Recording: Martin Jones, pianist [NI 1788]

Published 1856.  Dedicated to Julius Otto Grimm.

The second “wave” of Brahms’s solo piano output in the early 1860s was dominated by independent variation sets.  The third “wave” in the high maturity and late period was entirely devoted to short character pieces with generic titles.  At the end of the first “wave,” dominated by the three sonatas, Brahms gave a “preview” of both genres in two consecutive publications—the Op. 9 Schumann Variations and this set of four “Ballades.”  While these early pieces do bear some similarity to the later ones, they share much of the unrestrained expression typical of the sonatas.  Their forms, while all basically ternary, are more nebulous and fluid.  The key scheme, with a D minor/major pair followed by another minor/major pair centered on B (a “relative” relationship existing in the middle between D major and B minor), indicates that complete performance is intended, but calling them a fourth “sonata” is probably a stretch.  The title “Ballade” suggests a literary connection, and indeed there is an explicit one in the first piece, the so-called “Edward” Ballade.  The narrative of the grisly Scottish border ballad, known to Brahms in Herder’s translation, is easily transferred onto the piece’s music, although interpretations obviously vary.  Brahms would return to the poem in an actual duet setting of the words as Op. 75, No. 1, which is musically unrelated to this piece.  Concrete literary models for the other three pieces are not known, but a certain “heroic” or “bardic” character is apparent in all of them. He returned to the title once more for Op. 118, No. 3, another piece with a heroic mood.  The word also draws an inevitable reminiscence of Chopin and his four grand large-scale works.  The “Edward” piece establishes the loose ternary model with its agitated, dramatic central section and slow, tragic outer portions.  In No. 2, the lyrical framing passages enclose a much larger middle portion that shows its own “ternary” form, creating a symmetrical five-part structure.  Brahms curiously labeled No. 3 “Intermezzo” (an early use of that term, like the fourth movement of the F-minor sonata), effectively giving it two titles.  It resembles a scherzo/trio structure, but the “scherzo” portion is not in the typical binary form.  The more diffuse No. 4 extends its form by bringing back a large part of its rhapsodic middle section as a coda.  The longest piece of the set, it remains remarkably subdued throughout.

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition [monochrome] from Russian State Library)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Later Simrock Edition from Brahms’s time)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)

No. 1: Andante – Allegro (ma non troppo) – Tempo I (Ternary form with variation elements).  D MINOR, 4/4 time.
The piece is headed by this indication: After the Scottish ballad “Edward” in Herders “Stimmen der Völker” (“Voices of the Nations”).  This ballad was later set by Brahms as a duet, Op. 75, No. 1.

Original Scottish-English text of “Edward,” with German translation by Herder
Modern English translation of Herder’s German text

A Section--Andante – Poco più moto
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1 (Andante).  The austere chordal melody begins with an upbeat.  The first downbeat is decorated by a leaning grace note chord, or appoggiatura.  The continuation of the melody emphasizes descending fifths, and fifths are also prominent in the harmony.  The phrase closely reflects the mother’s questioning lines in the “Edward” poem.  This is even clearer in the two bare descending fifths that close the phrase, the second an octave lower.  These correspond to the urgent addresses “Edward, Edward!”
0:14 [m. 4]--The second phrase begins like the first, but after the first measure, a second “appoggiatura” chord is added and the melody descends lower with a hint at G minor.  At the point where the closing fifths were heard before, a single darker, harmonized version of the fifth in a “diminished” or “tritone” form is followed by two rising half-steps (a fifth apart) in the melody with harmonies and a low bass that reach a half-close.  This phrase corresponds to the last two lines of the mother’s stanzas in the poem.
0:31 [m. 9]--Theme 2 (Poco più moto).  The second theme, which will become the driving force of the middle section, is presented as a richer series of more active chords.  The theme can be seen as representing Edward’s answers to his mother, fitting metrically with the first line of all his stanzas.  The response is presented in two phrases beginning respectively on the upbeat and the second beat of the measure.  The first, with active octaves in the bass and three-note harmonies in the right hand, turns to a full close in G minor.  The second begins a fifth lower and seems to move to C minor, but at the end, it unexpectedly turns upward in a questioning way.  A bare half-close in the home key is reached and sustained with a fermata.
0:49 [m. 14]--Theme 1 (Tempo I).  The first phrase is presented as at the beginning.
0:59 [m. 17]--The second phrase is nearly identical to its first presentation, but at the very end, the last rising half-step is replaced by a downward fall leading to the chord of the related major key, F.  This in turn becomes the preparatory “dominant” to the B-flat harmony that begins the new statement of Theme 2.
1:17 [m. 22]--Theme 2 (Poco più moto).  The character is noticeably altered by placing the former bass octaves on top as the melody.  The former melody is placed in the tenor voice of the chords, but it is not an exact transfer.  Notably, some stepwise motion is replaced by downward leaps.  Because of the preceding F-major harmony, the first phrase seems to begin in B-flat major, “relative” to G minor, where the phrase was heard before.  But G minor quickly returns at the end.  The second phrase similarly seems to begin in E-flat (“relative” to C minor).  The harmony at the end with the fermata is no longer a half-close, but has the home keynote, D, in the bass.  It is supported by only the open fifth above, not by the full chord.
