The "Alto Rhapsody" of Johannes Brahms: A synthesis of technique and expression
AdvisorSkones, Maurice H.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn the name of scholarship, there has been a tendency to either downplay or ignore all together the emotional aspects that are often the driving force of creative undertakings. One does not have to do this with the music of Brahms, because expression and technique are not mutually exclusive. This study examined the integral connection between personal experience, text and music that is demonstrated so uniquely and emphatically in the Alto Rhapsody. The study began with a description of key events that shaped the musical and personal life of the composer: from the launching of his career in 1853 to the writing of his Alto Rhapsody in 1869. Brahms's relationship to the text of the Rhapsody, three central stanzas from Goethe's Harzreise im Winter, was discussed. The music was analyzed under the categories of formal design, texture, and motion. Each category featured a comparison between the Brahms setting and the earlier one which inspired it: Johann Friedrich Reichardt's 1790 version. Analysis of the formal design began by weighing the personal factors that influenced the two Rhapsodies . The means by which vocal and instrumental textures were used to enhance textual meaning were evaluated. The musical analysis concluded with a description of rhythmic, melodic and harmonic motion employed in the Alto Rhapsody. Viewed as a synthesis of personal experience, text and music, the Alto Rhapsody provided a unique opportunity to gain insight into various features of the composer and his art. This study explored the aspects of contrast, balance and emotional expression. Analysis of Brahms's Alto Rhapsody revealed significant relationships between the composer, his chosen text and the musical materials and methods used to compose the work. An understanding of these relationships can serve as the basis for informed interpretation, effective rehearsal and expressive performance.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Music and Dance