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Brahms (Master Musicians) Paperback – March 7, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0198164845 ISBN-10: 019816484X Edition: New edition
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This is certainly the most thorough of the English-language biographies of Johannes Brahms. MacDonald relates all known facts about the composer, his relationship with friends and acquaintances, and his music. Biography and creative output are interwoven throughout the book, as the author rather laboriously discusses each composition in chronological order. It is assumed that the reader has a fair knowledge of Brahms's works and can read music, for MacDonald includes 68 musical examples that are important to the discussion. MacDonald's verbose style may put off the casual reader, but for a real Brahms lover, the book is a treat.
- Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The life and music blend revealingly, with keen intelligence applied to both, in this wonderfully human and refreshingly written new biography. I will read it again and wish it twice as long."--Arts Beat


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Product Details

  • Series: Master Musicians
  • Paperback: 514 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New edition edition (March 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019816484X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198164845
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1.6 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
A colleague of mine noticed the picture of the young Brahms on the cover of MacDonald's biography. She remarked with surprise on his handsome, vigorous appearance. Too often people tend to think of Brahms as an old, bearded, somewhat overweight composer of conservative romantic music. The text of MacDonald's ambitious study, together with the cover portrait, aims to dispel stereotypes held by many about Brahms. For MacDonald, Johannes Brahms (1833 --1897) was an unabashedly romantic composer (granting the difficulties of defining that notoriously difficult term, "romantic"), with strong ties to the musical past who looked forward to and helped create the linear, contrapuntal, and decidedly unromantic music of the twentieth century. MacDonald's interest in the relationship between Brahms and Schoenberg is understandable as he has written a companion volume on Schoenberg for the "Master Musicians" series.

The book is both a biography of Brahms and a musical study with heavy emphasis on the latter. In the biographical sections of his account, MacDonald covers briefly Brahms's childhood in the rough, seafaring districts of Hamburg,his early musical instruction, and his wide reading. He describes Brahms's relationship with the Schumann's and the ambiguities of his lifelong love for Clara Schumann. There is a great deal of emphasis on Brahms's inability to marry, despite several flames in his youth. MacDonald describes how love and passion inform Brahms's work throughout and how music helped Brahms give voice to feelings that, for whatever reason, he could not express in his life.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Patrick W. Crabtree VINE VOICE on November 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
This work is half-biography and half-musicology. For the readers of musical score and musicologists, I would give this book a five-star rating. For more casual readers who are simply interested in the life of Brahms, it only rates three. (I rated it four stars because I'm very familiar with Brahms' music and I play music as well, but I cannot read sheet music.)

Most folks would say that you can't talk about Brahms without discussing his music and with that thought, I wholly agree; however, in a more traditional and general interest biography, his music would have been discussed in a less technical sense which is more pleasing to folks who do not read music and/or for those who are not all that familiar with Brahms' numerous works. In the author's defense, this latter purpose was clearly not his objective in writing the book -- I just wish to alert casual biography readers that about four chapters of the book will put them to sleep in a hurry. The author has also included many examples of musical scores throughout the text to illustrate his points.

I found the author's commentary on Brahms life, including his numerous relationships with other period artists and with his family members, (musical and otherwise), to be informative and well-written. I toughed it out through the more technical chapters as MacDonald had a great deal to say about the old Master throughout that text as well but there it was much spottier.

The unorthodox relationship between Brahms and Clara Schumann is well-documented and scattered throughout the book. And I must say, having completed my reading, that I now harbor a real sense of Brahms, the Man. This is the chief strength of the work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Henry Thoreau on June 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As of this writing, Amazon (in its "Product Details" section) mistakenly states the Schirmer 1990 hardcover edition comprises only "220" pages. In actuality, this admirable, largish tome (including about 10 prefatory pages) comprises about 500 pages.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 24, 1997
Format: Paperback
MacDonald's biography of Brahms is insightful and informative benefiting from findings in recent Brahms scholarship as well as from the authors command of language and knowledge of the art of music. Its only fault, albeit a rather prominent one, is the author's need to comment at least a few words on every work of Brahms's. This becomes tedious and the reader is left with a feeling of unsatisfied curiosity as if he or she is reading program notes to a concert he will not hear. MacDonald, however, reserves his more detailed accounts for Brahms's more important and popular major works (his all too brief analysis of the Fourth Symphony leaves one wishing he would write a book entirely devoted to that masterpiece) a trait which reveals the author's keen analytical mind. The book would have benefited greatly if the author had devoted space given to smaller or less significant pieces to a more extensive discussion of the composers major works
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