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Thread: The Difference Between Beethoven and Brahms

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    Senior Member Room2201974's Avatar
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    And the descent from The Difference Between Beethoven and Brahms to Brahms Bashing is complete. Let's take him out back and beat the hemiola out of him.
    The more I compose, the more I know that I don't know it all. I think it's a good way to start. If you think you know it all, the work becomes a repetition of what you've already done. ~ A. R. Rahman

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    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    Didn't you know that "the 3 Bs" actually means "The Big Brahms Bashing"?
    Last edited by Fabulin; Feb-22-2020 at 01:21.

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    Senior Member BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Room2201974 View Post
    And the descent from The Difference Between Beethoven and Brahms to Brahms Bashing is complete. Let's take him out back and beat the hemiola out of him.
    These stylistic comparison threads on TC tend to be dominated by uninformed opinions, statements of personal preference (often with the intent to elevate those preferences to objective status), and sweeping generalizations without the support of evidence or examples. It's a shame, really, because I think that there's a lot of potential for real discussion, though perhaps at a level that may be too technical for most users. We had a similar sort of thread comparing Bach and Handel a while ago, and while there was some interesting input it was mostly just people stating their own preferences. I proposed that that thread be moved to the theory sub-forum; I'd suggest the same for this one.
    Last edited by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist; Feb-22-2020 at 01:57.
    Casual composer, pianist, music enthusiast

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  6. #64
    Senior Member Room2201974's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabulin View Post
    Didn't you know that "the 3 Bs" actually means "The Big Brahms Bashing"?
    Oh yes, I've read Liszt on Brahms. Subjective whinning with a dash of developing variation is the modus operandi of TC threads.
    The more I compose, the more I know that I don't know it all. I think it's a good way to start. If you think you know it all, the work becomes a repetition of what you've already done. ~ A. R. Rahman

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Brahms was a more conservative composer than Beethoven, and deliberately so. He pursued an ideal of Classicism, in conscious contrast to the trends of his era. For Beethoven to uphold an ideal of style is unthinkable; he was lured ever onward into unexplored regions, looking back occasionally (as in the 8th symphony) only in play while mapping out his next expedition. This is not to dismiss what was new in Brahms, but to say that it arose on a less fundamental plane. He was fascinated by the new in music - he studied the scores of Wagner eagerly - but kept to his path. That's a heroic stance in its own right, but his music doesn't project the challenging heroism of ground-breakers such as Beethoven and Wagner. It's nevertheless strong and earnest, and at the same time suffused with melancholy: Romantic wine in a Classical bottle, in the late works sipped contemplatively in the flicker of fin-de-siecle candlelight.

    What's interesting is how many composers, unable, unwilling, or at least hesitant, to follow the new ideas, latched onto Brahms as hero and example: Rheinberger, Herzogenberg, Jenner, Fuchs, Rontgen, Thuille, Parry, Stanford, Elgar, Taneyev, Dohnanyi, Paine, MacDowell, Mason, Foote. Others, such as Smetana, Dvorak, Reger, Schmidt, Sibelius and Scandinavians such as Stenhammar, took much from Brahms but extended their musical vocabulary under the influence of Wagner and nationalism. Schoenberg, Wagner-intoxicated in youth, found his way to Brahms and called him "progressive" in order to preserve his own self-image as a revolutionary.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Feb-22-2020 at 03:55.

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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Schoenberg, Wagner-intoxicated in youth, found his way to Brahms and called him "progressive" in order to preserve his own self-image as a revolutionary.
    It's also interesting Schoenberg considered none of the composers you mentioned as his "primary teachers".

    In the second of his 1931 essays on 'National Music', Schoenberg acknowledged Bach and Mozart as his principal teachers and told his readers why.
    "My teachers were primarily Bach and Mozart, and secondarily Beethoven, Brahms, and Wagner."

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    It's also interesting Schoenberg considered none of the composers you mentioned as his "primary teachers".

    In the second of his 1931 essays on 'National Music', Schoenberg acknowledged Bach and Mozart as his principal teachers and told his readers why.
    "My teachers were primarily Bach and Mozart, and secondarily Beethoven, Brahms, and Wagner."
    Who Schoenberg's "principal teachers" were depends on what phase of his career we're talking about. There isn't much of Bach or Mozart to be detected in either his first "Romantic" period or his second "Expressionist" phase, and those years produced what remain his most popular works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brahmsianhorn View Post
    Who says sentimentality has to mean bad taste? It’s all the things you stated, and it is also beautifully sentimental. Think of the famous Lullaby. Would Beethoven have written such a tune? Or the opening of the clarinet quintet. So wistful. But in a contained, respectful manner.
    I don't think I would use the word sentimentality to describe Brahms - he was too disciplined and rigorous for that - but I know what you mean. To me it is warmth.

