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Thread: The Difference Between Beethoven and Brahms

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Default The Difference Between Beethoven and Brahms

    Everybody's always saying how Brahms is just a continuation of Beethoven, and citing all the similarities between them. This might be true to an extent, but what about the differences?

    I'll start by saying that I hear Beethoven as a harmonic thinker (as opposed to melodic or contrapuntal); not exclusively, of course, but there are many instances of "pure harmonic" thinking in Beethoven: the transitions in the Ninth, with root movement in thirds, or in much of the Hammerclavier, which seems like harmonic rambling.

    In Brahms, the music and chord changes seem to always be attached to some sort of melodic figure.

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    It seems to me that Brahms is much more attuned to rhythm than Beethoven.

    I'm not a musician or musicologist, so I can't really articulate it more than that. I just hear it.

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    Brahms was much more attuned to sophisticated off-beat rhythms-really complicated stuff.

    I bet the boy was a great dancer!!
    Facts don't care about your feelings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
    Brahms was much more attuned to sophisticated off-beat rhythms-really complicated stuff.

    I bet the boy was a great dancer!!
    Examples? That's interesting; I wouldn't have seen it that way. I hear lots of forceful rhythmic figures in Beethoven, but Brahms seems like washes of sound in many places.

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    I don't know enough about Brahms, but that a listen to his four symphonies did not impress me, whereas Mendelssohn symphonies really grabbed me. One TC member suggested a similarity between Mendelssohn's first and Beethoven's symphonies.
    "Life is too short to spend it wandering in the barren Sahara of musical trash."
    --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

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    Senior Member DiesIraeCX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    I don't know enough about Brahms, but that a listen to his four symphonies did not impress me, whereas Mendelssohn symphonies really grabbed me. One TC member suggested a similarity between Mendelssohn's first and Beethoven's symphonies.
    I was hooked on Brahms from the very first movement of the 1st. I have yet to give Mendelssohn a shot yet, it's on my to do list, though.

    Anthony Tommasini in his NYT Top Ten composers list, states,

    "Some musicians I respect have no trouble finding shortcomings in Brahms. He did sometimes become entangled in an attempt to extend the Classical heritage while simultaneously taking progressive strides into new territory. But at his best (the symphonies, the piano concertos, the violin concerto, the chamber works with piano, the solo piano pieces, especially the late intermezzos and capriccios that point the way to Schoenberg) Brahms has the thrilling grandeur and strangeness of Beethoven. Brahms is my No. 7."
    Last edited by DiesIraeCX; Dec-04-2014 at 19:18.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DiesIraeVIX View Post
    I was hooked on Brahms from the very first movement of the 1st. I have yet to give Mendelssohn a shot yet, it's on my to do list, though.

    Anthony Tommasini in his NYT Top Ten composers list, states,

    "Some musicians I respect have no trouble finding shortcomings in Brahms. He did sometimes become entangled in an attempt to extend the Classical heritage while simultaneously taking progressive strides into new territory. But at his best (the symphonies, the piano concertos, the violin concerto, the chamber works with piano, the solo piano pieces, especially the late intermezzos and capriccios that point the way to Schoenberg) Brahms has the thrilling grandeur and strangeness of Beethoven. Brahms is my No. 7."
    Let me qualify my previous statement to say that (apart from Beethoven and Mendelssohn) of a hand full of composers whose symphonies I sampled, Brahms was the one that held more interest but it did not compel me to put it on my mp3 player. I have the CDs though for all four symphonies, and I put them in my "keeper" pile, perhaps subconsciously figuring that I would come back to them someday.
    "Life is too short to spend it wandering in the barren Sahara of musical trash."
    --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

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    Listen to almost any of his mature works and you will find him almost maniacal about disguising the barline.

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    I think Brahms is really just a different composer to Beethoven, I don't hear many similarities between the two at all.

    I will say though, that in my opinion Beethoven is a very "dead end" composer. His style of orchestration, his treatments of harmony (e.g. unanticipated dissonances, unanticipated implied modulations to unrelated keys) really were not the basis of the music of the next generation of German composers. I don't believe anything like Beethoven's final quartets were seen again until Ferneyhough took up the genre.

    Brahms, however, (along with Wagner) has been reputed as a direct source of inspiration for the next in that line of musical development in geographic/historical terms when it comes to the early works of the 2nd Viennese school.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ComposerOfAvantGarde View Post
    I will say though, that in my opinion Beethoven is a very "dead end" composer.
    I agree that Beethoven and Brahms are much less alike than the frequent comparisons seem to indicate.

    But I don't think Beethoven was dead end really, on the whole. I see how you say that about his later work.

    I think he was hard to emulate and impossible to entirely assimilate, but everyone had to 'come to terms' with Beethoven, like him or not. Maybe you mean something different. For most of the composers that follow, except maybe Berlioz and Wagner who seem go over the top with energy and monumental qualities left over from Beethoven's example, there seems like a sense of, "Beethoven did that, so now I must think of some tricky way to be a little different without trying to out do something like that, which is scarcely possible." Schumann's symphonies are like that, so are Mendlessohns', and Schubert's. And then there are other composers like Ferdinand Ries who seem to grow nicely out of Beethoven's middle period example in symphonies.
    Last edited by clavichorder; Dec-05-2014 at 02:28.

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    Beethoven very often used fragmentary themes, comprising contrasting and sometimes antithetical motives, especially for the principal themes of his movements in sonata form. Brahms's themes, even when they break down into small motives, tend to be integrated and expressively of a piece. Beethoven is far more consistently dramatic than Brahms. The differences in the choice of genres is obvious: Brahms wrote lots of lieder, character pieces for piano, and his chamber music (excluding string quartets) is among his most ambitious work. Brahms is more conservative as to form than Beethoven, putting less emphasis on overall thematic and dramatic unity.

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    Reason 15: One wrote fantastically for the clarinet late in life. The other did not.

    That, among dozens of other distinctions, leads me to think they had less in common musically than critics and commentators have traditionally posited.

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    Brahms-sophisticated off beat rhythms, highly chromatic, hungarian dance forms incorporated into his music.

    Beethoven, not so much.
    Facts don't care about your feelings.

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    I'm interested in the connection between Beethoven and Ferneyhough that Composeroftheavantgarde mentions - this was very much my reaction when I first heard the 6th quartet - it made me think of op 131. And the fragmentary contrasting ideas you find in Beethoven that Edward Bast mentions was part of the reason I felt that connection.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Dec-05-2014 at 22:26.

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    There's more rhythmic variation in Brahms' music with contrasting patterns and syncopation, more lyricism throughout his work even his chamber works that had rich polyphonic texture, and I'm not sure if anyone mentioned it but his music was influenced by his interest in Hungarian folk music. I think he had a lot in common with Mozart in his ability to write for woodwind instruments, especially the clarinet which suited his 'autumnal' style so well.

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Examples? That's interesting; I wouldn't have seen it that way. I hear lots of forceful rhythmic figures in Beethoven, but Brahms seems like washes of sound in many places.
    In terms of motion in both their music, I read Brahms would 'drift' whereas Beethoven tended to 'drive.'
    Last edited by trazom; Dec-05-2014 at 22:55.

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