In 1891-92 Heinrich Schenker published a pair of analytical reviews of new vocal collections by Johannes Brahms, the songs, op. 107, and the choral pieces, op.104. In these essays, Schenker sought not only to provide a critique of the works in question, but also to counter a prevailing perception amoung critics that Brahms's late style as a whole is both emotionally tepid and difficult to understand. In order to elucidate the structure and significance of Brahms's music for his readers, Schenker relies on a hermeneutic approach, alternately considering what he characterizes as "objective" and "subjective" modes of description. Schenker's observations are often provocative, and at times reveal his indebtedness to conceptions of musical structure and meaning that are distinctly Wagnerian. In this way, Schenker's reviews are revealing of the complexities not only of his own intellectual history but also of the critical discourse in which he worked, as they call into question a commonly held belief that musicians and writers were sharply divided in their adherence to either Brahm's music or Wagner's aesthetic ideals at the turn of the century. In spite of their provocative nature, Schenker's reviews were received enthusiastically by several prominent members of his community, including some who considered themselves to be partisans in the critical debate. This fact reminds us that, critical politcs aside, there were many musicians and writers during this time who did not believe that Brahm's music was antithetical to Wagner's aesthetics. Rather, they considered both manifestations of a common ideal of musical expressiveness.
Another Look at Critical Partisanship in the Viennese fin de sièècle: Schenker's Reviews of Brahms's Vocal Music, 1891-92
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Kevin C. Karnes; Another Look at Critical Partisanship in the Viennese fin de sièècle: Schenker's Reviews of Brahms's Vocal Music, 1891-92. 19th-Century Music 1 July 2002; 26 (1): 73–93. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncm.2002.26.1.73
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