"Distance and Disembodiment: Harps, Horns, and the Requiem Impulse in Schumann and Brahms." Journal of Musicology 22 (2005): 47-89
by Daniel Beller-McKenna
abstract: 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 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 notable number of these pieces are untied by their use (literally or figuratively) of two distinctly romantic instruments--primarily the harp and secondarily the harp, instruments which Daverio labeled ""emblems of distance and disembodiment." Borrowing on both the Osssianic/bardic tradition of the late eighteenth 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. This essay surveys several pieces by each composer that partake of the Requiem Idea and utilize one or both of these instruments.