The Songs of Johannes Brahms


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Eric Sams

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In this highly anticipated book, Eric Sams examines each of Johannes Brahms’s 213 songs, translates the texts into English, and provides original commentary on points of musicology and literary detail. Sams here reveals for the first time the full extent of the poetry, fantasy, and humor of the composer’s work. After an introduction to Brahms as a songwriter and to his use of motifs, the book offers a complete song-by-song analysis and will serve as an invaluable companion for students, performers, and listeners alike.

Sams demonstrates how Brahms built a verbal expressiveness from his unsurpassed devotion to musicianship and musicology. Songs were among Brahms’s first and last works, and much of his music is associated with words, whether overt texts or covert allusions. Essential to the composer’s method of songwriting was a harmony between musical form and poetic text. Sams underscores the use of motifs at the core of Brahms’s song-music. He argues that it is not so much with words that Brahms sings to us, but with the very music itself. Brahms became the innovator of an all-pervasive new language in which musical form became a medium for poetic dialogue.

Eric Sams is a world authority on lieder and the author of numerous works of musicology, including The Songs of Robert Schumann and The Songs of Hugo Wolf. He is also the author of The Real Shakespeare and editor of Shakespeare’s Edward III, published by Yale University Press.

“[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. . . . [It] will greatly enhance your listening.”—Pamela Lidiard, Music Teacher 

“Sams’s book is the fruit of a lifetime’s immersion in the topic. No one else alive is better qualified to write it. There is no doubt that this will be the standard work on the Brahms lieder for years to come.”—Graham Johnson

“These chapters clarify Sams’s unique observations and offer ample motivation for further study by students , scholars, and performers, all of whom will return to the scores to see for themselves the large system of motifs unearthed and labeled by Sams. . . . Sams’s comments on and translations of individual songs are full of enlightening information and flesh out the analysis summarized in the opening chapters.”—Choice

“The one to choose if one were forced to own only a single book about the Brahms lieder.”—C. A. R. Hills, Literary Review

“Any publication from the pen of Eric Sams on the subject of nineteenth-century German-language song literature predictably will be a major musicological event; The Songs of Johannes Brahms surely falls into that category. . . . Freshness of language and creative imagination characterize all of Sams’s writing, and never more completely than in this volume. . . . What a wonderful contribution to the literature of the lied appears in this book.”—Richard Miller, American Music Teacher Magazine

ISBN: 9780300221305
Publication Date: October 30, 2015
384 pages, x
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