SIX PIANO PIECES (KLAVIERSTÜCKE), OP. 118
Jones, pianist [NI 1788]
As with Op. 116,
this set, more generically labeled “Klavierstücke,” displays a
convincing coherent unity, and works very well when performed as a
whole. Nonetheless, the individual pieces, especially the
A-major Intermezzo, No. 2, have become very popular in their own
right and are effective individual miniatures. As a whole,
Op. 118 is perhaps the most popular of the four late piano
miniature sets. The key structure in Op. 118 is carefully
organized. The overall key scheme represents a descent in
whole steps, A--G--F--E-flat. The set can be divided into
two groups of three. The first piece in each group (Nos. 1
and 4) has an introductory character and is rather short.
Both in minor keys, they are each followed by a slower, more
lyrical piece (Nos. 2 and 5) with the same key center, but in
major. The third member of each group (Nos. 3 and 6) is of a
more heroic, epic, and even tragic character, both in minor keys
one step below the key center of the first two pieces. There
is also a one-step descent between the two groups, from G to
F. Except for No. 1, the pieces all display a ternary (ABA)
form. All except No. 3 and No. 5 (which have the titles,
unique in the late pieces, of “Ballade” and “Romance”) are
IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf & Härtel
original German heading
Individually, with English headings (lower scan quality):
Intermezzo in A minor
Intermezzo in A major
Ballade in G minor
Intermezzo in F minor
Romance in F major
Intermezzo in E-flat minor
Allegro non assai, ma molto appasionato (Rounded binary form
with coda). A MINOR, Cut time [2/2].
First binary section or A
0:00 [m. 1]--The main
melody in large descending octaves and chords is split between the
hands, with wide-ranging, sweeping arpeggios moving from the low
bass to above the melody. It is intensely passionate.
There are two statements, the second a third lower, of the
descending four-note melody (the last note of which is in the left
hand), neither of which clearly defines the key of A minor,
instead suggesting F major.
0:08 [m. 5]--The arpeggios
now stay below the melody and chords, which remain in the right
hand. There are countermelodies embedded in both
hands. The music settles down somewhat, slowing to a cadence
in C major (relative to A minor).
0:16 [m. 1]--Repetition of
opening with the descending four-note melody.
0:22 [m. 5]--Continuation
with slowing to C-major cadence.
Second binary section,
consisting of two subsections, B
and A’. A’ is similar to A, but B is not as contrasting with A as one would expect in a
standard ternary or rounded binary form.
0:30 [m. 11]--Part B. The right hand melody
now moves upward instead of down. The two statements of the
upward striving melody (still four notes with rich supporting
chords) are followed by downward sweeping arpeggios, mirroring the
generally upward-moving ones in the left hand. The second
statement is a fifth lower. The key of A minor is more
strongly suggested after the first statement, but again undermined
in the second. The intensity of the arpeggios increases
after the second statement, leading to the return.
0:43 [m. 21]--Part A’. The opening returns
after a strong hint immediately preceding it. The second
statement of the descending melody with supporting chords is now
higher and more urgent, and is varied with faster decorating notes
that resemble the descending arpeggios in part B.
0:48 [m. 25]--The music
settles down, as in part A,
finally slowing to a cadence in A minor [1st ending,
0:56 [m. 11]--Part B repeated.
1:09 [m. 21]--Part A’ repeated.
1:14 [m. 25]--The
repetition continues as at 0:48, but the A-minor cadence is
1:19 [m. 29, 2nd
ending]--The end of the repetition does not resolve, but
increases in tension. A low E in the bass [m.31, the first
“new” numbered bar] is followed by a huge single-line ascending
arpeggio (a “diminished seventh” chord), which then reverses
direction, changes harmony, and is joined by the left hand in
contrary motion. The descent shifts the phrasing off the
beat, creating strong syncopation.
1:30 [m. 37]--The final
statement of the descending four-note figure is heard as the music
slows and dies away over another wide-ranging left-hand
arpeggio. The left hand hits the lowest note of the piano as
the right hand plays the fourth note/chord (at 1:35 [m.
39]). The last sweep outlines A major (not minor), followed by a quiet A-major
chord, in strong preparation for the beginning of Intermezzo
1:53--END OF PIECE [41 mm.]