B Section--Allegro (ma non troppo), D major
1:34 [m. 27]--The middle section represents the gradual buildup to the father’s murder in Edward’s narration.  In the new major key and faster tempo, the “inverted” form of Theme 2, the original bass, is isolated as the principal argument.  Its first five notes are heard in the left hand and the tenor range, beginning on the upbeat, against new chords in triplet rhythm.  After the upbeat and downbeat, the right hand leaps below the left to play a low open fifth in the bass, also in triplets moving to a strong beat.  The same pattern is repeated, with an upper octave added to the thematic fragment in the left hand.  The whole two-measure sequence is then stated a fifth lower, on the “dominant.  It is varied by adding a rising motion to the triplet chord upbeats.  The volume slowly and steadily builds from the onset.
1:46 [m. 31]--This passage is active dynamically and harmonically, but generally follows the established pattern, with the thematic fragments accompanied by a triplet rhythm.  The low bass triplets are now on octaves instead of fifths, and instead of the right hand leaping over the left, the left hand itself now leaps down to play these octave triplets while the right, also leaping down, takes over on the thematic fragments.  A rising motion in triplet octaves is now added to the upbeats of the thematic fragments themselves to help the harmonic motion.  The harmony turns initially to the “relative” minor key, B on the first such fragment.  This quickly becomes major and moves to E minor for the second fragment.  This, in turn, also becomes major on the upbeat.  A second sequence with two fragments moves strongly to F-sharp minor.
1:57 [m. 35]--The volume has now reached forte and still builds.  In the next statement of the thematic fragment, F-sharp minor changes to major and becomes the preparatory “dominant” of B major, the goal of the first climax.  The triplet chords take over in both hands for a measure, still on weak beats leading into held chords on stronger ones.  The hands expand outward with these chords.  After the massive arrival on B major, fortissimo, the left hand leaps up to play the thematic fragment again.  This fragment pivots to an A-major chord.  The entire three-measure passage is restated at a new level, with A becoming the “dominant” in preparation to the second, more powerful climax, which arrives in the home key of D (major).
2:11 [m. 41]--After the D-major arrival, the triplet chords in the right hand become more persistent, overpowering the thematic fragments.  The measure with the chords punctuating the arrival on D, including the preceding upbeat and the succeeding left hand leap to the thematic fragment, is repeated.  D major is then changed to D minor on the next upbeat, which includes a rising arpeggio in the bass.  This moves to the chord of B-flat major, a new harmony, and another left hand leap to a thematic fragment.  This measure, with its upbeat, is also repeated, moving toward the third and most intense climax.
2:18 [m. 44]--The tension having reached its peak, it is released, pesante and fortissimo, in a massive statement of Theme 2 in its original form, with the phrases in G minor and C minor.  The top melody is an octave higher than in the first presentation, and the chords are fuller.  The bass is in octaves, but it is decorated by rising triplet figures on the “upbeat” gestures of each phrase, first the rising arpeggio that was heard in preceding buildup, then a rising scale line.  Unlike the presentations in the A section, the phrase moving to C minor reaches a decisive close there.  These statements seem to depict Edward’s confession.
2:33 [m. 49]--The climactic statements of Theme 2 continue.  First, the melody is heard at its original level, but the harmonies are changed so that the key is E-flat major.  The major key makes the statement almost sound triumphant.  In the left hand, the original counterpoint (the “inversion”) is heard in the tenor range, but the low bass keeps the momentum going with throbbing triplets on the upbeats.  The brightness of the major version is quickly dispelled by the return of the C-minor version at the original level, still with the throbbing bass triplets.
2:44 [m. 53]--The C-minor statement now dissipates into a series of circular chords that once again hint at E-flat major (the two keys being related).  Finally, the music subsides and slows down.  After a measure and a half, the chords themselves slow to twice their length, and the throbbing bass triplets are replaced by octaves on weak beats, some held over bar lines.  These last chords seem to be descending to a C-minor cadence, but at the last moment, the final arrival is diverted by an unexpected half-step.  The key pivots to F major, and the right hand drops out.  Hushed and mysterious, the left hand uses “diminished” chords over a descending line to turn back to the home key of D minor for the spectral return of the Theme 1.
A’ Section--Tempo I
3:08 [m. 60]--The epilogue-like closing section could represent the revelation at the end of the ballad: that Edward’s mother urged him to commit the deed.  In the first phrase, the right hand is as it was at the beginning of the piece, but the left hand replaces its chords and octaves with sinister staccato figures in triplet rhythm (with the first note of each group replaced by a rest).  These begin quite low and gradually descend even lower.  They are heard in two “waves,” the second (under the descending fifths) beginning higher and falling more precipitously.  Brahms marks this return sotto voce.
