CLARINET (OR VIOLA) SONATA NO. 1 in
F MINOR, OP. 120, NO. 1
Recordings: Richard Stolzman, clarinet and Richard Goode,
piano [RCA Victor Gold Seal 60036-2-RG]; Pinchas Zuckerman,
viola and Daniel Barenboim, piano [DG 437 248-2]
Published 1895 (with
Op. 120, No. 2)
The clarinet was
the inspiration for the last four chamber works composed in
the 1890s, and the two sonatas of Op. 120 complete this
group. They are the last pieces of chamber music and the
last multi-movement instrumental works composed by
Brahms. Like the Quintet and the Trio, they were written
for Richard Mühlfeld, the Meiningen clarinettist whose
beautiful playing inspired Brahms to come out of
retirement. Having tried combining the clarinet with
both a piano and a mediating string instrument in the Trio and
with strings alone in the Quintet, the natural consequence was
to combine it with piano alone. In so doing, he created
the earliest clarinet sonatas of any real significance,
standards for the instrument to this day. At the time of
their publication, they were also specified for the viola, and
they have always been mainstays of that instrument’s sparse
repertoire. The viola can reach a step lower than the
clarinet, and many of the changes between the clarinet and
viola parts are to exploit the string instrument’s lowest
notes or to avoid its rather strained high register.
Some of the changes result in problems with voice leading and
balance, however, and Brahms’s role in the preparation of the
viola part has been called into question, since most of the
part is in a copyist’s hand with Brahms’s corrections.
Nonetheless, the sonatas do work well with the instrument’s
rich tone, although they are really heard to their best
advantage with the clarinet. Brahms also produced
arrangements for violin which involved even more rewriting,
including the piano part. The violin versions are almost
never played. The piano parts of both sonatas are
active, full, and rewarding, with writing similar to that
found in the late piano pieces published right before them.
The first sonata in F minor is a carefully planned
four-movement structure. A dark and atmospheric first
movement is balanced by an exuberant and extroverted
major-key finale. The first movement is a concise, but
thematically rich sonata form, with no less than four
distinct ideas in the exposition and an intense, dramatic
development section. The “sostenuto” coda is a
glorious inspiration. The song-like slow movement and
the rustic Austrian Ländler that serves as an
intermezzo (it is not really a scherzo) are both in the
“relative” major key of A-flat, which has the same key
signature as F minor. Having used the four-flat
signature for these three movements, Brahms feels freed to
turn to the home major key for his rondo finale, something
he had never done in a minor-key chamber work.
In the guide, the clarinet version is used for the full
analysis. An abbreviated, more rudimentary guide is
provided for a recording with viola, with detailed
descriptions of the viola part’s deviations from the
clarinet. The overwhelming majority of these are in the
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut
Lübeck--includes piano score [with clarinet], clarinet
part, and viola part for both Op. 120, No.
1 and Op. 120, No. 2)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke--piano score with
clarinet--Op. 120, No. 1 only)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (Piano score [with clarinet] and viola
part, from a Russian edition, for both Op. 120, No. 1 and
Op. 120, No. 2)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First edition
from Sibley Music Library--violin
arrangement of both Op. 120, No. 1 and Op. 120, No. 2--piano score with violin. NOTE: The violin version
is not considered in this guide.)
Allegro appassionato (Sonata-Allegro form). F MINOR, 3/4
0:00 [m. 1]--The piano, in bare triple octaves,
presents a four-bar introduction that will play a prominent
role later in the movement. Its shape consists of a
series of upward arching figures, a jump up a fourth or
third and then a stepwise descent. The first four
longer notes follow this pattern (and establish the key), as
do the first two three-note groups in a faster rhythm.
The last three-note group reverses the pattern, stepping up
and jumping down. The last bar is a downward whole
step that already introduces a chromatic note, G-flat.
0:08 [m. 5]--Theme 1. The clarinet sings the
wide-ranging, broadly arching theme, which almost has the
character of a melancholy waltz. A short three-note
figure in the third measure of the tune recalls the shape of
the introduction figures. The piano plays bass
arpeggios, which rest on the third beat of each measure, and
a right-hand chord on the second beat of each measure.
Some mild chromatic harmony (such as the note G-flat again)
is introduced. The melody reaches a strong half-close
with a descending triplet.
0:20 [m. 12]--The piano introduces sharp, detached
dotted (long-short) rhythms. These leap up and down
octaves, including harmonies, while the clarinet continues
to spin out its melody. Another half close leads to a
repetition of the initial dotted leaping gesture in the
piano, but that instrument settles down into long
chords. The clarinet reaches far lower than it has
before in a smooth arching line before returning to its
previous figures. The piano bass then takes up the
smooth arching line. Both instruments taper off in a
syncopated line, hesitantly hinting at the “subdominant” key
of B-flat minor.
0:42 [m. 25]--Transition, part 1. The piano
strongly asserts F minor again as it now presents a more
aggressive version of Theme 1 over a bass in triplet
arpeggios. The clarinet trails the piano. After
the first two bars, the theme itself dissolves into the
triplet rhythm. The clarinet also moves to decorative
triplets, including ascending arpeggios, as the piano
continues the theme. At the point where the initial
statement had moved to a half-close, the piano introduces
strong chords that emphasize the “dominant” C harmony.
0:53 [m. 33]--With another triplet figure in octaves,
the piano immediately shifts up a half-step to D-flat.
It returns to the last four bars of the theme, decorated by
clarinet triplets and arpeggios as before, but now more forcefully asserting the key of D-flat
(which was hinted in the previous passage). A cadence
figure with a descending bass arpeggio in the left hand
strongly confirms the key.
1:03 [m. 38]--Transition, part 2. In rich
syncopated chords, the piano presents a new and lyrical idea
in the new key (D-flat major). The clarinet takes over
the main rising gestures of the melody. The tune is
short-lived, however. In its second phrase, the
clarinet takes over the melody entirely while the piano,
still in its full, syncopated chords, becomes quieter.
Then both instruments seem to become lost and trail
off. This entire passage is often labeled as “Theme 2,” but both it and its key are
really too brief to fill that role.
