Expressive Intersections in Brahms
Essays in Analysis and Meaning
Publication Year: 2012
Contributors to this exciting new volume examine the intersection of structure and meaning in Brahms's music, utilizing a wide range of approaches, from the theories of Schenker to the most recent analytical techniques. They combine various viewpoints with the semiotic-based approaches of Robert Hatten, and address many of the most important genres in which Brahms composed. The essays reveal the expressive power of a work through the comparison of specific passages in one piece to similar works and through other artistic realms such as literature and painting. The result of this intertextual re-framing is a new awareness of the meaningfulness of even Brahms's most "absolute" works.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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1. “The Wondrous Transformation of Thought into Sound”: Some Preliminary Reflections on Musical Meaning in Brahms
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Although the omniscient narrator of Ian McEwan’s novel Amsterdam attributes these thoughts to a fictional late twentieth-century British composer, Clive Linley, contemplating his own composition, Linley’s reflections capture something of the universal mystery of music. The dualities the narrator develops between technical detail and wondrous transformation, between thought and sound, between...
2. The Learned Self: Artifice in Brahms’s Late Intermezzi
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We begin by exploring aspects of Brahms’s Intermezzo in A Major, op. 118, no. 2, focusing on the passages shown in Examples 2.1a and b. Example 2.1a presents the opening theme, while 2.1b shows a later transformation in mm. 34–36. Examples 2.1c and d make the nature of the transformation clear: the...
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3. “Alte Liebe” and the Birds of Spring: Text, Music, and Image in Max Klinger’s Brahms Fantasy
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The Brahms Fantasy is a bound volume, completed in 1894, with musical scores by Brahms (five songs and the Schicksalslied, op. 54) and original etchings, engravings, and lithographs by Max Klinger (1857–1920). Klinger, a generation younger than Brahms, was a painter, sculptor, and printmaker, renowned as one...
4. Brahms’s Mädchenlieder and Their Cultural Context
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Brahms’s attitude toward women has attracted the attention of writers since the nineteenth century.1 But although a number of scholars have convincingly demonstrated some of the ways in which women such as Clara Schumann and Elisabet von Herzogenberg influenced his works, the more general topic of the...
5. Ancient Tragedy and Anachronism:Form as Expression in Brahms’s Gesang der Parzen
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Gesang der Parzen (Song of the Fates, op. 89) has always been one of Brahms’s least understood compositions. Few recent critics have given close consideration to the poetic text, known as the Parzenlied, or its source, the play Iphigenie auf Tauris by Goethe.1 In Brahms’s day, many listeners, in contrast, were thoroughly...
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6. Sequence as Expressive Culmination in the Chamber Music of Brahms
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Sequences permeate tonal music, with patterned motion among chordal roots appearing, at least briefly, in almost any phrase. Even when defined narrowly as coordinated melodic-harmonic motion, sequences are almost never entirely absent from a tonal composition. Sequences, moreover, have characteristic formal and expressive functions, which evolved over the course of the eighteenth and...
7. “Phantasia subitanea”: Temporal Capricein Brahms’s op. 116, nos. 1 and 7
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Brahms’s Capriccio in D Minor, the first of the op. 116 Fantasies, bursts on us with a volatile mix of tempest and torpor; it just as quickly veers off into music that seems to have drifted in from another intermezzo. The concentrated power of these few moments, reflected in the conspicuous detail of Brahms’s performance markings, forces us to confront a paradox with scarcely the time to take...
8. Monumentality and Formal Processes in the First Movement of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, op. 15
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Does the epic, sprawling character of the opening movement of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto present its listeners with uncommonly daunting formal and hermeneutic problems? Such was the claim of Giselher Schubert in 1994: “The massive first movement of the Piano Concerto, op. 15, remained unique in Brahms’s oeuvre: never again did he compose an instrumental movement of such length...
9. The Drama of Tonal Pairing in Chamber Music of Schumann and Brahms
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If it is reasonable to assume that musical meaning emanates from a composition’s technical characteristics, then there is perhaps no more basic a source for expressivity in tonal music than the centripetal force of the tonic. The overarching control of a tonal center that is established at the outset and reaffirmed at the close provides one means to create the archetypal musical drama of departure...
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Index of Brahms’s Compositions
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Musical Meaning and Interpretation
Page Count: 316
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Musical Meaning and Interpretation