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Brahms’s dedication of his Op. 51 string quartets (1873) to surgeon Theodor Billroth provides a window into Brahms’s music-political views in the 1870s that has heretofore been unexplored by music scholars. Analysis of correspondence, performance traditions, and the scores of these two quartets demonstrates that Brahms chose to align himself and his works with the learned connoisseurs of the domestic chamber-music making tradition, represented by Billroth and his frequent musical soirées. Brahms’s music also shows the influence of Joseph Joachim, his oldest and dearest friend and Europe’s premiere chamber musician. Brahms’s compositional choices in these two works combine public and private musical styles, to offer a touching memorial to earlier composers and friends, and to provide a teachable moment for the musical public.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association on 06 Nov 2012, available online: doi: 10.1080/02690403.2012.717468.

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