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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Brahms the autumnal and the romantic aesthetic of dissolution
by Cubero Hernandez, Diego, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2014, 254; 3668787
Abstract (Summary)

This study expands upon the common notion that Brahms's music evokes the autumnal by closely examining the source and significance of this expressive quality. It proposes that his works embody the Romantic ideal of dissolution through a number of specific compositional means. The findings complement prevailing views on the nature of Brahms's autumnal sound, bringing an important part of the composer's reception history in dialogue with key tenets of Romanticism and with a close analysis of the music.

As Chapter 1 demonstrates, scholars have long regarded the autumnal quality of Brahms's music as a product of the composer's belated position in music history. Chapter 2 seeks to complement this view by providing a philosophical context from which to better understand the significance of this aspect of his style. This chapter argues that dissolution was for the Romantics a means of intuiting the spiritual in the physical. This notion of decay underpins a century-long interest in ruins, twilight, and the distant, and provides the basis for the Romantic conception of inwardness and resignation as forms of self-dissolution.

The aim of the subsequent chapters is to demonstrate precisely how Brahms's music may be heard as expressive of this Romantic ideal. Chapter 3 discusses three different forms of thematic decay and the formal functions they assume in his music. Chapter 4 expands on Frank Samarotto's concept of sublimation to describe how upward impulses vanish in several of his songs depicting the sunset. Chapter 5 draws a parallel between Brahms's use of structural inner voices and the Romantic notion of inwardness as a fading within. Chapter 6 compares the blurring of harmonies in his works to the way objects fade seamlessly into one another in the background of Romantic landscape paintings. While each chapter focuses on a particular compositional issue, the analyses draw on the finding of each previous chapter. To conclude, an analysis of Brahms's Intermezzo, Op. 118 no. 2, shows all of these techniques working together to imbue the music with a distinct twilight quality.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Samarotto, Frank
Commitee: Goldberg, Halina, Johnston, Blair, Kielian-Gilbert, Marianne
School: Indiana University
Department: Music Theory
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 76/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music
Keywords: Brahms, Dissolution, Inwardness, Romantic aesthetics, Schenkerian analysis, Sublimation
Publication Number: 3668787
ISBN: 978-1-321-44071-3
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