Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Knapp, Raymond. “Utopian Agendas: Variation, Allusion, and Referential Meaning in Brahms's Symphonies.” Brahms Studies 3 (2001): 129-89.

Brahms uses musical “allusions” in his symphonies to serve two utopia agendas: first, to achieve a pure and organic unity ideal of “absolute music”; second, to revitalize a languishing tradition through multiple allusive sources, thus creating referential meanings that are not devoid of the narrative dimensions or programmatic intentions of the “New German School.” These two agendas, or two “senses of belonging,” are interrelated. Brahms uses a single technique, thematic variation, as the agent of synthesis for two separate frames of reference in order to create referential meaning within a work and at the same time to establish relationships other works within the extended tradition. Brahms achieves organic unity by accommodating allusions to internal process, mainly by manipulating a network of thematic relationships from his allusive sources. Examples from Brahms's symphonies show the different ways he engages his allusive sources to acquire important meanings in a new unified musical context. In all his allusions, Brahms triggers in us the unconscious process of association with well-known music and guides us to feel our response to a shared heritage.

Works: Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90 (139-59), Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68 (159-69), Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98 (169-78), Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73 (178-89).

Sources: Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 97 in C Major, Hob.I:97 (141-43); Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (“Eroica”) (141-44, 152-53, 181-85), Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 (159-69), Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21 (159-69), Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (167-73); Schubert: Quintet in C Major, D.956 (141), Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D.944 (“Great”) (182-85); Schumann: Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61 (141), Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97 (“Rhenish”) (141); Wagner: Tannhäuser (140-151, 154-59); Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68 (141); Mendelssohn: Ein Sommernachtstraum, Op. 61 (182-88).

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Tong Cheng Blackburn

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