PIANO TRIO NO. 3 in C MINOR, OP.
Recording: Trio Opus 8 (Michael Hauber, piano; Eckhard
Mario de Secondi, cello) [Arte Nova 74321 39047 2]
trio is the capstone of the three chamber works composed at
in 1886 and published in 1887. With the F-major cello
99 and the A-major violin sonata, Op. 100, it completes an effective
concert of chamber music, but it also combines the best
those two works. The cello sonata’s
passionate expression is
melded to the modest proportions of the violin sonata, creating a
tightly argued structure that wastes no notes. Other
such as the upcoming violin sonata, Op.
108, would also make a
shattering impact with minimal means. The first movement
with a great intensity that never wanes. Even the
second theme has an element of disquiet. Brahms
repeating the exposition, but decided against it. An
brief development section and an abbreviated recapitulation,
a powerful coda, help lend the movement an overwhelming effect
seven minutes. The middle movements are even more direct
expression. The delicate and skittish, but tragic second
muted strings throughout. The serene slow movement, a
example of how mixed meter should be used, includes long
the two strings playing without the piano, a possible
preparation for the Double Concerto
for violin and cello, the next work
to be published. The melancholy middle section maintains
sense of disquiet that pervades the entire trio. This is
amplified in the scherzo-like finale, whose warm major-key
somehow fails to completely banish the tragic passion and
are at the trio’s heart. Especially well-loved by
friends Clara Schumann and Elizabeth von Herzogenberg, the
exemplifies all the best elements of the composer’s late
FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut
Lübeck--includes some handwritten cues, presumably to aid in
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition [monochrome] from
SCORE FROM IMSLP (Peters Edition from Russian State
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche
Movement: Allegro energico (Sonata-Allegro
form). C MINOR, 3/4 time with two inserted 4/4 bars.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1:
1. Three strong, passionate, heralding
chords in all three instruments, each followed by octaves in
rhythm on the piano, joined by the cello on the last one.
0:07 [m. 5]--Part
triplets are taken by the strings in
octaves. The piano responds with syncopated off-beat
entries. The piano figures are sometimes chords, but the
are doubled at the octave. The piano gestures move from
to groups of four against the string triplets. Then the
become complex, superimposing groups of three onto the
rhythm and disrupting the meter as activity increases and
toward a sweeping piano arpeggio.
0:20 [m. 12]--Part
material based on a dramatic dotted
(long-short) rhythm in an almost martial character, beginning
upbeat. After two of these gestures, the rhythm is
strings and piano. All three instruments then join in
before a strong cadence in C minor closes Theme 1.
0:35 [m. 20]--Transition:
play in octaves with material based
on Theme 1. The piano enters with the newly harmonized
chords and triplets of Theme 1.
0:45 [m. 26]--The
hand plays wide-ranging triplets against
octaves in the right hand and in the plucked strings.
then enters with a sinuous winding melody as the piano breaks
arpeggios. The violin takes up the winding melody.
octaves become syncopated in an inserted 4/4 bar [m. 35]
leading to the
dramatic chords that prepare for Theme 2 in the related major
1:06 [m. 38]--Theme 2:
melody played by the strings in octaves,
with piano arpeggio responses, also in octaves. After
initial phrases, the cello first breaks out of the octaves,
in counterpoint with the violin as the piano moves to block
the music works to a climax (E-flat major).
1:34 [m. 54]--The
up Theme 2 in a very dramatic, passionate
version with octaves passed between the hands. The
1:40 [m. 58]--The
up the passionate statement as the piano
plays sweeping arpeggios. The strings break into
the music builds to a climax. This quickly recedes as
also move to slower-moving ascending arpeggios, leading toward
2:07 [m. 73]--Closing
Gentle, slow-moving arpeggio figures
passed between piano and strings. The entry overlaps
preceding cadence. Close of exposition in E-flat major.
2:20 [m. 80]--Brahms
the close of the exposition with loud
piano chords re-establishing C minor. The strings take
opening of Theme 1, stretching the triplet figures out to
bars as the piano plays more rapid passages in octaves.
key and the return of material create an illusion of an
2:32 [m. 87]--Here
diverges from his opening material and begins
to develop it. Music resembling Theme 1, Part 2, but in
notes, quickly becomes quiet and ominous. The piano
more quietly in harmonized rising triplets as the key shifts
half-step to C-sharp minor. The strings interject
isolated octaves. Quiet pause on a dissonant “diminished
2:52 [m. 98]--The main
of the Development section is in C-sharp
minor. The strings play a melancholy tune based on the
of Theme 1, passing them between each other. The piano
punctuating pattern with the left hand bass on the beat and
chords off it.
