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#404473 - 02/27/08 07:11 PM Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
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Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
I've been playing a couple of pieces lately, both wonderful: Chopin's F Minor Nocturne and Brahms's Intermezzo Op. 76 No. 7.

Someone here pointed out in a discussion a while back that there was a resemblance between the two -- indeed, the opening themes are very similar!

1] The notes of the melody are almost identical, except for a few differences in ornaments and register.

2] The structure is the same: basic idea (mm. 1-2), repetition of that same idea (mm. 3-4), and then an extension all the way down the scale (mm. 5-8)

3] The base line is almost identical, except for mm. 3-4

4] They are both in minor

5] They are both at a generally piano dynamic






So what's going on here? Obviously Chopin came first, so Brahms was copying Chopin. But why?[/b] My teacher suggested that it's a respectful homage -- he could be right. I'd like your opinion on a different idea, though, which isn't so flattering to Chopin. The key point here is that obviously we don't know what Brahms was thinking, but we can certainly guess!


I've begun to read an article by one of my professors, Kevin Korsyn, called "Towards a New Poetics of Musical Influence" (Music Analysis 10:1-2, 1991). He basically is trying to apply Harold Bloom's theories on literary inspiration to Korsyn's own ideas on musical inspiration. A key point that is argued is that all composers (and poets) are inescapably tied to their predecessors, not least through jealousy. There's a feeling that everything has already been said, so what are the modern composers left to do? Brahms himself famously wrote about Beethoven, "you have no idea what it's like to have that giant marching behind you." So part of what composers (and poets) do when they write, is they try to show somehow their own legitimacy and even superiority over their esteemed predecessors. Brahms adored Chopin -- and for good reason. Korsyn went into quite a bit of detail showing Brahms's interactions with Chopin's music, and showing Brahms's documented admiration. It's not unreasonable to suspect that Brahms also feared Chopin -- what was left to be written? How could Brahms possibly be original in the wake of such an enormously original composer such as Chopin?

So, Korsyn basically goes through some pieces by Chopin and Brahms to show how Brahms copied Chopin a lot, and then some ideas why and how. I haven't finished reading it yet, so I don't know if he mentions these two pieces that I mentioned before -- the nocturne and the intermezzo -- but I think we might be able to apply some of the ideas there to these two pieces.

In short, it seems to me, when Brahms wrote his intermezzo, he was basically saying: "Hey Chopin -- I'm better than you. I love you, but you're too simple, and I'm going to show how much better your music can be when *I* write it."[/b].


I say this after considering not simply that Brahms copied Chopin's theme, but that Brahms changed it. How he changed it is very revealing -- basically, he completely fancied it up and made it much more complex. In retrospect, he makes Chopin's theme seem actually quite simple in comparison.

1] Register: Chopin's melody stays entirely in one register (octave). Brahms makes it more complex -- the repetition of the original idea (in mm. 3-4) is an octave lower. So instead of having it all on one level, it starts high, then goes low for a bit, and then jumps back up again.

2] Harmony: Chopin's melody stays entirely in F Minor. (There are a few applied chords to III, but it doesn't really go to III -- that's only a fleeting thought.) Brahms makes it more complex -- the repetition of the original idea (in mm. 3-4) is in the relative major, while the rest is in the minor. So instead of having it all in one tonality, he has, again, a sort of arch form.

3] Bass line: Chopin uses the same bass line throughout the entire theme: a scale going up a third, then repeated, and then the scale goes all the way up to a cadence. Brahms makes it more complex -- the repetition of the original idea (are we seeing a pattern here?) uses a completely different baseline that is not scalar at all - it's actually a pretty ordinary IV-V-I to emphasize Brahms's change in tonality (major instead of minor).

4] Texture: Chopin's texture is very thin: There is a single melody in the right (one note at a time) and boom-chuck chords in the left hand. Brahms made it more complex, and in fact more Brahmsian, by adding octaves and adding chords to the right hand as a part of the melody.

5] Dynamics: Chopin's theme only has one dynamic indication: piano. Brahms applies a more complex, arched dynamic: mp, and then p, and then mp, with several decrescendos and a crescendo.

6] Phrasing: Chopin just has two big long phrase marks -- Brahms is much more precise with overlapping 2-bar phrases. (This is not the editor's doing -- Mandyczewsi printed it the same way as Joseffy.)


So basically, Brahms has shown how incredibly simple Chopin's theme really is, and in doing so has shown how skillful he himself was at making it much more complex by manipulating all of these various aspects of the music. Is that homage -- to take Chopin's theme and "improve" it?

But let's look beyond the theme for a moment, because the form of this intermezzo is pretty neat. The theme is presented, and then followed by a pause. Then there are quite a few measures of Brahms himself, followed by a pause. Then the theme is presented again at the end. So Brahms's "own" intermezzo is really sandwiched between his "improvement" of Chopin's theme.

In fact, in the body of the piece, Brahms spends the entire time developing a motive from the theme. Oh, how nice! He's taking Chopin's theme and borrowing one of his motives for one of Brahms's own pieces!

Not so. The motive that Brahms chose to develop is actually one of *his own manipulations of Chopin's theme.* The motive he is using is the bass line in mm. 6-7, but also foreshadowed in the middle of voice connecting mm. 2-3. This is not in Chopin's theme, but where does it come from? Chopin originally had a little turning figure in m. 2 -- Brahms actually changed that to become 2 "dips" instead, and then he elaborated it in the bass line at the end of the theme (which in Chopin was just an ordinary B C C F).

So wait a minute -- Brahms isn't even spending the entire piece developing Chopin, after this big introduction of Chopin! He's further pushing Chopin to the side by saying, in effect, "your theme isn't even good enough as is for development. I had to change it first, make it more complex... and only then could I develop one of *my* own improvements of it."


So what do you think? Possible? Was Brahms simply writing an homage to honor Chopin, or, as I've suggested, could it be that his jealousy and need for originality was causing him to express a desire for superiority?
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#404474 - 02/27/08 07:46 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
LiszThalberg Offline
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Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
Look at Beethoven's Pathetique Middle movement and Mozart's Middle movement of K457.

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#404475 - 02/27/08 07:57 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
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Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
I'm not sure what you're referring to in 457, but if there is a similarity, why do you think that similarity is there?

