Distance and Disembodiment: Harps, Horns, and the Requiem Impulse in Schumann and Brahms


In his final book, Crossing Paths, John Daverio identified a common "Requiem Idea" in the music of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. Both composers, Daverio argued, focused more on the survivors of the deceased than on the souls of the dead, and on consolation rather then grieving. Whereas works by Schumann and Brahms that represent Daverio's Requiem Idea take many forms and fall into various genres, a considerable number of these pieces are united by their use (literally or figuratively) of two distinctly romantic instruments-primarily the harp and secondarily the horn, instruments which Daverio labelled "emblems of distance and disembodiment." Borrowing on both the Osssianic/ bardic tradition of the late 18th century and on the spiritually tinged associations of the harp among German Romantics, Schumann, and later Brahms, used this instrument to convey separation and mediation between the dead and the living, the underlying paradigm that informs the consolatory nature of the Requiem Idea. Frequently allied with the harp in such situations is the horn, which carries its own associations with distance and thereby separation.



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Journal of Musicology


University of California Press

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