1:31 [m. 53]--Theme 2. The last bars of the
D-flat tune have veered toward the minor. The last key
area of the exposition has been reached (C minor). The
quiet, but agitated theme is built on four short scale
figures in a low register, with a distinctive, halting
dotted rhythm at the end of these figures. The piano,
with an equally agitated accompaniment, carries the theme,
although the clarinet doubles the melody on the first and
third figures, the first in its lowest register. The
whole four-bar sequence is then repeated an octave higher
with the clarinet taking the melody and the piano moving to
breathless arpeggios with the hands in contrary
motion. The piano returns to its original pitch level
for the last figure, a descending line.
1:45 [m. 61]--At the end of the last gesture on the
second statement of the theme, the clarinet enters with a
shrill descending imitation of the figure. The piano
moves to large chords while the clarinet circles down and
back up in swirling arpeggios after holding longer,
full-measure notes. The piano chords expand the
figures of the theme, retaining the halting dotted rhythm at
its original speed. The first three figures are given
with the sweeping clarinet arpeggios, then the last
descending piano line is also expanded by one note.
This expanded, seven-bar variation of the theme is closed by
a sharp half-cadence in full piano chords on the dotted
1:58 [m. 68]--The piano begins a powerful pattern of
arpeggios in contrary motion with the right hand moving in
and out and the left hand, spaced widely below, going the
opposite direction. The pattern begins on the second
beat, with a group on each beat. The first right-hand
note of each group forms a stepwise descending line, which
is imitated (in canon) two beats later by the clarinet, so
the clarinet begins its line on the downbeat. There
are two descents of five notes, each beginning a step
lower. The piano begins its second descent on a
downbeat. As the clarinet completes its imitation of
the second descent, the piano plays two sharp chords that
suddenly avert a full cadence in C minor.
2:05 [m. 72]--The volume suddenly becomes
softer. It is now the clarinet’s turn to lead an
imitation in canon. It plays a series of “sighing”
broken thirds, moving steadily downward by step, beginning
on the second beat. There are two five-step descents,
the second one beginning after a downward leap of a
fifth. The piano left hand plays rapid upward
arpeggios against these. Its right hand imitates the
broken thirds two beats later, beginning on the
downbeat. After the clarinet completes its second
pattern, the left hand pauses its arpeggios. The right
hand and the clarinet then also pause for a beat, during
which the left hand plays an arpeggio. This
alternation continues twice more as the volume further
diminishes. The piano right hand completes its
imitation while the clarinet leaps down for two more thirds
that are not imitated, as if beginning another descent,
reaching to its lowest notes. The last figure from the
right hand and the clarinet is not followed by a left hand
arpeggio, and there is a complete pause on the last upbeat.
2:14 [m. 77]--Closing section. After the pause,
the piano plays a forcefully surging upward line in full
harmonies, with its left hand leaping down to very low
octaves. This is followed by a rapid descending
arpeggio from the clarinet, beginning very high and pausing
on the second beat. This pause is supported by
cross-rhythm chords in the piano right hand and rolled
chords in the left. A cadence gesture is followed by
another upward piano surge, but this time it reaches further
with intensified harmonies. After three quick
descending clarinet figures, the piano right hand repeats
the original clarinet descent, now from an even higher level
(up a fourth), with a treacherous leap, accompanied by thick
rolled chords in the left hand.
2:30 [m. 86]--The clarinet immediately follows the
piano with the descent from the heights while the piano
continues to play thick chords. Then both instruments
finally settle down to a full cadence in C minor, which is
reiterated with the piano bass on the downbeat and the right
hand, with clarinet, on the second beat. The volume
rapidly diminishes over this cadence, and the exposition
comes to a full close, piano, complete with a soft
double bar line.
2:40 [m. 90]--The bass C in the piano is used to
pivot to A-flat major (related major key to the home key of
F minor). There, the lyrical idea originally presented
in D-flat (indicated as Transition Part 2) is given at a
lower pitch and provided with dreamy extensions. Both
the clarinet responses and the piano bass are decorated with
three-note turn figures derived from the opening piano
introduction. It becomes increasingly warm and
expressive, with low, silky clarinet
tones and the piano returning to the opening gesture of the
introduction, before being abruptly diverted.
3:00 [m. 100]--An A-flat that would have served as a
cadence note is re-spelled as G-sharp and used to divert the
cadence to the unexpected key of E major. There, the
dreamy mood of the lyrical theme, combined with the figures
from the piano introduction, continues. These
three-note figures are passed from the clarinet to the piano
left hand, which climbs up into the tenor register.
Two similar figures with large leaps downward in the left
hand suddenly divert the music yet again, now from E to its
related minor key of C-sharp. These are each followed
by two beats of expectant, ominous silence.
3:31 [m. 116]--In a sudden outburst in C-sharp minor,
the lyrical theme is transformed into a passionate
cry. The clarinet practically wails the first
syncopated notes while the piano, breaking into triplets,
plays the characteristic rising gestures. The piano
texture is thick, with thunderous octaves in the left hand.
3:39 [m. 120]--Theme 2 returns, also in C-sharp
minor, retaining the passionate mood that has just been
established, and played in full harmony. The gestures
of the theme are recognizable, but they now spread across a
wider range. The piano expands the closing dotted
rhythms with rapid descending figures harmonized in thirds
while the clarinet punctuates them. On the last
descending gesture of the theme, the clarinet enters in
imitation, as it had done at 1:45 [m. 61]. This time,
the initial imitation is not in the high, shrill
register. There is now a second imitation with both
instruments jumping to the high level. The clarinet
then drops out and the piano continues, overlapping the last
clarinet figure, repeating its descending line, and moving
steadily downward. The left hand plays marching low
bass octaves. They key moves to F-sharp minor, and the
clarinet enters again as a cadence in that key is
3:57 [m. 130]--At the climax, the piano introduction
returns in F-sharp minor, a half-step higher than the home
key. It is passionate and intense, with harmonies
added to it that create a strong sense of
syncopation. The clarinet plays two
descending, syncopated octaves at the moment of return, then
the piano is left alone to complete the statement.
