Brahms by Joan Chissell
The Great Composers. Faber
It’s nice to see the young series growing up. Its first format seemed too deliberately designed for first forms, with lovely big print and wide-open lines pleading for affection and attention. One almost began to look for hyphens between the syllables. But gradually it was realized that in a topic as difficult as music, to simplify is to falsify; that younger musicians are likely to be more intelligent, if less knowledgeable, than older ones; and that in any event there are always beginners of all ages and stages in search of a suitable primer. So latterly we have a new format (although it still arguably looks just a little patronizing) and a sensible style which neither chats up nor talks down. This straightforward levelling with the subject was well exemplified in Alan Walker’s recent Schumann. Similarly this Brahms volume from the hand of Joan Chissell cuts the same clean outline yet goes sufficiently deep for the assigned task, namely providing a general all-purpose introduction to the life and work. I cannot see how that task could have been more knowledgeably or more sympathetically accomplished.
The Musical Times, Feb., 1977 (p. 728) © the estate of eric sams