3:19 [m. 63]--The second phrase begins analogously, but now the “sinister” staccato triplet figures circle around four pitches rather than steadily descending.  The second “appoggiatura” chord is subtly placed a step higher than it was in the first section, and the harmony hinted at is now A minor instead of G minor.  The descending fifth is dispensed with, and there are two stepwise motions into longer chords.  The first is a rising half-step and the second a descending step.  Both longer chords are dissonant, tension-filled “diminished” harmonies.  Under these chords, the “sinister” figures in the left hand expand to octaves and stall at the same level, reversing the direction of each longer right hand motion.
3:34 [m. 67]--The music now dissipates.  A D-major chord held over the bar line offers only the briefest ray of hope.  The clipped “sinister” triplet figures move to the right hand, which has descended to the tenor register.  The left hand sustains octave D’s under these right hand figures, then adds another half-step in octaves on the upbeat.  Also on the upbeat, the right hand changes its chord to D minor.  The pattern continues with the right hand figures moving down a level.  On the next upbeat, another “diminished” chord is heard over more half-step motion (still in the clipped triplet rhythm).  The chord is held over the bar line and, with bass octaves, gradually resolves into an extended D-minor cadence and sustained chord.
4:04--END OF PIECE [71 mm.]

No. 2: Andante – Allegro non troppo –Tempo I Andante (Five-part symmetrical form – ABCB’A’).  D MAJOR, 4/4 and 6/4 time.
A Section--Andante, D major
0:00 [m. 1]--The bass pattern is established immediately.  It is a syncopated arch, continually reaching from a low D up to its “dominant” note, A, then to the D an octave above, and back down to the A and low D.  Every note is syncopated, coming between beats.  Against this, the right hand, on the beats, plays another arch in octaves on the notes A and F-sharp.  The latter completes the D-major harmony.  Brahms marks this miniature introduction espressivo e dolce.  After the first two bars, the right hand begins the actual melody, which is rich and heavily harmonized, with rolled chords.  The seven-measure phrase incorporates shorter notes leading into downbeats, more arching motion, a high reach near the end, and a middle-voice cadence.
0:32 [m. 10]--The contrasting phrase makes an immediate turn to the “relative” minor key, B minor.  The syncopated bass pattern also turns directly to B and its “dominant” note, F-sharp.  The phrase itself begins with a pair of downward sweeps, both fully harmonized and including rolled chords at the end.  The first is in B minor.  The second magically brightens to B major.  Two more surging gestures follow.  The first shifts the harmony (along with the syncopated bass) up to C major.  The second shifts up again, moving back home to D major.  Both press urgently up to their longer closing chords.
0:59 [m. 18]--The “rounding” phrase begins with the last two high-reaching measures of the opening phrase, adding a short upbeat note.  These two measures are then repeated yet another octave higher in the right hand, with a thicker rolled chord added at the beginning.  The left hand syncopation remains constant and without harmony.  Having reached this ethereal level, Brahms sustains it with a long, very full and tension-filled rolled chord on C-sharp (for which the left hand must briefly leap up to strike some notes).  At the end, the left hand syncopation reaches up to a higher A, leading into the high rolled D-major chord that closes the first section.
B Section--Allegro non troppo (doppio movimento), B minor
1:19 [m. 24]--The section begins with the second half of m. 23, which functions as a half-measure upbeat.  Most of it is based on an insistent hammering rhythm with four fast notes on the upbeat and a held half-measure note on the downbeat.  It begins in the tenor range with a four-measure phrase.  The right hand is harmonized over low bass octaves.  The first and third of the “hammering” upbeats are also octaves.  This gradually moves upward to the “dominant” chord.  The second phrase follows the same basic pattern, but it is louder and fuller, adding the higher octave in the right hand.  The passion and intensity build.
1:32 [m. 32]--The “hammering” rhythm continues, but how the chords become harmonically richer and more adventurous, even in the left hand.  The first upbeat turns to major, and then the harmony moves through E minor, C major, and F major. 
1:38 [m. 36]--After four of the familiar patterns, a fifth has a prominent half-step motion in a middle voice.  Then a new rhythm is introduced, a broad descent in triplet rhythm (three equal notes on the half-measure upbeat).  This is played against straight-rhythm octaves in the bass.  It first moves decisively to F-sharp minor.  A second such pattern suggests a mixture of D minor and major.  These keys are closely related to the central key of B minor.  This last triplet pattern is repeated an octave higher, then again at the original level.  Finally, another “hammering” pattern in the right hand dismisses the triplets and moves to “dominant” chord.
1:48 [m. 42]--Three pairs of hammered octaves on F-sharp, leaping first upward, then below to the low bass, serve as a lead-in to the next phrase.  The familiar rhythm returns, but it is interrupted by another pattern of three octave pairs, now on the keynote B.  A second statement of the main rhythm leads to a B-major chord, but this is short-lived.  Suddenly, the broad triplets return in both hands, played in unison two octaves apart.  A sustained bass note is doubled in leaping right hand grace notes.  Two descending patterns, the second higher, lead to an emphatic series of chords in regular “straight” rhythm.  These fall downward, reiterating a B-minor cadence, but the final arrival is interrupted, diverted into the C section in B major.
