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Brahms's Elegies
The Poetics of Loss in Nineteenth-Century German Culture


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  • Date Published: January 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108474498

£ 75.00

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About the Authors
  • Nicole Grimes provides a compellingly fresh perspective on a series of Brahms's elegiac works by bringing together the disciplines of historical musicology, German studies, and cultural history. Her exploration of the expressive potential of Schicksalslied, Nänie, Gesang der Parzen, and the Vier ernste Gesänge reveals the philosophical weight of this music. She considers the German tradition of the poetics of loss that extends from the late-eighteenth-century texts by Hölderlin, Schiller and Goethe set by Brahms, and includes other philosophical and poetic works present in his library, to the mid-twentieth-century aesthetics of Adorno, who was preoccupied as much by Brahms as by their shared literary heritage. Her multifaceted focus on endings - the end of tonality, the end of the nineteenth century, and themes of loss in the music - illuminates our understanding of Brahms and lateness, and the place of Brahms in the fabric of modernist culture.

    • Investigates Brahms's literary preoccupations and incorporates much information gleaned from the composer's library, to establish his cultural context
    • Explores the philosophical dimensions of Brahms's music and will appeal to those interested in the intersection of music and philosophy
    • A significant amount of source material is translated into English for the first time which will benefit those interested in the cultural context of Brahms's music but are unable to read the original German texts
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    • Notable Music Book of 2019, Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise (

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Deftly weaving musical commentary into an elegant exploration of the broader cultural fabric of late nineteenth-century Germany, Grimes demonstrates how some of Brahms's greatest but least understood vocal compositions intersected with the intellectual, literary, and philosophical currents of his time. This compelling study represents contextual musicology at its best.' Walter Frisch, Columbia University

    'In Brahms's Elegies: The Poetics of Loss in Nineteenth-Century German Culture, a bold and imaginative book, Nicole Grimes takes the idea of Brahms's obsession with mortality and probes it from new and, at times, unexpected angles. The volume reveals an author who reads unusually widely and who uses her learning to challenge well-established interpretations … Brahms's Elegies is built on strong foundations, and one comes away from it educated, challenged and, above all, exhilarated. It's a fine piece of writing by a scholar who clearly relishes broad horizons.' Martin Ennis, Musicological Austriaca

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108474498
    • length: 292 pages
    • dimensions: 254 x 180 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.75kg
    • contains: 16 b/w illus. 12 tables 25 music examples
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Brahms's ascending circle: Hölderlin and Schicksalslied
    2. The ennoblement of mourning: Nänie and the death of beauty
    3. A disembodied head for mythic justice: Gesang der Parzen
    4. The last great cultural harvest: Nietzsche and the Vier ernste Gesänge
    5. The sense of an ending: music's return to the land of childhood

  • Author

    Nicole Grimes, University of California, Irvine
    Nicole Grimes is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California, Irvine. She serves on the Editorial Board of Music Analysis and is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Brahms Society. Previous works include Mendelssohn Perspectives (2012) and Rethinking Hanslick: Music, Formalism, and Expression (2013).


    • Notable Music Book of 2019, Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise (

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