FOUR PIANO PIECES (KLAVIERSTÜCKE), OP. 119
Recording: Martin Jones, pianist [NI 1788]
These last four pieces, like Op. 118, are labeled “Klavierstücke,”
but only the final piece is not an intermezzo. Although the
second piece is quite extended, the weight of the group is on the
final rhapsody, the only piece in the four late sets to be given
that title. The unity of Op. 119 as a group is less obvious
than in Op. 118, although the keys,
between B and E, cover an even narrower range. The first
intermezzo, characterized by Clara Schumann as a “grey pearl,” is
as close to the “impressionistic” sound of Debussy as Brahms ever
got. The second intermezzo, whose main sections are skittish
and agitated, contains a central waltz that almost sounds as if it
were lifted out of Op. 39. The
waltz tune, however, is a variation of the main agitated
material. In the third piece, which relies on internal
melody, the ternary form and contrast are more nebulous. It
has an almost comical character. The final rhapsody
(“Rhapsodie”), which represents the end of Brahms’s work for solo
piano, is not as extended as the two of Op.
79, but still displays a large arch-like form that makes it
the biggest of the twenty late miniatures. The piece is
largely heroic and even joyous, so the ending in E-flat minor is
surprisingly dark. Incidentally, E-flat minor is also the
key in which Op. 118 ends as well as
the key of Brahms’s earliest composed (but not earliest published)
piano work, the Scherzo, Op. 4.
This key thus, in a way, frames the composer’s entire solo piano
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 B minor
Intermezzo in E minor
Intermezzo in C major (the key is mistakenly identified as A
Rhapsodie in E-flat major
Adagio (Ternary form). B MINOR, 3/8 time.
A Section--B minor
0:00 [m. 1]--The wistful
melody, with extreme long-short rhythm, soars above descending
arpeggios. These arpeggios begin with the first note of the
melody, and the notation carefully indicates that each pitch is to
be held throughout the descent. After three bars of
arpeggios, the accompaniment switches to off-beat punctuations in
the fourth bar as the melody itself becomes more assertive and the
left hand subtly imitates the melody.
0:14 [m. 5]--The “wistful”
original melodic gesture, now accompanied by a line of double
notes in thirds, alternates once with the more “assertive” melody
and off-beat punctuations. Two more of the original
gestures, the second of which has a new, freer line in double
notes, lead to the second phrase.
0:27 [m. 9]--The melody
begins again, but the harmony of the third bar arpeggio is altered
to include the “leading tone,” indicating an impending arrival
point or cadence.
0:35 [m. 12]--The fourth
bar, rather than rounding off a half-phrase as before, introduces
a new five-bar unit based on the more assertive melodic line, the
left hand imitation, and the off-beat punctuations. A more
insistent upbeat is added to the pattern. The last bar
slows, changes the off-beat internal punctuations to a smoother
line, and reaches a cadence on the “dominant” key, F-sharp.
B Section--D major
0:54 [m. 17]--The music
effortlessly moves to the related major key of D. The main
argument is a gently leaping back-and-forth melody that begins off
the beat. The left hand quietly rocks in octaves and other
wide-ranging motion. The melody is richly harmonized.
After three bars, more syncopation is added to the melody, with
chords held across bar lines, and there is a sudden swell in
volume, a striking change in this mostly very subdued piece.
The harmony and bass become more chromatic approaching the climax.
1:13 [m. 24]--At the
climax, the left hand becomes more active, and there is a strong
hint at D minor. A second seven-bar phrase follows the
previous one. The climax is followed by a large
descent. The activity gradually diminishes, as does the
volume. The entire passage is highly chromatic, with many
half-steps, some in contrary motion between the hands. These
half-steps lead smoothly to a return of the melody.
1:35 [m. 31]--The melody
of the B section begins
again with a new chromatic internal line, but after the opening,
the syncopation is minimized, there is no hint at the minor key,
and the climax arrives after only six bars instead of seven.
The left hand becomes active even earlier here.
