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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No.

1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

Brahms & Edward


Asymmetry and Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in Dm, Op. 10, No.1
Also Includes Two Brief Discussions of Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118, No. 2 & Rhapsodie in E-flat Major, Op. 119, No. 4

Essay By

Payman Akhlaghi
Music 261 E Professor: Robert Winter Fall 2000 UCLA
(This essay was formatted at the time as basic HTML text for maximum accuracy on an older online database sharing system.)

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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

Introduction
The sophistication of Johannes Brahms music (1833-1897) lies in part in the asymmetrical phrase structures that constitute the thrust of so many of his compositions. At first this might seem to be more of a compositional or an analytical subject, far from the main interest of most performers. But the slightest attempt to visualize a clear understanding of the problem would reveal its immediate implications for the serious interpreter, as well. This becomes mostly evident in regards to the problems of articulation in asymmetrical phrases. It is generally acknowledged that a reasonable parsing of any musical phrase is necessary for its message to be communicated intelligibly. At times, however, ambiguities do not allow for a conformistic interpretation, and at other times, there are clearly several legitimate ways to interpret a single passage. For example, think of how many different ways one can parse the opening of Chopins Nocturne No. 1 in Bbm (Op. 9, No. 1), amid its clearly marked slur? Cant one create a sub-phrase after Db6, and especially after the first F5, without violating the overarching slur? Doesnt it help to enrich the repetitious three F5s that otherwise might sound redundant? Or wouldnt the phrase structure of Nocturne in Eb, (Op. 9, No. 2) benefit from a break after m. 11 and its counterpart at m. 19, despite Paderewskis two bar slurring of the phrases? Or is one truly supposed to take Joseffys phrasing of the second section in Chopins Waltz No. 10 in Bm (Op. 69, No. 2) at face value? Would it not be rather legitimate to try an alternative interpretation, grouping the dotted quarter notes with their preceding eighth note groups? One might agree or not; it is very likely that different performers might come to quite different convictions about such cases. Nevertheless, this inherent uncertainty in music does exist, and it only makes the acquirement of a deep understanding of the way(s) musical passages can be parsed, and consequently, their structural design, more relevant to the performer. And asymmetries do add to this uncertainty, especially if not understood and handled properly.

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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

The asymmetrical aspect of Brahms output (in line with other somehow similar attempts by a few of the other progressive composers of the time; I have been reminded by a classmate of the opening of Liszts Sonata in Bm) signifies a drastic attempt to depart from the binary symmetries of phrase structure that had hitherto dominated the mainstream classical music. This was a significant endeavor on his (their) part, especially considering that the promulgation of the 18th century Classicisms fundamental doctrines of balance and clarity of structure, harkening back to the then newly re-discovered art and architecture of the ancient Greece, had only helped tighten the grip of such structures on the new music more firmly. This was nowhere more evident than in the even number of measures in a typical phrase, and its divisibility into even-numbered sub-phrases. The fact that this is one of the common features in music of the likes of Mozart, Clementi, Beethoven, and even with some degree of compromise, Chopin, is a clear indication that there is nothing inherently wrong with an apparent symmetry. Yet to conclude that this is an inherently necessary element for the organized sound would be as wrong. Indeed, as far as evenly numbered phrases are concerned, the propelling forces of the music of say Mozart in part lie in the interesting micro-variations of the melody within the macrostructure of the phrase, rather than the symmetries alone. (Think of any piano or orchestral piece by Mozart, such as his Sonatas in C Major, K.s, 309, 330 and 545, or Rondo alla Turca from Sonata in A Major, K. 331.) In other words, this is the clash of the asymmetries with a symmetrical mold that yields in the push of the pieces. Chopin too seems to avoid the predictability of the symmetrical phrase structure at times by using micro-variations in the consequent of the phrases, -as in the opening of Nocturne No. 15 in Fm, Op. 55, No. 1, or by employing contrasting ideas for the antecedent and consequent of his phrases in some of his compositions,- e.g. Ballade in Gm, Op. 23, the Moderato section at m. 10. (In this example, two descending dotted half notes are responded with the contrasting ascent of a group of eighth notes.) ; and still, these happen almost always within an even number of phrases. Stretto technique is another, more complex linear process in Chopins music that makes it possible for him to harness the predictability of such symmetry to the advantage of the propulsion of the composition, rather than letting the excitement of the piece fall prey to it. Such is the case
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

with the Prelude in Em, Op. 28, No. 4. The piece begins with an evenly paced eight-bar structure. But soon at m. 9 the first rhythmic diminution occurs, which momentarily reverses the polarity of the phrase structure. (I.e. m. 9, instead becomes the ending of the last phrase, because of the cadential prolongation, while it is still part of the next 4-bar group.) But beginning at m. 16 the first real stretto takes place, which results in a 7-bar continuation of the music. This asymmetry is further underscored by the underneath harmonic progression. The Brahmsian asymmetries that are being addressed in this essay, however, are not merely contrasting sections that can only function in relation to clearly laid out symmetries. In Ballade Op. 10, No. 1, and in the other two examples that are briefly mentioned (Intermezzo Op. 118, No. 2, and Rhapsodie Op. 119, No. 4) the asymmetrical structures are the very fundament of the compositions themselves. Even in the case of the Rhapsodie, indeed many different types of asymmetry are employed in different sections of the piece, only one of which is addressed in this essay. Besides it should be born in mind that the issue of asymmetries is only discussed in relation to the performance aspects of [mainly] the Ballade, and as such, it only forms a portion of the essay. Rather, the main goal of the essay has been an attempt to justifiably draw on extramusical relations to help clarify the purely musical aspects of the latter piece. This entails an examination of the possible relationships between the Ballade and Edward, a poem that has been given credit prominently by the composer himself above the first system of the piece. (I have provided a transcription of Herders German translation, as well as the original text in Scottish, and a brief biography of Herder in a supplemental entry in the database.) My hope is to show that in some cases, an understanding of the extra-musical connotations of a piece can shed light on some of its purely musical ambiguities, or to put it more succinctly, in some cases the semantics of music can clarify its syntax in a justifiable manner, no matter how abstract the music might seem.

