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Lateness and BrahmsMusic and Culture in the Twilight of Viennese Liberalism$
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Margaret Notley

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195305470

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195305470.001.0001

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ADAGIOS IN BRAHMS'S LATE CHAMBER MUSIC: GENRE AESTHETICS AND CULTURAL CRITIQUE

ADAGIOS IN BRAHMS'S LATE CHAMBER MUSIC: GENRE AESTHETICS AND CULTURAL CRITIQUE

Chapter:
(p.169) CHAPTER 6 ADAGIOS IN BRAHMS'S LATE CHAMBER MUSIC: GENRE AESTHETICS AND CULTURAL CRITIQUE
Source:
Lateness and Brahms
Author(s):

Margaret Notley

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195305470.003.0007

By the late 19th century, the adagio had become a genre marked by the technical attributes and lofty connotations of “unending melody”. Because of Beethoven's achievements, composers found adagios difficult to write. This chapter asserts that the treatment of transitions was crucial for the effect required by genre aesthetics of the adagio. In the 1860s, Brahms used short constructive units but lengthy transitions based on picturesque figuration to foster the illusion of continuous melody. Although critics in the 1880s considered recent adagios to fall short of Beethoven's standards, they saw renewal in Bruckner's String Quintet. Possibly in response to Bruckner's success, Brahms composed an adagio for cello and piano, avoiding closure through his mastery of degrees of tonal stability. In his most acclaimed adagios, however, he extended transitional passages by using Gypsy style's extemporized sound and other signifiers of “raw emotion”, creating a semblance of renewed expressive and formal freedom.

Keywords:   Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, chamber music, genre aesthetics, Gypsy style, historical lateness, late style, unending melody

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