1:54 [m. 37]--At the
second and final climax of the piece, the left hand speeds up to
triplet groups, with a countermelody embedded in the higher
notes. The D-major key is radiant here. The left hand
slows back to straight, but still active rhythm, and the music
gently settles down in another six bar phrase balancing the
previous one. The motion back to B minor at the end, with
the melody in the tenor range and played in a drawn-out
syncopation, quickly dispels the rapture of the climax.
2:12 [m. 43]--Re-transition.
of the opening return, but Brahms groups the notes in a “hemiola”
or cross-rhythm. For two bars, instead of three beats
divided into two parts, there are two beats divided into three
parts. Brahms returns to the careful notation of the
arpeggios indicating the length each note is to be held throughout
the descents. The hands cross as the arpeggios work
upward. There are then two bars with the normal metrical
grouping restored. They strongly resemble the main melody
and its descending arpeggios, and the top line slides upward by
half-steps, slowing and leading to the melody itself.
A’ Section--B minor
2:23 [m. 47]--The main
“wistful” melody returns. The descending arpeggios that
accompany it are now in a more flowing triplet grouping with
half-step embellishments, still with the careful notation
indicating the holding of certain notes through the
descents. The fourth bar, with the off-beat punctuations and
left hand imitation, is as before.
2:35 [m. 51]--A virtually
exact restatement of the half-phrase from 0:14 [m. 5], with double
notes in thirds and off-beat punctuations.
2:48 [m. 55]--The melody
begins again, and the arpeggios are again in the triplet
rhythm. As in the first A
section at 0:27 [m. 9], there is an alteration to the harmony of
the arpeggios, but this time it already begins in the first of the
three. In the third bar, even the melody note is changed,
being lowered a half-step. The triplet rhythm creeps into
the melody by the third bar as well.
2:58 [m. 58]--The fourth
bar now highly varies the previous five-bar unit from 0:35 [m.
12]. The upbeat gestures are similar, but the off-beat
punctuations are now reduced to low bass notes. The music is
also set lower and avoids the motion to the “dominant” key,
instead strongly suggesting the D major of the middle
section. The slowing and smoother internal line arrive a bar
earlier than before. More of the upbeat gestures follow,
confirming B minor and extending the phrase to seven bars instead
of five (perhaps a connection to the seven-bar phrases in the
first part of the B
3:29 [m. 65]--A final
reference to the opening descending arpeggios is made before the
last chords and B-minor cadence. This closing slows even
more, creating a very stilled and hushed ending.
3:56--END OF PIECE [67 mm.]
Andantino un poco agitato - Andantino grazioso (Ternary
form). E MINOR, 3/4 time.
A Section--Andantino un
poco agitato, E minor
0:00 [m. 1]--The main rhythm is persistent and obsessive,
but hushed. Beginning on an upbeat, it is best described as
“anapestic” (short-short-long). Throughout the first twelve
bars, the left hand consistently plays short repetitions (usually
double notes) on each beat, alternating with the short notes (also
repetitions) in the right hand upbeats. At the end of two
bars, a top voice is added with a strong syncopated accent.
0:06 [m. 3]--The anapestic
main theme seems to restart, but the top voice with strong
syncopation enters again, this time a little later, after three
bars. It develops into a series of four syncopated accents
on rolled chords, all above the persistent rhythm. The top
voice then settles down, completing the eight-bar phrase
(including the first two bars).
0:21 [m. 9]--With the
upbeat held over, the main theme again restarts as at the
beginning, with the syncopated top voice added at the end of the
second bar. The third bar is also as at 0:06 [m. 3], but the
fourth bar deviates, expanding upward, including two syncopated
rolled chords (earlier than their previous appearance), and
modulating to A minor.
0:31 [m. 13]--The
persistent anapestic rhythm finally breaks in both hands. A
variation of the main theme is now heard in A minor. It is
in triplet rhythm. The left hand plays on the first two
notes of each three-note group, the right hand (in two voices) on
the second and third notes, holding over on the first. This
pattern briefly breaks on the last beat of m. 14, but is
restored. A transitional fifth bar is added with the right
hand returning to straight duple rhythm on a descending line in
the inner voice.
