CJ Replay: Brahms & Clara
Date: December 5, 2013
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “Brahms and the ‘Clara Emblem’: Musical Allusion as a Key to Understanding the Thematic Sources at the Heart of Ein deutsches Requiem,” by James John)
Musical allusion is often a provocative subject, especially in relation to Brahms, who rarely disclosed any clues regarding the nature of his inspiration. Indeed, as Specht's story illustrates, Brahms was often hostile towards anyone who dared to point out such interrelationships. Yet such a reaction on the part of the composer does not discount the fact that they may exist. As Hull asserts, Brahms's defensiveness probably had more to do with the observer's attitude than with the observation. During "a time when epigonism was considered among the most deadly of all artistic sins," Brahms was highly justified in being sensitive to accusations perceived as criticizing his originality.
The purpose of this article, however, is not to reveal indiscretions by pointing out interesting resemblances; quite the contrary, it is a sincere attempt to use musical allusion as a key to understanding the thematic sources at the heart of Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem. An important impulse behind the Requiem's creation was the commemoration of Robert Schumann (1810-56). Brahms met the Schumann family in 1853 when he was only twenty years old. Schumann's methods of composing-especially his penchant for using musical symbols and ciphers-deeply influenced the young composer