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Avins, a cellist and musicologist at Drew University, has filled a conspicuous lacuna in Brahms scholarship, as no general collection of Brahms's letters had ever before been translated into English. Avins, who completed the editing of this massive tome in time for the centennial of Brahms's death, acknowledges at the outset that the composer was a reluctant letter-writer. Among the 564 letters in this volume, one will not find passages of great literary beauty, nor are there profound exegeses on the nature of aesthetics. Letters, for Brahms, were for the most part utilitarian, and he destroyed many that he considered too personal and revealing. Nonetheless, his distinctive personality shines forth in each one?gruff and impatient (with violinist Joachim and his publisher Simrock), gracious and humble (with Clara Schumann), good-natured and jovial (again to Joachim, now in a better mood). Avins has arranged the letters into eight chronological sections, and her prefaces to each, in addition to her extensive footnotes and commentary, help to provide the needed context. In the process, certain durable legends about Brahms?the shy teen playing piano in the brothels of Hamburg, for example?are neatly debunked. This is a work that will thrill Brahms fans and provide much pleasure for those entertained by the personal correspondence of great artists. Recommended for general and academic libraries.?Larry A. Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, Pa.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
`without Avins' judicious commentary, this book would not cohere. Her translations on the whole feel admirably authentic.' Michael Church, Financial Times (weekend)
`Rich in detail, bringing this reputedly dour man vividly to life, this is a useful addition to the bookshelves' Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post
`Avins has not only made good a glaring omission in Brahms studies - this is the first extensive selection of the letters in English - she has also transcended her narrower academic remit to create a virtual biography by stealth ... Invaluable reference tool that this is, Avins has conjured up something rather better. The book is not cheap but it is contains some rare photographs and is notably well produced.' David Gutman, Classic CD
`a rich compilation of Brahms correspondence ... she supplies fascinating illustrations, a helpful chronological table and other tools' International Herald Tribune
`Occasionally a book comes along which changes perceptions of its subject. This is such a book. Her annotations are not only scholarly but often witty and always full of common sense. The translation is lively, if once or twice unconvincingly slangy of today. Wherever you read in these 858 pages, you will feel you are in Brahms's world and that he is speaking to you.' Michael Kennedy, The Sunday Telegraph
`Until I read this long, richly informative book - the first substantial edition of his letters to be published in English - I never felt much curiosity about Brahms.' David Cairns, The Sunday Times
`contains 550 letters, some of them never published before in any language, many appearing for the first time ... They are annotated in such painstaking detail that the book can be read as a biography ... a book in which this composer has seldom seemed more lovable, more vulnerable, more honourable.' Michael Oliver, Gramophone
`the publication of Johannes Brahms: Life and Letters fills what has for too long been a void in our knowledge ... The selection is chronological and comprehensively annotated, so that the book can be read as a biographical narrative illuminated by Brahms himself. This is one of the most important music books published in recent years.' Fritz Spiegl, The Oldie
`The translators have taken the decision to retain, as far as possible, the idioms and sentence constructions of the originals, and, for those who can't read German, here is an irrestistible opportunity to meet Brahms in person.' rosemary Williamson, Newsletter of the Royal Northern College of Music
`this is the first comprehensive selection to appear in English ... Avins's labours have bestowed an unusual fund of experience. Perhaps no other editor, in any language, has reviewed the entire Brahms correspondence and much of the supporting literature in one intense burst ... delightful and absorbing book. It is going to become an absolutely central work of reference: I expect to be using it for the rest of my life.' Calum MacDonald, BBC Music Magazine, Sept 99