2:59 [m. 102]--The
up the material with the strings playing
in syncopation, in a brief diversion to D major.
3:12 [m. 109]--More of
melancholy material in C-sharp minor passed
between piano and strings in octaves. Sudden
3:21 [m. 114]--Theme
3--the dynamic dotted rhythm--makes a
sudden entry with its initial gestures. Then a passage
this dotted rhythm incorporating scales passed between the
instruments. The music is moving back toward the home
3:36 [m. 123]--The
statements of the dynamic dotted rhythm now
incorporate triplets in their continuation. The variant
scales leads us back to the home key.
3:51 [m. 131]--Re-transition.
motion in the strings with
low triplets in the piano bass lead to the disguised entry of
3:56 [m. 134]--Theme
Part 2 suddenly enters surreptitiously,
but unmistakably. The opening dramatic chords are
perhaps because they were used at the beginning of the
section in the home key. It continues essentially as at
4:09 [m. 141]--Transition.
1, Part 3 is also omitted here
in a typical example of the abbreviation of Theme 1 in a
Recapitulation. It is similar to the passage at 0:45 [m.
it is heavier, more compact, and remains in the key of C
As in the exposition, a 4/4 bar [m. 147] with syncopated
to the dramatic chords in preparation for Theme 2.
4:25 [m. 150]--Theme
2, now in
the home major key (C major).
There is some variation and more movement after the two
phrases. Buildup to climax, as in the exposition.
4:53 [m. 166]--Dramatic,
version of Theme 2 in the piano, as
at 1:34 [m. 54].
4:59 [m. 170]--Strings
passionate statement with sweeping piano
arpeggios, as at 1:40 [m. 58]. Climax and receding
5:26 [m. 185]--Closing
in C major (from 2:07 [m. 73]).
5:39 [m. 192]--Loud
similar to those at the beginning of the
Development section. This time, since the recapitulation
in C major, they do not shift key centers, but they do
bring back the minor version of the home key. They do
not move to
material from the opening, as they had there.
5:51 [m. 200]--Sudden
of Theme 1, Part 3 (the dynamic dotted
figures), essentially in its initial form, but intensified by
arpeggios and low bass octaves. It is at a different
suggesting a motion to A-flat major or F minor (related keys),
rights itself and moves to the strong C-minor cadence heard in
exposition before the transition at 0:35 [m. 20].
6:05 [m. 208]--Extremely
and long-delayed re-entry of Theme
1, Part 1, with heavy bass octaves and the strings
piano plays throbbing triplet chords. It is followed by
elaboration of the dotted rhythm (Theme 1, Part 3).
6:17 [m. 216]--Re-statement
Theme 1, Part 1 with the piano leading
and the strings taking the triplet chords. Further
and extension of the dotted rhythm leading to a broad cadence.
6:34 [m. 226]--Very
warm (but still minor!) statement of
Theme 1, Part 1 in the strings (in octaves), with the piano
arching arpeggios held over from the elaboration of the dotted
rhythm. The theme is artificially slowed down with
and Brahms rather unexpectedly quiets the music down as
soft fifths are followed by two abruptly loud chords to end
6:59--END OF MOVEMENT [234
Movement: Presto non assai (Ternary form resembling
a scherzo and trio). C MINOR, Cut time (2/2).
0:00 [m. 1]--Strings
mutes throughout the movement. The
opening idea, or “motto,” heard at the beginning, midpoint,
and end of
the A section.
figure in piano octaves stated three times, each one lower, in
two-octave descent. It is quiet, secretive, and somewhat
in character. The strings initially begin with the
they remain grounded to their original pitches in two off-beat
0:06 [m. 5]--Elaboration
rhythm (long-short-short-long) of the
opening gesture, beginning on an upbeat. It is entirely
octaves, with discreet harmonies interjected by the
Harmonic motion to the related keys of B-flat major and G
0:19 [m. 14]--Second
of the opening idea or “motto,” now in G
0:23 [m. 18]--More
of the opening rhythm, incorporating
more upward leaps. Piano octaves and discreet string
harmonies. Reverse motion to E-flat, then to its
home key of C minor.
0:36 [m. 27]--Third
of the opening idea or “motto,” as at the
beginning, in C minor.