Brahms quotes left and right. Check out the middle section of Op. 118/5 and the Chopin Berceuse. Since we're talking about the F Minor nocturne, look at the middle section of Op. 118 No. 2. Brahms even copied himself -- used a melody from 2 of his songs (both songs used the same melody) in his first violin sonata. But all of that isn't very interesting until you start to ask "why".... ;\)
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#404476 - 02/27/08 08:09 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
BDB Online   content
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I suspect it was because Brahms knew a good melody when he heard it, and because he could more of it than the composer he got it from.
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#404477 - 02/28/08 12:09 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Auntie Lynn Offline
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Registered: 12/07/04
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Loc: San Francisco, CA
Hey, my darlings...remember that old tune "How Dry I Am..."? Well the Barlow/Morgenstern Dictionary of Musical Themes lists no less than 83 tunes that start off in that fashion and the Dictionary of Opera and Song Themes lists no less than 73...blame it on the Common Practice Period (thanks Mr. Piston).

I once had some idiot tell me that he though Begin the Beguine and Silent Night sounded alike...go figure...

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#404478 - 02/28/08 12:50 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5902
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
I'm not sure what you're referring to in 457, but if there is a similarity, why do you think that similarity is there?

Brahms quotes left and right. Check out the middle section of Op. 118/5 and the Chopin Berceuse. Since we're talking about the F Minor nocturne, look at the middle section of Op. 118 No. 2. [/b]
Even given Brahms's admiration for Chopin, I think you should at least accept the possibility that it's not a conscious quote. It could be an unconscious quote (ie he heard it once and it just surfaced when he was writing his own music) or not a quote at all (he hadn't heard the Chopin) but just happened on similar melodic material, which as Auntie Lynn points out, is not at all uncommon. In these two cases, "why?" becomes a non-question.
(I'm not suggesting the Regenlied-G major violin sonata isn't a self-quote by the way. It pretty obviously is.)
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#404479 - 02/28/08 02:55 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
I think you're reading too much into it - especially jumping to conclusions when you get to what Brahms' intention was.

Composers quote each other all the time.

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#404480 - 02/28/08 06:37 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Numerian Offline
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Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 1075
You may be on to something here. The melodies are very similar, whether by conscious homage, unconscious copying, or accident. As with much of Brahms piano music, he made it quite complex harmonically, texturally, and in terms of dynamics. He rarely repeated anything the exact same way. This is what made Brahms such a fascinating figure to someone like Arnold Schoenberg.

To be fair to Chopin, he could be equally complex, especially in the use of polyphony, as anybody else in his time.

The other reason I think you have a point is that you've "ruined" the Op. 76//7 for me. I'll never be able to play this piece again without thinking of Chopin's Nocturne!

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#404481 - 02/28/08 06:57 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
 Quote:
Originally posted by Auntie Lynn:
Hey, my darlings...remember that old tune "How Dry I Am..."? Well the Barlow/Morgenstern Dictionary of Musical Themes lists no less than 83 tunes that start off in that fashion and the Dictionary of Opera and Song Themes lists no less than 73...blame it on the Common Practice Period (thanks Mr. Piston).[/b]
You of course know Bernstein's TV lecture on the "Infinite Variety of Music" (reprinted in the book of the same name), yes? If you don't, do get to know it -- it's quite fascinating.

As for the original post, it of course assumes that Brahms was referring to Chopin consciously. I happen to think it is a conscious reference, since Brahms had a legendary and detailed knowledge of known and unknown repertoire (confirmed by countless contemporary sources) that such a similarity would probably not have come as a coincidence. Also, Brahms was one of the editors of an edition of Chopin's complete works.

The quantum leap, of course, comes into reading the intent of the reference. pianojerome, you make a very good case for Brahms consciously demonstrating that he can surpass Chopin. However, being something of a Brahms scholar myself, I do think it is somewhat out of character for him to even think of himself as qualitatively better than any of his illustrious predecessors -- even the more recently passed ones such as Chopin. True, Brahms had a good estimate of his own gifts and self-worth (he could be boorish, proud, and even arrogant at times), but he also had an incredible -- at times almost comical -- reverence for past masters. It is true that Brahms's intermezzo may boast musical procedures that surpass the original Chopin nocturne in terms of sheer sophistication, but I do not necessarily think Brahms himself thought it made his intermezzo better than Chopin's nocturne. One can say the same thing about many of Brahms's works compared to past masterpieces, such as, say, the First Symphony to Beethoven's Fifth and Ninth. Or take the German Requiem, for example: some have argued that its cantus firmus is an old Lutheran chorale that Bach also used, from which Brahms derived the F-A-Bb motive that is developed in myriad ways throughout the piece (a prime demonstration of the wonders of musical alchemy if there ever was one). It can be argued that Brahms's use of motivic development/variation in the German Requiem is more sophisticated than anything Bach did in the Passions or any of his many choral works, but I doubt that means that Brahms thought he was surpassing Bach in a qualitative manner -- or in any manner, come to think of it.

Brahms was very likely consciously referring to Contrapunctus 13 (rectus) of Die Kunst der Fuge in primary theme of the finale of his E minor Cello Sonata, but I doubt he thought he surpassed Bach in the process -- indeed, this movement is an ingenious fusion of fugue and sonata form that by its very nature looks back to the finale of Mozart's "Jupiter", the finale of his K. 387 quartet, and the finale of Beethoven's Op. 59 #3 quartet (which itself might've been influenced by the finale of K. 387), amongst others.

The constant motivic development in Brahms's C minor string quartet was probably inspired by similar procedures in Beethoven's late quartets (particularly Op. 131), and though it is true that Brahms's quartet displays other procedures not used in the Beethoven works, that doesn't mean Brahms thought he was surpassing Beethoven in any way.

In one of his canons for female voices, Brahms creates an ingenious contrapuntal web out of the melody of the last song of Schubert's Winterreise (unquestionably a conscious reference), but the nature of the reference is symbolic (given the text) and biographic, rather than one-upmanship with Schubert.

And finally, the finale of Brahms's Fourth Symphony of course refers to Bach's Cantata 150 (for its theme, again unquestionably a conscious reference) and the solo violin Chaconne (same genre, similar procedures, etc.). A few of the staggering harmonic and contrapuntal techniques Brahms displays as he develops the theme would probably be unknown to Bach (since they are thoroughly of Brahms's own time), but again, that doesn't mean Brahms thought he surpassed his esteemed models. However it would be equally simplistic to think that Brahms thought the techniques of past masters were always the best, given the deep skepticism in his persona.

