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His work is wildly popular, yet little is known about Brahms—something John Eliot Gardiner is busy changing. Plus, the genius of Britten's pacifism

By Martin Kettle   November 2008

Brahms remains one of the great staples of the concert world. This year, like every year, you can be sure of hearing many of his major works in our concert halls. Yet while audiences continue to revel in his symphonies, concertos, chamber music and at least some parts of his huge vocal output, it is hard to think of a composer who remains more elusive.

Trying to solve this paradox of Brahms’s simultaneous familiarity and distance is not easy. Concerts featuring Brahms are well attended. Recordings of his music are abundant—a Radio 3 Building A Library feature on his third…

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