Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Vaillancourt, Michael. “Brahms’s ‘Sinfonie-Serenade’ and the Politics of Genre.” Journal of Musicology 26 (Summer 2009): 379-403.

In his First Serenade, Brahms artfully uses genre as a rhetorical technique, blending conventions of the serenade and symphony to craft his image as a progressive and historicist composer. Brahms’s rehabilitation of the late-eighteenth century serenade serves as a challenge to the radical modernism of the New German School. Throughout the composition process, Brahms was concerned with the implications of the work’s genre and considered reworking the serenade into a symphony, but ultimately declined to do so. The retrospective gesture of composing in the serenade genre was a significant aspect of the work’s reception, as was Brahms’s hybrid approach to the genre. The pastoral topics and conventions traditional to the serenade genre are present in each of the six movements and contribute to the work’s critical reception as a tonic for Liszt’s and Wagner’s excesses. Brahms also employs frequent melodic allusions to works by Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, and others. These allusions are often located at structurally relevant points, preserving the function of the earlier material. Brahms frequently combines references; the fifth movement of the serenade famously combines tunes from Beethoven’s Septet, “Spring” Sonata, and Symphony No. 2 with the finale of Haydn’s Symphony No. 104. By composing in a historical genre and alluding to several classical composers, Brahms musically articulates his return to composing and his new stylistic direction within the tradition of Viennese Classicism.

Works: Brahms: Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11 (397-403)

Sources: Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36 (397, 399-400), Septet in E-flat Major, Op. 20 (399), Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24 (399-400), Haydn: Symphony No. 104 in D Major (398-99); Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61 (398-99), Carnaval, Op. 9 (400-401)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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