Brahms in Context

A significant new publication on the life and work of composer Johannes Brahms, and the first volume to focus on a major musical figure within the Cambridge University Press 'In Context' series.

Edited by Natasha Loges and Katy HamiltonJohannes Brahms in Context includes over 38 short, approachable essays by leading international scholars offering a view of the rich cultural, professional and historical landscape in which Brahms composed, performed and socialised, covering his background, lifestyle, concert career, and artistic collaborators. Individual contributions explore Brahms’ place within music life, with explorations of copyright law, finances, arranging, editing and publishing. Further chapters on his relationship to religion, politics, science, philosophy, literature, art and music history give a still wider perspective. The volume closes with a consideration of Brahms reception, imitation and performance today.

The vast existing scholarship on Brahms still tends to fall into traditional 'life' or 'works' categories. Existing general studies of Brahms, such as M. Musgrave, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Brahms (CUP, 1999); M. Musgrave, A Brahms Reader (Yale University Press, 2000); W. Frisch & K. Karnes, eds., Brahms and his World (revised edn, Princeton University Press, 2009); and W. Sandberger, Brahms Handbuch (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2009), still focus largely on the composer as a generator of musical works, rather than as a working musician in a century of change. This work-based approach often leaves little room for valuable contextual information. 

Natasha Loges and Katy Hamilton co-edited the well-received collection Brahms in the Home and the Concert Hall (Cambridge University Press, 2014). The Gramophone reviewer wrote that 'few books on 19th-century music have told me as much or afforded such pleasure in the reading of them.' Scholarly reviews praised the 'wide range of methodological perspectives' and the drawing of 'various strands into a coherent whole'. Loges’s encyclopaedia of Brahms's song poetry, Brahms and His Poets: A Handbook appeared in autumn 2017 (Boydell & Brewer). Hamilton, who gained her PhD at the RCM, is a leading figure in public engagement in classical music, giving talks and writing programme notes for a large range of festivals.

The editors have drawn on innovative scholarship from within Brahms studies and beyond, inviting established and emerging figures from the UK, USA and Austria/Germany. Authors include Renate Hofmann, Thomas Synofzik, Karen Leistra-Jones, Wolfgang Sandberger, William Horne, Inga-Mai Groote, Laurenz Lütteken, Katrin Eich, Michael Musgrave, Walter Frisch, Leon Botstein, Heather Platt, Anneke Scott, Peter Schmitz, Valerie Woodring Goertzen, Friedemann Kawohl, Jakob Hauschildt, Michael Struck, David Brodbeck, Myles Jackson, Nicole Grimes, Matthew Gelbart, Virginia Hancock, George Bozarth, William Vaughan, Johannes Behr, Ulrike Petersen, Ivan Hewett and the editors.

Project team

Natasha Loges

Katy Hamilton (Independent)

Project outputs


Brahms and his Poets: A Handbook (Boydell & Brewer autumn 2017). Received American Musicological Society Thomas Hampson Award summer 2016.

The solo songs of Johannes Brahms are fundamental to the song canon as well as to the training of singers and accompanists. They are a staple of the recital stage. And yet we know almost nothing about many of the poets whose work he set. Organised as an easy-to-use alphabetical lexicon, this study brings together detailed entries on each of the poets whose poetry he set in solo songs. Each entry considers Brahms’s response to the poet, followed by a consideration of how their work was received more widely in his day, and ending with a brief biography. A substantial introduction contextualises Brahms’s approach to poetry in general within wider Austro-German culture. Drawing on a wide range of source material including Brahms’s own library and unpublished notebooks, the study is designed to be an indispensible reference for singers, song accompanists and scholars of German song.

Johannes Brahms in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2018), commissioned edited volume with Katy Hamilton. 38 chapters with internationally renowned authors.

Julius Stockhausen's Early Performances of Franz Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin (19th-Century Music, Vol. 41 No. 3, Spring 2018; pp. 206-224) journal article, [DOI]

The European Salon: Closed Doors and Open Minds (Boydell & Brewer, forthcoming spring 2019), edited volume, 20 chapters.

Lectures and presentations 

Talk on performing strophic song, Oxford Song Network, Oxford University

Lecture-recital, Birmingham Conservatoire research series

Lecture-recital conference 'Lyric Voices, Ancient and Modern', Ertegun House , St Giles', Oxford University

Talk for Mark Padmore and Till Fellner concert, Tetbury Festival, September 2017

Presentation at Branding Weser Music conference, University of Bern, September 2017

Lecture-recital with Emma Stannard, Brahms and fin-de-siecle for Oxford Lieder Festival, October 2017

Research presentations at Oxford University, Maynooth University, Dublin Institute of Technology, Royal Irish Academy of Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Royal Academy of Music

Masterclass with Stephan Loges, Oxford Music Faculty, December 2017

Interview with Tom Service on Music Matters, BBC Radio 3, 20 January 2018, about Brahms and His Poets with Stephan Loges.

Book launch including performances  at the RCM 24 January 2018.

Keynote lecture at The Intellectual Worlds of Johannes Brahms conference, University of California, 1-3 February 2019

Study event, Leeds Lieder, 28 April 2019

Brahms round-table, Sheffield Music in the Round, 17 May 2019


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