Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Burkholder, J. Peter. “Brahms and Twentieth-Century Classical Music.” 19th-Century Music 8 (Summer 1984): 75-83.

Despite the traditional depiction of Brahms as a musical conservative, he is the single most important influence on twentieth-century classical music in regard to how composers think about music and measure their success. Musical-technical definitions of modernism are inadequate to explain the changing social context of music, particularly in how composers starting with Brahms dealt with the musical past. One example of this is Brahms’s use of the chaconne in the finale of his Fourth Symphony. The movement is modeled on Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin, which Brahms had previously transcribed for piano, and the two pieces share many similarities. The movement is also modeled on Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, particularly its unusual theme-and-variations finale. Both movements are in three sections suggesting a sonata form, and both close with a faster coda that develops the opening thematic material in a new way. By modeling his work on important classical composers, Brahms conspicuously participates in the classical tradition. This dialectic between old and new music, pioneered by Brahms, has been adopted by later modern composers such as Mahler, Stravinsky, and Bartók, and provides the framework for serious music in the twentieth century.

Works: Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98 (78)

Sources: Bach: Chaconne, from Partita No. 2 in D Minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1004 (78); Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55, Eroica (78)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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