Abstracts of issue 16 (2002)

Panayiotis Matzoulas

“The Odd Key”. An Interpretive Attempt of Johannes Brahms’ Piano Rhapsody in b minor (Οp. 79, Νο. 1)

Christian Martin Schmidt’s Johannes Brahms und seine Zeit (1983), Denis Matthews’ Brahms’ Piano Music (1986) and Malcolm Macdonald’s Brahms (1993) have been the writer’s most up-to-date sources of bibliographical reference for his thesis (1999). After going through the bibliography quoted in these works, he found that a number of remarks had yet to be done concerning Piano Rhapsody in b minor (opus 79, No. 1):
First, no one had noticed its thematic affinity with R. Schumann’s piano piece Νο. 9 (Volksliedchen) of his opus 68 (Album für die Jugend).
Second, no one had yet attempted a morphological analysis of bars 1-94, which are the first part of the rhapsody’s ternary form and build up like a sonata movement. These bars illustrate intensely Brahms’ typical musical idiosyncrasy: he elaborates the Schumann melody of op. 68, No. 9, as the second theme of the sonata movement (bars 30-38) and through its motivic-intervallic transformation he builds up the sonata’s first theme (bars 1-4). Adopting the expositional procedures of the New German School (method of real modulating sequence) and using his own compositional technique of developing variation, he experiments ingeniously upon the sonata structure.
This kind of analysis takes place in the third part of the article, whereas an attempt at correlating the first and the second rhapsody of opus 79 takes place in the third and fourth part of the article, thus pointing to a matter that had not been given significant attention so far.
In the fourth part of the article a thorough discussion of terminology problems that rise up takes place as well.
In the second part of the article there is a brief presentation of the results of the on-going music-historical research concerning Brahms’ work and its reception, results which create the framework of the writer’s suggested interpretative attempt.
Finally the first part, by way of introduction, touches on methodology matters concerning every interpretive attempt.

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