Allusion as Narrative Premise in Brahms’s Instrumental Music

Allusion as Narrative Premise in Brahms’s Instrumental Music

Jacquelyn E. C. Sholes
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/24/2018
Format: Paperback 1 b&w illus, 124 music exx., 1 table
ISBN: 978-0-253-03315-4
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Who inspired Johannes Brahms in his art of writing music? In this book, Jacquelyn E. C. Sholes provides a fresh look at the ways in which Brahms employed musical references to works of earlier composers in his own instrumental music. By analyzing newly identified allusions alongside previously known musical references in works such as the B-Major Piano Trio, the D-Major Serenade, the First Piano Concerto, and the Fourth Symphony, among others, Sholes demonstrates how a historical reference in one movement of a work seems to resonate meaningfully, musically, and dramatically with material in other movements in ways not previously recognized. She highlights Brahms's ability to weave such references into broad, movement-spanning narratives, arguing that these narratives served as expressive outlets for his complicated, sometimes conflicted, attitudes toward the material to which he alludes. Ultimately, Brahms's music reveals both the inspiration and the burden that established masters such as Domenico Scarlatti, J. S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, and especially Beethoven represented for him as he struggled to emerge with his own artistic voice and to define and secure his unique position in music history.

Author Bio

Jacquelyn E. C. Sholes serves on the faculty of the Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology at Boston University.


“Worth a read for Brahms devotees, even those without advanced music theory knowledge. . . . Recommended.”
 — Choice

“This is a wonderfully musical book with many valuable insights (and many generously long music examples). It will be useful to Brahms scholars, of course, but also to those who study music from roughly 1780 to the early twentieth century.”
 — Notes

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Table of Contents


List of Musical Instrument Abbreviation


1. The Notion of Allusion as Narrative Premise in Brahms’s Instrumental Music

2. Lovelorn Lamentation, or Histrionic Historicism? Reexamining Allusion and Extramusical Meaning in the B-Major Piano Trio, op. 8

3. Musical Memory and the D-Major Serenade, op. 11

4. A Historical Model, an Emerging Soloist, a Young Composer in Turmoil: The Piano Concerto in D Minor, op. 15

5. A Later Example: Tragic Antiquarianism in Brahms’s Fourth Symphony