Though central to our concert and recording repertory, and crucial to the history of the symphony, the four symphonies of Johannes Brahms have proved surprisingly resistant to critical analysis. In this brief, elegant book, a premier musicologist conducts us through the Second Symphony to show us what is unique and remarkable about this particular work and what it reveals about the composer and his time.
Reinhold Brinkmann guides us through the symphony movement by movement, examining musical ideas in all their compositional facets and placing them in the context of major trends in the intellectual history of late nineteenth-century Europe. He delineates connections between this symphony and the composer's other works and traces its relation to the music of Brahms's predecessors, particularly Beethoven. The product of a long and deep engagement with the music of Brahms, Late Idyll captures the spirit of the composer, probes the impulses behind his revisions of the original manuscript, and explores the meaning of the disparity between the first two movements of the symphony and the last. The result is a penetrating reading of a perplexing and important composition, clearly placed within its biographical, historical, and artistic context. It will engage and enlighten students and concertgoers alike.
Late Idyll is not only a superlative study of Brahms but an indispensable study of nineteenth-century genre.
[Late Idyll] should be required reading, not only for listeners and students but for conductors as well...In Brinkmann's hands, [Brahms's Second Symphony] takes its rightful place in intellectual and social history.
Mr. Brinkmann's monograph is a loving look at Brahms as exemplar of the melancholic temperament...[His book is] technical, but makes reasonable leaps from technical observations to aesthetic claims. That may be the only way to understand music in words: Immerse oneself in it, learn its jargon and come out the other side hearing connections previously only guessed at.
Brinkmann guides the reader carefully through the entire composition, pausing occasionally to examine a detail here and there. He attractively combines analytical, hermeneutic, biographical, and historical material, relating the symphony to Brahm's other works and to those of his contemporaries and predecessors (particularly Beethoven), and making frequent reference to the cultural milieu of late 19th century Europe.
Reinhold Brinkmann's Late Idyll is that rare book by a musicologist that anyone seriously interested in Brahms--or for that matter in music--can read with a good deal of pleasure, to say nothing of profit. It combines a thoroughgoing analysis of Brahms's Second Symphony (which Brinkmann shows is by no means so cheerful as it is usually touted to be) with a searching exploration of cultural and psychological themes. A masterly work.
- 256 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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