Andante teneramente (Ternary form). A MAJOR, 3/4 time.
A Section--A major
0:00 [m. 1]--First
statement of the principal melody. It is a lyrical,
beautiful, richly harmonized tune in two phrases with a rocking
accompaniment The second phrase moves to the “dominant” key
of E. A wide upward leap (a seventh) is prominent. The
end of each phrase features a dotted (long-short) rhythm.
0:25 [m. 9]--A slightly
varied repetition of the principal melody that adds poignant
internal motion. Brahms indicates that it should be played
softer than the first statement.
0:49 [m. 17]--A somewhat
more ominous transitional passage features up-down figures in the
harmonized melody (upper-neighbor motion) with rocking arpeggios
in the left hand. Beginning with an abrupt C-major chord, it
moves back to A major. The left hand has an internal
countermelody at the end of the phrase.
1:00 [m. 21]--A second
phrase of the transitional passage with neighbor-note motion makes
a sharp turn toward the minor key and slightly increases in
1:10 [m. 25]--Material
from the principal melody returns and strives upward by half-steps
over continuously arching arpeggios. The intensity
dramatically increases during the strong approach to the arrival
1:19 [m. 29]--“Arrival”
statement of the melody in a greatly varied form. The
opening figure is heard in the low bass after the climax on the
wide upward leap. The continuation, which includes left-hand
syncopation, quiets down considerably, then again turns to the
minor key as it dies away.
1:37 [m. 35]--This very
tender melody is actually an exact inversion of the principal
tune, turning it upside down. It is richly harmonized, with
a yearning internal motion and a strong A-major cadence.
1:51 [m. 39]--The
transitional material from 0:49 [m. 17] with rocking left- hand
arpeggios, set at a higher level and in pure A major, is now
soothing, taking on a closing nature but still becoming animated.
2:01 [m. 43]--The second
phrase of the transitional material is actually quite similar to
1:00 [m. 21], but without the motion to minor and with a milder
increase in tension before settling to a full cadence.
2:11 [m. 47]--Two
statements of the opening figure round out the A section. They are
marked “più lento.” The left hand arpeggios reach down to a
low E. There is complete closure with a rolled chord.
B Section--F-sharp minor.
2:22 [m. 49]--F-sharp
minor is relative to the home key of A major. The B section
is largely based on two-against-three rhythm and strict imitation
(canon). The opening passage features a yearning melody in
the right hand (beginning with an upbeat held into the first main
bar) against triplet arpeggios in the left. The top notes of
the left hand subtly imitate the first few notes of the right-hand
melody at a slower speed. The second phrase is similar, but
reaches higher at first, then dips lower as it slows to a
2:39 [m. 49]--Complete
repetition of two-phrase passage from 2:22.
2:56 [m. 57]--This is the
emotional center of the entire piece. The soft pedal is
depressed. It is a very intimate variation of the yearning B section theme, now in
F-sharp major. The imitation, left-hand following the right,
is closer and more exact. There is interlocking of fingers
between the hands in the very close harmonies. A slowing to
a half-cadence leads to a highly anticipatory pause.
3:19 [m. 65]--Final
variation of the B
section melody. The original right hand tune is now moved to
the center of the texture, between left-hand arpeggios and a
slower, imitative upper melody (which is the same as the top notes
of the left hand at 2:22 [m. 49]). Brahms has basically just
re-arranged the vertical placement of the lines. The
variation grows rapidly in volume.
3:27 [m. 69]--The second
phrase of the final variation is intensified, returning to the
original vertical alignment and becoming more active.
The harmony is varied, with more major-key inflections. The
ending is also more active, and is extended by a bar to reach the
only full cadence in F-sharp minor.
3:36 [m. 74]--Upward
arpeggios lead back to A major and the return of the A section. The
first arpeggio is played by the right hand, followed by a downward
“sighing” gesture. The left hand takes the second arpeggio,
and the last one is split between hands. The music
diminishes and slows to an achingly expectant pause on a dissonant
A Section Reprise--A
3:46 [m. 77]--The
principal theme is now stated only once, but each phrase is varied
and intensified from its original presentation at the beginning
(basically a continuation of the process between 0:00 [m. 1] and
0:25 [m. 9]). The first phrase adds more descending motion
and activity to the dotted rhythms at the end. The second
phrase does the same after stretching the upward leap by a step to
a full octave. After this initial statement, the reprise is
an exact repetition of the first A section.
