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Johannes Brahms: Life and Letters

5.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199247738
ISBN-10: 0199247730
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review


"...this is the first comprehensive selection to appear in English....a readably translated collection spanning Brahms's entire adult life and encompassing the widest circle of his friends and acquaintances, puts Anglophone readers in closer contact with the composer, and deeply in [Avins'] debt....[a] delightful and absorbing book. It is going to become an absolutely central work of reference."--BBC Music Magazine


"A valuable contribution to Brahms scholarship....Remarkably direct and clear, the translations of Brahms' own words ought to lead to many new avenues of research. An excellent choice for all academic collections."--Choice


"Richly informative."--The Sunday Times (London)


"Even if Ms. Avins had merely presented these 564 letters...with only a few footnotes, she would have performed a great service....But she has done more than that. She has provided a thoroughly researched, well-thought-out and abundantly annotated continuity that places each letter in its context....This biography-cum-autobiography will give great pleasure to lay readers as well as specialists."--The Wall Street Journal


"There are many gems here...much to be gleaned from what Avins has selected....Those who seek to be on more intimate terms with Brahms and his circle...will find much to pore over in this collection."--Los Angeles Times


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 912 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199247730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199247738
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 1.7 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,498,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The virtues of this book are several: about 800 previously untranslated letters of Brahms, masterfully translated and carefully and judiciously annotated, based on research entirely from source materials which, among other things, give the lie to the unsavory myths of Brahms childhood, proving beyond doubt that he came from a hard-working, well-meaning family who lived in a good neighborhood, and provided him with a good education and normal childhood. The author's research confines to the rubbish heap the silly Freudian theories, never based on any evidence, for his reasons for not marrying. This compendium of letters and their absorbingly written annotation is a gold mine for amateurs and professionals interested in a truthful picture of Brahms.
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Format: Hardcover
"Johannes Brahms, Life and Letters" is a new biography published by Oxford Univ. Press and is based on the composer's letters. The letters were selected and annotated by Styra Avins and its 550 complete letters which constitute the first such general collection of letters in English, were translated by Josef Eisinger and Styra Avins. The book also contains 48 rare photos, detailed notes and appendices (e.g. on Brahms and Clara Schumann), and a bibliography. The lively text joining the letters is based on the latest Brahms scholarship and provides a fresh view of the composer's life, much of it in his own words. It sheds new light on the early life of Brahms, his numerous friendships, his family, his work, his character and his personality. A well-written book which will heighten anyone's appreciation of the man and of his music. Highly recommended to lovers of biography and music.
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Format: Paperback
I'v been a Brahms' music fan for a long time and i have read three different biographies, without having the opportunity of get closer to his thoughts before i buy this great book. Now I know how Brahms' mind worked, how (really) was his relationship with his friends and how were his feelings and thoughts during the periods he composed that wonderful music.
I'm not an english born speaker, so i had some difficulties in understand the meaning of some sentences, more exactly, some modisms, wich are very frecuent in Brahms' speech.
In spite of this, I recommend this book because it's just wonderful.
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Format: Hardcover
"Richly informative" - Sunday Times, London. "Occasionally a book comes along which changes perceptions of its subject. This is such a book. ... [The] annotations are not only scholarly but often witty and always full of common sense. ... Wherever you read, you will feel you are in Brahms's world and that he is speaking to you." - Sunday Telegraph, London. "There are many gems here ... much to be gleaned from what Avins has selected.. Those who seek to be on more intimate terms with Brahms and his circle... will find much to pore over in this collection" - Los Angeles Times. "Little short of a bombshell ... Ms. Avins's contributions are terse and often illuminating... fascinating illustrations, a helpful chronological table and other tools... Brahms reveals himself in workaday as well as transcendent moods." - New York Times. "This is a work that will thrill Brahms fans and provide much pleasure to those entertained by the personal correspondence of great artists. Recommended for general and academic libraries." - Library Journal. "It is not much of an exaggeration to say that the book presents Brahms in a new but quite convincing light... the book can be read as a biography... this composer has seldom seemed more lovable, more vulnerable, more honorable." - Gramophone. "This is one of the most important music books published in recent years." - The Oldie, London.
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Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately, Jan Swafford did not have a chance to read this book before writing his own "biograohy" of Brahms. If he had, he would have been privy to a wealth of information, much of which has not been available to non-german speakers. Avins' commentary on the letters of Brahms and many of his correspondents is clear and well researched.
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