0:42 [m. 18]--A further
variant of the main theme begins in yet another new key, F
minor. This time, the left hand plays on the main beats and
the right hand responds with rich chords after the beat. The
syncopated top voice enters in the second and fourth bars.
The main key of E minor returns in the third bar. The volume
swells dramatically in the fifth bar, reaching the main climax of
the A section on a
0:52 [m. 23]--The main
rhythm returns, with short repetitions alternating between the
hands as before. The top voice of the right hand has lines
such as that heard before 0:21 [m. 9], but rather than settling
down, it maintains the intensity of the climax. There are two
similar gestures, each two bars long, both including the heavy
syncopation. The main rhythm then breaks off in two
transitional bars that both arrest the activity and quiet down
1:07 [m. 29]--In the
smoothest variation of the main theme yet, the right hand plays
flowing lines in two voices, still maintaining the upbeats.
The left hand has wide arpeggios in three-note groups beginning
off the beat. This phrase swells to yet another, smaller
climax before a descent, with the left hand briefly adding a third
voice to the flowing lines.
1:18 [m. 33]--Three
transitional bars restore calm and move to the major key with
long-held chords, a slow-moving inner voice, and more regular
left-hand arpeggios. These transitional bars introduce a
“hemiola,” with four 2/4 bars implied against the three notated
3/4 bars. This does not include the last beat of the final
bar, which will function as an upbeat beginning the B section.
grazioso, E major (Displays its own “rounded binary” form)
1:26 [m. 36]--Part
1. The entire B
section is a waltz that seems lifted out of the Op. 39 set (it is
particularly similar to Op. 39, No. 2). The first eight-bar
period is regular, with a consistent left-hand arpeggio pattern
and a gently rocking right-hand rhythm. What is more subtle
is the fact that the waltz tune is directly derived from the
agitated main theme of the A
1:40 [m. 44]--Part 1,
Varied repetition. The left hand is the same until the last
bar, but the right hand melody adds a high doubled octave, still
retaining all of the previous harmonies. The very end is
slightly altered, adding a mild syncopation.
1:54 [m. 52]--Part
2. The first phrase of the second part shifts abruptly to A
minor, then to G major. It is characterized by light
syncopation in the right hand, carrying over from the end of the
varied repetition. The left hand arpeggios are more flowing
and played in two bar units. The second half of the phrase
becomes quite agitated as the music moves to B minor. The
left hand pattern breaks at this point, and gradually converges
with the right hand in the last bar.
2:06 [m. 60]--The last
phrase returns to the character of Part 1, but only gradually
arrives back at E major, passing first through F-sharp
minor. The left-hand patterns are far less regular, first
consisting of descending lines, then moving to the original
arpeggios in the second half of the phrase. Unlike Part 1,
the music arrives at a full cadence.
2:19 [m. 52]--Part 2
repeated. As at 1:54 [m. 52].
2:32 [m. 60]--As at 2:06
[m. 60]. The last bar is written as a second ending to
eliminate the transition to the repeat and to move to the brief
2:47 [m. 68]--A small
“coda” is added that consists of gentle echoes of the waltz melody
that become ever slower, softer, and less active. The return
of A emerges on the
upbeat of the last bar with a seamless shift back to minor.
A’ Section--Tempo primo,
2:56 [m. 72]--The A section material returns,
not with the phrase from the beginning, but the one from 0:21 [m.
9]. This effectively abbreviates the A’ section. The phrase
is extended by a bar through reiteration of the fourth bar, and
introduces a new flowing left hand accompaniment that breaks its
3:08 [m. 77]--A similar
presentation in A minor to that at 0:31 [m. 13], but the triplets
are replaced by a four-note division in straight rhythm. The
actual notes are the same, but the new division means that the
left hand figures alternate with, rather than overlap, the right
hand notes. The transitional fifth bar is the same in the
right hand, but the left hand adds subtle syncopation derived from
the new rhythm.
3:18 [m. 82]--Variant
beginning in F minor with right hand after-beat chords, as at 0:42
3:29 [m. 87]--Return of
main rhythm and two syncopated gestures, as at 0:52 [m. 23].
