Brahms Research Paper
Johannes Brahms always had the ambition to compose a major symphony but lacked the self confidence to do so - Brahms Research Paper introduction. He was extremely intimidated by Beethoven and his symphonies that he felt he could never compose something near as well so he put off writing one altogether. His first symphony was not completed until Brahms’ was 44 years old and had been working on his symphony for twenty years. Not only was Brahms’ intimidated by Beethoven, but he also admired Beethoven. He appreciated all of Beethoven’s Romantic innovations and used similar techniques throughout his career. Brahms’ Symphony No.
1 is characterized by his instrumentation, tempo changes, use of modulations, major-minor conflict, programming and emotion, which prove Brahms to be a true Romantic composer, like Beethoven. One way Brahms proves to be writing a Romantic symphony as opposed to one based solely on Classical traditions, is his orchestration. While the instrumentation is mostly similar to a strictly written classical symphony involving two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings, Brahms also incorporated the contrabassoon and three trombones, which are both considered to be Romantic instruments.
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One of the first composers to use trombones in the symphony setting was Brahms’ mentor, Beethoven who used them in his later symphonies, No. 5, No. 6 and No. 9. While for Beethoven, the use of trombones was pushing the limits out of Classical music and into Romantic music, Brahms’ imitation of his instrumentation was becoming the standard instrumentation of the Romantic period. ?Classical symphonies incorporated the use of fluctuation within the overall piece by having each movement set at different tempos.
However, during the Romantic period the composers took it a step further and began varying the tempo within movements as well. Brahms demonstrates this well throughout his symphony, but one specific example of this characteristic is his fourth movement. He begins this movement rather slowly to show the emotion of tragedy from the first movement. The tempo changes to Piu andante and then finally towards the end the tempo advances to Presto to end in a cheerful mood.
Brahms’ use of tempos to portray three different emotions within one movement was not only impressive, but also a classic Romantic technique. ?Another important aspect that makes Brahms’ first symphony a Romantic symphony is the key. As opposed to classical symphonies where the “home key” is usually established through themes, Brahms establishes his key through a long pedal point, “The opening bass ostinato remains on C for the first 8 measures… ” When examining the key of the symphony as a whole, it is apparent that he imitated Beethoven’s fifth symphony by progressing from c minor to C major.
In addition, Brahms’ went a step further into the Romantic genre by incorporating major-minor conflicts within movements. For example, the exposition of the first movement is divided into three sections; the “stormy” opening in c minor, the lyrical “second subject” in E-flat major, and the closing in the key of E-flat minor. The exchange between major and minor keys throughout movements creates a sense of tension apparent during the Romantic period while lacking during the Classical. ?Additionally, programming is also a characteristic of Romantic music.
While Brahms did not have programming for his entire symphony like Beethoven’s sixth, he did incorporate a few details including the use of a tune from an Alpine shepherd, “High on the hill, deep in the dale, I send you a thousand greetings! ” He used this song as the basis of the horn and timpani parts in the fourth movement. ?Perhaps, one of the greatest innovations the Romantic period had on music was the use of emotion within the music. The classical symphonies focused mostly on form and the “correct” way of writing music, while Romantic composers tried to find ways to make music more expressive!
In Brahms’ first symphony he shows his Romantic emotion by his arrangement of voices and extreme uses of dynamic. For example, in the opening of the first movement the listener immediately feels an emotional struggle by his technique of the having two sections “proceed in two directions at once, rising from below and falling from above, [with] overlapping musical phrases also dueling with one another” (Bade, 1). The constant battle between sections, keys, emotions, etc. help Brahms’ portray the emotional aspect of true Romantic music.
?It is apparent that Brahms’ was inspired by and imitated Beethoven’s fifth, sixth and ninth symphonies. Brahms’ wrote his first symphony, often times referred to as “Beethoven’s tenth symphony,” with the inspiration of Beethoven’s Romantic innovations while adding his own unique ideas as well. His use of instrumentation, tempo fluctuations, modulations, major-minor conflict, programming and emotion all contributed to his overall goal of creating a symphony similar to that of the romantic styling of Beethoven. Bibliography Bade, Dennis. Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
Last modified 10/2012. Accessed March 15, 2013. http://www. laphil. com/philpedia/music/symphony-no-1-johannes-brahms. Rodda, Richard. National Symphony Orchestra, “Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. ” Last modified 04/2011. Accessed February 20, 2013. http://www. kennedy-center. org/calendar/? fuseaction=composition&composition_id=2650. Fink, Robert. “Desire, Repression, and Brahms’ First Symphony. ” repercussions 2/1(1993), 75-103. Grove Music Online. Brahms, Johannes, 9: Orchestral works and concertos. http://www. oxfordmusiconlin. com:80/subscriber/article/grove/music/51879pg9.