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Johannes Brahms: A Biography [Paperback]

Jan Swafford
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 Aug 1999
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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; New edition edition (13 Aug 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333725891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333725894
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.5 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 617,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
IN 1826 JOHANN JAKOB BRAHMS, aged nineteen, his gray eyes full of hope and good humor, arrived in the port of Hamburg carrying musical instruments and a Certificate of Apprenticeship. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Brahms is a fascinating individual and I love his music (particulary the chamber stuff), but I wanted to know more.

Having looked at reviews on, and having read Jan Swafford's generalist book on classical music (really good, by the way) I paid up for this book. I have to say that I often find biographies as dull as ditchwater and struggle with too much technical music stuff but this is a fine exception.

Detailing Brahm's eventful journey through life and his often odd relationships with others (women in particular) you learn of his struggles with large-scale works and of just how he fitted into 19th century art. I could not help but read this book right through in just a few sittings.

Excellent and well worth tracking down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Biography of Brahms 17 Sep 2011
Being a rather private man, and knowing that biographies of him were inevitable, Johannes Brahms did his utmost to ensure that only potted life histories would appear. This work by Jan Swafford is a triumph of circumventing Brahms' reticence.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, magical 26 Nov 2001
By A Customer
No music-lover should miss this book which, as well as illluminating an underrated master, also sheds enormous light on 19th century music. An absolute masterpiece
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring biography 27 Aug 2011
I loved the author's enthusiasm and respect for his subject. There was a perfect amount of background information for me and the musical discussions were helpful to an amateur. Completely enjoyable.
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