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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

Section One: Brahms: Rhapsodie in EbM; Op. 119, No. 4


(Published: 1893) [* Only the first section of the Rhapsodie is discussed.] One is unlikely to deliver any convincing rendition of this piece until he/she has not understood the nature of the asymmetry in its very opening phrase. However, here this should not be a difficult task, since the composer has left enough signs to disambiguate his intent,- one only has to look more closely. The phrase structure of the opening is organized in 5 measures of 2/4 (1/2 in effect); indeed the entire A-B-A' sections of the piece (i.e. the first 60 measure, or the first 12 phrases of the pieces), and their variants later on, consist of such a structure. But interestingly enough, this 5 measure structure, seemingly uneven, is indeed the result of the partial overlapping of two symmetrical phrases, each consisting of 4 bars, as the composer has clarified with his placement of the accents, and as a more subtle examination of the voice-leading would suggest. Thus, the last measure of the leading group shares the same measure with the first measure of the second group, as follows: [*Here I will use a simple letter system, to compensate for the graphical limits of the database. R stands for Rest.] Group I: (|GF-G-|AbG-F-|GF-Eb-|FEb|) Group II: (|r-Bb-Eb|DC|Bb|rr). (The second group is doubled by a third below, and also by an octave in the left hand. Note that a crucial Bb3 seems to be missing at the end -for the practical reason of fingering in the LH-, but indeed because of the sympathetic resonance of the piece and the strength of the 5th and octave upper partials on the piano, it can be heard fulfillingly amongst the overall sound of the EbM triad of the sixth measure.) The process, which is alternatively referred to as overlapping, dove-tailing, elision, or nesting, is quite common in the contrapuntal contexts, but such linear application of it that would result in
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

a conspicuously uneven extension of the phrase is highly unlikely to be found in the works of earlier periods (Baroque and after.) In regards to performance, such understanding of the piece -if found convincing at all- could immensely enhance the articulatory clarity of the passage (section), and its subsequent perception by the audience. It would surely affect the balance of the voices in the passage; the second group can now be brought out, and heard as a response to the first group, while if neglected, it could be heard only as a thick chord progression. The dynamic contour of the passage would be affected as well, since now two overlapping arches of <cresc.----dim.> are to be observed, and the marked accents would become meaningfully shaped into an arch of their own. Besides, now the (puzzling) staccato Bb (m. 4, first beat) will be heard more than a mere rhythmic activator, and it will find melodic value as the up-beat to the second group. Marginally, a conductor/arranger who also approaches the piece for orchestration might as well benefit largely from such thoughts, as he/she decides on clarifying the texture by means of timbral and stratified differentiation. A similar attempt to perceive the other types of asymmetries in the continuing sections of the piece would also yield in similar influences on the performance aspects of the piece.

Section Two: Brahms: Intermezzo in AM; Op. 118, No. 2


(Published: 1893) A similar issue is raised in the manner of articulating the opening of this Intermezzo. Again here, we are faced with two groups of melodic ideas (and their harmonic associates), with contrasting characters. But unlike the Rhapsodie, here the melodic ideas are dispersed more widely and linearly over the time axis, and both can be easily articulated with little effort. While the piece is written in 3/4 meter, the second group can
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

be clearly seen to consist of a binary meter (4/4+2/4, or 2/4+2/4+2/4). The first quarter note beat of this group, however, overlaps with the 3rd beat of measure two, and is first heard as the corresponding beat to the anacrusis that opens the piece. Thus, because the written meter is not altered, in effect the downbeat of the second group shifts to the left, and hence the metric accents of the group begin to go against the metric pulse of the 3/4 meter. The conflict is not resolved until the downbeat of the fourth measure, when the last two beats of the second group this time overlap the downbeat of the 3/4 meter (half rest of the next phrase, which is the repeat of the first group.) [* Note that this is different from a regular hemiola effect in 3/4, since at least for it to be a slow hemiola, the downbeat of m.3 should have been accented. This is to say that the first beat of a hemiola start unambiguously on the downbeat, and would resolve after the first rotation of the triple meter accent in binary accents.] The fact that the above deconstructive analysis has roots in the reality of the piece can be seen from the composers slur and dynamic markings. The slur of the legato passage begins on the 3rd beat of m.2, extends over 6 quarter notes, and concludes on the second beat of m.4. The crescendo begins at the same place, culminates on the '2nd' beat of m.3, and from there the diminuendo calms down the arch, ending on the second beat of m.4. Besides, the melody itself affords us with more evidence: the second group starts with two dotted figures (dotted eighth note, followed by a sixteenth), it reaches the climactic E5 at the apex of the crescendo (second beat of m.3), and thereon it descends cadentially over four quarter notes, easily audible in groups of two. The fact that at mm. 11-12 and 15-16 the slur breaks over the bar-line further emphasizes this Binary divisibility. Furthermore, there is more conflict of meter introduced, as the underneath harmonic meter remains faithful to the 3/4 pulsation of the primary meter. [* One can wonder why this break has not been indicated in the first two utterances of the phrase, i.e. mm. 3-4 and 7-8. It could be a psychological decision on part of the composer, since an early introduction of such break could result in an exaggerated articulation by the performer that might disrupt the legato flow of the passage. Marked this way, the break is heard as a sub-phrase, and hence it becomes less likely to be exaggerated. Besides, one should note that the second period mm. 9-16- is played at a lower dynamic level (pp, vs. the initial
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