After the four bars of the introduction, four more are added
as a transition to the reprise and a relaxation of the
passionate climax. The first two simply repeat the
last chords an octave lower and with added clarinet, but the
last two artfully and quietly shift to the home key of F
minor. They have very low triplet arpeggios in the
bass, descending arpeggios in the right hand, and long
4:15 [m. 138]--Theme 1. Both the clarinet and
the piano parts decorate the melody with triplet arpeggios
derived from the repetition at 0:42 [m. 25]. The
triplets in both hands of the piano are far more dynamic
than the previous straight arpeggios in the bass. The
clarinet starts an octave lower than it did in the
exposition, but quickly uses a rapid ascending arpeggio in
triplets to reach the higher octave. The half-close
arrives as expected.
4:28 [m. 145]--The continuation of the theme from
0:20 [m. 12] and the first part of the transition that began
with the repetition of the theme at 0:42 [m. 25] are
conflated into a much shorter transition passage. It
begins with the sharp, detached leaps in a dotted rhythm, as
expected, but the harmony breaks into dissonant “diminished
seventh” chords. The piano plays chords in the rhythm
of the theme, with the left hand continuing the octave leaps
in the dotted rhythm. The clarinet, meanwhile, breaks
into a series of dynamic descending two-note figures.
These diminish in volume and suddenly lead with quiet piano
chords into the lyrical melody, which arrives much earlier
than expected. The passage ends where it began, on the
expectant “dominant” chord in F.
4:44 [m. 153]--Transition theme (Transition part
2). The lyrical melody is presented without change
from its presentation at 1:03 [m. 38] except that it is now
a third higher, in the home major key (F major). The
only change from the otherwise analogous presentation is in
the very last chord, whose direction in the piano is altered
to allow the music to remain in F (but moving back to minor)
instead of shifting down a half-step for Theme 2, as it had
done in the exposition.
5:13 [m. 168]--Theme 2. It is now played in the
home key of F minor, with little alteration except for the
absence of the clarinet in the first four bars. The
clarinet enters with the repetition of the theme against the
breathless piano arpeggios in contrary motion.
5:27 [m. 176]--As at 1:45 [m. 61], the clarinet
imitates the descending figure, but because of the
transposition of the music up from the exposition, it is
brought down to the lower octave (due to the clarinet’s
range), and it is not as shrill. The piano still plays
the large chords that expand the theme’s rhythm. As
the clarinet breaks into the swirling arpeggios, artful
manipulation of them (jumping up instead of down at
strategic points before a fast group of notes--and
vice versa) allows the player to move to the higher octave,
then back to the lower one. As before, the sharp
half-cadence follows the last piano descent.
5:40 [m. 183]--The powerful arpeggios in contrary
motion, with the clarinet entering in canon, follow as
before at 1:58 [m. 68], but Brahms intensifies the rhythm of
the piano part. After the first two arpeggios, which
begin as expected, the clarinet enters in canon with the top
notes, also as expected. But at that point, Brahms
changes the piano arpeggios from four notes to three,
creating a hemiola (cross-rhythm). With four
arpeggios in the measure, the last top note is simply
repeated to preserve the canon. The piano bass, which
previously moved steadily up through both descents, leaps
back down for the second one. The same pattern is used
for the second piano descent, but on the first two
arpeggios, the low bass line of the left hand keeps up the
rhythmic intensity by adding a chromatic ascent in a dotted
rhythm. Because the three-note arpeggios now start on
the upbeat, the second of these creates a very strong
syncopation across the bar line. The clarinet
“ignores” these rhythmic games in the piano. The
closing chords restore order.
5:48 [m. 187]--Here, the pattern of imitation between
the “sighing” broken thirds of the clarinet and the piano
right hand, with bass arpeggios, is largely retained from
2:05 [m. 72]. The pauses and diminishing volume, in
anticipation of the closing section, follow as before.
Because of the higher key, the clarinet does not reach down
to its very lowest notes as it had before.
5:56 [m. 192]--Closing section. It begins as at
2:14 [m. 77] with the piano surge, but again, the higher key
requires the following clarinet descent to be in the lower
octave. After the second piano surge and
intensification, the descending arpeggios are
redistributed. The piano right hand takes the last of
the three quick clarinet descents, and then the clarinet
spares the piano its treacherous leap by taking the original
descent (again a fourth higher) with the pause on the second
beat. The left hand retains its thick rolled
chords. The clarinet leaps to a higher register for
the following cadence gesture.
6:12 [m. 201]--In another reversal, the piano begins
the last descent from the heights, but the clarinet quickly
takes over on the second beat, replacing the expected pause
and syncopation with a continuation of the descending
line. Instead of diminishing and settling to a
cadence, as happened at the end of the exposition after 2:30
[m. 86], the piano follows the clarinet descent with a stark
transformation of the first notes from the main theme.
Over four bars, low octaves on the first beat are followed
by full chords on the second. The top notes of these
chords outline the first three notes of the theme, shifting
down an octave for the third of these, which is preceded by
a single low F instead of an octave and harmonized by a bare
open fifth. The volume rapidly diminishes. The
fourth bar is a repetition of the third, replacing the
hollow fifth with the full F-minor chord. An inner
voice in these last two bars repeats the first two notes of
6:22 [m. 206]--The clarinet mournfully sings out the
main theme, an octave lower than its first appearance.
Unexpectedly, it is altered to make a hopeful shift to
major. The piano maintains the pattern of the previous
bars, with the throbbing low F on the first beat of each bar
followed by an octave or chord on the second beat.
After the fourth bar of the theme, the clarinet soars upward
in a triplet arpeggio. This leads to an elaboration in
B-flat minor of the triplet figures from the repeated
appearances of the theme. These are passed between the
piano and clarinet in an improvisatory manner.
6:40 [m. 214]--As the triplets shift back to F minor,
Brahms marks the remainder of the movement “Sostenuto ed
espressivo.” The triplets are now spun into a
melancholy reverie with evocative, strumming rolled chords
in the piano. As the phrase reaches a cadence,
straight rhythms are introduced, with the instruments
alternating and playing straight duple rhythms against the
triplets (two against three).
6:57 [m. 219]--The first “sostenuto” phrase elides
into a varied repetition at the cadence. The clarinet
first delays its figures, then expands and intensifies them,
building to the last climax of the movement, where the duple
patterns, also delayed and without as much two-against-three
playing, return. The clarinet breaks off on a
descending line, which the piano haltingly continues,
avoiding a cadence and re-introducing the triplets in the
bass while settling back down. It is similar to the
end of Theme 2. The phrase, now a full eight bars,
ends on a highly expectant “dominant” harmony and a tolling
low C in the piano bass.