C Section--B major, 6/4 time
2:03 [m. 51]--The heading “Molto staccato e leggiero” does not seem to indicate a new tempo.  In fact, the new 6/4 meter simply matches the broad triplet rhythm heard in the last section.  The thumb of the left hand holds a long pedal point B as the right hand and the bass play staccato runs in contrary motion.  The right hand mid-range runs (one in each measure) generally move down, while the bass ones move up.  The right hand notes are again decorated with leaping grace notes that create fast two-note arpeggios.  The same four-measure phrase is repeated twice.  The volume is generally subdued.
2:15 [m. 59]--The harmonies change, as do the directions of the staccato runs.  The inner “pedal point” played by the thumb of the left hand moves away from B and becomes syncopated, with its reiterations and motions placed halfway between measures.  In the runs themselves, both hands move up together at the beginning of the phrase, but the bass reverts to a descent in the second half.  The keys of F-sharp minor and A major are used.  As the right hand reaches its highest pitch, a new phrase in F-sharp minor begins with descents in both hands.  The right hand plunges back to the baritone range while the bass moves very low, taking over the “pedal point.”  This bass finally adds strong syncopation on half-steps as the right hand stalls.  This, along with an added measure that settles things down, facilitates a motion back to B major.
2:29 [m. 68]--The original four-measure phrase in B major from the beginning of the section is heard again, but with a completely changed character.  It is now legato and marked pianissimo.  The right hand abandons the leaping grace notes and adds a lower harmony that moves parallel to the bass line.  After two measures, the original third measure is stretched out by doubling the lengths of the notes, creating a cross-rhythm or hemiola with the bass and the right hand’s own lower harmony, which both continue as before.
B’ Section--B minor
2:36 [m. 72]--Re-transition.  There is no change of tempo, but the original 4/4 meter returns.  The previous phrase with the cross-rhythm at the end merges directly into this transitional passage, which immediately turns back to B minor.  Right hand chords in the tenor range move slowly, one change per bar.  In the second half of every other measure, the familiar “hammering” rhythm subtly returns in the bass.  After two statements of the same pattern, the chords move down, as does the hammering bass, for one more pattern, averting a B-minor cadence and unexpectedly turning to a suspended harmony on C-sharp major.
2:48 [m. 80]--Elegantly using two “dominant” motions, Brahms returns to the original B section material from 1:19 [m. 24].  The first phrase, with its half-measure upbeats on the “hammering” rhythms, is unchanged.  The louder second phrase, however, is suddenly and grandly transformed.  The upbeat leads into a radiant chord in B major.  From there, the music expands upward, remaining in bright major, but still using the “hammering” rhythm on half-measure upbeats.  On the upbeat to the third measure of this transformed phrase, the bass stalls.  It resumes moving into the fourth measure.  At that point, the right hand introduces a joyous descending syncopation in rich chords, extending the phrase by a measure.
3:02 [m. 89]--From here, the remainder of the B section follows as before.  The passage from 1:32 [m. 32] returns with its active harmonies, but its initial “hammering” upbeat is reduced to three notes following the disruptive and climactic major-key syncopation that preceded it.
3:08 [m. 93]--Half-step motion and introduction of broad triplet rhythm, as at 1:38 [m. 36].
3:18 [m. 99]--Interruptions of hammered, leaping octaves, descending triplets two octaves apart, and emphatic chords, as at 1:48 [m. 42].
3:33 [m. 108]--Re-transition.  It is very similar to the first re-transition at 2:36 [m. 72].  The emphatic chords are suddenly cut off, and the subdued, slow-moving harmonies return.  The first two patterns are as before, but the “hammering” rhythm in the bass is an octave lower.  The third pattern shifts up instead of down.  The harmony suggests D minor.  This third pattern is repeated, extending the dissipation, but the second chord is held, with only the bottom note moving to create a mysterious “augmented” harmony.  The “suspended” harmony returns as before, now on F-sharp, the expectant “dominant” in B minor or major.
A’ Section--Tempo I (Andante), B major/D major
3:51 [m. 118]--Brahms states the entire opening passage, the two-measure introduction and the seven-measure phrase, in B major instead of D major.  Other than this wholesale transposition down a third, the passage is unchanged from the beginning, and all the patterns match.
4:22 [m. 127]--The continuation of the A’ section reflects the corresponding A section in the same key.  The key signature of D major returns.  The lingering use of B reflects the extreme prominence of B major and B minor in the three-part middle section.  Now, the opening key finally returns.  But even this contrasting phrase, as at 0:32 [m. 10], begins in B minor, so Brahms’s transition, which looks abrupt, is actually subtle.