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    Senior Member Dimace's Avatar
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    I can't say that I'm Brahms expert. In my consciousness the composer Brahms is 2 things: One man who composed symphonies, which I don't like and one man who composed the rest of his music, which is great. (his violin concerto, for example, is one of the best ever composed. His EDR gigantic work, which I adore, etc).

    Beethoven is GREAT everywhere (with the exception of some early piano works for children (this is my terminology)) and, of course, 100 years ahead as musical ideas and innovation in comparison not only to Brahms, but to every existed composer. When the status of a composer is so interstellar, it is difficult to make comparisons and see differences to others but as a conclusion I could write only one word: GREATNESS!
    „Es gibt drei Arten von Pianisten: jüdische Pianisten, homosexuelle Pianisten -- und schlechte Pianisten.“ V. Horowitz

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    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    It's also interesting Schoenberg considered none of the composers you mentioned as his "primary teachers".

    In the second of his 1931 essays on 'National Music', Schoenberg acknowledged Bach and Mozart as his principal teachers and told his readers why.
    "My teachers were primarily Bach and Mozart, and secondarily Beethoven, Brahms, and Wagner."
    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Who Schoenberg's "principal teachers" were depends on what phase of his career we're talking about. There isn't much of Bach or Mozart to be detected in either his first "Romantic" period or his second "Expressionist" phase, and those years produced what remain his most popular works.

    The idea that Schoenberg got from Brahms was something he called developing variation -- it's a method of composing which Schoenberg (contentiously) thought he saw in some of Brahms's chamber music -- op 99 and op 51/2 for example. I don't think it's about sounding romantic or warm or anything like that -- it's more to do with the way he thought Brahms could take a very small mofif and use it to develop a theme, which could then be subjected to all sorts of variations in the course of a movement. I expect Schoenberg's analysis is disputable, but that's another point.

    I don't know what he got from Mozart and Bach, can someone explain?
    Last edited by Mandryka; Feb-22-2020 at 13:02.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    For me, the differences can be assessed purely through experience--and, of course, are a matter of personal taste: How often one can hear again a piece (I'm primarily thinking of the symphonies and concertos) and again find it just as fresh and engaging as the previous hearing. I find the music of Brahms more capable of auto-refreshment in my mind than that of Beethoven. I ascribe it to "musical density"--an undefined term that describes a musical texture so cleverly fashioned that one seems to find something both new and deeply satisfying with every exposure. Your experience may vary.

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    The idea that Schoenberg got from Brahms was something he called developing variation -- it's a method of composing which Schoenberg (contentiously) thought he saw in some of Brahms's chamber music -- op 99 and op 51/2 for example. I don't think it's about sounding romantic or warm or anything like that -- it's more to do with the way he thought Brahms could take a very small mofif and use it to develop a theme, which could then be subjected to all sorts of variations in the course of a movement. I expect Schoenberg's analysis is disputable, but that's another point.

    I don't know what he got from Mozart and Bach, can someone explain?
    I'm not an expert, but if Schoenberg's own words are to be believed, he claimed that he learned how to write string quartets from studying Mozart, so perhaps he learned something about voice leading in a chamber setting from Mozart? As for Bach, I don't hear any direct influence either, but perhaps his appreciation of Bach led to his lifelong fascination with counterpoint?

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post

    I don't know what [Schoenberg] got from Mozart and Bach, can someone explain?
    Primarily, credibility. It's public relations by identification with respected traditions — like Wagner claiming his form of music drama was foreordained by Beethoven's Ninth or rock musicians claiming the blessing of Jimi Hendrix.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    Basil Valentine

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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I don't know what he got from Mozart and Bach, can someone explain?
    Schoenberg: "From Bach I learned:
    1. Contrapuntal thinking; i.e. the art of inventing musical figures that can be used to accompany themselves.
    2. The art of producing everything from one thing and of relating figures by transformation.
    3. Disregard for the 'strong' beat of the measure.
    From Mozart:
    1. Inequality of phrase-length.
    2. Co-ordination of heterogeneous characters to form a thematic unity.
    3. Deviation from even-number construction in the theme and its component parts.
    4. The art of forming subsidiary ideas.
    5. The art of introduction and transition."


    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    I'm not an expert, but if Schoenberg's own words are to be believed, he claimed that he learned how to write string quartets from studying Mozart

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    A perfect example of the "developing variation" concept is the 2nd movement of the 2nd Symphony. Exceedingly thick and complex music, a masterclass in the art of composition. But it manages to be achingly passionate and beautiful. If I had to pick one movement that makes Brahms "Brahms" to me, it'd be that one.

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