7:25 [m. 227]--A version of the four-bar introduction
provides the material for the closing bars. The piano
states it first in low octaves punctuated by a higher
tolling C. It is recast so that it begins on F and the
opening leap is a fifth, pulling down toward the home
keynote. After two bars, marked sotto voce,
the piano plays two low, reinforced open fifths, F--C.
7:38 [m. 231]--Now the clarinet plays the first two
bars of the introduction on their original pitches, ending
with long reiterations of the note C. Under this, the
piano chords make a definitive shift from F minor to F
major, which is outlined in a long arpeggio moving from the
low bass up to the final chord. This widely spaced
F-major chord is closed by a leap down to a final low F in
the left hand.
8:06--END OF MOVEMENT [236
2nd Movement: Andante un
poco Adagio (Ternary form with varied return). A-FLAT
MAJOR, 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--The clarinet presents the highly lyrical,
but somewhat forceful theme while the piano accompanies with
slow descending patterns that make wide leaps down from the
tenor register to low bass notes. Brahms directs that
the notes of these descents are to be sustained through the
bar. The clarinet theme itself is characterized by
gentle turning figures. Chromatic notes are quickly
0:16 [m. 5]--The clarinet introduces wide leaps while
the piano moves away from the slow descents. The piano
becomes gradually more active, with bass notes off the
beat. The clarinet, in an expressive line, veers toward
a cadence in the “dominant” key of E-flat, which is delayed by
the piano with a “deceptive” cadence that imitates the
clarinet figure. The clarinet then completes the E-flat
cadence, but an ascending arpeggio moves directly back home to
A-flat and the opening melody.
0:47 [m. 13]--The opening melody returns, but it is now
marked dolce as opposed to the stronger first
presentation. The first three bars are as in the first
statement, but the fourth bar reaches higher in the clarinet,
avoiding a motion away from the home key. The piano
harmony is also changed in that bar.
1:03 [m. 17]--Instead of the wide leaps heard at 0:16
[m. 5], the clarinet steadily works upward, but in a similar
rhythm. The piano line is more urgent, introducing an
active inner voice. The expressive line is abbreviated,
and the clarinet moves directly to the cadence figure, which
is now forceful, excited, and in the home key. The piano
diverts it with the “deceptive” imitation, as before, but the
clarinet restores order and reaches a lower, full cadence as
the music rapidly settles down. A reiteration of the
clarinet’s last note is supported by a new chord in the piano,
the “dominant” of D-flat, the key in which the B
section will begin.
B Section--D-flat major
1:28 [m. 23]--The piano begins a gentle, lilting
pattern of arpeggios whose leaps up on the fourth notes of
four-note groups suggest a dotted rhythm. This is
confirmed by the rhythm in the left hand. In the second
bar of this first pattern in D-flat, the clarinet adds a
descending figure, also in a dotted rhythm. The entire
two-bar sequence is then shifted down a whole step, to C-flat
major, and played at an even quieter level.
1:44 [m. 27]--Under a sustained D-flat in the clarinet,
the piano plays chromatic arpeggios with a slowly moving
bass. These, and the following clarinet line, build
slightly and lead back to D-flat, initially in its minor
version (notated as C-sharp minor in the piano). The
passage is extremely colorful and evocative. A cadence
in C-sharp (D-flat) minor is averted by a resumption of the
initial lilting arpeggios in major.
1:58 [m. 31]--The lilting arpeggios are now transferred
to the clarinet. The direction is changed on the first
beat, and it begins with a rest, but the pattern is still
recognizable. The piano adds a series of descents
between two-note harmonies. These descents in the right
hand dovetail with isolated downward leaps in the left
hand. As before, the whole pattern is repeated in
C-flat, but both instruments also leap down an octave, adding
to the evocative sense of mystery.
2:12 [m. 35]--A pattern similar to that at 1:44 [m.27]
begins. The piano arpeggios with the slow-moving bass
are very similar, as is the sustained clarinet D-flat
(beginning a beat later) and the patterns that follow.
Instead of moving to D-flat/C-sharp minor, however, the music
almost immediately shifts to that key’s “relative” major, E
major (Brahms even changes the key signature in the piano for
the first time in the movement). The patterns in both
instruments are extended another two bars to confirm the
arrival of this unexpected key.
2:32 [m. 41]--A cadence in E major is interrupted by
the unexpected appearance of the main theme from the A
section in that key. It is played by the piano for the
first time, in a high register, with the clarinet taking over
the wide descents initially heard against the theme.
After the first two bars, the theme is dramatically diverted
in direction and harmony. Triplet (sextuplet) rhythms
are introduced, as are “diminished” harmonies. The
winding triplets in the piano become move and more nebulous.
2:48 [m. 45]--The nebulous harmonies emerge into
another statement of the main theme of the A section
in the piano, this time a major third lower, in C major.
The piano shifts down an additional octave, lower than the
initial presentation of the theme in A-flat in the A
section. The clarinet is completely absent this time,
the wide descents being simplified and moved entirely to the
left hand. In the third bar, a similar diversion with
triplet rhythms and diminished harmonies occurs, leading to a
similar abrupt shift down a major third.
3:04 [m. 49]--The shift down a major third from C major
means that the music has artfully arrived back at the home key
of A-flat major. The clarinet is transposed down an
octave for the entire first statement of the main theme.
The first four bars are expressive and quiet, as at 0:47 [m.
13] rather than the opening. The melody and harmony,
however, match the opening except for the lower octave.
The piano, instead of the long, slow descents, is given more
decorative descending arpeggios in triplet rhythm, omitting
the first note of the first beat of the bar, and punctuated on
the second beat by the same low notes.
3:20 [m. 53]--The continuation of the clarinet line is
as at 0:16 [m. 5], with the motion toward E-flat, but still an
octave lower. The piano continues to move in triplet
arpeggios against the familiar bass, but these introduce more
syncopation. At the “deceptive” cadence, the right hand
moves away from the arpeggios to imitate the clarinet line,
which has now moved to the instrument’s lowest notes.
