It is sometimes said that only religion has inspired truly great, moving music, especially symphonies. Of course, this is not true (the works of conductors from Gustav Holst to Ennio Morricone prove that religious themes or inspiration need not lie behind some of the greatest music ever written). But the myth is even more strongly dispelled by the fact that Brahms, one of the three B’s (the others, of course, Bach and Beethoven) was a freethinker, not acknowledging the divinity of Christ or immortality of the spirit, defending or using humanistic themes in his music. Jan Swafford documents this aspect of Brahms as well as every other conceivable aspect of his life in this highly acclaimed biography.
Read Dan Barker’s review of this book.