4:10 [m. 85]--Ominous
transitional passage, as 0:49 [m. 17].
4:20 [m. 89]--Second
phrase of transitional passage, as at 1:00 [m. 21].
4:29 [m. 93]--Upward
half-steps intensifying to an arrival point, as at 1:10 [m. 25].
4:38 [m. 97]--“Arrival”
statement of varied melody, as at 1:19 [m. 29].
4:57 [m. 103]--Tender
inversion of principal melody, as at 1:37 [m. 35].
5:11 [m. 107]--“Closing”
transitional material, as at 1:51 [m. 39].
5:21 [m. 111]--Second
phrase of transitional material, as at 2:01 [m. 43].
5:32 [m. 115]--Slow
statements of opening figure and cadence with rolled chord, as at
2:11 [m. 47].
5:52--END OF PIECE [116 mm.]
Allegro energico (Ternary form). G MINOR, Cut time [2/2].
A Section (Displays its
own “aba” form within a form)--G minor
0:00 [m. 1]--First part (a). A tragic/heroic type
of melody on top of large, moving chords. There are two
irregular parallel phrases in a question/answer
(antecedent/consequent) relationship. The first ends on the
“dominant” chord, creating anticipation, and the second ends with
a brief turn to G major. Both phrases begin the same way,
with an upbeat, and each has five bars. The low bass octaves
lend weight to the theme.
0:19 [m. 11]--Second part
(b). The melody
continues above moving chords and low bass octaves, as before, but
there is now a sense of building and anticipation from a suddenly
quiet and more ominous beginning. Again, there are two
parallel phrases or waves. The first of these begins and
ends in E-flat major and remains rather calm. The phrase is
extended to six bars.
0:30 [m. 17]--The second
phrase of b is concerned
with buildup, transition, and return. It is also six bars
long. The approach to the return of a includes strong syncopation
in both the melody and the supporting chords. The motion
back to G minor from E-flat major is extremely dramatic, with a
0:39 [m. 23]--Third part (a’). The main theme
returns at the climax of b,
and the two-chord upbeat continues the syncopation at the end of
that passage. The second phrase is greatly intensified by
the addition of new notes and harmonies, particularly a new upper
voice at the top of the texture when the phrase reaches its high
point. The phrases have the same harmonic goal and the same
0:56 [m. 33]--Transition
to large B
section. The moving chords continue as the music
subsides. The cadence, which leads to a G major chord, is
reiterated twice using biting “diminished seventh” chords.
1:05 [m. 38]--Transition
continued. The chords cease, and the smooth texture of the B section is
anticipated. While the note B is reiterated in the bass in
preparation for the new section centered there, it remains part of
a chord based on G and there is no real modulation to the rather
remote key of B major.
B Section--B Major
1:10 [m. 41]--First
part. There is a smooth duet texture in the right hand over
rolling arpeggios in the left. The mood is very subdued,
gentle, and quiet, with soft pedal indicated. There are,
however, some biting dissonances, including one instance (m. 45)
of notes a half-step apart crushed together before
resolving. The lower voice of the duet texture in the right
hand has strong syncopation in the second four-bar phrase, and
twice has notes held over bar lines. The left hand arpeggios
also change to ascending groups of four.
1:24 [m. 49]--A second
statement of the melody begins. It is, however, suddenly
interrupted by a striking motion to D-sharp minor in the
1:30 [m. 53]--The B section material is invaded
by the main theme of the A
section in D-sharp minor (but still in the hushed character of B).
1:38 [m. 57]--Second
part. The A
section material has cadenced and shifted back to B major with a
gentle melodic figure. The first two phrases are exactly the
same as at 1:10 [m. 41].
1:52 [m. 65]--The second
statement of the melody begins, as at 1:24 [m. 49], but this time
it avoids the interruption and digression. There are some
dissonant chromatic notes and wide spacing between the two voices
of the right hand. The left-hand arpeggios also take on a
more “melodic” character than they have thus far displayed.
The statement is expanded to a full eight bars and reaches a pause
on a half-cadence. The music has slowed and quieted even
more, greatly increasing the anticipation at the pause.
