Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Reynolds, Christopher. “Brahms Rhapsodizing: The Alto Rhapsody and Its Expressive Double.” Journal of Musicology 29 (Spring 2012): 191-238.

Brahms’s 1869 Alto Rhapsody adopts several traits of the German rhapsody tradition, including its use in wedding celebrations and fragmentary quotation of other works. Analyzing the Alto Rhapsody with its expressive double, Brahms’s Schicksalslied, Op.54, suggests that Brahms likely conceived it at least a year earlier than previously thought. The Alto Rhapsody draws heavily on Johann Friedrich Reichard’s 1792 Rhapsodie (Aus der Harzreise) . Brahms sets the same passage of Goethe’s “Harzreise im Winter” as Reichard and borrows several musical ideas from Reichard’s rhapsody. Brahms uses musical citations of the third movement of his own Ein deutsches Requiem and Robert Schumann’s Das Paradies und die Peri to reinforce the meaning of the text. He also draws on several other musical models related to Goethe’s Faust, in particular Berlioz’s La Damnation of Faust, Gounod’s Faust, and Liszt’s Eine Faust-Symphonie. By alluding to these works, Brahms associates the Harzreise text with the brooding “Faust allein in seinem Studierzimmer” scene (as set by Berlioz and Gounod) and “Das Ewig-weibliche” (as set by Liszt). Conceptually, the Alto Rhapsody shares a strong relationship with the choral-orchestral work Schicksalslied. The texts of each piece thematically mirror each other, and their principal musical motives are similar in contour but opposite in character. Both pieces also include a Faust motive drawn from Liszt’s Faust-Symphonie. These similarities can be understood through the Romantic phenomenon of “expressive doubling,” in which two works present opposing expressions of the same subject. The relationship between these pieces, the intertextual complexity of the Alto Rhapsody, and Brahms’s typical compositional process suggest that Brahms began composing it in June 1868 alongside the Schicksalslied, not in July 1869 as he claims.

Works: Brahms: Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53 (191-228), Schicksalslied, Op. 54 (219-21)

Sources: Johann Friedrich Reichard: Rhapsodie (Aus der Harzreise) (191-97, 214); Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (197-200, 214), Schicksalslied, Op. 54 (216-28); Robert Schumann: Das Paradies und die Peri, Op. 50 (197-200, 214); Berlioz: La Damnation de Faust (200-7, 214); Liszt: Eine Faust-Symphonie (200, 205-11, 214, 219-21); Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (200, 211-14); Gounod: Faust (201-7, 214); Joseph Joachim: Hamlet (203-8, 214)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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