In September 1871, Johannes Brahms presented Clara Schumann with an untitled work in F## minor for solo piano, which he later revised and published as the Capriccio, op. 76/1. Surviving correspondence demonstrates Clara's intimate familiarity with the work throughout the 1870s. In May 1876, two years before releasing manuscripts of the Capriccio among his wider circle, Brahms composed the song Alte Liebe (Old Love) to a poem by Carl Candidus; he immediately sent an autograph to the baritone Julius Stockhausen, along with instructions to sing it to Clara, whom he proclaimed the best person to hear it. Examination of the music against the backdrop of its origins and the circumstances of its initial performance reveals that Brahms deliberately incorporated echoes of the Capriccio into Alte Liebe and points to ways in which those echoes might have influenced Clara's understanding of the song and its text. A broad array of music-analytic and documentary evidence (including the newly rediscovered autograph of Alte Liebe) permits detailed investigation of the interpretive perspective that Brahms's compositional choices encouraged from a listener with Clara's unique musical memories and manner of interacting with chamber music. Imaginatively reconstructing her encounter with Alte Liebe yields fresh insights into Brahms's compositional practice in the private genres of song and small-scale chamber music, a rich new historical context in which to ground the study of allusion in his works, and a rare opportunity to explore the musical and personal dynamics of his closest friendship.
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