Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Reynolds, Christopher Alan. “Allusive Traditions and Audiences.” In Motives for Allusion: Context and Content in Nineteenth-Century Music, 140-61. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Although composers in the Romantic era did not discuss the concept of allusions and borrowings in their works, there is evidence of borrowing in the writings of music critics and the music composers wrote. It is unknown why composers so infrequently discussed where the allusions came from, but it may be connected to differing levels of audience knowledge: from the amateur “Liebhaber,” the reminiscence-hunting “Kenner,” and an exclusive group close to the composer. These allusive traditions, however, are evidenced in the very fact that fellow composers recognized them. One of the most extensive allusive traditions is that of the “Es ist vollbracht” motive from J. S. Bach’s St. John Passion. It is unclear whether Beethoven knew the St. John Passion, since it was not published in Berlin until 1830, though it is possible that C. P. E. Bach, in quoting his father, might have been the bridge between the two composers’ similar motives. Even if Beethoven did not know the work, later composers such as Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann did, engaging with both the Passion and Beethoven’s similar motives in their own works. There is a particularly strong case with Mendelssohn’s Elijah due to the formal parallels and similarities between Jesus and Elijah. There may have also been an extramusical aspect of this motive as a topic for death and suffering. Connecting Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto to this extramusical tradition means that Beethoven was engaging with this theme for about two decades, putting his first use of the theme in the period of The Heiligenstadt Testament. Regardless of whether Beethoven did actually know the source of the motive, the end result is an allusive tradition not only of Bach but of Beethoven as well.

Works: Beethoven: An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98 (143-44); Robert Schumann: Lieder und Gesänge aus Goethes Wilhelm Meister (143-44), Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61 (143-44); Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 2 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 2 (144-45); Luigi Cherubini: Pater noster (145-46); Louis Spohr: Vater unser (145); Felix Mendelssohn: Die erste Walpurgisnacht (146); Brahms: Balladen (147); Felix Mendelssohn: Violin Sonata No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 4 (147); Ferdinand Hiller: Die Zerströrung Jerusalems (147); Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110 (147-48); Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Das Jahr (149), Beharre (149); Robert Schumann: Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44 (149, 153-54); Felix Mendelssohn: Capriccio for Cello and Piano (150), Elijah (151-53), String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 13 (153); Robert Schumann: Symphony in G Minor (unfinished) (153-54); C.P.E. Bach: Dank-Hymne der Freundschaft (155-56), Passions-Cantate (155-56), Cello Concerto in A Minor (155-56); Beethoven: Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 69 (156), Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 (156-58); Mozart: Concerto for Horn No. 4 in E-flat Major, K.495 (156-58); Prince Louis Ferdinand: Grosses Trio (157-58).

Sources: Beethoven: An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98 (143); Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Lieder für das Pianoforte, Op. 2, No. 2 (144-45); Anonymous: Vater unser (146), Ach Vater unser, der du bist im Himmelreich (146); Johann Sebastian Bach: St. John Passion, BWV 245 (147-53, 155); Beethoven: Cello Sonata No. 3 in A Major, Op. 69 (149, 153), String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor, Op. 95 (153), String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Op. 130 (153), String Quartet No. 14 in C# Minor, Op. 131 (153), String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op. 132 (153), String Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135 (153).

Index Classifications: 1700s, 1800s

Contributed by: Emily Baumgart

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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