Inside the Music | Links to the Past | Late Romantic | Classical

The sense of cultural and societal degeneration and decline affected both the subject-matter of music and, more intangibly, its forms and structures. Much of the music of Johannes Brahms (1833–97), for instance, deliberately invoked earlier models as a way of linking himself with his idea of a great but past tradition. He saturated his music with counterpoint and old-fashioned devices almost as a way of ensuring its permanent worth. His invocation of past models, such as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in his Symphony No. 1 (1855–76), changed the working-out of material in a way that seems less triumphant than resigned.

Brahms was dubbed conservative, which outwardly was true of his forms, but not of his development of harmonic or other structural devices. He was, however, opposed to many modern, radical developments, notably the rise of programmaticism and the music dramas of Wagner. Yet despite their differing techniques, a similar concern with things final, even a sense of despair, pervades their music.

Introduction | Late Romantic | Classical
Inside the Music | Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 | Late Romantic | Classical


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