3:44 [m. 93]--Smooth final
variation with flowing lines and wide arpeggios, as at 1:07 [m.
3:53 [m. 97]--Transitional
bars with motion to major key and hemiola, as at 1:18 [m.
33]. The last bar has a slightly delayed resolution.
4:02 [m. 100]--An echo of
the “coda” from the central waltz (B section), gently and quietly closes the piece
in major and in an almost transfigured manner.
4:30--END OF PIECE [104 mm.]
Grazioso e giocoso (Continuous variation with ternary
aspects). C MAJOR, 6/8 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--The piece
begins lightly but buoyantly. The main “theme” is in an
inner voice, a cell of four notes that moves up by a skip and a
step, then turns back down to the second note. Above this
“cell” is a repeated third, and below it is a wide arching
arpeggio. The “cell” is repeated three times, the second
time without the pause on the last note. The inner voice
then diverges from the “cell,” but stays close to its character
under new chords. The left hand arpeggios are now in three
ascending notes without the “arch.”
0:09 [m. 7]--A second
four-note “cell,” similar to the first, is now heard in the inner
voice. It is two upward steps followed by a downward leap of
a fifth. It is first heard in G major, but the next bar
wrenches the key up to A, vacillating between minor and
major. The new “cell” is heard three times in A, adding an
upward leap between the statements. Heavily syncopated
chords lead to a reprise of the opening.
0:18 [m. 13]--Reprise of
the opening, approached from an accented syncopated chord on the
previous beat whose top notes are held over to form the initial
upper third above the inner melody (the four-note “cell”).
0:25 [m. 19]--New cell, as
at 0:09 [m. 7]. At the end, the syncopated chords are shoved
forward by a beat (the first is deleted), to avoid the motion back
to the home key. These chords are even more heavily accented
than before. The tempo is rather flexible throughout the
0:33 [m. 25]--The first
“cell” is now isolated and played in three octaves. It is in
F-sharp minor, closely related to the previous A major. It
is played two more times in the inner voice in a higher octave,
without the pause on the fourth note. The music then
intensifies and breaks into the syncopated chord idea, the left
hand adding more double notes and three-note chords.
0:38 [m. 29]--The previous
pattern begins at a higher level, in B-flat minor. As
before, it is stated twice more in an inner voice, but the last
statement expands the inner motion by two more bars, with the top
thirds shifting upward in the second “expansion” bar. The
expansion breaks into loud descending chords that are then
followed by a similar series of descending octaves, the left hand
slightly anticipating the right. The passage passes through
two major keys on the way to F minor, where the descending scales
0:48 [m. 37]--Re-transition.
rhythm is suggested with a repeated note and a rising half-step,
doubled in octaves. It is suddenly quiet. This is
followed by a descending left-hand line. The rhythm is then
heard again with the inner voice and thirds above it, hinting at
the opening cell. This is in A-flat major (related to F
minor). That key will lead back to C major and the highly
varied opening material, also with a descending left-hand line.
0:54 [m. 41]--The opening
material returns, but it is in “augmentation,” or doubly long note
values. The first four-note “cell” attempts to restart in
the same straight notes, but it is suddenly interrupted by a
louder, faster motion, still with the inner voice and upper
thirds. A rapid descending arpeggio breaks things off.
0:59 [m. 45]--The opening
“cell” is heard in its original faster rhythm and three successive
repetitions, but under the second of these, the piano bass shifts
down, which it had not done before, and the music reaches A
major/minor much earlier than it had before. As in the
previous “attempt,” the pattern is interrupted by the loud, fast
motion, then another rapid descending arpeggio that shifts back to
the home key of C.