4:48 [m. 135]--The first four measures of the “rounding” phrase are played as at 0:59 [m. 18].
5:03 [m. 139]--At the fifth measure of the “rounding” phrase, the music is diverted into the small coda.  The right hand replaces the large tension-filled rolled chord with a more stable roll on the notes D and A.  More importantly, an inner voice is added, split between the hands.  This inner voice is a version of the introductory arches, under which the bass syncopation continues.  After the first measure, high rolled harmonies are played on each downbeat, the top notes moving down by half-step.  After the second measure, the bass syncopation is changed, replacing the A’s with G’s.  At the same time, the inner voice continues with an expressive, tender version of the main melody, which stalls on the shorter notes.
5:17 [m. 143]--The preceding pattern is given in a new version.  The inner voice moves down an octave, and the bass syncopation slows to longer reiterations of the low D without the upper notes (which would collide with the lower middle voice).  The inner voice itself still uses the arches and the melodic opening, but with chromatic inflections on the notes C-natural and then F-natural.  The rolled chords continue to move down, but not strictly in half-steps. 
5:28 [m. 146]--In the fourth measure, the shorter notes in the melody still stall, but the note leading into them moves down a half-step.  The rolled chord is reiterated halfway through the bar.  The tempo begins to slow to the end.  The pattern is extended another measure.  The rolled chords again move down by half-step, with two in the measure.  The bass leaps down an octave to an even lower D.  In the inner voice, the note leading into the shorter notes moves down two more half-steps.  This leads into the last two measures.  The hollow low bass notes (first a fifth, then an octave, then a tenth) are followed by three D-major chords, gradually descending by inversion, the top notes outlining the chord, with the last delayed and sustained.
6:01--END OF PIECE [149 mm.]

No. 3: INTERMEZZO - Allegro (Ternary form resembling scherzo and trio, with abbreviated return).  B MINOR, 6/8 time.
A Section
0:00 [m. 1]--A stark open fifth in the bass is angrily hammered three times.  Immediately after the third of these, the main theme begins.  Its opening gesture is an angular zigzag, with a long note followed by four shorter ones (the latter doubled in the left hand).  This gesture is repeated after an interjection by the angry bass fifth.  Only after these opening gestures is it clear to the ear that the bass fifths are in fact on upbeats in the 6/8 meter and that the first five beats in mm. 1-2 are rests (with the first fifth on the upbeat preceding m. 1).  Two more angular gestures follow in ascending succession, and the angry upbeats separating them are now thirds.  They reach a full octave above the first ones, introducing the “color” note C-natural (B-sharp).
0:10 [m. 7]--In octaves, both hands plunge down the keyboard using the “zigzag” motion of the opening gestures, along with their main rhythm on the two downbeats.  The upward motions are half-steps, and the downward ones are leaps.  After this run reaches the low bass, a series of four interjections with syncopated entries is played by both hands in contrary motion.  The right hand, moving down, adds harmony in thirds to its figures, but the anticipatory left hand, moving up, is in octaves.  These interjections themselves steadily rise up the keyboard.  They culminate in non-syncopated chords on the “dominant” harmony of F-sharp, and the volume diminishes.  The right hand drops out, leaving the left to trail for one measure.
0:21 [m. 15]--The opening gestures return, now on the “dominant,” and at a mysteriously quieter level.  The upbeat bass interjection begins as an octave.  After the two identical first gestures, the third slightly deviates from the original statements.  This facilitates a harmonic motion up a half-step to C major.  At that point, the bass interjection is changed to its original fifth.  After the pattern of four gestures, there is an expansion with two more, still higher.  These are repeated, for a total of eight gestures.  The expansion confirms the motion to C major.  The entire passage remains at a quieter volume level.
0:32 [m. 23]--The rapidly plunging zigzag returns, played more softly.  Its first measure remains in C major, but the second is diverted back to B minor.  The four syncopated interjections follow as before, using the same harmonies, but the upper octave is removed from the right hand, and the left hand, instead of its contrary motion, plays thumping F-sharps on the downbeats and upbeats.  Instead of the previous F-sharp chords, the harmony of the last interjection is retained for two measures.  These become even quieter.
0:42 [m. 31]--The expected arrival on F-sharp is now confirmed with four figures using the main idea (the last two are a repetition of the first two).  The bass interjection is simply a low F-sharp.  Brahms marks the passage dolce.  The plunging zigzag is then heard in F-sharp major.  It is followed by a longer cadence on that “dominant” key.  The cadence leads into the first ending (m. 38a).  Two upbeat bass interjections on the F-sharp harmony are followed by the original upbeat to the first measure on the open fifth.  Brahms indicates that the volume should powerfully build between the first and last of these, leading into the repeat.
A Section Repeated
0:56 [m. 3]--The first two bass upbeats are replaced by the first two, on the F-sharp harmony, from the first ending.  The repeat leads directly into the first four statements of the main thematic gesture.  These emerge from the final upbeat (on the fifth) from the first ending.