Brahms would often look back to the past for inspiration and knowledge, but he was also a child of his time in that he would use the latest in musical developments (in motivic development, harmony, chromaticism, etc.) to create a musical output whose sheer compositional technique looks boldly to the future as well. Small wonder why Malcolm MacDonald christened him Janus (after his first name, Johannes) in his wonderful biography/study of the composer.

Because of this overall philosophy, Brahms making conscious references to past works is simply him having a conversation with the masters of the past, and with the great musical tradition which he saw himself as a part of. I don't think he would ever think of himself as a better composer than Chopin, but I think he wanted to prove (to himself, in the spirit of challenging himself for his own betterment) that he was a competent enough musician to actually have a decent conversation with the past greats. Which is why I still think Brahms's A minor Intermezzo is an homage to Chopin -- and one done with utmost humility.

P.S.: Interestingly (re: Debussy20's post), Mozart's C minor sonata was Beethoven's favorite of all of Wolferl's sonatas, so the slow movement of the Pathetique may indeed be a conscious reference to the middle section of the slow movement of the earlier work. I mean, both begin in Ab major, both are in the same register, and both have rather similar textures to boot, so who knows?

P.P.S.: Continuing that train of thought, was Beethoven referring to himself in the slow introduction (yes, that part does survive) of his Tenth Symphony? Something to think about...

P.P.P.S.: Brahms himself thought that after his death, he would be remembered only by a few specialists, much as Cherubini was remembered only by a few specialists during Brahms's time. Brahms would probably be utterly shocked by how highly he is esteemed today. This is just another demonstration of his humility.
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Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#404482 - 02/28/08 09:23 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
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 Quote:
Originally posted by currawong:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
I'm not sure what you're referring to in 457, but if there is a similarity, why do you think that similarity is there?

Brahms quotes left and right. Check out the middle section of Op. 118/5 and the Chopin Berceuse. Since we're talking about the F Minor nocturne, look at the middle section of Op. 118 No. 2. [/b]
Even given Brahms's admiration for Chopin, I think you should at least accept the possibility that it's not a conscious quote. It could be an unconscious quote (ie he heard it once and it just surfaced when he was writing his own music) or not a quote at all (he hadn't heard the Chopin) but just happened on similar melodic material, which as Auntie Lynn points out, is not at all uncommon. In these two cases, "why?" becomes a non-question.
(I'm not suggesting the Regenlied-G major violin sonata isn't a self-quote by the way. It pretty obviously is.) [/b]
I think this is a more likely answer. My husband used to be a poet and one poem he wrote for me ended up being very much like part of Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland. When I noticed this, he had no idea and was actually embarrassed by it.

We don't live in vacuums, and so I think the more likely answer to this occurrence in "quoting" is that when a composer composes, he listens for the piece to come to life. If you read Brahms himself in an interview with him, he mentions this very thing about the music pretty music writing itself. It is a very close sensation to remembering a piece. So it seems logical that when one is listening, they may just be remembering a melody they heard rather than creating a new one.

**edited to add: So obviously he listened to music of the past and was well aware of Chopin. But he may not have actually been quoting him purposely at the time. Of course back then, they knew that doing this was the absolute complement to pay to a composer, and not the copyright infringement we see nowadays.
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#404483 - 02/28/08 11:23 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
hopinmad Offline
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Registered: 06/07/07
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i have no time for a detailed post, but just xonxerning the beethoven pathetique mozart sonata resemblance, i think beethoven himself said something along the lines of ;: no one but him [mozart[ could have come up with something like this,
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Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin

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#404484 - 02/28/08 11:36 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
 Quote:
Originally posted by hopinmad:
i have no time for a detailed post, but just xonxerning the beethoven pathetique mozart sonata resemblance, i think beethoven himself said something along the lines of ;: no one but him [mozart[ could have come up with something like this, [/b]
Ah, you bring up an interesting point. Beethoven wrote (if memory serves), "We'll never be able to write a work like that!" He was referring to Mozart's K. 464 quartet. Of course, he went on to use that work as a model for his own Op. 18 #5 quartet! Go figure.

edit: The exact quote is, "Ah, that piece. That’s Mozart saying ‘here’s what I could do, if only you had ears to hear!’"
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#404485 - 02/28/08 11:51 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
signa Offline
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Registered: 06/06/04
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Loc: Ohio, USA
there's nothing wrong with modeling a composition from another composer. all composers do that. but copying an entire phrase (except using it as a variation theme) from another composer in one's own composition might be a different story.

i remember that Schiff in at least one of his Beethoven lectures mentioned how Brahms 'stole' a phrase from Beethoven sonata and use it in one of his cello sonatas, and Schubert did the similar thing with Beethoven although in much subtle way.

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#404486 - 02/28/08 05:18 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
Here's the Mozart...

Here's the Beethoven...


Matt

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#404487 - 02/28/08 05:25 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Janus K. Sachs Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
Debussy20, what was your reason for posting the later appearance of the theme in Gb major rather than its initial appearance, which is in the same key and register as the Beethoven?
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#404488 - 02/28/08 06:02 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
LiszThalberg Offline
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Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
I was rushing to get this on here and quickly copied this one. I'll switch it out...

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#404489 - 02/28/08 06:13 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
LiszThalberg Offline
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Registered: 03/13/06
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#404490 - 02/29/08 03:13 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7767
 Quote:
Originally posted by Janus Sachs:

P.P.P.S.: Brahms himself thought that after his death, he would be remembered only by a few specialists, much as Cherubini was remembered only by a few specialists during Brahms's time. Brahms would probably be utterly shocked by how highly he is esteemed today. This is just another demonstration of his humility. [/b]
Or maybe it's just a demonstration of how much the focus of classical music has changed since Brahms' time. Remember, during his era, most classical music that most people heard was what we'd call "contemporary". So it only makes sense that a composer of his time, unless they were really quite megalomaniacal (e.g., Beethoven, Wagner), wouldn't be expecting much in the way of general acknowledgment in the future, because the music of the past was simply not celebrated in the way it is today.

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#404491 - 02/29/08 03:29 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7767
 Quote:
Originally posted by Phlebas:
I think you're reading too much into it - especially jumping to conclusions when you get to what Brahms' intention was.

