A Brahms Reader


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Michael Musgrave

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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.

Michael Musgrave is emeritus professor of music at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and visiting research fellow at the Royal College of Music.

"In its remarkable breadth, this book stands alone. Musgrave has provided a fine study of Brahms's participation in the musical and larger cultural life of the later nineteenth century."—David Brodbeck, University of Pittsburgh
“[A] comprehensive source book, one which both informs and continually provokes further questions.”—Lidiard, Music Teacher

“Elegantly written and broad in scope, this book opens fresh perspectives on issues ranging from Brahms’s character and aesthetic outlook to his activities as a performing musician, scholar, and collector. A richly drawn portrait of one of the most significant—but elusive—figures in the western musical canon.”—John Daverio, Boston University 

“Michael Musgrave has deftly assembled a wealth of information about the composer and has interpreted it all with sympathetic, authoritative insight. This volume immediately takes its place as an indispensable publication on Brahms.”—Walter Frisch, Columbia University

“If you are interested in augmenting your knowledge of Brahms, but are reluctant to wade into a dense biography or critical study, this is the book for you. Alternatively, if you are an aficionado of Brahms, I suspect you will emerge from this comparatively slender volume with a renewed curiosity about the man and a deeper respect for his art.”—Gregory Pepetone, American Music Teacher

“A lucid and comprehensive overview of Brahms documentation and scholarship.”—Hilary Finch, BBC Music Magazine

“Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Brahms, Musgrave has developed a new and refreshing narrative of Brahms’s life. . . . 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. . . . For insight into Brahms and the 19th-century world, one can do no better than to read this well-crafted book.”—Choice

“[This book] reveals fascinating glimpses into [Brahms’s] life. . . . The amount of research and high level of scholarship that is evident on every page . . . is indisputable. . . . A comprehensive source book, one which both informs and continually provokes further questions. . . . [It] will greatly enhance your listening.”—Pamela Lidiard, Music Teacher


"Of all the books about Brahms that have appeared since the centenary of his death, none is more comprehensive than Musgrave's. . . . The book bursts with Brahms's feelings about life and art, and completing the picture are the opinions of close colleagues, composers who praised him, and those who condemned him. . . . [An] all encompassing book, which might have been called The Brahms Reader."—Publishers Weekly

“Unique and compellingly written. The abundant gallery of photographs will capture the imagination of anyone even casually leafing through the book.”—Richard Cormier, Tampa Tribune Times

ISBN: 9780300091991
Publication Date: September 10, 2001
402 pages, 6 x 9
24 b/w illus.