Klett-Cotta-Verlag Psychology
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»… an diesem Orte hätte ich Dich wol nicht gesucht!«

Johannes Brahms und das Nachleben des Ricercars


Oktober 2019, 23. Jahrgang, Heft 92, pp 43-58



Abstract
»… an diesem Orte hätte ich Dich wol nicht gesucht!« Johannes Brahms and the heritage of Ricercar
The central movements from Brahms’s First Symphony op. 68, unlike the outer ones, were already interpreted by contemporaneous critics as a problematic retreat to a chamber music idiom that did not do full justice to the paradigm of the symphonic style following on directly from Beethoven. This article offers a reading of the second movement from the perspective of a creative retracing and reception of Bach’s Fugue in E major BWV 878. The comparison is based on an understanding of fugal counterpoint that was realised more in the seventeenth-century ricercar than the more sonata-like fugues of The Well-Tempered Clavier, which dominated the modern didactics of fugal counterpoint until recently. Preconceptions about Bachian counterpoint paving the way for Classicism that came about in twentieth-century aesthetics are likewise obstacles to a more nuanced understanding of Brahms’s reception of Bach, since one cannot assume that the ricercar tradition in the nineteenth century had been suppressed to the extent suggested by the fugal theory of the twentieth century. The present analysis provides explanatory models for an installation of symphonic form on the basis of combinatorial procedures applied to contrapuntal cells; these inhibit and counteract the developmental premises of sonata-like formal construction but, in so doing, actually intensify their effect.

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