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Johannes Brahms

A Biography

By Jan Swafford

About the Book:

A New York Times Notable Book

"This brilliant and magisterial book is a very good bet to...become the definitive study of Johannes Brahms."--The Plain Dealer

Judicious, compassionate, and full of insight into Brahms's human complexity as well as his music, Johannes Brahms is an indispensable biography.

Proclaimed the new messiah of Romanticism by Robert Schumann when he was only twenty, Johannes Brahms dedicated himself to a long and extraordinarily productive career.  In this book, Jan Swafford sets out to reveal the little-known Brahms, the boy who grew up in mercantile Hamburg and played piano in beer halls among prostitutes and drunken sailors, the fiercely self-protective man who thwarted future biographers by burning papers, scores and notebooks late in his life.  Making unprecedented use of the remaining archival material, Swafford offers richly expanded perspectives on Brahms's youth, on his difficult romantic life--particularly his longstanding relationship with Clara Schumann--and on his professional rivalry with Lizst and Wagner.  

"[Johannes Brahms] will no doubt stand as the definitive work on Brahms, one of the monumental biographies in the entire musical library."--London Weekly Standard

"It is a measure of the accomplishment of Jan Swafford's biography that Brahms's sadness becomes palpable.... [Swafford] manages to construct a full-bodied human being."--The New York Times Book Review

About Jan Swafford:

JAN SWAFFORD received degrees from Harvard and the Yale School of Music and is the author of Charles Ives: A Life with Music, which was a finalist for the 1996 National Book Critics Circle Award for biography, won the PENWinship Award, and was hailed by Newsweek as "one of the best biographies in recent memory." He is also the author of The Vintage Guide to Classical Music and a featured commentator on NPR's Performance Today. An award-winning composer whose work has been widely performed by ensembles here and abroad, he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Other books by Jan Swafford

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