1:02 [m. 7]--Plunging zigzag, syncopated interjections, and quieting chords on F-sharp, as at 0:10.
1:12 [m. 15]--Quieter main material moving from F-sharp to C major through expansion, as at 0:21.
1:23 [m. 23]--Plunging zigzag returning to B minor, then quieter syncopated interjections, as at 0:32.
1:34 [m. 31]--Main idea and plunging zigzag in F-sharp major, as at 0:42.  The cadence now leads into the second ending (m. 38b).  It is two measures longer than the first ending.  The cadence is is repeated twice, with its top notes lower each time.  The second cadence, marked ppp, is resolved only with the arrival of the B section.
B Section (Trio)--F-sharp major
1:51 [m. 43]--The entire section is extremely quiet and extremely high.  The theme, in radiant F-sharp major, is a chorale-like series of chords with a mild swing and upward surge.  In the second part of the phrase, there is gentle syncopation, and the harmony is inflected to the “relative” minor key, D-sharp minor.  A middle voice trails with two “cuckoo”-like falling fourths.  This middle voice is in the treble, the chorale chords being set in the very high “music box” register.  The left hand does reach down to the bass.
2:00 [m. 50]--The same phrase is repeated, but it is expanded by two measures in the middle.  During the syncopation, there is an extra “swing” added with a colorful hint of E major.  After the small insertion, the phrase continues as before, with the trailing “cuckoo” fourths.
2:11 [m. 59]--A third phrase provides some contrast with a slightly lower opening and different harmonic orientation of the chords.  It is again longer, with an added surge at the beginning.  The syncopated portion is between the lengths seen in the previous two phrases.  As in those, the ending turns to D-sharp minor, and that key is strongly implied from the beginning of the phrase.  The trailing voice is in the same rhythm, but it is now a falling octave, and there are four of them.  The right hand harmony leaps an octave halfway through them.
2:26 [m. 71]--The opening upward swing is isolated in the right hand.  The left hand, continuing from its falling octaves, now plays a single-voice accompaniment in heavy syncopation, with notes entering on the third and sixth parts of the 6/8 bars.   This swings up and back down in arpeggios suggesting both F-sharp major and D-sharp minor.  After two statements of the upward swing, its first two chords are isolated twice.  Then the opening chord is lengthened, with the syncopated left hand arresting its motion to reiterate the note A-sharp.  Finally, the top note of the chord is lowered (E-sharp to E-natural), making it a “preparatory” chord to B minor.  This tension-filled “diminished” chord is twice reiterated as the volume fades to ppp.
2:38 [m. 81]--Re-transition.  The top two notes of the “diminished” chord begin to leap widely, first down two octaves, then up again, with reiterations.  The familiar upbeat interjection returns, now on an F-sharp in the low bass.  With this new bass note, the chord is now clearly a preparatory “dominant” harmony.  The left hand leaps up when the right hand does, back to the treble A-sharp that had served as the chord’s bottom note.  The leaps to this note are on the upbeat, like the low F-sharps, and the A-sharps are briefly sustained.  Both hands abandon the reiterations and simply leap back and forth, finally coming to rest in anticipation of the return.  The volume is hushed throughout this re-transition.
A’ Section
2:53 [m. 93]--The main thematic gesture returns, as at the beginning and at 0:56 [m. 3].  It emerges from the suspended harmony at the end of the re-transition, with only one bass upbeat.  Although the outlines are the same as before, there are changes, most significantly the volume, which remains at the hushed level of the B section and thus more similar to the passage at 0:21 and 1:12 [m. 15].  The upbeat interjections are now on the very low F-sharp introduced in the re-transition.  Finally, the left hand doubling is replaced by gentle harmonization.
2:59 [m. 97]--Plunging zigzag, syncopated interjections, and chords on F-sharp, analogous to 0:10 and 1:02 [m. 7].  The zigzag is simplified to a slower arpeggio in the left hand, removing the lower notes of the upward half-steps.  The interjections and chords are also thinner, without the upper octave doubling in either hand.  They thus resemble those from 0:32 and 1:23 [m. 23].  The volume, already hushed, diminishes even more.
3:09 [m. 105]--Main material beginning in F-sharp and moving to C major, analogous to 0:21 and 1:12 [m. 15].  The  character from 2:53 [m. 93] is retained, but some fifths and octaves are introduced on the bass upbeats.  In the gestures of the expansion, there is an extremely subtle harmonic change.  The sixth and eighth are lowered by a half-step from those in the first A section, allowing the key to be diverted back to B, a half-step lower than C, and the home key of the piece.  But it is now B major, not minor.
3:20 [m. 113]--The plunging zigzag returns as expected, but because the preceding material has already diverted the key back to B, the zigzag does not need to do so.  It is entirely in the key of B major, which has not thus far appeared and where the piece will end.  Brahms even changes to the five-sharp key signature to signal the shift from minor to major.  The left hand is simplified, as it was at 2:59 [m. 97].  After it reaches the bottom, the remaining material of the A section is excised, including the third zigzag passage.  Instead, this second plunge leads into the cadences heard at the end of the A section, now in B instead of F-sharp.