B Section--F minor
0:42 [m. 31]--The
breaks from its octaves to play block
chords that establish the new key. These are syncopated,
beginning on the second half of a bar and tied over to the
of the next. After the first chord, a pattern develops
long chords followed by a short cadence. Against this,
strings play a plucked arpeggio, four notes from the cello,
from the violin at a softer volume. There are four of
patterns in two question/answer sequences, the second of which
0:59 [m. 44]--Developed
the cadences of the last passage is a
series of alternating phrases for violin and cello based on a
long-short rhythm. In the first three of these, the
echoes the pitches of the violin. The fourth diverges,
cello playing a new answering line that moves to C minor and
somewhat louder. There is a fifth sequence, but this
answer comes from both instruments playing in harmony and
leading to a
cadence in C minor. Throughout this, the piano has a
bass in the
rhythm of the pattern, with the right hand playing chords off
and strong syncopated descending figures at the end of each
1:26 [m. 64]--Full
(back in F minor) of the question/answer
sequences from 0:42 [m. 31] in. Two more phrases (one
question/answer sequence) are added for a total of six
The first added phrase uses an expressive, dissonant chord (a
“diminished seventh”), while the second repeats the fourth
1:50 [m. 82]--Re-transition.
more of the patterns with chords
and plucked arpeggios, with the string notes reduced to three
triplet rhythm in the first pattern, and the number of long
expanded to four in the second. An abbreviated passage
the alternating phrases from 0:59 [m. 44] follows, with the
playing in harmony, the piano playing chords alternating
and a long, expectant pause preparing the return of C
is the loudest passage in this quiet movement.
2:09 [m. 95]--Opening
idea in C minor.
2:13 [m. 98]--The
from 0:06 [m. 5] transfers the piano
octave line to the violin, with the cello playing new but
lines, first following the violin, then harmonizing with
piano plays sweeping arpeggios that are far less “discreet”
earlier string harmonies. The passage effectively begins
measure earlier as the piano arpeggios begin with the cadence
2:26 [m. 108]--Second
of the opening “motto” in G minor.
2:30 [m. 111]--The
from 0:23 [m. 18] again transfers the
piano octave line to the violin with new cello phrases
harmonizing with the violin, sometimes adding
Sweeping piano arpeggios again begin with the cadence of the
2:44 [m. 121]--Third
of the “motto” in C minor.
2:50 [m. 125]--A short
begins with syncopated chords similar to
those in the B
The strings play plaintive three-note phrases, the last notes
are lengthened and held across bar lines, with the last few
adding short ornaments. This music is suddenly cut off.
3:04 [m. 134]--The
of the B
section in the piano (in groups of three) are combined with
from the “motto,” separated by long held notes, in the
3:15 [m. 141]--Final
of the “motto” played an octave lower
than before. A swelling syncopated chord (a last
the B section) is
off by the final quiet, abrupt chord.
3:28--END OF MOVEMENT [145
Movement: Andante grazioso (Ternary
form--ABA’). C MAJOR, A sections in 3/4+2/4 time
arranged in groups of 7 beats)--B section in 9/8+6/8 time
arranged in groups of 15).
0:00 [m. 1]--The
two phrases in counterpoint with each
other, the piano remaining silent. These phrases
mixed meter characteristic of the movement: in each, one 3/4
followed by two bars of 2/4, essentially creating a 7/4
The metric irregularities give the otherwise graceful arching
(taken by the violin) a somewhat unsettled feeling. The
provides continuous support in a freely flowing bass line
mostly of arpeggios.
0:16 [m. 7]--The two
phrases are repeated by the piano
alone. The cello’s line is transferred to the left hand,
the violin melody is embellished by right-hand chords, some of
0:31 [m. 13]--In a
and rather astonishing passage of
strings playing alone, two contrasting phrases with new
(still one 3/4 and two 2/4 bars) invert the direction, the
violin gesture moving down instead of up. They are
followed by a
varied reprise of the opening phrases. The first is also
beats, but the second is doubled in length and the pattern
two 3/4 bars followed by four 2/4 bars. This last
swells and recedes to a warm, beautiful, and drawn-out close.
1:12 [m. 28]--The
the preceding string passage, this time
embellishing both lines with chords, many of them
strings do make a discreet entrance with plucked chords for
one bar at
the third phrase (the varied reprise). The final phrase
even more richness by the piano chords. There is a
at the end.
1:50 [m. 43]--For the
section, the meter is altered to 9/8+6/8,
in phrases with one bar of each for a total of 15 beats (or
each divided into three parts like a triplet rhythm).
key and the new meter lend the section a greater sense of
agitation. Two string phrases are each followed by a
answer. The cello continues to pulse through the piano’s
responses, which are in F major and E minor.