2:09 [m. 73]--Transition
back to the A
section. The texture with moving chords returns and very
gradually builds as the music modulates back to the home key of G
minor. The approach to the return expands the opening upbeat
of the main theme to three beats, two for the first note and one
for the second. At the beginning of the piece, both notes
were the top of short chords in one beat.
A Section Reprise--G
2:17 [m. 77]--Point of
arrival. From here, the A
section is exactly reprised. First part (a).
2:33 [m. 87]--Second part
(b), first phrase, as at
0:19 [m. 11].
2:43 [m. 93]--Second part
(b), second phrase, as at
0:30 [m. 17].
2:53 [m. 99]--Third part (a’), as at 0:39 [m. 23].
The only difference is at the very end, where the cadence remains
in the minor key instead of moving to a G-major chord.
3:09 [m. 109]--A small Coda replaces the former
transition. A few more moving chords, which remain strong,
are followed by soft hints of the left-hand arpeggios from the B section. The last of
these expands upward. The music becomes quiet, and the
beginning of the B
melody, complete with the duet texture, is now transformed into a
minor-key version that sounds pathetic rather than soothing.
A quiet four-note descent in the bass concludes the piece in a
3:35--END OF PIECE [117 mm.]
INTERMEZZO. Allegretto un poco agitato (Ternary
form). F MINOR, 2/4 time.
The piece is built almost entirely on the principle of canon, or
strict imitation between parts.
A Section--F minor.
The entire section is subdued, agitated, and often very delicate.
0:00 [m. 1]--The top notes
in each hand strictly imitate each other, left following right an
octave below at a distance of one beat. They ring out over
supporting notes in each hand that are a near-canon in contrary
motion: groups of three notes move in opposite directions in each
hand (down-up in the right, up-down in the left). There are seven
imitative statements involving long notes at the top, all
beginning on an upbeat.
0:09 [m. 8]--The imitative
voices at the top of each hand become more active, and the
supporting harmonies are no longer in near-canon. Straight
duple and triplet rhythms are closely juxtaposed. This is
the only appearance of duple rhythm in the A section. The
intensity briefly swells, but quickly becomes subdued again.
There is a brief motion to C minor.
0:15 [m. 13]--The first
four canonic statements of the opening are repeated.
0:19 [m. 17]--A new
passage of near-canon in contrary motion begins. It has no
supporting harmonies. There are three similar phrases at
different pitch levels (the last two are analogous), moving toward
the distant E major. These phrases employ broken octaves in
the triplet rhythm established at the opening, as well as other
leaps both smaller and larger than an octave. The passage is
light and delicate throughout.
0:30 [m. 34]--This passage
is a true contrary-motion canon (at the fifth) and involves some
harmonies (mostly thirds). The left hand rises and the right
hand falls. Like the previous passage, it is completely in
triplets. Beginning on a motion to E major, it never quite
arrives there, and starts to move back home. There is a
slight intensification and retreat.
0:37 [m. 42]--A transition
in triplets rises to a repeat of the opening, whose first note
enters before the downbeat as a syncopation and is held through
the bar. The imitative note is also held exactly the same
length, entering with the upbeat instead of after it. The
seventh “statement” is moved lower and leads to a resolving eighth
statement that arrives on C major. This is followed by two
(still imitative) octave C's that transition into the B section.
B Section--A-flat Major
(at the beginning--the key is “relative” to F minor)
0:54 [m. 58]--Unlike the A section, the B section is completely
canonic at the octave, including all the harmonies. Each
canonic “statement” consists of a chord, its imitation, then a
single note (lower than the second chord) and its imitation.
There are five phrases, each consisting of four “statements” of
this pattern. Hand-crossing is used throughout the B section. From the
second phrase, the initial chord obtains a second “resolving”
note. The section is as subdued as A, but not as agitated. Pedaling is
carefully indicated to make the canons sound clearly. As in
the A section, phrases
begin on upbeats.
1:02 [m. 66]--Second
phrase. It includes a few chromatic notes.
1:10 [m. 74]--Third
phrase. It makes a colorful shift to E major.
1:19 [m. 82]--Fourth
phrase. It makes another shift, this time to C major.
