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Title: Brahms as Reader
Authors: Phillips, Reuben
Advisors: Agawu, V. Kofi
Burnham, Scott
Contributors: Music Department
Keywords: Brahms
German literature
Subjects: Music history
Music theory
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation seeks to reframe the scholarly understanding of Brahms’s creativity in the 1850s and ‘60s through a consideration of the composer’s engagement with German literature. Drawing on archival research undertaken in Vienna, I argue that Brahms’s early aesthetic worldview was fundamentally shaped by his devotion to reading. The later chapters of the dissertation draw on key works of German Romantic literature to contextualize two of Brahms’s singular offerings in the fields of chamber music and song. Part 1 provides the first comprehensive investigation of an important source for evidence of Brahms’s early reading habits: his notebooks of literary quotations known – since their abridged publication in 1909 – as Des jungen Kreislers Schatzkästlein. Chapter 1 situates Brahms’s quotation collection in three contexts, considering biographical representations of Brahms as a reader, the role played by Robert Schumann in shaping Brahms’s literary enthusiasms, and the elevated status afforded to the activity of reading in German culture of the mid nineteenth century. Chapter 2 provides a thematic summary of the notebook entries, suggesting that for Brahms the process of copying out quotations served as a means of meditating on important ideas about the role of art in society, genius, originality, and artistic technique. An appendix provides a transcription of surviving source materials from copies preserved in the Wienbibliothek im Rathaus. In the second part of the dissertation I enlist some of Brahms’s beloved works of German Romantic literature in the examination of two compositions from the 1860s: the Trio for Piano, Violin, and Waldhorn, op. 40, and the Magelone Romanzen, op. 33. Following the lead of early critics, Chapter 3 considers the Horn Trio from the perspectives of affect and musical temporality in relation to the literary topos of the Romantic horn call. Chapter 4 offers a literary and music-analytical account of the Magelone Romanzen, homing in on Brahms’s formally innovative treatment of Tieck’s poetic texts. By exploring these works as imaginative musical responses to themes and motifs central to the literature of German Romanticism, this pair of close readings demonstrates some of the ways in which Brahms’s youthful reading fed his mature creativity.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Music

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