p). This difference would reinforce caution on part of the performer to maintain the legato. Also, the initial six-beat slur indication establishes the overall design of the secondary meter more clearly. Finally, notice should be taken of the inner voices that are more active in this second variant.] The above problem is again faced when at m.17, the second section begins with a 3quarter note idea in the melody, that is slurred as such, but that is again shifted against the primary meter by one beat. Thus, with the help of the dynamic markings, this is the second quarter note that should be accented, and this is the one that falls on the downbeat of m.17. At first this seems to be a mere anacrusis effect, but after considering the base line, the complexity of the passage becomes more evident: the 3rd beats of mm.16-18 (bass E2) are consecutively tied over the bar-line to their next dotted half note, and hence the meter is momentarily shifted. Finally, E2/E3 extends over m.19, and resolves to A2, in this case corresponding to the 6-beat (4+2) metric structure of the consequent. [*Further application of the above two metric and rhythmic analyses can also be applied to the later variants of the passages. For example, in the recapitulation starting at m. 73- the rf. that reinforces the first beat of the group II, i.e. the climactic G5, gives further support to the above analysis.] The above considerations can have important implications for the performer of the piece. Even if he/she does not agree with the above conclusions, still examining these thoughts would prove beneficial. As a practical example, one might experiment with counting the opening phrase different than the expected primary meter (1-2-3), instead reinforcing the asymmetry as follows: 3-| 1-2- 3-| 1-2- 1-/2-3-4-/1-2- 3-| 1-2-etc. OR alternatively 3-| 1-2- 3-| 1-2- 1-/2-3-4-/5-6-- 3-| 1-2-etc.

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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

Thought of in this way, the performer can also gain a better sense of the dynamic curve of the passage, as the high point of the phrase is reached. This in turn affects the degree and location of the rubato curve for the second group: the slight, natural accelerando would continue up until the third beat of the second group, the third beat itself held back slightly (as if a swell <> articulation is applied), and thereon a slight ritardando would join the succeeding diminuendo. This alone would result inevitably in a re-evaluation of the way one would breath in the opening (and its subsequent variants), and the metric [or anti-metric] accentuation of the passage.

Section Three: The Extra-musical Origins of Asymmetry in the Music of Brahms


Especially the Intermezzo affords us with the opportunity to ask if one can account for the origins of such irregularities not merely on purely musical grounds. There are many reasons for such reflections. At any given period, each artistic field might resist changes in some of its parameters, while promoting progress and variety in the others. Music of the first half of the nineteenth century, for example, was relatively explorative in terms of its harmonic language, some aspects of its formal aspirations, and its timbral ambitions. Nevertheless, it had developed a resistance toward a change in its underlying binary design, which manifested itself in the widespread acceptance of the Sonata form (ABA in essence) and the generally even number of phrase elements. Even the meter too had stayed frozen in either 2 or 3 meters, with extremely rare exceptions. [* Quite possibly, the first example of a 5-beat meter appears once only in the music of Chopin: the Larghetto of his Sonata No. 1 in Cm, Op. 4 is written entirely in 5/4. But the piece was published posthumous (Chopin died in 1849), and hence, the piece does not seem to have become widely influential for many years. It is generally said that the first influential case of a 5/4 meter [2+3] appeared in the second movement of Tchaikovskys Symphony No. 6, in Bm, Op. 74, which was not performed until 1893, a
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

few days before the composers sudden death. Note that both of these composers had roots in (or at least, connections with) the music that was outside the mainstream German-Austrian classical music of their time,- Polish and Russian folk, respectively.] [** This type of resistance in arts is not so unusual. As an example in todays popular arts, the three-act form of screenwriting seems to have mostly dominated the film medium, (except for some sparsely scattered formal experiments), while the medium is very progressive in its embrace of new technological means of expression.] > Because of the nature of the problem, i.e. essential asymmetries in the metric structure of the music, it would be prudent if we search for its possible origins in the art that has always been mostly associated with music, and which could have afforded the unsatisfied composer with an abundance of justified metric novelties within its varied prosodic palette: poetry. Indeed, at least to me, the Intermezzo sounds to articulate silently the lines of an underlying poetic text. (Did not Mendelssohn name so many of his abstract compositions Songs Without Words?) But no matter how tempting might be the case for the existence of such relationships in this Intermezzo, I dont know of any tangible evidence that could be cited in support of this theory. Yet fortunately, the young Brahms (perhaps less cautious than the old bear!) has left some useful trace to the possible presence of such origins in at least one of his other, earlier works: Ballade in Dm, Op. 10, No. 1. As it was mentioned above, this particular piece bears the following acknowledgment on the title page: Nach der schottischen Ballade: Edward in Herders Stimmen der Vlker. This literally means, After the Scottish Ballade, Edward, in Voices of the People by Herder. Stimmen der Vlker is a collection of poems from different sources that were selected and translated into German by the German Philosopher and Literary figure, Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803), in the 1770s. The work was subsequently republished in the complete edition of his works (1828). This particular poem, Edward,
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