1:27 [m. 90]--Fifth
phrase. Similar to the second phrase, and still in C
major. There is some slight intensification.
1:36 [m. 98]--Transition
back to greatly varied A’
section. It is based on the last phrase of B, but abandons the total
canon. There continues to be a very strict two-voice canon,
but instead of always being at the top of the left hand, the
imitating voice is buried in the middle of the thick texture,
still at the distance of one beat (which continues through much of
the A’ section).
The music moves back to F minor. At this point, it becomes
suddenly and violently passionate, and will remain so until the
very end. Duple rhythms appear again (including the rapid
arpeggios at the end), and are again juxtaposed with the more
A’ Section--F minor
1:44 [m. 106]--Return to
the seven opening “statements”, but with three major differences:
(1) the accompanying three-note groups now move in the same
direction in each hand (down-up); (2) the harmony is more filled
out; and (3) the second and fourth “statements” move lower than
the first and third (similar to the single low notes following the
chords in the B
section). This pattern is broken with statements six and
seven. The music is agitated, as at the beginning, but now
loud and powerful rather than quiet and delicate.
1:51 [m. 113]--Similar at
0:09 [m. 8], but with much thicker texture surrounding the
canon. The last three of the previous seven “statements”
varied the harmony from the opening music, allowing this analogous
passage to begin higher and remain in the home key of F minor
rather than moving to C minor. Duple rhythm is again
introduced both against and juxtaposed with the prevalent
1:56 [m. 118]--Four
“statements” similar to 0:15 [m. 13], but not a repetition of 1:44
[m. 106]. They are quite feverish, and briefly hint at
B-flat minor (analogous to the C minor--F minor motion at this
point in the A
section). The surrounding harmonies are thick, and played
with both hands throughout.
2:00 [m. 122]--New
material introducing a sort of “coda.” The strict canon
continues with the imitative voice in the middle. Probably
the most difficult passage in the piece, it greatly exploits
two-against-three cross rhythms. This could be seen as the
climax of the piece.
2:04 [m. 126]--Four more
“statements” as at 1:56 [m. 118], but an octave lower.
2:08 [m. 130]--Material
from 2:00 [m. 122], with the canon still continuing. The
passage at 2:12 [m. 133] is very complex and difficult to execute
properly. It has heavy syncopation and close canonic entries
steadily moving down. The right hand plays both the leading
and the following voice, with three overlapping entries before the
left hand finally takes the fourth.
2:15 [m. 135]--The music
suddenly subdues itself for four final chords, which resolve the
canon, move to F major
and die away. It is a wonderful preparation for the
beginning of the Romance, No. 5.
2:33--END OF PIECE [139 mm.]
Andante - Allegretto grazioso - Tempo I (Ternary form). F
MAJOR, 6/4 and Cut [2/2] time.
A Section--F Major, 6/4
time. The A
section, while sounding like a simple lullaby, is built on a
principle of invertible
counterpoint. Two melodic lines are always combined
together, and either one can be on top. One line is simply a
descending scale followed by a jump and a downward sweep.
The other is a more songlike melody, often varied and always
doubled in two voices, ending with three repeated notes.
There is usually more harmony than just the two (three if the
doubling is counted) lines.
0:00 [m. 1]--First
phrase. The descending scale line is in the top voice.
The songlike melody is doubled in the alto- and tenor-range
0:21 [m. 5]--Second
phrase. The songlike melody remains in the middle, but is
varied by adding more notes and motion. The descending scale
remains in the top voice. The harmony changes from the first
phrase at the end (suggesting the “relative” key of D minor), with
the downward sweep at the end of the scale line now sweeping
0:41 [m. 9]--Third
phrase. The “songlike melody” emerges at the top of the
texture in its original unembellished form. The descending
scale line is now in the middle of the doubled voices of the
“songlike melody” and completely subordinate to them. This
line reemerges on top only with the "downward sweep" at the
end. The accompanying harmony is now much more active.
0:58 [m. 13]--Fourth
phrase. It is basically a repetition of the second phrase,
but with the harmony altered to facilitate a motion to D Major for
the B section.
