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Thread: Amazing Brahms 4th Symphony Analysis

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    Senior Member arnerich's Avatar
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    Default Amazing Brahms 4th Symphony Analysis

    brahms4.jpg

    This post is for all the Brahms fans out there. I wanted to share this with you. I discovered this out of print book from the 1930s, Brahms and his Four Symphonies by Julius Harrison.

    It has an amazing analysis of the 4th symphony, 4th movement passacaglia. This graph shows all the different ways Brahms harmonizes each note of the ostinato. The number to the right of each chord shows which variation that unique harmony occurs.

    Aside from being an incredibly beautiful and moving piece of music it's also a technical wonder. The sheer number of ways he manages to harmonize the same simple eight note sequence is ingenious. I could marvel at this graph for days.
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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Brahms is my "first among equals" composer because of this sort of detail and texture that lies within his music. I tire now and then of the work of lesser composers, having seemingly drained some particular work dry. Never so with Brahms. This may cause outrage and dangerous hernias to suddenly manifest themselves among some fellow TCers, but a Rock analog would be the music of Led Zeppelin.

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    Senior Member TwoFlutesOneTrumpet's Avatar
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    Thanks for this. Count me among the Brahms fans out there. His 4th is one of my very favorite works in any genre. I remember watching a YouTube analysis of the 1st movement by Bernstein https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXo2Ab_KFsE. Some may find it interesting and informative as well.
    Last edited by TwoFlutesOneTrumpet; Feb-03-2017 at 22:07.

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    This is an elegant and informative graph. Thanks for finding this and posting it for us. Brahms' Fourth Symphony is one of my all-time favorite works, and I'm looking forward to revisiting its last movement with this graph in hand.

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    Senior Member arnerich's Avatar
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    The thematic unity of the symphony is also worth mentioning. The main theme from the first movement makes it's way into three of the variations in the 4th movement (perhaps there are more hiding). Variation 4, 7 and the the final variation.

    Attached to this post is the main theme and those three variations with the theme highlighted in red.

    Main Theme.pngVariation 4.pngvariation 7.pngVariation 30.png
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bettina View Post
    This is an elegant and informative graph. Thanks for finding this and posting it for us. Brahms' Fourth Symphony is one of my all-time favorite works, and I'm looking forward to revisiting its last movement with this graph in hand.
    I do add + 1 to this.

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    You are right. The key for the 4th movement is the melody line in the first 8 bars in your picture, it is the subject treated in the passacaglia. It reoccurs regularly forming 30 variations (subject is in the bass line first, then moves to upper voices occasionally, and speeds up after variation 16), and the piece ends with a massive coda.

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    I look forward to studying your analysis.

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    Senior Member Olias's Avatar
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    I have this book and you are correct, it is marvelous. It really does a great job with all four symphonies. The analysis really helped me appreciate Brahms' craft more.

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