2:03 [m. 51]--Four
beginning on upbeats, with shorter
string statements and piano responses. The string
reach upward in a questioning manner, while the piano answers
longer, beginning with two repeated rising three-note
first phrase pair is in E minor, the second in G minor.
2:16 [m. 59]--At the
climax, Brahms changes to straight 9/8
for a four-bar transition moving back to A minor. The
begin another “question,” but the piano now responds with
oscillations in E major. The strings enter with two more
before the piano becomes quieter and completes the transition
2:25 [m. 63]--Reprise
two string phrases and piano responses
from 1:50 [m. 43]. The second piano response is altered
higher pitch level so that it stays in A minor rather than its
2:37 [m. 71]--Another
transition in straight 9/8. This
time, the string question leads into long held notes for both
instruments. The piano’s ringing oscillations diminish
are broken up with rests, ending with two isolated groups of
with the harmony thinned to one note in each hand. The
remains in A minor, so the entry of C major for the A’ section is direct.
of the two
phrases from the opening of the
movement, but this time they are split between the
instruments, the 3/4
bars taken by the piano and the 2/4 bars by the strings.
3:03 [m. 81]--Repeat
first two phrases, with the roles
reversed. The strings play the 3/4 bars, the piano the
(the strings following immediately upon their completion of
previous phrase). The rising arpeggios are more “filled
extra notes by the strings. The piano responses add
3:18 [m. 87]--Only one
statement of the longer passage from 0:31
[m. 13] and 1:12 [m. 28]. The strings take the two
phrases in a direct reprise of their earlier statement.
takes the lead in the varied reprise (including the expanded
phrase), the strings again entering with discreet plucked
These are, however, now extended through the expanded closing
straight 9/8 based on the B
section, specifically the passage
at 2:03 [m. 51]. Two phrases in the manner of that
string “questions” and piano answers (abbreviated to one bar
the absence of 6/8 bars and the original upbeats). Then
strings play the first two chords of the rising gesture from
opening of the movement. The piano responds with two
chords. Two more phrases of string questions and piano
and one more rising chord gesture from the strings. The
last two chords are unexpectedly and abruptly loud and short.
4:24--END OF MOVEMENT [109
Movement: Allegro molto (Sonata-Allegro
form). C MINOR (Coda in C MAJOR), 6/8 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme
Very agitated, obsessive, and almost angry
tune presented by the violin. The piano accompaniment is
low, the left hand thumping out low bass octaves in the main
after it is presented by the violin. The theme begins
0:10 [m. 9]--Piano
up the keyboard to an arrival point
before the cello makes its first entrance. It does so
violin in a passage of highly syncopated string chords going
the main rhythm. The rocket-like piano chords and the
string chords make one more alternation at a higher level.
0:18 [m. 17]--Continuation
Theme 1 beginning with the piano playing
the main rhythm. The strings join together with more
figures while the piano plays more rocket-like chords leading
0:24 [m. 22]--All
instruments join in a climactic passage in
which the strings generally follow the piano at a close
distance in the
main rhythm. Then the music diminishes, with the strings
out before the thinned out piano, now consisting of thumping
and isolated chords, descends.
0:39 [m. 34]--Transition.
previous descent is interrupted by
a pause. The transition passage itself consists of
string harmonies against very light, quick upward piano
arpeggios. The passage first suggests B-flat major, then
prepare for that key’s relative minor key of G for the second
0:58 [m. 50]--Theme
Brahms marks it “Meno Allegro.” Like
Theme 1, it begins on a half-bar upbeat. Opening with
ominously winding piano scales in octaves, repeated an octave
it suddenly gains intensity as the strings enter, cello first,
syncopation going against the rhythm and suggesting 3/4
instead of 6/8
(a “hemiola”). At the top, all three instruments ring
out in a
loud passage alternating long and very short chords (G minor).
1: 10 [m. 58]--Theme 2
again, with the strings present from the
outset. This time, the top climax with the long and
is set higher, extended a bar, and more strongly confirms the
key of G
1:25 [m. 66]--Closing
based on Theme 2. Following
immediately on the preceding climax, the piano begins a
perpetual motion in octaves. The strings play fragments
2, including the long-very short rhythm. The intensity
passion is sustained in all instruments. The piano’s
chords gradually descend. The music recedes and swells
cello is alone with the piano in another implied 3/4 hemiola
75). The cello, then the violin, quietly round off the
in G minor.