originally taken from a collection by Thomas Percy (1729-1811), narrates a gruesome, rather barbaric story, where through a conversation between a mother and her son, named Edward, we learn that he has killed his father, and hence he is full of guilt. He responds to his mothers interrogative reproach (How is it that your sword is so red of blood?) first by lying, and then by confessing to the deed and expressing his guilt for it. At the end, after he has recounted the punishments that he has considered to bring upon himself (leaving for the sea; leaving his house to collapse; leaving his wife and kid to beg), he tells his mother, I will leave you curse and the fire of hell/Because of the such counsel that you gave me. I think there is an ambiguity inherent in the poem. Has she indeed persuaded him for the act, or is he complaining about the way she has handled his grief through this conversation? How did he kill his father? Was it an accident or an act of intent? In what context did the event happen? It can be seen that the exact sense and atmosphere of the poem depends on the interpretation that one might decide upon. And I also think that such an interpretation of the poem can radically affect the way one performs the music that is based on this poem. Rubinstein, Gould and Brendel have each played the piece differently. Did they know about Edward in advance? If so, did that knowledge and interpretation affect their performances? Whatever the answer, I think that the effect of such knowledge on the performance of this piece is undeniable. Hence below, with such conviction in mind, I will aim at exploring certain musical aspects of the Ballade and their connections to the content and structure of Edward, as well as demonstrating how such considerations might affect the actual performance of the piece. And as a marginal hint: Brahms was 23 when this collection of four ballades was first published. We leave the pursue of a psycho-analytical study of the composition and the composer himself to the field of biographical musicology, and rather focus on the direct relations between the abstract musical parameters and the text and content of the poetry

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behind it, namely Edward. (Just for one, the examination of a case for the Oedipus Complex could prove interesting.) [* For a complete version of Herders translation, as well as the original Scottish text, and also a brief biography of Herder, see my other entry, Edward: Documents.]

Section Four: Brahms: Ballade in Dm; Op. 10, No. 1


(Published in 1756) The Ballade, in Dm, has a clear ABA structure, with the A being slow and meditative, B that starts in DM faster and heroic, and A' in tempo primo. The A' introduces a second idea, consisting of a series of haunting triplets, that joins the initial section, and that gives the piece an unsettled ending. One of the interesting structural aspects of the piece is the asymmetrical phrase structure of the A and A' sections, in contrast with the conspicuously binary structure of the B section. The entire piece, however, is invariantly written in 4/4 (C time). An anacrusis opens the first phrase. The antecedent continues unmistakenably to the third beat of the first measure. Next, the line takes a dramatic downward leap (drops a 5th below), and thus the consequent begins on the fourth beat of the second measure, ending on the third beat of the same measure. But a sudden turn of the phrase breaks this predictable fulfillment, as the phrase extends for one extra measure, consisting of two descending fifths (E5-A4/E4-A3). The antecedent repeats, once more (m.4), with a new variant in m.5, and a variation on the descending fifth idea, which this time is both rhythmically and harmonically extended. So far, the melody has been primarily doubled in octaves, with little harmonic additions, and in the case of the descending 5th's, none at all. The entire passage occupies eight measures, but not symmetrically, since if studied according to its harmonic rhythm and melodic construction, it can be seen to be organized as follows:

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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

Measures:

2+1+||1|+1+1|+2 === 3+5

OR Beats as quarter notes, including the anacrusis: 4+4+2+2+||4+|4+4+|4+4 ==== 12+20 Thus, while the total number of the bars and beats coincides with that of an 8-bar structure, the micro events go against it. The fluidity of such a narrative is one of the elements that give the piece a declamatory nature. (I have borrowed the expression from Prof. R. Winter.) To what extend is the above parsing valid? In other words, is it the correct way of articulating these phrases? Unlike the Rhapsodie and the Intermezzo, long arching slurs are absent, and this requires a closer examination of the melodic contour, harmonic flow, cadential progressions, and rhythmic structure of the passage on part of the performer. (The absence of long phrase slurs is due to the non-legato (portato?) articulation of the passage.) However, even more tangibly, the dynamic markings seem to be consistent with the above manner of parsing the phrase. The passage begins in p, but at the third beat of m.3 it closes with a pp marking. The second period (upbeat to m.4) resumes p, dims to its echo in m.5, and then each of the three subsequent two-note sub-phrases (each consisting of a dotted half note and a quarter note) carry a clear diminuendo on them (sigh motive?). There are many questions that could be raised. Is one supposed to play the passage perfectly in tempo, with no holding of the third beat of m.3, only because no tempo markings have been indicated at this point? Would it be a genuinely satisfying rendition of the passage? Should one play the cadential extension of mm. 6-8 with no ritardando, or is there a calando implied? (See the last 5 measures of the piece. There, the expression dim. ma sempre in tempo [gradually softer, but always in tempo] opens up the possibility that the romantic composer might have thought of a (slight) relaxation of tempo along with a cadential diminuendo to be the norm.) In short, the irregularities of the phrase structure could be found extremely puzzling.
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

