Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms was a great German composer. During his life, Brahms was composing for piano, symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, and for chorus and voice. Johannes Brahms was truly outstanding composer of the Romantic period in relation to violin and violin performance practices. A great number of his works are considered to be staples of the concert repertoire nowadays. In contrast to most his contemporaries, Brahms maintained a Classical sense of order and form in his output. In spite of the fact that Brahms’s contemporaries found the composer’s music too academic, the scrupulously constructed and attentive nature of Johannes Brahms’s works had played a part of a starting point and an inspiration for future generations of composers and performers.

The composer’s point of view seemed to be both forward and backward that is why the composer is often seen as a traditionalist and an innovator at the same time . Brahms’s music is soundly rooted in the compositional techniques and structures of the Baroque and Classical masters. Brahms’s works were often bold in their exploration of rhythm and harmony. During the process of creating these bold new approaches, Brahms had had a purpose to honour the purity of venerable German structures which he wanted to advance into a Romantic idiom.

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Several composers influenced Brahms. However, it was Brahms who learnt from the masters of the past and improved and brought this knowledge to a new level. In spite of the fact that Brahms was considered to be the main apparent to the tradition of Beethoven, the composer’s musical language had been regarded as progressive for the nineteenth century. Brahms was brought up with the musical heritage of deep respect for classical tradition, through the music of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven.

Beethoven’s heritage had a huge impact on the works of Brahms. In 1870, Brahms wrote that he would never compose a symphony as he was terrified by the prospect of competing with Beethoven , a giant in composing symphonies, the same as other nineteenth-century composers. However, in few years, Brahms became braver and wrote four symphonies one by one. As he followed the Classical tradition, each one of Brahms’s symphonies has four movements . No. 5. Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 is written in the key and vein of the Beethoven’s Fifth. Both works start of the finale of the Symphony No. 4, which is also similar to the main theme of the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.There is also another example,

Brahms’s choice of E minor and C major as the keys for the scherzo and trio is the same as Beethoven’s in the middle of his Piano Sonata in E Major, Op. 14, No. 1. By itself this fact hardly suggests a connection between these two movements, but the way both move from scherzo to trio is very similar. Also in Brahms’s fourth symphony, there is a non-stop heroic rhythm which is played throughout the first movement which might suggest Brahms’ being influenced by Beethoven.

Brahms’s works are significant because of the way in which he wrote the melodies for the violins in his symphonies. The harmonies he used in his music had made it different from other romantic composers. Thus, it is important to point out some features in Brahms’s music. One should definitely pay attention to his four symphonies and the Violin Concerto in order to illustrate some of them effectively.

Violin Concerto, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms has impressive grandeur in the violin concerto repertory, and only several works can match such a grandeur. This concerto comes along with the most outstanding works for the violin. The Violin Concerto, Op. 77 is a representation of a mix of Brahms’ musical style with classical concerto form. Brahms’s Violin Concerto demands a high level of virtuosity and artistic vision based on stylistic and historic grounds at the same time.

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Brahms builds his unique music in a deeply individual way. As a piece for violin, Violin Concerto, Op. 77 is very demanding in figurations in order to make the musical line appear more capricious, full, and expansive in an outcome. However, what differs Brahms from other nineteenth-century composers the most is his musical sound. Brahms made Violin Concerto, Op. 77 in a more symphonic way . Thus, the conception of Brahms’s work is truly symphonic. It can be explained through the way orchestral forces and solo are melded into a systematic musical language. There was no ‘noticeable’ difference between the concerto and symphony genre . That is why the composer’s Violin Concerto, Op. 77 was basically conceived with four movements; Second Piano Concerto was also constructed like a symphony. In addition, Brahms’s First Piano Concerto was planned as a symphony. It is a well-known fact that Joseph Joachim, Brahms’s close friend was the one ‘to whom this, concerto and other pieces were dedicated, was a collaborator in this work’ . Joachim took part in the compositional process. Brahms relied upon the technical advice of Joachim. According to J. Lin, Since the work was a collaborative process between a virtuoso-composer and a composer, the concerto represents an ideal union of artistic vision with technical prowess.