1:04 [m. 49]--The second
four-note “cell” is heard in an inner voice, now for the first
time in the home key. After a transitional bar such as those
heard with this cell before, the cell itself moves to the top of
the texture. The “transitional” bar is repeated, then
shifted upward twice in a rapid buildup of intensity. This
culminates in a breathless “hemiola,” where the rhythm for one bar
suggests 3/4 instead of 6/8 (three beats instead of two in the
bar). Here, three two-note descents rise upward in rapid
1:13 [m. 56]--In the
exuberant climax, the second four-note “cell” is heard twice in
the inner voice, but it is now surrounded by long-held
octaves. The left hand is smoother, with stepwise motion
instead of arpeggios. The first three rising notes of the
cell are then stated four times in quick succession, each time
shifting down by a step. The surrounding octaves are
syncopated, being struck on the third notes of the three-note
groups (except the first one). The left hand again plays
arpeggios, but sustains the note G (the “dominant” note) in the
bass. The music then slows and quiets, with two more
syncopated chords in the right hand.
1:20 [m. 62]--The last
syncopated chord collapses into a descending left-hand line.
This is immediately followed by a much faster descent that begins
quite high and reaches low. It is split between the
hands. At the bottom, this line reverses itself and climbs
upward in a wide arpeggio. It is cut off by two rolled
chords, one high, the other lower and both of the preparatory
“dominant” harmony. The effect is almost like that of a
1:24 [m. 66]--The piece
ends with a metrical game. Three bars of “hemiola,” which
are grouped to sound like 3/4 measures instead of 6/8 bars,
skittishly climb upward, an octave higher in each bar. The
“buoyancy” so characteristic of the piece is at its lightest
here. Following these three bars, a high quiet rolled chord
is followed by a louder one an octave lower. Finally the
last chord, which is an octave lower still, is played without a
roll and held more solidly.
1:40--END OF PIECE [70 mm.]
RHAPSODIE. Allegro risoluto (Five-part arch-like form,
ABCB’A’ with coda). E-FLAT MAJOR, 2/4 time.
A Section (Displays its
own “aba” form)--E-flat major
0:00 [m. 1]--First part (a). The main material is
an extremely assertive, fully harmonized melody in dactylic rhythm
(long-short-short), until the cadence bar, which is
short-short-long. The left hand is mostly in octaves.
Brahms makes the melody irregular by adding a fifth bar to each
phrase. This fifth bar is a sort of “tag” to the cadence
with descending internal harmony. The main melody has four
phrases. The first is in E-flat major. The second
moves to G minor. The third is also in E-flat, but the “tag”
turns toward minor.
0:19 [m. 16]--The fourth
phrase is in fact in E-flat minor, but it has a slightly
different, more steadily descending shape. It is also played
with greater intensity. Its “tag” is broken into descending
arpeggios, which already begin with the cadence bar, itself
dispensing with the short-short-long rhythm.
0:25 [m. 21]--Second part
(b). Four more
five-bar phrases follow. They are all extremely similar,
consisting of six straight chords, then a longer one in the fourth
bar. The end of the fourth bar and the fifth bar have
descending arpeggios similar to those in the fourth phrase of a from 0:19 [m. 16], with
thumping bass notes. The first phrase is in B-flat major and
is quiet. The second is in C minor and becomes louder.
The third moves back to B-flat and is again quiet.
0:42 [m. 36]--The last
phrase moves to E-flat minor/major, preparing for the return of
the opening material. It increases greatly in
intensity. The arpeggios are moved from the right hand to
the low bass, and reverse direction, moving upward. Against
this, the right hand plays chords with internal harmonic motion,
similar to those in the fifth bars from the phrases of a. This aids in the
transition back to the opening.
0:47 [m. 41]--Third part (a’). The first three
phrases are exactly as at the opening, except that the “tag” of
the last one does not make the turn toward the minor key.
1:05 [m. 56]--The last
phrase begins higher than the phrase from 0:19 [m. 16]. It
is of similar shape and intensity, and turns to a minor key, but
it is now the “relative” minor key, C minor, rather than the home
minor key. There is only one descending arpeggio, in the
fourth bar, and the fifth bar has two sharp chords anticipating a
cadence in C minor. There is then a four-bar bridge that
finally breaks the five-bar phrases. Two chords, bridged by
a rising top voice between them, lead to the next section.
They become suddenly quiet and still avoid a clear arrival on C
minor, which is delayed until the opening of the B section itself.