These and other questions might be more easily answered, if at this point, we venture a comparative study of Edward and the Ballade to see whether there are any hints to a possible structural similarity between the poem and the composition. It does not take long to find the first of such similarities. Consider the following line, that opens the German text: Dein Schwert, wie ists von Blut so Roth?/Edward, Edward! It can be seen that the 14 attacks of the first phrase of the music match perfectly the actually 14 pronounced syllables of the lyrics. (Note that ists is a poetic abbreviation for ist es, and it can be counted as two beats.) A closer look, can even determine how long the grace-note Bb that precedes the second quarter note of the phrase should be prolonged and stressed; it matches the word Schwert, if the diphthong is pronounced more dramatically (Schw-ert). Besides, the puzzling role of the two descending 5ths is now better understood (the extended m.3), since they coincide with the syllables, pitch inflection and accentuation of Edward, Edward. Thinking this way, sub-phrases are also more clearly parsed and prioritized; for example, as one would rather not connect ists to von when reading the text, one becomes also less likely to slur the first downward leap of the phrase (A-D), and so on. Furthermore, this relationship between the music and the text can even affect the balance of the voices. Should one play all notes of the passage (chordal passages that cover the vertical range of almost four octaves) equally, or should one bring out the octave-doubled melody only? Wouldnt this result in a very thick texture, with a not so pleasant attack by the grace note in the bass? What if we could get some hint from the text? I think there is such a hint, and that is the simple fact that this passage is the word of the mother,- a woman, who is a grandmother too. Could one balance the voices so that the vertical dynamic balance goes from soft to loud, in upward direction, and also suppress those notes that dont belong to the melody (as if this is the voice of a middleaged woman)? Is it convincing? Again, I think such considerations, would certainly help the performer in his/her technical decisions.

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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

As for tempo fluctuations, nothing could be more useful than understanding the narrative and the vocal aspect of the passage. Thinking along these lines, one would justifiably render the descending 5ths (Edward, Edward!) with a slight ritardando, and certainly with a holding of the last note of the phrase, even though there is no sign of it in the score. (Rubinstein, for one, does make a good case for this in his 60s recording of the piece.) In general, such reading of the piece can help the performer decide on the tempo relations of the piece, down to the minutest details of the rubato and other rhythmic fluctuations, without giving the impression that the performance is forced. The dynamic relations can now be seen more clearly, as well. Again, for example, the descending fifths would no more feel redundant, and the slight dynamic difference needed between the first and the second one can be meaningfully adjusted. Same is true for the cadential extension at mm. 6-8. Note that the sophisticated composer has begun to fragment and augmentate the constructed phrase, along with its associated words in the second half of this period (mm. 4-8). To be more exact, here read the phrase as such: Dein Schwert, wie ist es/Dein Schwert, wie ist es/von Blut/von Blut/so roth? This is a clear declamatory fashion of stressing the important words of the phrase. [* It should be said that this type of independent fragmentation of a melody with its associated words has important precedents, e.g. in the music of Beethoven. For instance, one such event occurs in the Finale of the Ninth Symphony, where the phrase Seid umschlungen Millionen/Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt! is progressively broken down along with its principal melody.] In Edward each stanza is composed of a question and a response, the first by the mother, and the second by the son. Each question and answer is itself composed of four lines. The second line in all stanzas (Edward, Edward), as well as the sixth line (Mutter, Mutter!) are all identical. Furthermore, the first and third lines in each stanza (as well as the fifth and seventh) are identical with each other, too. The fourth and the eighth, however, are only identical in their prosodic rhythms, and not the words. These lines are concluding statements for each half of the stanzas, i.e. the questions and the answers. This can be summarized as follows:
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

A/B/A/C//D/E/D/F with the following general number of syllables: 9/4/9/7//11/4/11/7 and where B equals Edward, Edward!, and the E equals Mutter, Mutter! in all stanzas. The entire poem consists of 7 stanzas. It now can be seen that the structure of stanzas is also reflected in the periodic structure of the piece. If we examine the second period of the A section of the Ballade (mm. 9-13), we can see that not only the constituent four phrases of this period are each composed of 5 quarter-note-beats, but also their total has added up to 5 measures of 4/4. Note that there is no question about the major break before this section (it is marked as Poco pi moto), as well as the 5 beat structure of these phrases: not only the slurs over the phrases, but also their own harmonic and metric identity is clearly consistent with this manner of parsing. It is also interesting that this period of the piece employs a lower register, as well as a denser harmonic voicing. As such, it adds more contrast to the textural and timbral character of the period, compared with the first one. Based on what was laid above, the second period (mm.9-13) seems to correspond to Edwards response in the fist stanza, as the lower register suggests the male voice, the denser harmony depicts more complexity, and the melodic contour (U-shaped) that climaxes perplexingly at the end of the phrase, implies non-certainty. On a more concrete level, the phrases match the number of syllables in the first line of Edwards response (the 5th line of the stanza): O ich hab geschlagen [,] meinen Geier todt, and of course it repeats for the second half of the period with minor mode flavor. Such understanding would help the performer shape these phrases more subtly, and moreover, the sostenuto marking, as well as the cresc.dim. dynamics are now better understood. An appreciation of the dramatic idea behind these phrases would also spare the performer from rendering all four of them with a plateau dynamic style, solely because they are not [mostly] marked otherwise in the score. This will also give a better sense of the tempo fluctuations in this passage, too; perhaps a slight ritenuto at the end of each would now seem quite natural.
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