3:29 [m. 119]--An extremely brief coda is added, at an extremely soft volume.  After a sustained bass chord (on D-sharp minor!), the B section is invoked in the high register with a reminiscence of its initial upward swing, now changed into a rising cadence in B major, which ends the piece.  Although the piece began angrily and forcefully, other than the first half of the A section, most of it has been at a quiet, subdued volume.
3:43--END OF PIECE [124 mm.]

No. 4: Andante con moto – Più lento –Tempo I – Più lento (Ternary form with coda derived from middle section – ABA’B’).  B MAJOR, 3/4 and 6/4 time.
A Section--Andante con moto, 3/4 time
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1 (a).  The leisurely, swaying melody soars over a constant accompaniment of falling arpeggios.  These enter after the downbeat (where a bass note is heard), and the top of each descending arpeggio is a two-note harmony (a third with one exception).  The opening melodic half-step briefly hints at the minor key.  The first two phrases are a straightforward pair with an antecedent and consequent, ending on the “dominant” note, F-sharp.  The second pair of phrases is more chromatic, with colorful half-step motion, and significantly lower, including the arpeggios and bass.  The close beautifully turns back to the “dominant,” ending an octave lower than the first pair.
0:24 [m. 1]--Part 1 (a) repeated.
0:45 [m. 17]--Part 2 (b).  This contrasting pair of phrases uses mostly descending patterns in the swaying melody.  The passage is marked espressivo and turns to the minor key for its duration.  The pattern of bass notes and descending arpeggios remains constant.  The first phrase is regular, but the second, which reaches higher with an octave leap at the outset, introduces syncopated notes held across the bar line.  It is also extended by two measures to a six-bar unit, continuing a descent after an arrival point is unexpectedly held over a bar line, and moving to the “dominant.”  It is in the measure of this aborted conclusion that a crunching dissonance is heard at the top of the arpeggio, the only departure from the top thirds.
0:59 [m. 27]--Part 3 (a’).  The first two measures slide chromatically (rising half-steps) into the melody of the opening phrase, whose last two measures are presented without alteration, as is the entire second phrase. 
1:09 [m. 35]--The rest of the passage is varied.  The third phrase is similar to the chromatic one from a, but it circles more around the notes G-sharp and A-natural and moves toward E major.  This is quickly averted in the fourth phrase, which  reaches upward and appears to be moving toward a final cadence on B major.  But the phrase unexpectedly continues to reach upward and again moves toward E.  After this high point, a fifth, coda-like phrase is added, steadily moving down after the motion to E, touching on minor harmonies before settling down to an incomplete cadence on B, where the section ends.
B Section--Più lento, F-sharp major, 6/4 time
1:25 [m. 47]--Part 1.  The texture of the long middle section is unusual.  Brahms writes an atypically detailed Italian direction that translates as “With the most intimate sentiment, but without marking the melody too much.”  The melody is buried in the middle of a dense, thick accompaniment, and the isolated upbeat to the first 6/4 measure is the only clear indication of where it lies.  Melody and accompaniment are in a generally low register.  Above the obscured melody, the right hand plays arching arpeggios in triplet rhythm that often incorporate melodic notes.  The undulating bass is in a “straight” rhythm, placing two notes against three in the upper voice.  The quiet volume and the dark color of F-sharp major create a hazy, almost nebulous sound.  The first phrase makes a turn toward B-flat major (notated as A-sharp).
1:44 [m. 51]--The second phrase continues the same texture, adding come colorful notes, but it reaches a full, satisfying cadence in F-sharp.  The right hand triplets continue through the first ending and the upbeat.  At that point, the left hand has reached down to a very low broken octave on F-sharp, which is reiterated.
2:03 [m. 47]--Part 1 repeated.  First phrase ending on A-sharp major.
2:22 [m. 51]--Second phrase reaching full cadence on F-sharp major.
2:41 [m. 55]--Part 2.  The constant hazy texture continues, but the harmony becomes unstable, moving through minor keys.  It begins on F-sharp minor (the home minor key), then moves to C-sharp and finally to D-sharp minor, the “relative” key to F-sharp major.  The inner melody becomes more active, incorporating notes from both the right hand triplet arpeggios and the undulating bass.
3:00 [m. 59]--Transition.  The active inner melody, though still obscured, helps settle the music back into F-sharp major for the return of the opening melodic line.  The upbeat sneaks in a half-beat early, marked by an accent.
3:10 [m. 61]--Return of the section’s first melody.  The first two measures of the opening phrase are as they were before, but the last two suddenly become brighter.  The harmonic motion is still to A-sharp major, but it is now a higher version emphasizing its preparatory “dominant” harmony at the end of the phrase.
3:28 [m. 65]--The second phrase is replaced by another transition.  The inner melody moves steadily downward, and the key again moves, now more strongly, to the “relative” minor, D-sharp.  The passage is intensely and richly chromatic.