Composers quote each other all the time. [/b]
And there's no reason that both Brahms and Chopin both didn't get that perfectly ordinary phrase shape from some other common source. Or a common source that was even once or twice removed. It would surprise me if that shape couldn't be found in more than one popular tune, marching tune, or folk tune that Brahms and Chopin both heard. But why is this kind of stuff even interesting? There are endless similarities of this sort to be found in classical music, and the vast majority of them are of no real import. I'm not sure why they would ever matter, outside of being curiosities, unless the composer made some sort of big deal about it.

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#404492 - 02/29/08 04:09 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
nutchai Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/24/07
Posts: 227
Loc: Australia, Western Australia
Composers quote each other all the time.

VERY TRUE when you think of the general theme for Canon in D by Johann Pachabel.

\:D
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#404493 - 02/29/08 04:10 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
nutchai Offline
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Registered: 10/24/07
Posts: 227
Loc: Australia, Western Australia
Although I must say it really isn't "quote" when it comes to what I mentioned...
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#404494 - 02/29/08 10:06 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Fleeting Visions Offline
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Registered: 05/21/06
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 Quote:
Originally posted by nUtChAi:
Although I must say it really isn't "quote" when it comes to what I mentioned... [/b]
I'm not sure I understand.
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#404495 - 03/01/08 09:52 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
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Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by wr:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Phlebas:
I think you're reading too much into it - especially jumping to conclusions when you get to what Brahms' intention was.

Composers quote each other all the time. [/b]
And there's no reason that both Brahms and Chopin both didn't get that perfectly ordinary phrase shape from some other common source. Or a common source that was even once or twice removed. It would surprise me if that shape couldn't be found in more than one popular tune, marching tune, or folk tune that Brahms and Chopin both heard. But why is this kind of stuff even interesting? There are endless similarities of this sort to be found in classical music, and the vast majority of them are of no real import. I'm not sure why they would ever matter, outside of being curiosities, unless the composer made some sort of big deal about it. [/b]
There are several factors in there that are similar; it's not just the melodic shape 5-1-7-6-5, which is undoubtedly used elsewhere (I mentioned it's used in his 118/2, too, which might not be any reference at all, though you never know). It's the whole structure of the 8-bar introduction (and conclusion). It's the bass line. It's the dynamic. It's the little ornaments at the end of each little pattern, though of course the ornaments are slightly different (a turn in Chopin, 2 dips in Brahms)

That said, it's entirely plausible that it was entirely subconscious; though given that Brahms co-edited the complete works of Chopin, as Janus pointed out, it's quite likely that he would have realized it at some point, especially given the multiple layers of similarity.

Janus, I really enjoyed your post -- thank you. I wonder sometimes what he intended for people to recognize, and what -- given his unusual repertoire -- he did not expect people to recognize. (People didn't have CD players back then with the Complete Works of _________ to listen to any day.) Maybe that's why in one particular piece (sorry I don't remember the name) he quoted a Scarlatti tune, and bracketed (most of) it, and wrote in the score: "Scarlatti" (he didn't bracket the entire quotation, however, which is interesting). Did he think nobody would know that one, but everybody would know everything else? Or was he just so enamored by that Scarlatti melody that he wanted to show the most obvious homage? Then there's the famous quote about another piece, when someone pointed out a similarity to an older work, and Brahms replied: "Any *** can see that!" In fact, that would probably be his response to me if I were to ask him about this intermezzo, regardless of whether he originally knew it was a reference or not!
_________________________
Sam

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#404496 - 03/01/08 09:59 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
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Thanks for showing those scores, Matt. Clearly, I need to listen to that Mozart Sonata a little more! \:o
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Sam

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#404497 - 03/01/08 10:21 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Registered: 10/31/07
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Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
Another interesting question, pianojerome! My guess would be that he was probably thinking of most of his conscious references as a kind of insider wink, i.e., if others got the reference, good for them, but if not, no big deal. He was probably aware that only relative specialists would catch some of the conscious references. The whole Beethoven via Schumann An die ferne Geliebte thing in the original version of the Op. 8 B major trio was probably meant first and foremost for Clara (confession of love through music), secondly as an homage to both Schumann and Beethoven that would only be caught by his circle of friends (which of course included much of the Schumann circle). I don't think he expected the general public of his time to get it at all -- and given that he thought he would be remembered only by specialists, I don't think he expected (or cared) that posterity in general would get it either.

Do tell us all of the specifics of that Scarlatti reference you wrote of -- I seem to learn something new from you all the time, pianojerome! I'm always up for a good Brahms discussion...

P.S.: On the other hand, Brahms probably meant other conscious references to be recognized by the general listener -- the Landler in the all-too-famous Wiegenlied comes to mind, as well as some chorale melodies he uses in some of his motets.
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#404498 - 03/01/08 06:48 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Cultor Offline
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Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
A missing musicological study should be done: the history of musical "seeds".
There’s a collection of ur-motives, each of them pregnant of a particular musical content. Those motives, or figures, or cells, as you like to call them, repeat in the history of music and through the ages and countries and races. They are universals.
This is because music is related to human emotions in a “genetic” way and with a “genetic” history. There’re cells of musical sounds that have been growing and developing since the beginning of human times. Even the more complex symphonic contemporary piece, if it’s grown from that old root, will bring into play a wise and sensible parenthood of sound seeds.
A musical seed means a correlation with certain aspect of reality that finally affects our emotions. Think of them as a musical cultural patrimony.
That patrimony was denied for decades in the beginning of the XX century. Too many causes here to be discussed in this forum. It was mocked, intended to kill, distorted, “deconstructed”, etc. But it never died because it’s not possible to deny reality without first denying ourselves.
Using those cells is not plagiarism, especially when we talk about such a genius as Brahms. On the contrary, it reveals the deep root that relates the best compositions with the subtle and always present flow of “sense”.
Sense -a lovely word indeed-, means past and future. And memory. And inscrutability. And ambiguity too.

By the way, pianojerome: as much as I appreciate you, the next time you say Brahms was “jealous” of Chopin, I will murder you.

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#404499 - 03/01/08 06:56 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Cheeto717 Offline
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Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 696
Loc: Pennsylvania
"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties."

-Chopin
_________________________
Working On:
Bach: Partita No. 6
Beethoven: Op. 26
Brahms: Op. 120
Chopin: Op. 10

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#404500 - 03/01/08 07:23 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Auntie Lynn Offline
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Loc: San Francisco, CA
Ahem, intensive research by my arch friends Barlow and Morgenstern reveal 13 instrumental numbers and five songs that start with the quoted "tone rows..." Verifiable!

