Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Sholes, Jacquelyn. “Lovelorn Lamentation or Histrionic Historicism?: Reconsidering Allusion and Extramusical Meaning in the 1854 Version of Brahms’s B-Major Trio.” 19th-Century Music 34 (Summer 2010): 61-86.

The 1854 version of Brahms’s Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Op. 8, is recognized as containing allusions to Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte and Schubert’s Schwanengesang, but a third, thus far unacknowledged allusion to Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in C Major, K. 159, is also present in the trio. This allusion supports the program proposed in existing scholarship, but it also suggests a new reading of Brahms mourning the loss of the musical past. Throughout the trio, but most clearly at the climax of the first movement, Brahms references Scarlatti’s sonata and develops the borrowed themes. Brahms’s own composed themes in the trio are also constructed to develop into the near-quotation of Scarlatti’s sonata. Contextual evidence for this Scarlatti allusion comes from Brahms’s longstanding championing of Scarlatti’s music in his writings and performances. The allusions to Beethoven and Schubert both refer to songs on the theme of distant or lost love. Although Scarlatti’s sonata is not based on a text, the particular way Brahms uses the borrowed material suggests distance by distorting Scarlatti’s theme to the edge of unrecognizability. The theme of distant love in the trio is often interpreted as a secret program referring to Brahms’s romantic longing for Clara Schumann. The presence of the Scarlatti reference suggests an alternate program of Brahms paying homage to music of the past. In 1889, Brahms extensively revised the trio, eliminating the allusions to Beethoven, Schubert, and Scarlatti. Scholars have interpreted this removal as Brahms attempting to hide his past feelings toward Schumann. Acknowledging the Scarlatti allusions as well, this removal can be interpreted as Brahms coming to terms with his place in music history and the evolution of his complicated relationship to music of the past.

Works: Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Op. 8 (1854 version) (63-78)

Sources: Beethoven: An die ferne Geliebte (63-65); Schubert: Schwanengesang (64-65); Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in C Major, K. 159 (65-78)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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