Knapp, Raymond. "Brahms and the Anxiety of Allusion." Journal of Musicological Research 18 (1998): 1-30.
While Brahms's relationship to his predecessors, in particular Beethoven, seems to warrant the application of Harold Bloom's theory of the anxiety of influence, it is perhaps more accurate to think of Brahms's anxiety as the result of tensions created by the expectations of his audience. Brahms realized that his audience would receive and judge his works in comparison to those of his revered predecessors. Therefore, he was faced with the task of creating music that was similar enough to his predecessors to be well-received by his audience while still maintaining the status of originality. Thus, Brahms foregrounded original, non-referential music while cultivating subtle and buried musical allusions that evoked his predecessors. These allusions served to invoke the music of Brahms's predecessors on a subconscious level while still allowing Brahms's music to be seen as highly original. It is this careful balancing act, not his feelings towards Beethoven and other composers, that created the anxiety for Brahms.
Works: Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (10-16), Symphony No. 3 in F Major (16-25).
Sources: Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor (11-15), Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (11-16), Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major, Eroica (19, 21, 23-24); Haydn: Symphony No. 97 in C Major (16-17, 19, 23-24); Schubert: String Quintet in C Major (16-17, 20); Schumann: Symphony No. 1 in B flat Major, Spring (18, 20, 24-25), Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major, Rhenish (18, 21, 24-25); Richard Wagner: Tannhäuser (19-20, 23-24). (SLF)
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