However, discussing the specifics of Joachim’s edits is necessary in analyzing the concerto as it highlights such aspects of the work as the cadenza and virtuosity in the rework of passages. J. Lin gives an example:

In the development section at mm. 337–340, in the final version, the violin part has sextuplets configured in quasi-arpeggiated passagework that are uncomfortable but playable. Joachim’s suggestion on how to organize the notes was flatly rejected by Brahms because he wanted specific notes to be heard. From a performer’s perspective, the Brahms concerto is a difficult piece to master for two main reasons: first, the size and magnitude of the work, and second, the awkwardness in the solo violin part. It is this technical awkwardness that makes the work virtuosic and immensely musical in a Brahmsian way.

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However, the difficulty of Violin Concerto, Op. 77 is significant as it makes this masterpiece so special and interesting to generations of performers and composers. In regard to the breadth and length, Brahms’s Violin Concerto, Op. 77 is one of the longest as well as most demanding works in the violin repertory from the nineteenth century. ‘Although Brahms’s concerto is constructed in a classical style, it extends sonata form beyond its traditional scope’ . In the first movement, there are more than 500 measures, and ‘on any decent recording or performance of the concerto (with Joachim’s cadenza), this first movement comes in at just under 25 minutes’ . It is really hard to give such a large concerto. Besides, there are various passages that are truly difficult from a technical perspective.

Thus, it is a difficult to perform, and that is what makes it even more attractive. The sheer size of Brahms’s Violin Concerto, Op. 77 introduces the violinist to a taxing and long journey. However, Brahms did not compose his Violin Concerto to be extremely short or difficult; the composer wrote the music in order to express his emotions using the forces that were at his disposal. However,

in Brahms’ concerto, the passages are brutal, but not for the sake of flashy virtuosity (if they were thenit would be easy to perfect them through endless hours of repetitive practice). It is because they do notconform easily to the instrument and what is natural to the violinist.

This is how Brahms wrote melodies for violin. As he was pianist first of all, the works he wrote were not quite violinistic. All these features make Brahms’s musical language unique as well as composition style of his symphonies. For instance, lots of brass parts commonly found in German works are that what makes the pieces sound like a work of Brahms. The choice of chords the composer used makes his music sound like Brahms’s instead of other composers. It really differs him from others. Brahms is ‘very sparing in differentiating dynamics within a chord’ in contrast to Mahler, who within tutties can give as many as seven different dynamic markings at a time’ . The general sonic design in the works of Brahms ‘(three ‘choirs’ of strings, wind and brass) remind of the contrasting choirs in the motets of Giovanni and Schutz’.

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Brahms wanted each and every voice to be heard. It was especially important to Brahms ‘whose complex rhythms and intricate motivic texture are meant to be heard: his scoring is never impressionistic in intent, but always thematic and related to the whole’. Every piece of Brahms work is to be played with the use of various techniques in order to create very different effects in even familiar passages. The lack of vibrato is what either gives various characters to the great string themes or seems to present them from a different perspective. For instance, in the fourth movement of Symphony No. 1, the great finale theme for violins, which Brahms indicated to be played on the G string, seems to point forward more. Such a technique as portamento is rarely used, however, there is a place for it ‘as in expressive elaboration of the first phrase of the second movement of No. 1, where it adds a subtle colouring in bar 13 (first violins)’. The role of using articulation and phrasing is also important, ‘especially the bow-determined device of portato, which stands out the more in the absence of constant vibrato’. For example, in the main theme of the first movement of No. 3, the clear marking of a two-note portato both contrasts with and complements the broad phrasing of the opening phrase, so that when the figure eventually comes on separate staccato bows at the climax and higher register of the theme, it really has an affect (bar 4).

In addition, in the second episode of the third movement of No. 2 the lack of vibrato really brings out the effect of the portato, especially when, placed in the lower parts, it contrasts

with the legato of the upper parts (bar 114). In contrast, Brahms also indicates heavy staccato with wedges and separate bows for the strings, as in the passage at bars 97- 100 in the first movement of No. 1.

All this difficulties and specifications can be attributed to Brahms’s being a pianist . Nevertheless, the composer’s choice to use violin-friendly keys (like D major in his Violin Concerto) adds brilliance to the sound.

Despite the fact that Brahms’s contemporaries found the composer’s music too academic, the highly constructed and attentive nature of this nineteenth-century composer’s works had played a part of a starting point and an inspiration for future generations of composers and performers. The works of Johannes Brahms are very significant, especially in relation to violin. In spite of all the technical difficulties in performing of pieces from Brahms’s works, they are the ones that opened new horizons in the process of exploration of violin’s and performer’s abilities.

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