Nothing new under the sun...?

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#404501 - 03/07/08 12:54 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
ChopinChamp Offline
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Registered: 02/28/08
Posts: 113
Brahms? Better than Chopin? Im sure even Brahms would die laughing over that comment.
_________________________
Currently Working:
Brahms: Intermezzo Op.119 no.3 in C

Currently Polishing:
Chopin Fantasie-Impromptu Op. 66

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#404502 - 03/07/08 01:05 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Cultor Offline
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Registered: 02/25/07
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 Quote:
Originally posted by ChopinChamp:
Brahms? Better than Chopin? Im sure even Brahms would die laughing over that comment. [/b]
Better don't bet on this one.

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#404503 - 03/07/08 01:21 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
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Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by ChopinChamp:
Brahms? Better than Chopin? Im sure even Brahms would die laughing over that comment. [/b]
Of course Brahms was very humble, but we all have our egos, and necessarily so. How can you justify trying to add your own original music to a repertoire that is already filled with great masterpieces by Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, et al? What can you possibly contribute that hasn't already been contributed? What makes your music worthwhile for being played and studied not only in your own lifetime, but even after you die?

One answer (of course not the only one) is that you have to feel that your contributions are not only good enough to be placed alongside those of the old masters, but also that you are offering something unique that the old masters did not have to offer. Regardless of what you *say* to others about being humble, you still have to have that inner sense of worth and, to a certain extent, perhaps partial superiority in creating something new that others have not created before you.
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#404504 - 03/07/08 01:34 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Cultor Offline
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Registered: 02/25/07
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 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
 Quote:
Originally posted by ChopinChamp:
Brahms? Better than Chopin? Im sure even Brahms would die laughing over that comment. [/b]
Of course Brahms was very humble, but we all have our egos, and necessarily so. How can you justify trying to add your own original music to a repertoire that is already filled with great masterpieces by Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, et al? What can you possibly contribute that hasn't already been contributed? What makes your music worthwhile for being played and studied not only in your own lifetime, but even after you die?

One answer (of course not the only one) is that you have to feel that your contributions are not only good enough to be placed alongside those of the old masters, but also that you are offering something unique that the old masters did not have to offer. Regardless of what you *say* to others about being humble, you still have to have that inner sense of worth and, to a certain extent, perhaps partial superiority in creating something new that others have not created before you. [/b]
You are psychoanalyzing Brahms.
Which is absurd and useless.

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#404505 - 03/07/08 01:56 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cultor:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
 Quote:
Originally posted by ChopinChamp:
Brahms? Better than Chopin? Im sure even Brahms would die laughing over that comment. [/b]
Of course Brahms was very humble, but we all have our egos, and necessarily so. How can you justify trying to add your own original music to a repertoire that is already filled with great masterpieces by Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, et al? What can you possibly contribute that hasn't already been contributed? What makes your music worthwhile for being played and studied not only in your own lifetime, but even after you die?

One answer (of course not the only one) is that you have to feel that your contributions are not only good enough to be placed alongside those of the old masters, but also that you are offering something unique that the old masters did not have to offer. Regardless of what you *say* to others about being humble, you still have to have that inner sense of worth and, to a certain extent, perhaps partial superiority in creating something new that others have not created before you. [/b]
You are psychoanalyzing Brahms.
Which is absurd and useless. [/b]
I agree. \:\)

But when I see that Brahms is quoting another composer in such a way, I can't help but wonder why.

To say that it was homage or just a tune flowing through his mind is equally psychoanalytical -- whatever explanation you give for "why" is trying to get inside Brahms's head, which of course we can only speculate at doing.

So I'm not saying that this is necessarily what Brahms was thinking in his head, because of course I don't know what he was thinking -- but it's one idea to understanding the question, "why".
_________________________
Sam

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#404506 - 03/07/08 03:09 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Cultor Offline
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May be Brahms wasn’t quoting or plagiarizing.
There are too many themes in music history. Suddenly one (purposely or unconscientiously) erupted into his sketches. Who knows?
Nevertheless, if you are so concerned, why don’t you trace the theme backwards?
For instance: I think the first 8 bars melody of the “original” Chopin piece are not new. You can discern some mode there. And interesting half tones. May be Chopin himself was influenced by some other antique musical figures. Greek, Semitic, Gregorian?

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#404507 - 03/07/08 03:39 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
If anyone really wants an unquestionable example of a composer who believed with a vengeance that he was better than past masters, look no further than that upstart who goes by the name of Richard Wagner.

edit: Don't get me wrong -- I love Wagner's music too. But one can't deny the scale of his ego!
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#404508 - 03/08/08 05:05 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7767
Look, the answer to the "why" question is going to be out-and-out fiction, since there's reasonable doubt that the resemblance is even a real quote, much less a deliberate one. Make up whatever you want. Write a novel. But here's the another "why" question: why should anyone care, if none of this sheds any light on anything, because there's no evidence that any of it is real, and therefore (since so far you shown us zero actual evidence otherwise), it has to remain in the realm of meaningless coincidence?

A few years back I was playing through a Mendelssohn piece and suddenly realized there was a Tchaikovsky orchestral piece that was very close to it, not only in the notes themselves, but also in the general tone. I think the resemblance is far more pronounced than the similarities in this Chopin/Brahms thing you are harping on. But what of it? The composers are long dead. Whether Tchaikovsky was consciously modeling on or even plagiarizing the Mendelssohn seems pretty inconsequential. So what if he was? It's not as if it's worth spending the rest of my life combing through every tidbit of information that might be possibly relevant to see if the resemblance was conscious or not. It just doesn't matter that much, especially in light of the well-known fact that many composers frequently do consciously model their writing after other composers, and steal and borrow as much as they think they can get away with. It's not as if they are about to provide a list all of their influences for any given work (although sometimes they point some out, as Ravel did with his G major concerto). They may not even remember who they borrowed from, for that matter.

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#404509 - 03/08/08 09:20 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Antonius Hamus Offline
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Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 2230
 Quote:
Originally posted by Janus Sachs:
If anyone really wants an unquestionable example of a composer who believed with a vengeance that he was better than past masters, look no further than that upstart who goes by the name of Richard Wagner.

edit: Don't get me wrong -- I love Wagner's music too. But one can't deny the scale of his ego! [/b]
According to Cosima's diary entry, Wagner said he didn't consider himself to be a real composer, because his "innovative" musical ideas were just a result of his composing something suitable for the drama. Without the situations of the drama, he wouldn't have come up with that stuff, he said. And without the drama, the music wouldn't necessarily make much sense. He considered himself to be a music dramatist, which he was.

