Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Why do we need another book on Brahms?

Katy Hamilton, Natasha Loges

Well, arguably, we don’t! But the In Context series offered us an irresistible opportunity to look again, and look differently, at a figure whose life and music (for better or worse) continues to fascinate musicians and audiences.
As music historians, we wanted to ask questions that went beyond the actual notes on the page. Brahms didn’t make this easy – he resisted self-revelation and biography, and identified himself with the notes as determinedly as he could. But there are so many rich topics that this book allowed us to explore: we stretched the idea of context to embrace (for example), science, technology, money, law, publishing, philosophy, art and literature – and people. The isolated genius is obsolete, and we wanted to make that clear. In our closing chapters, we examine critically the idea of legacy and myth around Brahms.
The book falls into five sections: Personality, People and Places; Identities, Environments and Influences; Performance and Publishing; Society and Culture; Reception and Legacy. Between them, they cover a wide range of perspectives. We’re also conscious that everyone sees a slightly different Brahms in their imagination – young and handsome, or bearded and portly; composer of large, impressive choral-orchestral works, or of the tenderest, most intimate chamber music and song; dully academic, or impressively rigorous; emotionally repressed, or simply self-reliant.
Apart from our own collaboration as old friends and co-editors, we sought balances of different kinds from our contributors: established and emerging scholars and practitioners, both male and female, across several continents. The book includes many essays translated from the German, hopefully bringing new readers to our continental colleagues. Summaries of existing scholarship are balanced with the presentation of new research drawing on sources which are examined here for the first time.
We’ve striven to keep each essay easily digestible for the interested reader. This meant keeping the scholarly apparatus lean, but we hope the reading lists will compensate. Ultimately, we both continue to love Brahms’s music, and to perform, write and talk about it regularly, to many different audiences. In the few years since this project was born, ideas of context have expanded still further. In a generation’s time, Brahms in Context would look very different. But that, after all, is the joy of such research: not that the music is ‘timeless’, but that every generation and every culture that encounters it can bring something fresh and exciting to the way we engage with it.

Brahms in Context Edited by Natasha Loges , Katy Hamilton

Brahms in Context Edited by Natasha Loges , Katy Hamilton

About The Authors

Katy Hamilton

Katy Hamilton is a freelance researcher, writer and presenter. She has published on the history of the Edinburgh Festival, émigré musicians in Britain, and variety shows at the W...

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Natasha Loges

Natasha Loges is Head of Postgraduate Programmes at the Royal College of Music, London. She has published articles on Brahms, concert history and art song in various volumes and jo...

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