3:47 [m. 69]--Re-transition.  The key signature for B major returns, indicating a transition back to the A section material.  The motion back to B is accomplished quickly, colorfully, and decisively.  After lingering on the “dominant” harmony (with a very low bass F-sharp), the music settles down, reaching even lower and introducing mild syncopation in the upper triplets, with notes held over the beats.  This has a slowing effect.  The long, hazy texture finally dissipates with a slow upward arpeggio the reaches into the treble and back into the world of the A section.
A’ Section--Tempo I, 3/4 time
4:08 [m. 73]--Part 1 (a).  The presentation is nearly identical to that at the beginning of the piece, but with one striking difference.  The two-note harmonies at the top of each descending arpeggio are now split up, with the two notes being played twice as fast as the rest of the arpeggio.
4:30 [m. 89]--Part 1 (a”), free variation.  This long passage is related to Part 1 in general melodic and harmonic contour, but the texture and character are radically altered.  For the first time in the piece, Brahms uses block harmonies.  They are hushed and somewhat mysterious.  The right hand is in the tenor range, taking up in the lower range where the familiar a passage left off.  The left plays mostly octaves in the low bass.  The first phrase, corresponding to the first phrase of a, has two “sighing” gestures followed by a yearning arch motion that extends the phrase to an irregular five measures.  The second phrase is similar, corresponding to the second phrase of a.  It adds a mild syncopation at the top of the arch motion.
4:47 [m. 99]--At this point, the correspondence between this chordal section and the a material becomes more nebulous.  Another five-bar unit, this time with three sighing gestures and an abbreviated two-measure arch with stronger syncopation, has a kinship with the third phrase of a.  But there then follow an almost fantasia-like 11 measures.  Sighing gestures and strong syncopation dominate the first seven of them, along with a steady, largely chromatic descent in the bass octaves.  There is also an expressive buildup.  The last four measures are a variant of the arch motion that settles onto the expected “dominant” note, F-sharp.  These 11 measures could correspond roughly with the fourth and last phrase of a.
5:15 [m. 115]--Part 2 (b’).  The contrasting passage from 0:45 [m. 17] is stated in its entirety in a varied, but very recognizable form.  The whole melody is moved down an octave, while the descending arpeggios are replaced by the chordal texture that dominated the previous passage, including the “sighing” gestures.  These remain largely confined to the left hand.
5:32 [m. 125]--Part 3 (a’”).  The first phrase from 4:30 [m. 89] is restated beginning in a darker minor-key version.  At the arching motion, it again brightens, not in B major, but in the “relative” major key of B minor, which is D major.  The second phrase, also derived from 4:30 [m. 89], moves back to B minor, ending suspended on the “dominant” harmony, as expected.  The extended coda, which is related to the central B section, begins in D major.
Coda (B’ Section)--Più lento, D major/B minor, 6/4 time
5:54 [m. 135]--Because the previous section ended with a definite preparation for an arrival on B, and because that note is in the bass, there is some feeling of the key of B minor here.  But it is actually D major, the “relative” key.  The beginning of the mezza voce coda is analogous not to the opening of the B section, but to the return at 3:10 [m. 61].  This “return” did not have the strong motion to F-sharp major seen in Part 1, but instead quickly moved to the “relative” D-sharp minor.  That is also the case here, and D major is very quickly undermined in favor of B minor.  The end of the phrase reaches the “dominant” harmony of F-sharp major (analogous to the arrival on the “dominant” harmony of A-sharp [B-flat] major before).
6:14 [m. 139]--Continuing from the last phrase, this one is analogous to the transitional phrase at 3:28 [m. 65].  Like that phrase, this one has a downward descent in the inner-voice melody and an even stronger pull to the “relative” minor (now B, the home minor key).  But now the phrase is extended to six measures.  Halfway through the third measure, it is interrupted unexpectedly by a version of the opening melodic gesture from the A section in right hand octaves.  With this gesture, the home major key intrudes.  At that point, the left hand plays the arching triplets more typical of the right hand.  This interruption extends to the end of the fourth measure.  The original phrase tries to reassert itself in the fifth measure, but it is again interrupted by the melodic fragment.  Brahms directs a very gradual slowing and quieting to the end.
6:44 [m. 145]--The last four measures have some similarity to the re-transition at 3:47 [m. 69], but they begin like a continuation of the previous phrase, a “restarting” after the second interruption of the A section melody.  The key is already centered on B, albeit minor.  The descent now proceeds without interruption.  The left hand settles on low octaves.  After one measure, the note D-sharp strongly asserts itself in the bass, then in the inner melody, signaling an inflection to B major.  The left hand adds harmonies to its low octaves, and the slowing becomes more pronounced.  In the penultimate measure, marked “Adagio,” both hands settle on a static undulation over low B-major harmony, briefly swelling before coming to rest.
7:34--END OF PIECE [148 mm.]