BTW, I'm sure Wagner had his opinions about conformists and parrots and other complacent fools.

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#404510 - 03/08/08 09:37 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
 Quote:
Originally posted by Antonius Hamus:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Janus Sachs:
If anyone really wants an unquestionable example of a composer who believed with a vengeance that he was better than past masters, look no further than that upstart who goes by the name of Richard Wagner.

edit: Don't get me wrong -- I love Wagner's music too. But one can't deny the scale of his ego! [/b]
According to Cosima's diary entry, Wagner said he didn't consider himself to be a real composer, because his "innovative" musical ideas were just a result of his composing something suitable for the drama. Without the situations of the drama, he wouldn't have come up with that stuff, he said. And without the drama, the music wouldn't necessarily make much sense. He considered himself to be a music dramatist, which he was.

BTW, I'm sure Wagner had his opinions about conformists and parrots and other complacent fools. [/b]
True, but Wagner survives mainly as a composer. It can be argued that much of his dramatic theories simply led to cinema (which seems to be where music and drama come closest together, thus far), but otherwise I seriously doubt Wagner's name looms as large in the dramatic world as it does in the musical world.

If that last sentence of yours was meant to imply that Brahms or myself or both are "conformists and parrots and complacent fools," that's just about as laughable as Wagner's authentic, written dismissal of Brahms as a "Jewish czardas player." \:D It's very amusing, but hardly something to be taken seriously.
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

Top
#404511 - 03/08/08 10:58 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Antonius Hamus Offline
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Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 2230
"True, but Wagner survives mainly as a composer."

Your initial argument seemed to be that Wagner thought of himself as a better composer than Beethoven etc.... If it was something else, I'm not sure what sort of relevance it was supposed to have in this thread. So I'm assuming that that was what you were trying to say. Now, as I tried to point out in my previous post, when you go to the primary sources, you might find that your statement was incorrect. Savvy? What I meant with the parrot comment was that your comment didn't seem like something you would say if you were familiar with the primary sources (and if you were an honest & intelligent person, but let's not talk about that).

Anyway, I guess cows will sooner grow a fair pair of wings than you will admit ignorance of Wagner's personality.

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#404512 - 03/08/08 11:11 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
 Quote:
Originally posted by Antonius Hamus:
"True, but Wagner survives mainly as a composer."

Your initial argument seemed to be that Wagner thought of himself as a better composer than Beethoven etc.... If it was something else, I'm not sure what sort of relevance it was supposed to have in this thread. So I'm assuming that that was what you were trying to say. Now, as I tried to point out in my previous post, when you go to the primary sources, you might find that your statement was incorrect. Savvy? What I meant with the parrot comment was that your comment didn't seem like something you would say if you were familiar with the primary sources (and if you were an honest & intelligent person, but let's not talk about that).

Anyway, I guess cows will sooner grow a fair pair of wings than you will admit ignorance of Wagner's personality. [/b]
I don't need to point out to you of all people that Wagner viewed his music-drama "revolution" in many ways as the culmination of much of the music of the past (seeing himself as the only logical continuation of Beethoven, etc.). It's clear that this and other such sentiments in his writings scream out that he saw himself as just as great or greater than the past masters, even when he stops short of saying it blatantly. The whole thing about Wagner surviving mainly as a composer is the simple fact that, despite what you pointed out in your other post about the dramatic reasons behind Wagner's musical innovations, he must be judged as a musician first and foremost (i.e. with the same criteria as other composers), and that his dramatic theories, while being the impetus behind his musical advances, must take a back seat when judging his worth as a composer (and of course, if he was right about his own evaluation of himself). I happen to think Wagner's music is wonderful, but the less admirable traits of his persona cannot be denied by anyone who has read his writings. Then again, you are the resident Wagner apologist, so anything that belittles your god must vex you horribly.

In any case, this is most likely all I really want to say about this matter since you've devolved into a troll again. Oh wait, being a troll is your natural state. In any case, I'll just sit back, smile, and enjoy.
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#404513 - 03/08/08 11:49 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by wr:
Look, the answer to the "why" question is going to be out-and-out fiction, since there's reasonable doubt that the resemblance is even a real quote, much less a deliberate one. Make up whatever you want. Write a novel. But here's the another "why" question: why should anyone care, if none of this sheds any light on anything, because there's no evidence that any of it is real, and therefore (since so far you shown us zero actual evidence otherwise), it has to remain in the realm of meaningless coincidence?

A few years back I was playing through a Mendelssohn piece and suddenly realized there was a Tchaikovsky orchestral piece that was very close to it, not only in the notes themselves, but also in the general tone. I think the resemblance is far more pronounced than the similarities in this Chopin/Brahms thing you are harping on. But what of it? The composers are long dead. Whether Tchaikovsky was consciously modeling on or even plagiarizing the Mendelssohn seems pretty inconsequential. So what if he was? It's not as if it's worth spending the rest of my life combing through every tidbit of information that might be possibly relevant to see if the resemblance was conscious or not. It just doesn't matter that much, especially in light of the well-known fact that many composers frequently do consciously model their writing after other composers, and steal and borrow as much as they think they can get away with. It's not as if they are about to provide a list all of their influences for any given work (although sometimes they point some out, as Ravel did with his G major concerto). They may not even remember who they borrowed from, for that matter. [/b]
I'm curious, and that's enough justification for me to care about it and wonder about it. I realize not everyone is interested in such things, but that's no reason why *I* shouldn't be interested.
_________________________
Sam

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#404514 - 03/08/08 12:00 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
Pianojerome, please do tell us about the Scarlatti reference in Brahms whenever you can. Is it from one of Brahms's Lieder?
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#404515 - 03/08/08 12:24 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
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Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Janus Sachs:
Pianojerome, please do tell us about the Scarlatti reference in Brahms whenever you can. Is it from one of Brahms's Lieder? [/b]
I don't remember where it is. I just wrote to my musicology professor to see if he remembers the title -- we took a little field trip a few weeks ago to the home of a retired professor here who collects old music scores, and he showed us the score where Brahms had written in Scarlatti's name. I'll let you know as soon as I hear a response.
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Sam

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#404516 - 03/08/08 12:25 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
John Citron Offline
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Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
 Quote:
Originally posted by Auntie Lynn:
Hey, my darlings...remember that old tune "How Dry I Am..."? Well the Barlow/Morgenstern Dictionary of Musical Themes lists no less than 83 tunes that start off in that fashion and the Dictionary of Opera and Song Themes lists no less than 73...blame it on the Common Practice Period (thanks Mr. Piston).