The left hand still plays two triplet arpeggios against
this. At the two bars with the cadence and the rapid
motion back to A-flat, the clarinet moves back to the original
higher octave and the piano plays its original notes.
3:52 [m. 61]--For the second statement, the clarinet
remains in the original higher octave and matches the
statement at 0:47 [m. 13]. The piano arpeggios, still in
triplets beginning off the beat, are now played by both hands
in contrary motion rather than in single descents split
between the hands as at 3:04 [m. 49].
4:07 [m. 65]--The clarinet line matches that at 1:03
[m. 17], still becoming excited and reaching a climax before
the “deceptive” cadence. The triplet arpeggios in
contrary motion continue in the piano until the climax, where
the right hand continues to play the triplets while the left
moves to solid bass notes. The right hand again takes up
the imitation at the “deceptive” cadence, playing it against a
couple more triplet arpeggios in the left hand. In the
last two bars, the piano moves back to “straight”
rhythms. At the final cadence, the clarinet line
introduces syncopation and a dotted rhythm, continuing to move
down beyond the cadence note to a low E-flat, introducing the
4:32 [m. 71]--The coda uses the lilting arpeggios
characteristic of the B section, complete with the
clarinet response in dotted rhythm. It begins in A-flat,
but the chromatic note G-flat is prominently introduced.
This suggests both E-flat minor and D-flat major, but the
music does not move to either key. Instead, the
arpeggios build to a forceful climax over two bars,
culminating in a high G-flat and a dissonant descent with
“diminished” harmonies. The clarinet is absent for this
climax and descent.
4:48 [m. 75]--After the piano descent, the clarinet
enters with one last statement of the main theme’s opening in
A-flat. It is played in the original high octave.
At the fourth bar, the melodic line “stalls” on the note C,
sustaining it in three syncopated notes, each a half-beat
longer than the last, until finally moving to A-flat in the
last bar. The piano line here resembles the slow
descents of the opening, but a high octave is placed between a
chord on the first beat and the expected low note (now a
pedal-point A-flat) on the second. These mildly
syncopated high octaves form a four-note chromatic descent
before leaping down an octave against the syncopated
C’s. These C’s in the clarinet stretch this last phrase
to an irregular seven bars. Before this, the entire
movement is built on regular phrases of two, four, or six
bars. In the last two bars, the piano abandons its
pattern, closing with two chords under the final clarinet
motion to A-flat.
5:30--END OF MOVEMENT [81 mm.]
3rd Movement: Allegretto
grazioso (Ternary form resembling a scherzo and
trio). A-FLAT MAJOR, 3/4 time.
A Section (“Scherzo”)
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1. The melody and its
accompaniment begin on an upbeat. Although gentle, the
rhythm, with long notes on the downbeats followed by
three-note upbeats, suggests the Austrian “Ländler,” a
waltz-like peasant dance. In the third and fourth bars,
the piano right hand subtly imitates the rhythm of the
clarinet. The first phrase is not in A-flat, but is set
rather emphatically in the “dominant” key of E-flat. The
shift to A-flat begins in the second bar of the second phrase,
which closes with a “plagal” cadence.
0:12 [m. 9]--Part 1, varied repeat. The melody is
transferred to the piano right hand, leaving the clarinet to
decorate it with three-note groups and other figures both on
and off the downbeats. The harmony, moving from E-flat
to A-flat, is as in the first statement.
0:23 [m. 17]--Part 2. The mood suddenly becomes
more boisterous. The Ländler rhythm
continues. In the first phrase, the clarinet blasts it
out in its lowest register, with full and rich piano
accompaniment. A second phrase begins as if moving the
first one up an octave, but the clarinet figures diverge in
the third measure, stalling on an upward moving line.
Meanwhile, the piano shifts the harmony to D-flat.
0:34 [m. 25]--The piano takes over the clarinet figures
in four transitional bars. The clarinet plays a two-note
descent for the first two, then the piano also takes that over
alone in the last two, with syncopation in the left
hand. These last piano chords shift from D-flat to
E-flat for the resumption of the main melody.
0:40 [m. 29]--The melody from Part 1 returns, along
with its gentle mood. For the first phrase in E-flat,
the piano plays the melody. The clarinet accompanies
with more elaborate figures than it had at 0:12 [m. 9].
The second phrase, which still makes the familiar shift to
A-flat, is completely transformed. The clarinet spins
its first two measures out into full six-note groups, and the
piano follows suit in the accompaniment. The last two
measures still contain the “plagal” cadence, but the clarinet
changes the direction of its lines to make them more
questioning. These last two bars are repeated with the
clarinet an octave lower and the piano right hand an octave
0:54 [m. 39]--A small “codetta” is added. The
clarinet begins by spinning its last figures upward for two
bars without the piano. The piano then enters with
soothing chordal descents as the clarinet continues to work
upward. The clarinet finally
reaches a resting point on a high A-flat. It then jumps
down to the lower octave for the final cadence, which is
warmly concluded by a descent in the piano. The last bar
(m. 46a) serves as a “first ending,” with its upbeat beginning
the repeat of Part 2 and suddenly returning to its boisterous
1:05 [m. 17]--Part 2 repeated. Boisterous
variation of the melody, as at 0:23.
1:16 [m. 25]--Transitional passage, as at 0:34.
1:21 [m. 29]--Return and variation of main Part 1
melody, as at 0:40.
1:36 [m. 39]--“Codetta,” as at 0:54. The second
ending (m. 46b) is conclusive.
B section (“Trio”)--F minor
1:49 [m. 47]--Part 1. The piano, marked “molto
dolce,” begins a long descent of two octaves in its left hand,
interrupted by occasional leaps down and back up. The
right hand also descends, but it begins a third higher,
doubled an octave above for a very high sound, and a half-beat
later, creating syncopation across the bar. The
directional imitation is not exact, and the right hand
typically leaps up after the left leaps down. The
clarinet, meanwhile, plays sustained notes with very little
activity in its lowest register. In the last bar, the
piano left hand leaps down, and a full F-minor cadence is
averted. The phrase ends on the “dominant.”
2:01 [m. 55]--Part 1, varied repeat. In the first
four bars, the clarinet drops out. The piano left hand
adds a lower voice that approximates the clarinet notes.
