Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Reynolds, Christopher Alan. “Naming.” In Motives for Allusion: Context and Content in Nineteenth-Century Music, 118-39. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

“Naming” is a technique of musical allusion that can represent several things: a specific person through musical symbols (for example, note names); works composed by that individual; or works associated with that individual. There are a few examples of this as early as the fifteenth century, but it became very popular among nineteenth century composers. In particular, a musical motive based on J. S. Bach’s name was frequently imitated. Between 1820 and 1865, 35 compositions are identified as containing a similar name motive (half of which are the B–A–C–H motive itself). Composers also represented themselves, loved ones, or patrons by less obvious musical names, such as Fanny Mendelssohn’s C-sharp–E-sharp–F-sharp motive.

One important reason for naming among nineteenth-century composers is to memorialize deceased composers. These come both in public memorials with explicit dedication and allusion to another work, and in private memorials with personal associations. Beethoven is musically memorialized more than any other composer, with Schubert’s last three piano sonatas, Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 13, and Spohr’s Symphony No. 3 as examples of this tradition. Mendelssohn’s tribute to Fanny Hensel after her death in 1847 is a multi-layered naming memorial. In his String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80, a transposed B–A–C–H motive appears, referencing a nearly identical passage in an unpublished early work of hers, the Sonata in C Minor, dedicated “for Felix in his absence [traveling to Scotland].” This memorial of Fanny is not for the public, but is instead deeply personal. Whatever the reason for naming in music, it fits with Romantic ideals, mixing biography and art outwardly and inwardly.

Works: Mozart: Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 414 (124-25); Anselm Hüttenbrenner: Nachruf an Schubert in Trauertönen am Pianoforte (123-24); Schubert: Auf dem Strom, D.943 (125-26); Schumann: Requiem, Op. 148 (127-28); Felix Mendelssohn: String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80 (131-32); Beethoven: Missa Solemnis, Op. 123 (135-36).

Sources: Johann Sebastian Bach: The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080 (119), St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244 (127-28); Johann Christian Bach: Overture to La calamita de’ cuori, W.G27 (124-25); Schubert: Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960 (123-24); Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (“Eroica”) (125-26); Fanny Mendelssohn: Sonata in C Minor (131-32).

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

Except where otherwise noted, this website is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
Creative Commons Attribution License