There is a moment of suspended tension.
grazioso, D Major, Cut time [2/2]. The B section is based on the
principle of variation by diminution. The basic four-measure
phrase is stated and varied six times (three pairs of two),
usually by decoration and decreased note values. This occurs
over a persistent left-hand pattern (ostinato),
which only varies in a few measures (usually the first or last of
a phrase). Each phrase ends with a trill (the first and
third with a scale run). The whole section is quiet, light,
and delicate, if rather quick in speed.
1:21 [m. 17]--First
phrase. A second right-hand voice becomes clearly audible in
the second measure.
1:28 [m. 21]--Second
phrase. Consequent “answering”
phrase to first. It begins identically, changing slightly at
the end with lower motion and a later trill without the scale.
1:35 [m. 25]--Third
phrase. Basically analogous to first phrase, but the
diminution has now begun. The melody is now in triplets
(groups of three), creating six notes to a beat instead of four.
1:42 [m. 29]--Fourth
phrase. Analogous to the second phrase, but continuing the
triplet motion of the third.
1:49 [m. 33]--Fifth
phrase. The diminution continues. The melody is now
highly decorated in notes twice as fast as those of first phrase
(now eight notes to a beat).
1:57 [m. 37]--Sixth
phrase. It is analogous to second and fourth phrases, but
does not continue the motion of the fifth phrase, instead
presenting the tune in a stripped-down version with quick
arpeggios that are much more difficult to play than they
sound. This phrase liquidates itself in repeated trills that
begin the transition to the A’
2:08 [m. 43]--At the
“climax” of the trill motion, two rapid, highly decorative
descending passages lead back to 6/4 time at 2:12 [m. 45].
The trills move to the bass and combine with recognizable
“sighing” figures from the “scale” line of the A section to complete the
transition. At the end, the right hand trills.
A’ Section --Tempo I, F
major, 6/4 time. It is reduced to two phrases instead of
2:23 [m. 48]--It is
virtually identical to the first phrase , but with slightly
2:43 [m. 52]--This is the
phrase that solves the puzzle of the piece--which of the two lines
is more important? The descending scale is on top more
often, but the “songlike” phrase is more melodic and appears in
doubled voices. This final phrase is very similar to those
at 0:21 [m. 5] and 0:58 [m. 13], but the “songlike” line is now
doubled in THREE voices in its more moving, “embellished” form,
basically confirming its dominance over the descending scale
(which, however, is now also doubled in the bass). The
phrase is varied and extended by one measure before the final
concluding chord, and the distinction between the two lines is
blurred at the end. It is the only one of the six
“invertible” phrases from the A
and A’ sections that
reaches closure and resolution. The increased doubling of
the phrase creates a full, warm, and rich, yet quiet and subdued
3:28--END OF PIECE [57 mm.]
INTERMEZZO. Andante, largo e mesto (AABA’ or expanded
ternary form). E-FLAT MINOR, 3/8 time.
A Section--E-flat minor
0:00 [m. 1]--The “motto”
of this dark and brooding, yet heroic piece is immediately stated
in a bare single line. It is clearly based on the Gregorian
“Dies Irae” familiar from the Requiem mass. As the “motto”
finishes, the left hand enters with quick, quiet, sweeping
arpeggios. The A
section is quiet and mysterious throughout.
0:15 [m. 5]--The “motto”
is repeated an octave lower. The arpeggios appear much
sooner in the left hand and eventually become undulating waves.
0:25 [m. 9]--A new phrase
based on the motto enters one beat “too early” as the waves in the
left hand are concluding. This new phrase is stated in
thirds. It is imitated at a distance of an tenth lower
before it finishes (0:31 [m. 11]). The left hand arpeggios
are less rapid. The harmony moves toward B-flat minor.
0:39 [m. 13]--A fragment
of the new phrase enters. It is imitated first above, then
below again, always before the last “statement” finishes.
The final “statement” reaches “closure” in the full form
introduced at 0:25 [m. 9]. There is much hand-crossing here,
and the accompaniment figures become more bare and sparse.
0:51 [m. 17]--Full
statement of the “motto” doubled in octaves and harmonized by
chords on down beats, now in the key of B-flat minor. There
is a “hemiola” at the end (three groups of two beats superimposed
on two 3/8 bars).
