The Organ Music of Johannes Brahms

The Organ Music of Johannes Brahms

The Organ Music of Johannes Brahms

The Organ Music of Johannes Brahms

Synopsis

The organ works of Johannes Brahms are a beautifully-crafted and much-cherished component of the repertoire of church and concert organists across the world. A central and long renowned figure in the organ field, Barbara Owen is proposing the first in-depth study of this corpus, considering Brahms's organ works in relation to his background, methods, and overall artistic development. Precisely because the collection of organ works is not extensive, the pieces--composed periodically throughout Brahms's lifetime--map his path as a composer, pinpointing various stages in his artisticdevelopment. Brahms's early preludes and fugues for the organ, for example, foreshadow his fascination with, and developing skills in, counterpoint, which surface notably in later motets, chamber works, and larger compositions such as the piano variations, Deutsches Requiem, and Fourth Symphony.The chorale preludes not only display a mastery of counterpoint, but a wealth of signature "Brahmsian" characteristics in miniature--carefully sculpted melodic lines, chained thirds, inversions, polyrhythms, hidden symbolism, and occasional hints of atonality. The Organ Music of Johannes Brahms offers a detailed examination of Brahms's contacts with organs and organists, and analyses of each specific work and its place in Brahms's career. The body of the manuscript is devoted to the history and analysis of Brahms's individual organ works and theirinterpretation, focusing on the importance of his predecessors and contemporaries in the composition and performance of these pieces. Blending unique insights into composition and performance practice, this book targets the large, intellectually-minded community of organists (20,000 members in the American Guild of Organists), and will be appreciated by performers, students, and scholars of the organ, Brahms, and Nineteenth Century music.

Excerpt

Organ music constitutes but a slight portion of Brahms’s splendid and varied compositional output, and it usually receives only scant mention in most studies of his life and work. Like some shorter works of other noteworthy composers, Brahms’s small corpus of organ works often tends to be overlooked as a kind of oddity, hard to pigeonhole and regarded as worthy of serious consideration by only a scattered few. In the majority of general discussions of Brahms and his music, the early organ works are often acknowledged (if at all) by little more than a footnote, and the posthumously published set of Eleven Chorale Preludes often rates only a somewhat wearisome “swan song” reference. Yet these beautifully crafted and expressive works are a cherished component of the repertoire of church and concert organists the world over, and most of us dearly wish that Brahms had written more of them.

Nonetheless, no composer’s shorter works, regardless of medium, stand apart from the rest of their output nor can they be considered separately from the whole intricate fabric of the composer’s life, influences, and artistic development. Brahms’s early preludes and fugues for the organ are seminal elements in his lifelong veneration of Bach and study of canon and counterpoint, revealed again and again in the later choral music, chamber works, and larger symphonic compositions. The chorale preludes display not only a mastery of counterpoint but also a wealth of signature “Brahmsian” characteristics in miniature: carefully sculpted melodic lines, chained thirds, inversions, polyrhythms, hidden symbolism, sensitivity to text, and even occasional hints of atonality. As with so many other musical contexts, Brahms has taken this time-honored form and made it uniquely his own.

I do not presume to have added greatly to original research on the subject, but rather I have tried to piece together from a wide variety of sources as . . .

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