This supersedes some of its downward leaps. The right
hand is unchanged. These bars are marked pianissimo,
quieter than the first statement. The clarinet enters
for the last four bars, and the piano returns to its original
pattern. The last bar is altered in both instruments to
suggest a motion to E-flat major rather than the “dominant” of
2:13 [m. 63]--Part 2. The piano continues its
quasi-imitation between the hands, usually a third apart, but
now closer to the middle of the keyboard and with an added
bass voice. The clarinet now moves into its stronger
middle register and a more soaring line. Part 2 begins
with a shift to A-flat major with many chromatic notes.
It then appears to move back to E-flat with a distinctive,
emphatic four-note gesture in the clarinet which is then more
quietly inverted. The gesture and its inversion are
repeated with altered harmony, and the key moves back to the
home key of the “trio,” F minor. The key is confirmed in
four more forceful bars based on the previous clarinet
gestures, with full chords in the piano.
2:36 [m. 79]--The expressive last phrase is very
similar to Part 1, but with many role reversals and other
changes. The left hand still leads, but now the clarinet
plays along with it. The left hand has a descending line
harmonized in thirds with many notes doubling the clarinet
line. The clarinet plays the line originally played by
the right hand, but on the beat. The right hand, playing
after the beats as before, now plays a line more closely
resembling the original left hand descent, but its leaps
typically follow the direction of the clarinet. The
first six bars follow Part 1 relatively closely, then two
extra bars are inserted before the last two reach a full
F-minor cadence, the clarinet again descending to the low
register and fading away.
2:51 [m. 63]--Part 2 repeated. Soaring phrase in
A-flat and E-flat with motion to F minor, as at 2:13.
3:14 [m. 79]--Closing phrase similar to Part 1, as at
3:28 [m. 89]--Two repeated F’s, spaced two octaves
apart in the tenor and low bass registers, are played in the
piano to more fully close the “trio” section. The first
of these is on the second beat of the bar, creating rhythmic
uncertainty. The second is marked with a fermata,
allowing breathing space before the return of the main
Ländler (A section).
A’ Section (“Scherzo”)
3:34 [m. 91]--Part 1. The repeat of the
Scherzo/Ländler is written out, although the only
difference is a further “variation” on the varied repetition
of Part 1 and the absence of a Part 2 repeat. This first
statement of Part 1 is not changed from the beginning other
than a new marking of “teneramente.”
3:46 [m. 99]--Part 1, varied repeat. As at 0:12
[m. 9], the piano right hand takes the melody. But now
the clarinet is removed from the phrase and the left hand is
much more active, with widely spaced arpeggios.
3:57 [m. 107]--Part 2. All of Part 2 is
essentially the same as its first two statements.
Boisterous variation of the melody, as at 0:23 and 1:05 [m.
4:08 [m. 115]--Transitional passage, as at 0:34 and
1:16 [m. 25].
4:14 [m. 119]--Return and variation of main Part 1
melody, as at 0:40 and 1:21 [m. 29]. Brahms adds
“più dolce sempre” to the last four bars (the closing
bars and their repetition with octave shifts), indicating that
he wishes a greater sense of closure at the end of the
movement than before the “trio” section.
4:28 [m. 129]--Final “codetta,” as at 0:54 and 1:36 [m.
39]. Brahms adds the marking “calando” at the piano
4:48--END OF MOVEMENT [136 mm.]
4th Movement: Vivace (Rondo
form). F MAJOR, Cut time (2/2).
FIRST STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A)
0:00 [m. 1]--Introduction. The piano begins with
three tolling repeated F’s that will serve as a unifying
device for the movement. Under this fanfare-like
gesture, a vigorous accompaniment begins with treacherous
broken octaves in the left hand. The fanfare spins out
into a melody that serves as a call to action. The
clarinet enters with an upbeat flourish as the piano plays its
final chords. This is immediately repeated an octave
lower and at a suddenly quieter level in preparation for the
actual rondo theme.
0:11 [m. 9]--Part 1 (a). The clarinet
presents the grazioso rondo theme, which is
characterized by a cheerful buoyancy and a light touch,
especially in a series of staccato two-note
repetitions. The accompaniment is also smooth, then
light, gliding up the keyboard, then bouncing with the staccato
notes. In the low bass, however, the three repeated F’s
ring out twice as a foundation. The last two bars make a
seamless turn from F major to A minor.
0:21 [m. 17]--Part 2 (b). The piano plays
a downward arching arpeggio in octaves, which emerges into
chords moving from A minor to A major. The clarinet then
takes the same arpeggio a fourth lower, on the “dominant” of
A, doubled an octave lower by the piano left hand. The
clarinet notes played against the following chords artfully
slide back to the rondo theme in F major. They are in
fact a huge expansion of the theme’s opening upbeat over two
0:32 [m. 25]--Part 3 (a’). The first four
measures of the theme are played as before, with the tolling
low F’s. The second phrase diverges, expanding in scope
and in volume. The opening upbeat becomes prominent, and
the last bar of the phrase merges with a return of the tolling
three F’s, now in the clarinet over pure F-major
harmony. The following three-note descent comes directly
from the introduction. The F’s and the descent are
repeated again, with the piano right hand chords shifted down
0:46 [m. 36]--Transition. Most of it is played by
the piano alone, building off the gestures from the
introduction and moving to C major. The last descending
arpeggio is imitated a fourth lower by the clarinet, which
enters at the last minute, quieting things in preparation for
the first contrasting theme (B).
FIRST CONTRASTING THEME (B), C major
0:54 [m. 42]--The theme is based on triplet
motion. Nonetheless, a link to the rondo theme remains,
as the three tolling repeated notes again establish themselves
in the bass, now transposed from F to C. The right hand
of the piano, in the tenor register above the tolling C’s,
presents the theme, which is in broad triplet rhythm and
consistently harmonized in warm, rich sixths. The
clarinet adds leaps up two octaves, also in triplet
1:00 [m. 46]--The second phrase
shifts the first up an octave, and the clarinet adds a harmony
a third above it, an octave above its lower sixths. The
two octave leaps move to the piano bass. The last bar of
the phrase is altered. The sixths contract to thirds and
slide down chromatically. The clarinet then takes over
the melody, repeating the top piano notes of the previous bar,
a repetition not present in the first phrase.