1:51 [m. 80]--Brief
transition to the development section.
1:59 [m. 85]--First
section. Tempo I. Two sequences, each
consisting of two elements. First, a version of Theme 1
piano with rolled chords in the left hand and detached octaves
following in the right. Then, long-held string notes
piano arpeggios moving to a new key. The first sequence
is in G
minor, continuing from the exposition, and the second is in E
(which is related to G major).
2:14 [m. 99]--Second
section. The sequence continues, as the next
passage is in C-sharp minor (moving down as in the previous
from G to E). This passage is more extended, with the
fragments passed between the strings as the piano continues
arpeggios. A cadence in C-sharp minor is avoided.
remains light and at a quiet level.
2:23 [m. 107]--Third
re-transition. Hushed chords and
bass octaves swell quickly in volume as they lead back to C,
first, whose arrival is marked with ringing chords, more piano
arpeggios, and more passing of Theme 1’s opening motive
strings. A huge swell in all the instruments confirms
to minor, and two more chords set up the unexpectedly soon,
2:41 [m. 124]--Theme
1, as at
the opening. The obsessive string
statements of the opening motive in the development merge
into Theme 1 itself. Brahms marks that it should be
than at the opening (mezzo
rather than piano)
plucked cello notes to the texture.
2:50 [m. 132]--Rocket-like
chords and syncopated string chords,
as at 0:10 [m. 9].
2:58 [m. 140]--Continuation
Theme 1 leading to brief pause, as at
0:18 [m. 17].
3:04 [m. 144]--Transition.
entire climactic passage from 0:24
[m. 22] is omitted, and the transition begins directly
omission allows Brahms to more smoothly allow the transition
at a higher level (a fourth higher), since there will be no
motion to a
new key. The transition itself is completely analogous
[m. 34] with sustained string harmonies and light piano
arpeggios. There is an analogous suggestion of E-flat
home key’s related major key, where B-flat had been suggested
3:22 [m. 160]--Theme
marked “Meno Allegro.” Now stated
in the home key of C minor. First statement, as at 0:58
50]. Quietly winding octaves, buildup in intensity,
and loud, ringing passage with long and very short chords.
3:35 [m. 168]--Second
of Theme 2, with higher, extended top
climax, as at 1:10 [m. 58].
3:50 [m. 176]--Closing
in C minor. Again, follows climax
immediately. Perpetual motion in the piano, fragments of
in the strings, receding and swelling. It is shorter
than at 1:25
[m. 66] of the exposition. Four measures are cut, and
“hemiola” bar suggesting 3/4 comes earlier (at m. 181) and
both string instruments. The violin and cello are
their closing gestures, with the former coming first.
incorporates material from the four excised measures.
4:08 [m. 186]--Hushed
transition to the coda, analogous to the
transition at 1:51 [m. 80].
4:17 [m. 191]--The
is in C major rather than C minor.
Beginning on an upbeat, as had the entire movement, Theme 1 is
glowingly transformed in a major-key version, at the slower
Theme 2. The violin, in its lower register, takes the
piano playing slow chords, low bass octaves, and then swelling
oscillations. The cello plays plucked notes.
4:30 [m. 199]--The
a major-key transformation of Theme
2. The violin echoes. The piano plays familiar
octaves in a brief extending passage.
4:44 [m. 206]--Restatement
the Theme 1 transformation, now including
the rising piano arpeggios in the accompaniment, with the
a more active role, playing bowed in harmony with the violin.
4:55 [m. 213]--A long,
drawn-out passage of acceleration, with the
strings playing flowing longer notes and the pianos playing
now-familiar light rising arpeggios (reminiscent of the ones
development section). Near the end of the
violin, then the cello, play the opening motive of Theme 1.
5:14 [m. 229]--Having
the original tempo through the
acceleration, the piano plays skittering versions of the
with rolled chords in the left hand. The strings join,
the intensity, with the cello now playing a leading role.
5:21 [m. 237]--The
takes the lead with the cello, the piano
echoing them. At the climax, which is the climax of the
movement, all the instruments play a forceful descending
passage. A very brief pause leads to a lower sequence of
5:31 [m. 247]--Joyous
peroration, all based on Theme 1.
The strings play the Theme 1 material while the piano plays
hand chords and syncopated right hand chords. The piano
strings in one more implied 3/4 hemiola (m. 252) before the
5:57--END OF MOVEMENT [256
END OF TRIO
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