The Variations of Johannes Brahms
Title Details

384 Pages

24.4 x 17.2 cm

11 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Poetics of Music

Imprint: Plumbago Books

The Variations of Johannes Brahms

by Julian Littlewood

  • Description
  • Reviews
Variation is a fundamental musical principle, yet its most naked expression - variation form - resists all but the broadest of descriptions. This book offers listener, performer, analyst and composer...
Variation is a fundamental musical principle, yet its most naked expression - variation form - resists all but the broadest of descriptions. This book offers listener, performer, analyst and composer an eclectic array of approaches to `Theme and Variations', including: patterns of departure and return; real versus perceived time; strategies of propulsion and closure in an intrinsically cyclic and open-ended form; the interplay of authorial voices derivingfrom dialogue between the `self' of variations and the `other' of their theme; critique of a theme through a set's generic references; drama and narrative achieved through textural and tonal control; and the intrinsic sound of a variation, so different from that of a freely composed work. These topics are introduced through a general survey of the form, seen through the prisms of the provenance of themes and the ideologies of sets, before being developed through close study of Brahms's variation sets and movements.
Brahms was supremely aware of his place in music history and was uncommonly self-conscious in his manipulation of different techniques of composition. His variationsets - some of the most well-crafted and beloved examples - place the interplay of forms and styles at the heart of their identity. Moreover, in their stunning breadth and diversity they offer a microcosm of Brahms's entire output, a succinct revelation of his life-long concerns. Through them we marvel at his technical and poetic mastery, and journey to the heart of his creative character.
"The detail and scope of Littlewood's book is such that it makes a valuable contribution to Brahms scholarship: numerous musicians, composers, teachers and academics will want to refer to it well into the future. Musical Times" .
"Littlewood's is a major and indispensable contribution. This is the kind of book that has stimulus and value beyond the confines of its immediate subject. It will provide an essential point of reference for students of the timeless musical art and principle of variation in general. Musicologica Austriaca" .
"In this outstanding and very readable survey of Brahms's variations Julian Littlewood thoroughly explores every conceivable aspect of the composer's use of the form. This superbly produced volume is wholeheartedly recommended. Classical Music" .
"Littlewood's book is an impressive achievement. His elegant hermeneutic analysis will indeed be very stimulating to composers, performers, and scholars. Music & Letters" .

Paperback

9780954012342

October 2004

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£19.99 / $25.95

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Hardcover

9780954012335

October 2004

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£50.00 / $90.00

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Title Details

384 Pages

2.44 x 1.72 cm

11 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Poetics of Music

Imprint: Plumbago Books