The structure of the second period (mm. 14-26) is quite similar to the first, though harmonic variations help avoid redundancy. Also it should be noted that as a manner of preparation, the period ends with a cresc./ fermata (allargando, in effect) that heralds the arrival of the allegro section, with a dramatically contrasting character. This long fermata on a harmonic open 5th (an interval that prevails the entire composition, perhaps to evoke a time far passed), i.e. D-A is present in a minor context (at this point it functions as the dominant of Gm), part of a triad that its third is ambiguously missing (Dm or DM?). But as the chord is sustained, the F# begins to emerge, as a result of the acoustics of the piano (see above, under Op. 119, No. 4). The effect is staggeringly orchestral, and as a suggestion, the pianist can highlight its dramatic effect by changing the pedal on the chord, and then allowing the new section (with the F#5 in a triplet figure, as well as the tenor melody in the left hand) emerge, as the dust settles. It seems to me that the narrative of the middle section of the Ballade can be easily misunderstood, because of its explosive nature, while the mood of the section can radically differ based on such interpretation. Rather than [the general view, that is] being a narrative of a battle (between the son and the father), I suggest that it should be understood as a heightening conversation between the interrogative mother and Edward who is trying to avoid the confession. The section begins quietly with the presentation of two conflicting ideas, (one consisting of a triplet upbeat and the long downbeat, and the other made of a curved contour idea in the lower voices.) [* Considering the undeniable similarity of the triplet figure with the Beethovens fate motif of the 5th symphony, the temptation to think of the passage, and in effect the whole section, in a triumphant sense, can be well understood.] But in support of the alternative interpretation, I would suggest the following: if we combine the two aforementioned ideas in the B section of the piece, and then listen to the resultant line, we will hear the following rhythm, as itself, and as the base of its subsequent variations: SSS|L, LLL.
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[* S = short/L = long]

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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

Now lets consider the hitherto neglected 4th and 8th lines of each stanza of the poem, for example the two from the fourth stanza: ... Men Sohn bekenn [/] mir mehr O!//...Will gehn fern [/]bers Meer O! Indeed, they match the aforementioned rhythmic structure perfectly. In short, it seems that the B section is constructed by the composer through deconstructing the original rhythm of a 7 note melody, derivative from the 4th and 8th lines of each stanza, into two smaller fragments, and then developing them independently, along a general crescendo/ accelerando progression that climaxes in m. 42-43, with the amplified return of the Edward theme (second and fourth periods), as perhaps his tormented utterance of his confession. I think my suggested narrative, i.e. the increasingly heightened dialogue between the mother and Edward can now explain the harmonic progression of the section, and the overall narrative of the piece more satisfactorily, aswell. Furthermore, as I mentioned before, I am convinced that depending on how one perceives the subtext of this section, one would perform it very differently. For example, by replacing the notion of battle and triumph in this passage with the more mitigated, guilt-filled narrative of the pain of confession, one is likely to use a more clear pedaling, a more sensitive touch, and a more subtle dynamic flow, since he/she is no more concerned with hammering the keyboard to supposedly re-produce the sound of the story of a battle. (For instance, in my view, Rubinsteins performance has aimed for a more sensitive version of the Ballade, while Brendel demonstrates less concern for the nuances of psychological subtext in the piece in favor of a more dramatic and explosive rendition.) It can affect the tempo relations of the passage, as well, and surely the dynamic design of it. Also, an awareness of the possibility of such relationship between the main idea of the section and the prosody of Edward, as it was laid above, would prevent the performer of taking too much freedom in the [necessary] rhythmic variations of the triplet figure, to the extent that its original rhythm is completely distorted. (In his 1980s recording, Glenn Gould goes as far that toward the end of the B section, the triplet completely transforms into a quarter note and
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

two eighth notes. In comparison, Rubinsteins rubato never deviates from the main character of the figure, although he too employs a sensitive allargando on the first note of the triplet, especially as he approaches the climax of the B section.) A similar analysis along the above lines, can also be applied to the subsequent section, the A (marked Tempo I, and sotto voce), which in effect consists of the first period (only the mothers rhetoric), with a prolonged cadential complex, and a triplet figure that intrudes and ultimately prevents- its satisfactory settlement. This figure is marked staccato, but because of issues of pedaling, pianists seem to be more inclined to ignore it. (Dr. Walter Ponc, in a conversation, favored more concern for the pedaling of the melody than the staccato, hence the legato rendition of the figure. Rubinstein too has played the figure as legato, while if I hear correctly, Gould has preferred crispy staccatos. Brendel is not consistent. I personally prefer a portato articulation, and the effect indeed can be easily achieved without compromising the pedaling of the melody. In effect, the pedal should constantly be cleared for the staccato notes, while the rests (and also the short duration of the staccato notes) would allow it to pedal the chords and the melody with no apparent break. Also I think the section can end most satisfactorily if this figure (voice) is allowed to increasingly prevail toward the end of the piece. This requires the rising F#2-G2-/G2-G#2 to grow prominently out of the chordal plane into the A2-F2-D2D2, with such a balance that the lower octave is suppressed (A1-F1-D1-D1). Note that the composer is also in favor of this interpretation: while the tempo should remain steady toward the end amid the general diminuendo (as marked), the graphic swell crescendodiminuendo of the penultimate measure is placed above the lower staff, indicating the importance of this voice at this point. I think the performer will find this balance of the voices very satisfying. Note that both the overall form and narrative of the piece are also enhanced in this way, as the prevailing register of the piece collapses down to the lower part of the male voice, and as this is consistent with the narrative of the poem, where Edward has the last words. At the end, some comments on the pedaling manner of the B section should also be amended. As Professor Robert Winter has mentioned, Brahms himself would have not
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