A Section (slightly
varied, not enough to be called A’--similar
A section of Intermezzo
No. 2 above)
1:04 [m. 21]--Sudden shift
back to E-flat minor. Opening motto as at the beginning, but
the sweeping arpeggios are replaced by a slower, sinuous
descending left hand line, which is often chromatic, with many
1:16 [m. 25]--The motto is
stated an octave lower, as at 0:15 [m. 5]. The sinuous line
continues, now ascending and soaring above, then arching back
below the motto theme in an especially elegant hand
crossing. This line merges into the former wave-like
arpeggios, and from this point, the section is identical to the
1:25 [m. 29]--New phrase
with imitation, as at 0:25 [m. 9]
1:38 [m. 33]--Fragment of
the new phrase with imitations, as at 0:39 [m. 13]
1:51 [m. 37]--Full
statement of the “motto” doubled in octaves with hemiola, as at
0:51 [m. 17]
B Section--B-flat minor
2:03 [m. 41]--The music
suddenly obtains a heroic character. The right hand becomes
march-like (but still retaining the 3/8 triple meter). The
left hand figures are very low and ominous, but do not disturb the
“heroic” style. The dynamic level is still soft. Just
before 2:19 [m. 48], the volume suddenly and dramatically
increases. The section begins by hinting at G-flat major,
but is quickly confirmed as the B-flat minor in which both
previous A sections
2:22 [m. 49]--The first
climax of the B
section. The first martial figures are repeated, now at full
volume and striving further upward.
2:29 [m. 51]--A cascading
arpeggio interrupts. It is doubled (tripled) in three
separate octaves until the left hand takes over and the third
voice drops out. The right hand anticipates the following
2:33 [m. 53]--Sudden
entrance of the “motto” theme from the A section, much transformed and at full volume,
with rich harmony. The home key of E-flat minor returns
earlier than expected here.
2:38 [m. 55]--Return of
the martial figures, now even more intense, and in the home
key. Amazingly, this is the first appearance of the note
C-flat (which actually belongs to the home key of E-flat minor).
2:44 [m. 57]--Cascading
arpeggio, as at 2:29 [m. 51], but with stronger right hand chords
at the end instead of the anticipation of the “motto.”
2:49 [m. 59]--An even more
dramatic statement of the “motto” theme. There is then a
very sudden decrease in volume over descending syncopated chords.
3:00 [m. 63]--Return of
the bare “motto” theme in the LOWER octave as at 0:15 [m. 5] and
1:16 [m. 25]. Fragmented left-hand arpeggios lead to the
3:10 [m. 67]--Similar to
0:25 [m. 9] and 1:25 [m. 29], but the music suddenly makes a
warmer turn. This is accomplished by the entrance of the
note C-flat at the lowest point in the bass (at 3:12 [m.
67]). This note has been treated carefully (first appearance
around 2:38 [m. 55]), and now moves the A’ section in an entirely new direction.
It moves briefly to a soothing C-flat (!) major before turning
back to minor at the imitation (3:19 [m. 69], similar to 0:31 [m.
11]). The phrases begin in sixths instead of thirds (wider
spacing), but move to thirds before finishing.
3:25 [m. 71]--Instead of
the fragments and imitations from 0:39 [m. 13] and 1:38 [m. 33],
the music now intensifies to the final aborted climax (and remains
in the “home” key). The left-hand arpeggios are slower, but
obtain a very wide scope.
3:35 [m. 75]--The climax
is aborted, leading to a phrase similar to the final “statements”
of the passages from 0:39 [m. 13] and 1:38 [m. 33].
3:41 [m. 77]--As at 0:51
[m. 17] and 1:51 [m. 37], but now in the home key of E-flat minor
and adding a third (lower) octave doubling for a very dark and
sinister sound. The “hemiola” is also intensified with
3:56 [m. 81]--Final
statement of the motto. The upper voice is on the original
pitch. It begins doubled, but adds another “middle” octave
as it intensifies. There is a rich texture with full
harmony, increasing in volume until the chord at 4:06 [m.
83]. Two more chords of E-flat minor take the volume back
down to a low level.
4:16 [m. 85]--A bare,
desolate arpeggio of the E-flat minor chord beginning in the low
bass, each note held to create a chord that fades away (the last
note is struck at 4:23 [m. 86]).
4:49--END OF PIECE [86 mm.]
END OF SET
BRAHMS LISTENING GUIDES HOME