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Thesis 1

Thesis Title: The Duo Sonatas of Johannes Brahms
Degree Type: MLitt
Degree Specialism: Musicology
Supervisor(s): Professor Hormoz Farhat
Thesis Status: Accepted
Date Submitted / Accepted: 1988
Institution Submitting / Submitted To: Trinity College, Dublin
No. of Volumes (no. of pages): 1 (290pp)
Thesis Location / Link: Trinity College Dublin Library
Persons / Composers: Johannes Brahms, Joseph Joachim, Clara Schumann, Richard Muhlfeld
Genres / Musical Instruments: Violin, cello, clarinet and piano: chamber music
Related Places: Vienna
Time Frame: Late 19th century
Key Issues / Concepts: Unifying musical elements in seven duo sonatas
Abstract: This study is an examination of the seven sonatas by Brahms for piano and another instrument – Opp.38 and 99 for cello, Opp.78, 100 and 108 for violin, and Op.120 for clarinet – as well as an early movement for violin and piano known as the FAE Scherzo, with the object of establishing the composer’s approach and style as regards composition for a sustained voice instrument with the piano.
The works are discussed in order of composition. Each chapter begins with a historical outline, placing the particular sonata in its context within Brahms’ life and work. The analytical discussion is organized under four headings- Themes, Rhythm, Harmony and Duo Writing – although the first section covers a substantial area, dealing with aspects of form and counterpoint, as well as with thematic material. There are inevitable overlaps in scope between each section, but these headings have been chosen as organizational tools and are not intended to limit the analytical perspective, which takes all relevant musical elements into account.
All of the duo sonatas, with the exception of Op.38, are mature works written after 1878, and are undisputed examples of Brahms’ genius. While this thesis deals with each sonata independently, there is an inevitable focus on the two Clarinet sonatas, in which the unifying musical elements are most successfully integrated. Each sonata of Op. 120 is a masterpiece, but there are also significant thematic connections between both sonatas which, as far as can be ascertained, have not been recognized before.

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