1:06 [m. 50]--The altered ending of the previous phrase
leads to a new, soaring line in the clarinet, still in the
broad triplet rhythm. A two-bar unit is repeated a step
higher. The piano takes on a rocking motion, also still
1:12 [m. 54]--The triplet rhythm is suddenly broken by
a light variation of the previous soaring phrase, the clarinet
directly imitating the piano right hand in straight eighth
notes, but with the opposite octave shifts, the clarinet
shifting down after the piano shifts up and vice versa.
The left hand plays isolated rolled chords. After this
variation, strong chords in the piano, their top line imitated
a bar later by the clarinet, lead into the re-transition,
pausing with a sustained chord on the “dominant” of C major.
1:23 [m. 62]--Re-transition. The clarinet plays
the opening repeated-note gesture of the introduction, but on
C instead of F. The piano responds with its own figures
from the accompaniment to the introductory fanfare. The
clarinet then joins these in harmony.
1: 28 [m. 66]--The clarinet plays the three repeated
C’s an octave lower. The piano left hand joins it, but
with a clashing harmony a step lower, on B-flat. This
B-flat announces the move back to F major. The right
hand of the piano begins an excited passage derived from both
the rondo theme and the triplet theme. Two-note
harmonies alternate with higher single notes. These
harmonies begin with sixths, but then include fourths, fifths,
and thirds. The right hand bounces around the keyboard
with this pattern, the left hand adding strong punctuating
chords. After dropping out for five bars, the clarinet
artfully enters with its two upbeat flourishes from the
introduction, the second still quieter and an octave lower, as
the piano settles into the last chords of that introduction,
announcing the return of the rondo theme.
SECOND STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A’)
1:42 [m. 77]--Part 1 (a). As at 0:11 [m.
1:53 [m. 85]--Part 2 (b). As at 0:21 [m.
17], but the clarinet is dropped from the second phrase, and
its top line is taken by the piano right hand, including the
slide back into the main rondo melody. Thus, Part 2 is
now a solo passage for the piano.
2:04 [m. 93]--Part 3 (a’). The first
phrase is subtly varied from 0:32 [m. 25]. In the first
two bars, the parts are reversed so that the piano right hand,
rather than the clarinet, takes the melody. The clarinet
plays the arpeggios previously heard in the piano. The
three low F’s are still there. After these two bars, the
clarinet drops out, and the piano alone plays a variation,
with broken octaves, of the light staccato
passage. The second phrase is as it was before, with the
expansion and intensification, but it comes to a complete
close rather than merging into a return
of the repeated F’s.
2:13 [m. 101]--Transition/Development. The
clarinet again drops out as the piano plays a very
extroverted, fully harmonized variation of the arpeggios from
Part 2 of the theme (b). The left hand now plays
in contrary motion, with wide leaps. The variant is
heard in C major, then a third lower on A major.
2:19 [m. 105]--A major leads to D minor, the related
minor key to the home key of F major. There, the
clarinet enters with the beginning of the rondo theme in a
minor-key transformation. The three repeated notes, low
in the bass, are now on D. After two bars, the clarinet
drops out, and the formerly light, staccato part of the
theme is now played in heavy bass octaves with middle-register
off-beat chords in the right hand.
2:24 [m. 109]--The theme continues in D minor,
harmonized in sixths and thirds with undulations in the
clarinet’s lowest register. After two bars, the theme
begins to trail off with a series of descents in doubled
thirds and sixths. Things become more fragmentary until
a short-long rhythm is passed between the piano and the
clarinet and the volume settles down to a subdued level.
These short-long rhythms anticipate the dotted rhythm of the
second contrasting theme (C).
SECOND CONTRASTING THEME (C), D minor
2:38 [m. 119]--The theme is marked semplice,
and indeed it is simply structured. The main argument is
a long-short dotted rhythm followed by another longer note on
the third beat of the bar. The shorter note is usually a
step higher than the longer ones. The first four-bar
phrase is taken by the piano alone, with left hand chords on
the second and fourth beats. The third and fourth bars
have leaps up a fourth and a third in straight rhythm.
This phrase is answered by the clarinet, which begins lower,
but expands the dotted rhythm with wider leaps of a fifth,
leading to a closing descent. Under the clarinet, the
left hand plays a bass line on the strong beats, with the
right hand taking the harmonies on the second and fourth
2:49 [m. 127]--The two phrases are now varied, with
their presentations reversed. The clarinet takes the
first phrase, adding flowing decorations to the last two
bars. The piano maintains its pattern from the previous
phrase with a bass line on the first and third beats.
Then the second phrase is played by the piano alone, beginning
at the same pitch level as the clarinet did when it played
it. The last two bars of this phrase are also decorated
with more active notes, and they build in volume.
3:01 [m. 135]--A third sequence appears to begin that
is similar to the previous one at 2:49 [m. 127], with the
clarinet beginning, but the piano immediately adds loud
syncopated chords, and at the third bar, the phrase takes a
new turn, the clarinet leaping down an octave and repeating
the first gesture there, suddenly back at the initial quiet
level. The line then moves downward and the key shifts
back to F major. The second phrase never appears, the
first phrase moving into a transition over seven bars.
The last two bars are a wonderfully extended cadence in F
major, with anticipatory pauses after the notes A and G.
FIRST CONTRASTING THEME (B’), F major
3:12 [m. 142]--The presentation of the theme in the
home key is analogous to 0:54 [m. 42], but with the parts
re-arranged. The low tolling F’s (rather than C’s) are
now in the clarinet. The two-octave leaps are in the
piano right hand, and the triplet melody, still harmonized in
sixths, is in the left hand.
3:18 [m. 146]--Analogous to 1:00 [m. 46], with the same
arrangement in the piano—harmonized melody in the right hand,
two-octave leaps in the low bass. The clarinet
harmonization of the melodic line, however, is not
present. Instead, the clarinet leaps up an octave with
the groups of three tolling F’s. At the end of the
phrase, where the clarinet took over the melody before, those
notes are added to the chords of the piano right hand.
3:25 [m. 150]--Analogous to 1:06 [m. 50]. The
soaring line formerly played by the clarinet is now taken by
the piano in octaves. The right hand follows behind the
left, playing off the beats, creating broken octaves and
syncopation. The rocking lines heard before in the piano
are transferred to the clarinet, which also plays in broken
octaves. All lines are still in the triplet rhythm.
