The book is both a biography of Brahms and a musical study with heavy emphasis on the latter. In the biographical sections of his account, MacDonald covers briefly Brahms’s childhood in the rough, seafaring districts of Hamburg,his early musical instruction, and his wide reading. He describes Brahms’s relationship with the Schumann’s and the ambiguities of his lifelong love for Clara Schumann. There is a great deal of emphasis on Brahms’s inability to marry, despite several flames in his youth. MacDonald describes how love and passion inform Brahms’s work throughout and how music helped Brahms give voice to feelings that, for whatever reason, he could not express in his life.