I once had some idiot tell me that he though Begin the Beguine and Silent Night sounded alike...go figure... [/b]
"How dry I am" even shows up in Beethoven's Op. 10 No. 3 first movement. Think about it when you hear the opening theme, and then how it's repeated in the closing of the first half of the first movement. ;\)

John
_________________________
Nothing.

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#404517 - 03/08/08 12:44 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
 Quote:
Originally posted by John Citron:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Auntie Lynn:
Hey, my darlings...remember that old tune "How Dry I Am..."? Well the Barlow/Morgenstern Dictionary of Musical Themes lists no less than 83 tunes that start off in that fashion and the Dictionary of Opera and Song Themes lists no less than 73...blame it on the Common Practice Period (thanks Mr. Piston).

I once had some idiot tell me that he though Begin the Beguine and Silent Night sounded alike...go figure... [/b]
"How dry I am" even shows up in Beethoven's Op. 10 No. 3 first movement. Think about it when you hear the opening theme, and then how it's repeated in the closing of the first half of the first movement. ;\)

John [/b]
Other interesting uses of "How Dry I am" as pointed out in Bernstein's "Infinite Variety of Music" lecture:

Beethoven: Second Symphony, primary theme of second movement
Brahms: First Piano Concerto, second subject of first movement
Strauss: Death and Transfiguration, "transfiguration" theme
Shostakovich: Fifth Symphony, primary theme of last movement

I wish I can remember the other ones Bernstein pointed out. Then of course pianojerome pointed out recently the middle section of Chopin's Fantasie-Impromptu, with the addition of an upper neighbour scale degree 6 (which in turn resembles a passage from the F minor Nocturne).
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

Top
#404518 - 03/08/08 01:06 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
I agree. "Why?" is a very pertinent question, regardless of the example Sam chooses to cite. What are the intentionst of a composer, poet, or a photographer deliberately quoting another artist? It's not so much a musical question as one that gets at the general human condition.

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#404519 - 03/08/08 01:29 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Mattardo Offline
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Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 1306
I personally think it's quite possible to enjoy a piece (such as the Chopin) for it's beautiful simplicity without resorting to an unecesarry complication of it. The biggest problem I have when I take the plunge to write a composition (which is rare, I must admit) is to keep the original idea simple until it evolves. There is always the temptation, when looking back to try and improve the original idea (which is not always a bad idea) but this usually results in a very complicated original idea that has great trouble evolving later and has lost some of it's charm in the process - the original elements that made it to nice become hazy with the added elements and the original idea is lost amid the details.
If we assume that Brahms 'stole' Chopin's idea to "improve" it, then we must also wonder whether it is an actual improvement when the 2 pieces are set side by side. Complicating the simple does not always make for a more pleasing sound. Sure, it may be full of technical and musical "wows" but in the end, only the analyzer will appreciate it IF the original simple idea is lost. Mozart is fine as he is - his ideas are beautiful. Haydn's ideas (if we compare the piano sonatas) become a little more technically advanced in areas and feature many musical jokes and jests, and while brilliant, they lack the simple charm that Mozart had. There are, of course, exceptions but I think most people will see what I mean. Generally, Mozart is much more highly regarded for his simplicity - make one wrong note on your piano and the gig is up and Mozart cringes in his makeshift grave.
Whether Brahms thought to improve on Chopin is a question I can't answer, but my personal opinion is that he was not trying to improve it as a means of asserting his mastery of composition. I tend to think that Brahms might just have been inspired by the piece. Look at Rachmaninoff's variations on Chopin's prelude. Is he trying to say he is better than Chopin and that Chopin should be kicked for not elaborating more? No, I doubt it. Chopin's prelude is fine without Rachmaninoff's variations - in fact, it's brilliant in it's simplicity. Rachmaninoff just loved that piece so much he couldn't help showing off with it.
It has been mentioned before that if we start chasing themes borrowed, stolen, adored by composers the chase will never end. With enough time on our hands, we could attribute almost any musical idea to someone's elses muse....

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#404520 - 03/08/08 02:59 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
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Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Janus Sachs:
Pianojerome, please do tell us about the Scarlatti reference in Brahms whenever you can. Is it from one of Brahms's Lieder? [/b]
I don't remember where it is. I just wrote to my musicology professor to see if he remembers the title -- we took a little field trip a few weeks ago to the home of a retired professor here who collects old music scores, and he showed us the score where Brahms had written in Scarlatti's name. I'll let you know as soon as I hear a response. [/b]
It is indeed from the lieder -- "Unuberwindlich" Op. 72 No. 5.
_________________________
Sam

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#404521 - 03/08/08 03:58 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Janus K. Sachs Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
Thanks, pianojerome! Will explore...
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#404522 - 03/08/08 05:25 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7767
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
I'm curious, and that's enough justification for me to care about it and wonder about it. I realize not everyone is interested in such things, but that's no reason why *I* shouldn't be interested. [/b]
Your curiosity and interest may be admirable, but accepting your own self-generated fantasies as if they are real answers to "why" is less so. That is unless you are practicing to be a professional fiction writer, or political speech-writer.

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#404523 - 03/08/08 05:42 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sam gives one possible answer to "why?". That's all. There's nothing didactic in it. It's all speculation. It pretends to nothing more.

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#404524 - 03/08/08 06:51 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7767
 Quote:
Originally posted by tomasino:
Sam gives one possible answer to "why?". That's all. There's nothing didactic in it. It's all speculation. It pretends to nothing more.

Tomasino [/b]
It reads to me as if it does pretend to something more, particularly the initial assertion that the resemblance is a conscious and deliberate "plagiarism" by Brahms. If I thought he thought it was pure fantasy and nothing more, I would react differently.

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#404525 - 03/08/08 07:01 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5902
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
But when I see that Brahms is quoting another composer in such a way, I can't help but wonder why. [/b]
[1] You are assuming that it is a quote and not an accidental co-incidence of notes. I think not all of us agree with that assumption.