been disturbed by a relatively extensive pedaling of the B section, indeed the way he has indicated the pedaling of this passage, where the performer is required to change the pedal only once per measure,- at the downbeat of each measure. This is because he was playing on the Viennese pianos, which had a faster decay than our modern pianos. However, todays pianist is likely to be disappointed if he/she is to use the suggested pedaling of the composer. Instead, I think, an application of the sostenuto (middle) pedal of the grand piano could be examined, at least from the downbeat of the fifth measure of the B section. This is simply done by releasing the damper pedal on the downbeat (to clear the previous harmony), pushing down the selective sostenuto (to prolong the decay of the upper F#5), and applying the damper again, as the RH moves down to play the figure in the bass staff. The only disadvantage of this suggestion seems to be that the downbeat of the LH will also extend along with the F#5. But it can also be an advantage, since this would help the continuity of the middle layer as it passes from the LH to the RH. Besides, the lingered vibration of the left E-octave is likely to be overlapped and weakened by the subsequent two eighth notes of the phrase. This can be said of all the later variants of this measure. Alternatively, one can employ only the damper pedal, using quarter pedal, or even gradual release of the pedal (diminuendo pedaling) to reduce the accumulation of sonorities as the section progresses. As for the una corde [due corde] pedal, some of the passages,- as in the Edward ideas of mm. 9-13, or the very ending of the piece- might provide opportunities for introducing more timbral contrast by the use of this pedal. As for the tempo, it seems that performers in general tend to apply a slight accelerando to the section, until the necessary allargando at the climactic Bb measure chord, (pesante) is reached. This is parallel to the clearly marked gradual crescendo of the section.

Conclusion
I can only hope that my discussion has at least partially succeeded in its ultimate goal, that is a knowledge of the relevant extra-musical connotations of a musical passage, or a
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

composition as a whole, is inherently influential on the performance of a composition, and that it can clarify many of the musical ambiguities in the printed music. The fact that this seems true even in the case of a composition that could stand high firmly in abstract, with an unquestionably autonomous musical integrity, makes the case even more revealing. (I, for one, had loved the piece for long, before I had even heard of the poem and its content.) In a way, one could object that this has been a known fact of performance practices of music throughout ages. After all, havent performers and audiences alike known of the extra-musical connotations of say Vivaldis Four Season concerto grossos since they were composed almost 400 years ago? Have not been orchestras flute players striving to evoke the most beautiful of Cuckoos in the middle of Beethovens Sixth Symphony? Or even more generally, has not this been the very essence of the idea of Symphonic Poem? Certainly, yes, and I had not ignored it from the outset. But what I intended to discuss was not a romantic repertoire with a more or less known programmatic subtext. Rather, I aimed to show that such revealing associations might also be present in the most abstract of all music, and that such knowledge of them would prove useful even for the most puristically modernist interpretation. But perhaps more importantly, the broadest conclusion that I had in mind was that the extent of extra-musical connotations is not limited to a story or a picture behind the music, but it can also include the technical process of composition itself, as well. Still, at its narrowest, this was a study that intended to inform and/or remind the performer of such extra-musical associations in the case of one particular composition, i.e. the Ballade. Or at least, it could be considered an attempt in reinforcing an appreciation of such extra-musical associations, within the boundaries of reason.

Acknowledgments
Primarily, I am indebted to Prof. Ian Krouse for his illuminating remarks in regards to the Ballade and the quinternary structure of its phrases, and the music of Brahms in general, , and equally as well, for entrusting to me an unpublished doctoral dissertation
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

by a former UCLA student of architecture. The latter dissertation, authored by Mr. Athanassios Nicholas Economou, is titled Architectonics of Symmetry in Twentieth Century Architectural and Music Theories (1997). This is an impressively comprehensive bi-disciplinary study of the subject of symmetries in music and architecture. For me, it proved particularly beneficial in regards to explaining the asymmetries in the Rhapsodie (Op. 119, No. 4) with more confidence, as my independently formed earlier conclusions about this piece and its underlying symmetrical elements were both affirmed and enhanced by the general line of thought and its development in parts of the dissertation; I also borrowed some of the terminology from this study. Further, I acknowledge my failure in locating a Masters thesis by a former student of piano at UCLA at the time of writing this essay. Three years ago, it was this study, which had focused on the Four Ballades Op. 10, that first gave me a brief account of the story of Edward, and also a suggestion (though elementary) about applying an accelerando to the B section of the Ballade. Other than that, my essay has little to do with that study. I should also express gratitude to Dr. W. Ponc for his insightful comments about the Ballade, who related to me some of the valuable oral traditions of the performance of this piece. Finally, the three famed pianists whose recordings of the piece I have heard, should be mentioned, namely Arthur Rubinstein, Glenn Gould, and Alfred Brendel. The innocent perfection of the first rendition, the thoughtful revisionism of the second, and the exciting heroism of the third have added more to my understanding of the piece.

