Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Berry, Paul. "Old Love: Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, and the Poetics of Musical Memory." The Journal of Musicology 24 (Winter 2007): 72-111.

In the works of Johannes Brahms, the use of musical allusions as a compositional procedure is most pronounced in his private genres of song and chamber music. Alte Liebe (1876) is a fascinating example of using musical allusion to create a personal connection between words and music, to reveal the composer's private thoughts, and to stir the memory of a particular audience, Clara Schumann in this case. Brahms incorporated in the song a six-note melodic segment from a solo piano piece in F-sharp minor that he had presented to Clara five years earlier (later revised and published as Capriccio, Op. 76, No.1). He then asked Julius Stockhausen to sing it to Clara, together with another song (Unüberwindlich), designating her to be the "best to hear them." Unüberwindlich, on Goethe's text describing a drunken man and his lost love, also incorporates an allusion, a literal quotation of the opening of Domenico Scarlatti's keyboard sonata in D major, K. 223. The two songs represent opposite sides of the same coin: one private and melancholically nostalgic and the other public and self-mockingly humorous. Seen from the same light, the former represents a female protagonist, while the latter a male. Both songs parallel recurrences of borrowed melodic segments with resurgences of old Romantic feelings.

Works: Brahms: Alte Liebe, Op. 72, No. 1 (79-111), Unüberwindlich, Op. 72, No. 5 (81-89, 101-6).

Sources: Brahms: Capriccio in F-sharp Minor, Op. 76, No.1 (72-81, 84-85, 88-89, 95-101, 104-11); Domenico Scarlatti, Keyboard Sonata in D Major, K. 223 (81-82, 101-4).

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Tong Cheng Blackburn

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