Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] John, James. “Brahms and the ‘Clara Emblem’: Musical Allusion as a Key to Understanding the Thematic Sources at the Heart of ‘Ein Deutches Requiem.’” The Choral Journal 44 (December 2003): 15-27.

Brahms’s complex feelings for Clara Schumann are demonstrated by the imprint of her emblem into the structural fabric of his most beloved choral compositions. Brahms often employed musical allusions in his works, but rarely provided clues to interpretation for fear of being criticized as an unoriginal composer. Musical allusions serve as a key to understanding Brahms’s thematic sources, and this is evident in his Ein deutsches Requiem, presumably composed in commemoration of Robert Schumann, whose penchant for using musical symbols and ciphers influenced Brahms significantly. Brahms notably inherited the “Clara emblem” from Robert Schumann, referring to the brief melody in the opening movement of his Fantasie, Op. 17, which in turn was borrowed from Beethoven’s song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98. Brahms’s Requiem as well as his Nänie both grapple with the concept of death and consolation, and both works are further connected through the central mother image of the texts. In the B-section of Nänie, a fragment from the fifth movement of the Requiem forms the basis for motivic development, and at a climactic moment, Clara’s emblem appears, sung by the sopranos. Brahms carefully crafted the “Requiem fragment” from the Clara emblem, suggesting it is the essential idea behind most of the fifth movement. The final song of Brahms’s Neue Liebeslieder, Op. 65, also suggests strong connections to the Requiem. It is in ABA’ form, with the second half of the Clara emblem forming the structural basis for both A sections, while the B section is a retrograde treatment of A. Brahms therefore manages to infuse a certain poignancy to his quotation, implying Clara as the source of his sorrows which inspired the composition.

Works: Robert Schumann: Fantasie, Op. 17 (16), Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42 (16), String Quartet in F Major, Op. 41, No. 2 (16), Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61 (16); Brahms: Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8 (16), Schaffe in mir Gott, Op. 29, No. 2 (16), Nänie, Op. 82 (16), Neue Liebeslieder, Op. 65 (16), Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (16).

Sources: Beethoven: An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98 (16); Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (16).

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Jingyi Zhang

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