B Section--C minor
1:17 [m. 65]--Quiet and
ominous triplet rhythm contrasts with the assertive main
rhythms. The oscillating figures are played in both hands,
beginning in octaves, but moving to harmony. There is a
solid bass “pedal point” on C until the end of the first phrase,
which moves strongly to the “dominant” harmony of G major.
Four-bar phrases replace the five-bar units of the A section.
1:27 [m. 73]--The second
phrase is in C major, not minor, and its top voice is an octave
higher. Halfway through, the left hand becomes thicker and
more active, and the volume swells dramatically. The motion
of this second half, including grouping of the triplet rhythms
into implied 3/4 bars, is used to extend the phrase by four bars
and prolong the climax. The top chords ring out joyously
against the active left hand.
1:41 [m. 85]--Transition.
bass suddenly descends to the same chord that began the four-bar
bridge right before the B
section. In fact, that bridge is repeated exactly. It
is then extended by four more bars to confirm and arrival on
A-flat major, which was always the implied harmonic goal of the
bridge when it first appeared.
C Section--A-flat major
1:52 [m. 93]--While the
music here is more closely related to B than to A,
it contrasts sharply with both. Light, delicate, and
graceful, it contains fast rolled chords in both hands that
are difficult to play this softly and this rapidly. The main
melody moves from the top voice to an inner voice in the rolled
chords. The phrase groupings are essentially eight bars,
divided into three bars with ascending rolled chords and five bars
where the right hand rolls downward.
2:01 [m. 101]--This phrase
begins as a varied repetition, with the main melody moving down an
octave and the left hand moving to mainly octaves, some rolled,
but reaching lower. It then changes harmony, becoming darker
and moving back to C minor, the B
section’s key. The phrase structure is the same, with the
descending rolled chords starting in the fourth bar. The
last bar of the phrase slows the motion slightly
2:11 [m. 109]--In a
transitional phrase very similar to those before and after the B section, the motion slows
somewhat, and the volume rises somewhat. The left hand has
detached downward arching octave motion alternating with
chords. The transition moves the music back to A-flat
2:21 [m. 117]--Repetition
of the first phrase from 1:52 [m. 93].
2:30 [m. 125]--This phrase
begins like the second phrase from 2:01 [m. 101], but after two
bars it diverges. The last four bars resemble the
transitional phrase. Instead of moving to C minor, the
phrase increases the anticipation of that key, ending on an
expectant “augmented sixth” chord.
B’ Section--C minor
2:42 [m. 133]--The first
phrase is very similar to the one at 1:17 [m. 65], but the right
hand begins with block chords against the left hand triplets,
moving to the triplets only in the third bar. It is also an
octave higher than the earlier phrase. The left hand is also
slightly modified, with added upward arpeggios. The melodic
and harmonic goals are as before, to the “dominant” G-major
2:53 [m. 141]--As at 1:27
[m. 73], the phrase is in C major, and is an octave higher still
than it was presented before, resulting in an extremely joyous
bell-like sound. Instead of only arriving halfway through
the phrase, the loud volume is already there at the outset and
only becomes more full and rich. Another important variant
from the analogous phrase is that the triplet rhythm now
alternates between right and left hands for the first six bars, up
until the implied 3/4 motion. There are two very concealed
instances of two-against-three motion. The phrase is
extended by four bars as before, but now there is no sudden
harmonic divergence, simply a “dominant” chord preparing more C
3:07 [m. 153]--First part
(a”). The main
material returns in a recognizable, but highly transformed
variation. Instead of loud and assertive, it is quiet,
detached, and secretive. The strong dactylic rhythms have
been transformed into chords responding to bass notes after
downbeats. Also, it is not in the home key, but continues in
the C major of the previous section. Some elements are
retained, such as the five-bar phrases. The harmonic motion
is also analogous in the first three phrases, with the second
moving to E minor. The first and third phrases are in the
middle range of the piano, the second much higher.
