Brahms vs Joachim on articulation

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Re: Brahms vs Joachim on articulation

Post by Schonbergian » 02 Jan 2018, 04:14

Bringing this discussion back towards Brahms, I found this articulation in his Second Symphony (violins).
brahms.JPG (320.82 KiB) Viewed 129 times
I see this either as one legato group with bowings also indicated, or as two legato groups with a "phrase" indicated, leaning towards the second interpretation because of the similar three-note motive in the lower strings. I'm not sure how to evaluate this using Brahms's terminology stated above. John, would you have any insight?

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Re: Brahms vs Joachim on articulation

Post by OCTO » 02 Jan 2018, 10:43

As well, I see that as that the outer legato is the phrase, and the inner legato is the bowing. Pay attention on the crescendo in between two phrases: I think that is the main reason for the double sluring, since it falls unusually in between phrases.
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Re: Brahms vs Joachim on articulation

Post by John Ruggero » 03 Jan 2018, 18:37

It's a two-level legato mark. They begin to be seen in the later Romantic stye, but I have seen them in earlier manuscripts (but usually omitted by the composer or editor in the first editions as esoteric.)

Classic style composers could use short legato slurs without fear of performers clipping the ends of the groups and breaking up the music, because everyone was accustomed to a great variety in degrees of disconnection between notes and groups and could make the required subtle distinctions. As the more continuously legato style of the Romantics became the norm, composers had to resort to notations like the one in the Brahms Symphony example above to show that there would be only a slight disconnection between the three note groups as if they formed a larger grouping with only the barest hint of subdivision. There would be more disconnection between the larger slurred groups than the lesser, creating an architectonic structure.

In piano playing, this would be accomplished with a single arm gesture over the larger legato group within which the fingers make slight lapses in finger overlap, exactly as one does in Mozart melodies that consist of many small legato groups.

It is clear that Brahms is showing only legato (and with it bowing) and not musical phrases (phrasing) even in the first four notes in your example. They clearly belong to one "phrase" (actually sub-phrase). not two with one containing only one note! When one looks through the rest of this melody, including the initiating one in the bass, it becomes even more clear that it is impossible to break this music into "phrases" at all. The interlocking of the legato groups is so ingenious that one can only conclude that it forms one large 21 measure unit starting two measure earlier than your example. It is because of the intricate multi-level structure of such music that it never occurred to these composers to try to mark off "phrases."
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