Frank Beck

Writer and photographer, New York

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Just as Brahms feared

Edward Elgar: Letters of a Lifetime. J.N. Moore, ed. (Rickmansworth: Elgar Works, 2012).

Reviewed in The Elgar Society Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 36-7.

In the summer of 1876, Brahms’ friend George Henschel (then a noted baritone, later a leading conductor) showed him the recently published letters of Moritz Hauptmann. Hauptmann had held the position at a Leipzig church once held by Bach and had attracted many talented students, including Joseph Joachim and Arthur Sullivan.

After reading a few of Hauptmann’s letters, Brahms remarked, ‘How discreet one ought to be in writing letters. Who knows—some day they’ll be printed.’ He went on to say, ‘It is an agreeable gift to be able to write clever letters, but only letters of purely scientific import are, in my opinion, of real value to any but those they were written to.’ Such vows of discretion are difficult to keep, and those who receive a letter from a creative artist tend to preserve them: the most recent edition of Brahms’ own correspondence in English runs to more than 550 letters.

For the complete review, please see p. 36 of the Source at right.