3:23 [m. 168]--The fourth
phrase departs from the detached figuration and becomes more
ominous at the expected motion to C minor. The bass rises
slowly while the responses are now more connected, with an
oscillating downward-upward motion. They are in the high
register. An unexpected fifth phrase follows in the same
vein. The five-bar structure is still retained, including
the expected internal motion in the fifth bar of each phrase.
3:34 [m. 178]--What begins
as a third “ominous” phrase (the sixth of a”) expands into a nine-bar
segment that blurs the line between this subsection and the
following one (b’).
five-bar phrase is completed as expected, but it is followed by
two more similar bars with internal motion. These in turn
lead to two bars of arpeggios with rolled chords that will
But the phrases of b’
will usually begin with three “internal motion” bars, not two,
followed by the arpeggios. The “missing” bar is where the
line is blurred. It is quite clear that m. 182 (heard at
3:38) is part of a”, not
b’, but it flows directly
into m. 183.
3:43 [m. 187]--Second part
(b’). A sudden
increase in volume, followed by an equally sudden diminishing,
makes it reasonably clear that b’
begins here. There are four five-bar phrases, as in the
first b subsection from
0:25 [m. 21]. All consist of three bars of chords with
internal motion, played in the middle and low range in the first
three phrases. They are followed by two bars of light
descending arpeggios with thumping bass notes. The first
phrase moves from C minor to B-flat major. The second moves
to an unexpected C-flat major (a key closer to E-flat minor).
third phrase shifts up a step to D-flat. The motion to
E-flat, which should be quite easy from C minor and B-flat major,
is delayed by these unexpected harmonic shifts.
4:00 [m. 202]--The fourth
phrase moves the right hand of the initial chords to a higher
range. They increase in volume and spread outward. The
arrival of the arpeggios brings an extended climax and a prolonged
arrival on the home key of E-flat, at first in its minor-key form,
as suggested by the previous C-flat major.
4:05 [m. 207]--The
previous phrase is followed by a new ten-bar transition.
Instead of a division into two five-bar phrases, there are four
bars of strong cadences with arpeggios that ascend in the left
hand, then descend in the right. The remaining six bars are
heavily syncopated, with the arpeggios completely in the left
hand. After two chords held across bar lines, seven shorter
chords mark the main climax. The left hand arpeggios, which
have been steadily ascending, begin to descend under the last
three of these chords. The entire transition seems to
confirm E-flat minor (or G-flat major or C-flat major) rather than
4:16 [m. 217]--Third part
(a’”). The main
material triumphantly arrives in its original form. E-flat
major brilliantly emerges. Except for the point of arrival,
which is at a higher level, the first three phrases are largely as
at the opening of the piece, with some intensification of the left
hand harmonies and octaves.
4:34 [m. 232]--The fourth
phrase makes the move to E-flat minor, as it had at the opening at
0:19 [m. 16]. It is greatly intensified from that point,
however, and instead of breaking into the arpeggios of b (which we have already heard
in the A’ section), the
last two bars intensify even further and confirm a rather
unexpectedly grim arrival on E-flat minor, where, surprisingly,
the piece will remain during the coda.
4:40 [m. 237]--The
five-bar phrases of the main material are preserved. The
music breaks into a series of treacherous leaps in dotted
(long-short) rhythm, the right hand jumping up to octaves.
The left hand plays ascending arpeggios and chords. The
fifth bar of the phrase consists of two dramatic downward-leaping
cadence chords. There are two of these phrases, the second
extended to six bars with a lower extension of the cadence
chords. The key remains firmly in minor, thwarting
expectations for a triumphant ending.
4:52 [m. 248]--The final
passage abandons the five-bar phrases for two-bar units. It
is a highly dramatic series of figures in triplet rhythm,
initially punctuated by rolled chords at the beginning of each
group. Three two-bar units move steadily upward. Two
more of these units abandon the rolled chords in favor of a heavy,
leaping, straight-rhythm left hand that clashes with the
continuing climactic triplet chords of the right hand. These
five two-bar units are followed by the last chords, which
emphatically confirm the minor-key ending. Perhaps
tellingly, these final chords are played over five bars.
5:22--END OF PIECE [262 mm.]
END OF SET
BRAHMS LISTENING GUIDES HOME