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well-known effect of two notes slurred together. . . the mark had special significance in his

music’ (Musgrave, 2000, 130). This kind of slurring is a prominent characteristic of the C-sharp

minor Intermezzo Op. 117/3, the second theme of 117/2, and also of Op. 118/2. Hutcheson

(1974: 254) believes Brahms was the first composer to use double slurs systematically for the

indication of sub-phrasing. May also writes that he ‘particularly disliked chords to be spread

unless marked so by the composer for the sake of special effect’ (Musgrave:130). Brahms

indicates this in 117/1, creating a strumming effect for the tonic chord, and also to separate the

canonic voices (bar 51); spread chords are used similarly in the B section of 117/2 (bars 24-5),

the cadences in 118/2 (bar 48 and 116), and in the C section of 119/4 (bars 93-5, etc.) to separate

the melodic note from the accompanying ones.

Judging from the type of piano Brahms preferred and the relatively narrow dynamic range

of the late miniatures (pp to ff, except for 118/6 where there is also ppp at bar 5), he probably

favoured a smaller sound, consistent with the intimate character of the pieces. More important

for him was to express the intellectual and musical meaning of a work and produce as authentic a

performance as possible through being faithful to the score. The significance of rhythm showed

itself from his first compositions, like the E-flat minor Scherzo, and all his works strive for

rhythmic precision and intensity. The following quotation from May’s biography illustrates

Brahms’s views on pianistic interpretation:

Varying and sensitive expression was to him as the breath of life, necessary to the

true interpretation of any work of genius, and he did not hesitate to avail himself

of such resources of the modern pianoforte as he felt helped to impart it; no matter

in what particular century the composer may have lived, or what may have been

the peculiarities or excellencies and limitations of the instruments of his day.

(Musgrave, 2000: 130)

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