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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

Appendix 1: Herders German Translation of Edward


Heres a transcription of the original German translation by Herder, to which Brahms refers at the beginning of the Ballade, and upon which he must have based his composition. For this transcription, the 1828 re-prodcution of the work has been used. Care has been taken to make it as error free as possible. Please note the time and style of the language. Contents within the brackets are my additions. (Payman Akhlaghi) Transcribed by Payman Akhlaghi (Transcription: copyright 2000, 2012, Payman Akhlaghi.) From:

Stimmen der Vlker In Liedern


Gesammelt, Geordnet, Zum Theil berset [Ca. 1773-1779] Durch Johann Gottfried Von Herder [1744-1803] Neu Herausgegeben [1828] Durch Johann Von Mller

Edward
(Schottisch) (Aus Perch Reliq. Vol. I, p. 57) Dein Schwert, wie ists von Blut so roth? Edward, Edward! Dein Schwert, wie ists von Blut so roth, Und geht so traurig her? O! O ich hab geschlagen meinen Geier todt, Mutter, Mutter! O ich hab geschlagen meinen Geier todt, Und keinen hab ich wie Er O! Deins Geiers Blut ist nicht so roth, Edward, Edward!
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

Deins Geiers Blut ist nicht so roth, Mein Sohn, bekenn mir frei O! O ich hab geschlagen mein Rothro todt, Mutter, Mutter! O ich hab geschlagen mein Rothro todt. Und s war so stolz und treu O! Dein Ro war alt und hasts es nicht noth, Edward, Edward! Dein Ro war alt und hasts nicht noth, Dich drckt ein andrer Schmerz O! O ich hab geschlagen meinen Vater todt, Mutter, Mutter! O ich hab geschlagen meinen Vater todt, Und weh, weh ist mein herz O! Und was fr Bue willt du nun thun? Edward, Edward! Und was fr Bue willt du nun thun? [Bue = repentance, penance] Mein Sohn bekenn mir mehr O! Auf Erden soll mein Fu nicht ruhn, Mutter, Mutter! Auf Erden soll mein Fu nicht ruhn, Will gehn fern bers Meer O! Und was soll werden dein hof und hall? Edward, Edward! Und was soll werden dein hof und hall? So herrlich sonst und schn O! Ich lass es stehn, bis es sink und fall, Mutter, Mutter! Ich lass es stehn, bis es sink und fall, Mag nie es wieder sehn O! Und was soll werden dein Weib und Kind? Edward, Edward! Und was soll werden dein Weib und Kind, Wann du gehst ber Meer? O! Die Welt ist gro, lass sie betteln drinn, Mutter, Mutter! Die Welt ist gro, lass sie betteln drinn, Ich seh sie nimmermehr O! Und was willt du lassen deiner Mutter theur? Edward, Edward! Und was willt du lassen deiner Mutter theur?
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

Mein Sohn, das sage mir _ O! Fluch will ich euch lassen und hllich Feur, [Fluch = curse] Mutter, Mutter! Fluch will ich euch lassen und hllich Feur, Denn Ihr, Ihr riethets mir! O!

Appendix 2: A transcription of Edward in Original Scottish


The following is a transcription of the original Edward in Scottish, as it appears on the following academic site on the Internet, which is accompanied by pertinent peripheral information, including applicable credits: http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/1581.html. For further information, including a glossary of the words, please visit the above link. Thomas Percy (1729-1811)

Edward, Edward
Why dois your brand sae drap wi' bluid, Edward, Edward? Why dois your brand sae drap wi' bluid? And why sae sad gang ye, O? O, I hae killed my hauke sae guid, Mither, mither, O, I hae killed my hauke sae guid, And I had nae mair bot hee, O. Your haukis bluid was nevir sae reid, Edward, Edward, Your haukis bluid was nevir sae reid, My deir son I tell thee, O. O, I hae killed my reid-roan steid, Mither, mither, O, I hae killed my reid-roan steid,
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

That erst was sae fair and frie, O. Your steid was auld, and ye hae gat mair, Edward, Edward, Your steid was auld, and ye hae gat mair, Sum other dule ye drie, O. O, I hae killed my fadir deir, Mither, mither, O, I hae killed my fadir deir, Alas, and wae is mee, O. And whatten penance wul ye drie for that, Edward, Edward? And whatten penance will ye drie for that? My deir son, now tell me, O. Ile set my feit in yonder boat, Mither, mither, Il set my feit in yonder boat, And Ile fare ovir the sea, O. And what wul ye doe wi' your towirs and your ha', Edward, Edward? And what wul ye doe wi' your towirs and your ha', That were sae fair to see, O? Ile let thame stand tul they doun fa', Mither, mither, Ile let thame stand tul they doun fa', For here nevir mair maun I bee, O. And what wul ye leive to your bairns and your wife, Edward, Edward?
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Edward, Asymmetry & Performance Issues in Brahms Ballade in D minor, Op. 10, No. 1 Author: Payman Akhlaghi (2000) Graduate Paper Toward Degree of PhD in Composition

And what wul ye leive to your bairns and your wife, Whan ye gang ovir the sea, O? The warldis room, late them beg thrae life, Mither, mither, The warldis room, let them beg thrae life, For thame nevir mair wul I see, O. And what wul ye leive to your ain mither deir, Edward, Edward? And what wul ye leive to your ain mither deir? My deir son, now tell mee, O. The curse of hell frae me sall ye beir, Mither, mither, The curse of hell frae me sall ye beir, Sic counseils ye gave to me, O. From: http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/1581.html

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