Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Reynolds, Christopher Alan. “Inspiration.” In Motives for Allusion: Context and Content in Nineteenth-Century Music, 101–117. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

A close study of Brahms’s Die Mainacht illustrates the nuanced relationship between conscious and unconscious creative states, and their impact on intentional and unconscious borrowing. Creativity in this period could be interpreted as a two-way exchange between the composer’s conscious process and unconscious inspiration. Brahms’s song Die Mainacht presents an interesting case study due to its allusion to Chopin’s Impromptu in F-sharp Major, Op. 36, No. 2. The opening motives of Brahms’s work shares a close resemblance with Chopin’s melody, and the song in its entirety features a similar tonal plan. Brahms’s process of allusion could be related to Hartmann’s theory expounded in his Philosophy of the Unconscious (1868). Brahms could be seen to consciously recognize or be initially unaware of his melody’s affinity to its predecessor, but he made the work characteristically his own by aligning it further with Chopin’s Impromptu, through extending the allusion into the following phrases.

Works: Brahms: Die Mainacht, Op. 43, No. 2 (109–117), Missa Canonica (113–14); Wagner: Das Rheingold (108).

Sources: Chopin: Impromptu in F-sharp Major, Op. 36, No. 2 (109–117); Felix Mendelssohn: Lord Have Mercy Upon Us (113); Robert Schumann: Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 63 (113–15).

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Maria Fokina

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