[2] You ask "why?" One could equally ask "Why not?" \:\)
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#404526 - 03/08/08 10:56 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by wr:
 Quote:
Originally posted by tomasino:
Sam gives one possible answer to "why?". That's all. There's nothing didactic in it. It's all speculation. It pretends to nothing more.

Tomasino [/b]
It reads to me as if it does pretend to something more, particularly the initial assertion that the resemblance is a conscious and deliberate "plagiarism" by Brahms. If I thought he thought it was pure fantasy and nothing more, I would react differently. [/b]
from my first post in this thread:

 Quote:
I'd like your opinion on a different idea.... The key point here is that obviously we don't know what Brahms was thinking, but we can certainly guess!
also from my first post:

 Quote:
So what do you think? Possible?
and from my third post:

 Quote:
That said, it's entirely plausible that it was entirely subconscious
and, most clearly, in my sixth post:

 Quote:
So I'm not saying that this is necessarily what Brahms was thinking in his head, because of course I don't know what he was thinking -- but it's one idea to understanding the question, "why".
There's nothing dogmatic here -- I've not presented this as the absolute truth, as something that I am convinced is what Brahms was really thinking. To the contrary, I tried to make it clear numerous times that this is merely a possibility -- but a possibility rooted in study of the two scores and of Brahms's relationship to past composers, including Chopin, and also in the study of an article by an established academic on the very subject of Brahms quoting Chopin in many pieces.

I could be wrong. I often am. But just because we can't (obviously) get inside someone's head to know what he was thinking, does not mean that we cannot make educated guesses.
_________________________
Sam

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#404527 - 03/08/08 11:01 PM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by currawong:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
But when I see that Brahms is quoting another composer in such a way, I can't help but wonder why. [/b]
[1] You are assuming that it is a quote and not an accidental co-incidence of notes. I think not all of us agree with that assumption.

[2] You ask "why?" One could equally ask "Why not?" \:\) [/b]
[1] Yes, I am fairly certain that it is a quote and not an accidental co-incidence of notes. Of course I could be wrong -- but the similarities are just too accurate and diverse, and Brahms's familiarity with Chopin's music too intimate for me to readily accept that it was a mere coincidence. As to why he quoted -- I just gave one idea, but of course I do not know for certain if it's the right idea.

[2] Good question. \:\) If an author did something like this, s/he'd be slammed for plagiarism. But it seems that since so many great composers have done this, it's okay for music. Different rules for different games.
_________________________
Sam

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#404528 - 03/09/08 03:04 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7767

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#404529 - 03/09/08 04:03 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
To me, Sam's question isn't about musical issues. Rather, it's about the nature of flattery: what complex of emotions and private thoughts are we experiencing when we compliment our mother-in-law on her new dress? That's one part of the question.

The other is of a nearly religious nature: what happens when it is suggested to a group of worshipers, that a deity--in Sam's example, Johannes Brahms--is merely human, and prone to the same foibles and tomfoolery as the rest of us?

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#404530 - 03/09/08 04:06 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
Antonius Hamus Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 2230
Janus Sachs,

You seem to like crude caricatures about Wagner, almost as much as you like all sorts of wriggling. I'd like to see you back your statements up with references to primary sources. Let's start with:

 Quote:
Wagner's dismissal of Brahms as a "Jewish czardas player."
I found this from Alex Ross's blog:

"It is hard to judge who was more responsible for the famous quarrel between [Wagner and Brahms]. Brahms fueled the fire in 1860 by signing a manifesto against the 'music of the future,' which protested 'new and outlandish theories contrary to the very nature of music.' But Avins points out that Wagner made a conciliatory gesture toward Brahms several years after that episode, inviting him to a party in Vienna. It was Brahms's possibly calculated contact with Mathilde Wesendonck, the woman who inspired Tristan, that finally incited Wagner to his usual spewing of bile. By 1879, Brahms was being attacked in the pages of the Bayreuther Blätter for dressing himself up as a 'Jewish czardas player.'"

Ross isn't the most objective commentator one can find ("usual spewing of bile"), but the above paragraph seems to suggest that Wagner didn't, in fact, call Brahms a Jewish czardas player, let alone dismiss him as one. So who's the troll now? Perhaps you should be more careful about spreading insubstantial slander, when there is someone around who actually knows something about the subject, or bothers to find out.

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#404531 - 03/09/08 05:10 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7767
 Quote:
Originally posted by tomasino:
To me, Sam's question isn't about musical issues. Rather, it's about the nature of flattery: what complex of emotions and private thoughts are we experiencing when we compliment our mother-in-law on her new dress? That's one part of the question.

The other is of a nearly religious nature: what happens when it is suggested to a group of worshipers, that a deity--in Sam's example, Johannes Brahms--is merely human, and prone to the same foibles and tomfoolery as the rest of us?

Tomasino [/b]
I'm not following you on the flattery idea, since Chopin would never have heard the Brahms in order to be flattered (or more likely, not) by it. Or is that what you meant? Sorry, I just didn't get it.

The other idea, that this is about Brahms having some ordinary human motivations driving a composition, at least in part, in opposition to some idealized version of him that would never do such a thing, makes more sense to me, at least as an idea. But shouldn't we get some information about Brahms' character to back that up? From what little I know about him, he seems to have been a pretty unusual human being. I need to read the Swafford biography, I think.

This thread reminded me of a famous anecdote in which a listener, after the premiere of a new Brahms work, remarks to Brahms that there was a resemblance of one of Brahms' themes to a theme of Beethoven's, and Brahms retorted, "Any idiot can see that." And it occurred to me that even if Brahms hadn't noticed the resemblance himself until that very moment that someone else pointed it out to him, he still might have pretended that it was totally obvious. At any rate, I've read that he was well-known for his unremittingly sharp and disparaging tongue (sort of like some other composers - what is it about them, anyway?).

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#404532 - 03/09/08 11:59 AM Re: Hey Chopin, I'm better than you.
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Originally posted by tomasino:

Sam's question . . . "is about the nature of flattery: what complex of emotions and private thoughts are we experiencing when we compliment our mother-in-law on her new dress?"

wr's response to Tomasino:

"I'm not following you on the flattery idea, since Chopin would never have heard the Brahms in order to be flattered . . ."

Here's a little rewrite: "What complex of emotions and private thoughts are we experiencing when we eulogize our mother-in-law lying dead in her casket?"

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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