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Last Words

Just as Brahms’s codas had a summarizing function and acted as sites for the resolution of

accumulated tension in a piece, the late miniatures played the same roles, but on a much larger

scale. They were in fact ‘codas’ to his pianistic output, bringing together all aspects of his

compositional style, containing a wealth of techniques in very little space. This makes their

performance all the more challenging, as just like a masterful painting, a successful interpretation

should contain abundant detail, but never obscure the meaning of the whole. Each detail should

be articulated in such as way as to enhance the organicism and the overall beauty of the

masterpiece. This may all sound very elusive, but if Brahms’s pieces are played exactly as

written, this will undoubtedly lead to an interpretation which is most faithful to the intentions of

the composer.

As concluded form the previous chapters, out of the three opuses examined, only Op. 117

stands out as being a multi-piece, whereas Op. 118 and 119 seem to be collections of miniatures,

having common traits which bring them together, but not necessarily asserting that they should be

performed as complete sets. Brahms himself seems to have picked out favourites when

performing, and there is no direct evidence that he wanted even Op. 117 to be performed as a

complete work. More important for him, was being faithful to the score and producing a

performance with varying and sensitive expression, because this is precisely what his music

contains. As Brahms once said, ‘It’s all in the music.’14

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