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  • The Brahms Notebooks: The Little Treasure Chest of the Young Kreisler. Quotations from Poets, Philosophers, and Artists Gathered by Johannes Brahms
  • Virginia Hancock
The Brahms Notebooks: The Little Treasure Chest of the Young Kreisler. Quotations from Poets, Philosophers, and Artists Gathered by Johannes Brahms. Ed. by Carl Krebs. Trans. by Agnes Eisenberger. pp. xviii + 371. (Pendragon Press, Hillsdale, NY, 2003, £26. ISBN 1-57647-082-2.)

This volume provides the original text and a translation of Des jungen Kreislers Schatzkästlein: Aussprüche von Dichtern, Philosophen und Künstlern, edited by Carl Krebs and published in Berlin by the Verlag der Deutschen Brahmsgesellschaft in 1909. The original publication included transcriptions of most of the contents of four small notebooks into which Brahms copied hundreds of quotations from the wide variety of literature he read. He made the entries primarily in the 1850s, but according to Krebs's preface he added a few in the last months of his life. (The notebooks are described briefly in George S. Bozarth, 'Brahms's Lieder Inventory of 1859–60 and Other Documents of his Life and Work', Fontes artis musicae, 30 (1983), 108–9. According to Bozarth, the whereabouts of three of the notebooks are unknown; for the fourth, now in the Vienna Stadtbibliothek, he lists the authors and some sources of the quotations, and distinguishes the authors of the entries that Brahms made later.) Although Krebs's edition is known among Brahmsians because of the many times portions of it have been quoted in the literature, it has never been reprinted. In her preface to this volume, Agnes Eisenberger explains that she made her translation 'some years ago for [my] own amusement from a copy owned by [my] father, the Viennese pianist and piano teacher Severin Eisenberger'. She now makes it available to the wider world, almost a century after its initial appearance.

The body of the book consists of reproductions of the pages of the original edition, containing 645 numbered excerpts, with translations into English on facing pages. A translation of Krebs's preface is included (there is at least one line missing between pp. xiii and xiv), and an appendix by Siegmund Levarie provides an annotated list of the authors quoted, along with an index of item numbers; Levarie also contributes occasional footnotes in the text. The translations are good and serviceable, and Eisenberger made the excellent decision not to try to render poetic texts poetically; they are identified with asterisks and translated fairly literally.

Weaknesses in the volume stem from decisions made by Krebs at the time of its original publication, all of which he attempted to justify in his rather confusing preface. Thus quotations for which Brahms did not give a source are not identified, the contents of the four separate notebooks are not distinguished from one another (nor are Brahms's sporadic efforts to organize them shown), duplications are eliminated and corrections made without comment, and so on. Notwithstanding these defects, though—and they are, of course, the products of a different style of scholarship from what many of us have come to expect—the new availability of the collection makes a useful contribution to the understanding of Brahms for scholars and enthusiasts alike.



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