahms, published on the 100th anniversary of his death. This is an exceptionally well written chronicle of this musical master, an extraordinary work, guaranteed to inform and entertain classical music aficionados and tyros alike. That Swafford (Charles Ives: A Life in Music, 1996) had no easy task is clear. Where some leave long paper trails, Brahms, hoping to let his music rather than his personal life be the legacy on which later generations judged him, destroyed countless personal documents, letters, and music scores he deemed unworthy or compromising. But where Brahms was exceptionally careful--he even signed his name ``J. Br'' to thwart hungry autograph seekers--those around him were not, notably Clara Schumann. A brilliant professional pianist, Frau Schumann, who was married to composer Robert Schumann, was the love of Brahms's life. In their decades-long relationship, they exchanged hundreds of letters, many of which still exist despite Brahms's attempts to get them returned. The letters are simultaneously touching revelations of their relationship--likely never consummated--and perceptive journals of an exciting musical era. Swafford uses the correspondence and other research to paint an exhaustive picture of that era and of Brahms himself. What emerges is a stimulating view of a living paradox, a misogynist who used women as his muse, a generous spirit whose barbed tongue often alienated his best friends. In between, Swafford cleverly uses some 64 musical examples to illustrate Brahms's many musical developments. For readers of Swafford's biography, Brahms's Lullaby will never sound the same. (16 pages of illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
I would tentatively recommend this biography. While it certainly is very long, and definitely not lacking in detail, some of that extraordinary amount of detail is not correct. Read morePublished on June 30 2013 by Matthew Davidson
As a music major in college, I read lots of books on music, including many composer biographies. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Swafford's book on the life of Brahms. Read morePublished on Feb. 9 2002 by Neil Blaze
This book is so easy and fun to read! A shear joy! There is so much detail and great stories in this book. Stuff we have never seen before. Read morePublished on Nov. 5 2001 by Martin Hanson
As I noted in the title of this review, this book is a great portrait of the man who was Brahms. The fact that he was a great composer is almost seconary. Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2001 by C. Noble
I have been reading and re-reading this book for months. I enjoyed some passages so much that I read them several times! I just love it! Read morePublished on Sept. 30 2000 by Anthony G. Holland
This will probably be the definitive Brahms biography for some time to come. The oft-told story of Brahms' relationship with the Schumanns, and of Robert's decline and death,... Read morePublished on Sept. 6 2000 by Ed Ting
This is a brilliant biography. It is well-written and engaging from first to last. It gives a well-rounded picture of a complex and difficult subject -- difficult because the... Read morePublished on June 1 2000 by Stuart Bloom
Swafford's Brahms biography is certainly readable, and the author displays great sympathy with his subject. Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2000
Highly readable. This large tome fills in all the information on Brahms that your college Music History class left out. Read morePublished on Jan. 14 1999