In an expansive study Johannes Brahms emerges from Jan Swafford's book is not a bearded eminence but rather an assemblage of contradictions. He grew up in grinding poverty and as a teenager was forced to play the piano in brothels. Recognized by his teachers as a stupendous talent, Robert Schumann proclaimed Brahms at only twenty-years-old to be the saviour of German music. Brahms spent the rest of his life living up to the that prophecy. He experienced triumphs few artists have enjoyed in their lifetime, yet lived with a relentless loneliness and a growing fatalism about the future of music and the world.