3:31 [m. 154]--Analogous to 1:12 [m. 54]. The
variation in straight eighth notes is essentially unchanged,
but the clarinet is absent. All of the imitations and
octave shifts are played by the piano right hand, which must
make rapid, treacherous leaps, while maintaining a light
touch, to accomplish them. The left hand still plays
rolled chords. The section that follows is also similar,
but the clarinet, entering briefly, leads into the strong
piano chords. The passage is also extended by three bars
and intensified, emphasizing syncopated piano chords and
ending with a descent of first-inversion chords in the right
3:42 [m. 163]--Re-transition. Instead of landing
on the “dominant” chord as before, the previous passage
deceptively moves a half-step higher than expected, to a chord
on D-flat. The clarinet plays the tolling motto of three
repeated notes on that pitch, and the piano follows with
rising octaves on it, heavily emphasizing and establishing the
note while greatly diminishing in volume and intensity.
The piano harmonies then confirm the key, and the clarinet
plays the motto notes an octave lower. D-flat is then
re-interpreted as C-sharp and used to pivot to A, where the
clarinet again plays the motto notes. The piano uses
that pitch (as the third of F) to move back home to F at a
very quiet level. This brief diversion far afield from
the home key serves to set up the last, varied return of the
THIRD STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A”)
3:57 [m. 174]--The introductory fanfare suddenly and
triumphantly returns, now blasted out by the clarinet, the
piano now taking only the busy accompaniment.
Unexpectedly, it is expanded and spun out, doubled in length
and culminating in a clarinet arpeggio that seems to divert to
C major. Another two-bar extension, suddenly quieting
down, leads back to an arrival on F and at the theme with a
descending clarinet arpeggio.
4:10 [m. 184]--Part 1 (a). The harmony and
contour of the theme are still recognizable, but its character
is completely changed. The entire first phrase takes on
the character of the light staccato portion, with the
grazioso element completely removed. The right
hand imitates the left an octave higher and after the
beat. The clarinet adds punctuating staccato
notes in its low register. The octave imitation breaks
after two bars. The second phrase is suddenly louder and
based on syncopated chords, again with the right hand
imitating an octave above the left. The clarinet settles
things down with the expected motion to A minor as the staccato
figures, now more isolated, return in the piano.
4:19 [m. 192]--Part 2 (b). Again, the
harmony is recognizable, but the arpeggio element is replaced
by block harmonies, brief upbeat clarinet figures retaining a
bit of the previous character. It begins forcefully, but
quiets down as it becomes more active. A similar pattern
follows with the second phrase. Half-step descents in
the clarinet lead to the same four notes that had expanded the
upbeat and slid back into the rondo theme (Part 3) as heard
before. They provide the strongest link back to theme in
its original form.
4:30 [m. 200]--Part 3 (a’). This last
section, finally, returns to the familiar version of the theme
as heard at 0:32 [m. 25]. The first seven bars are
presented as they were there, including the low tolling F’s
and the exhilarating expansion. There is a sense of
return, relief, closure, and satisfaction.
4:39 [m. 207]--As in the first statement, the cadence
merges into a return of the repeated-note motto in the
clarinet, with chords and arpeggios in the piano. The
first two measures follow the expected pattern, but then the
motto is shifted up to A and the piano figures become more
excited. The passage expands into a brilliant coda based
on the introductory fanfare. Figures from that
introduction are passed between the piano and the
clarinet. A clarinet trill leads to the last flourishes
and chords. The clarinet plays two rising arpeggios in
triplet rhythm before the final clinching chords. These
are punctuated by the three repeated F’s, the last leaping
down an octave to provide an emphatic close.
5:12--END OF MOVEMENT [220 mm.]
END OF SONATA
NOTE: This outline includes all timings from the
recording with viola that correspond to the measure numbers as
given in the guide above for the clarinet recording. It
is abbreviated, mainly pointing out the discrepancies between
the viola and clarinet parts. The piano part is
identical to the clarinet version.
1st Movement: Allegro appassionato
(Sonata-Allegro form). F MINOR, 3/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Piano introduction.
0:09 [m. 5]--Theme 1. For the entire first
phrase, the viola is an octave lower than the clarinet,
creating a somewhat darker sound.
0:20 [m. 12]--In the continuation of theme 1 with the
dotted rhythms in the piano, the viola moves up to the high
octave, matching the clarinet part. The lines reach too
low for the viola to remain an octave lower.
0:42 [m. 25]--Transition, part 1, with triplet rhythms
and arpeggios. The viola again moves to the lower
octave, below where the clarinet plays. Also, the
orientation of the notes in the two ascending arpeggios is
0:53 [m. 33]--In this motion to D-flat, the viola
remains in the lower octave, and the arpeggios are not
changed. Here, advantage is taken of the viola’s low C,
a note the clarinet does not have (lowest note of the B-flat
clarinet is the D a step above it).
1:03 [m. 38]--Transition, part 2. Lyrical theme
in D-flat major. The viola moves back up to the original
high octave used by the clarinet. This is necessary to
accommodate the very low notes at the end.
1:32 [m. 53]--Theme 2 (C minor). In this first
portion of the theme, the clarinet was in its lowest register
at the beginning. The viola thus continues to match the
original clarinet notes.
1:45 [m. 61]--The viola easily transitions to the lower
octave for the imitation, removing the shrill effect of the
clarinet entry here. It also begins with a grace note
still another octave down, a technique typical of string
instruments to add force to a gesture. The rhythm of the
swirling arpeggios in the viola is simplified from that seen
in the clarinet part, and in fact matches that of the
recapitulation, removing the irregular groups of five and
seven on the upbeats in favor of more conventional groups of
six. The register is also closer to the clarinet
recapitulation. The first arpeggio is in the low octave,
the second shoots up to the higher one (matching the
clarinet), and the third again moves to the low octave.
Here, the last arpeggio again takes advantage of the low viola
1:58 [m. 68]--The viola imitations of the top notes of
the piano arpeggios shift back up to the high octave used by
2:05 [m. 72]--In the “sighing” broken thirds, with the
viola leading the imitation, the original register continues
to be used (note that the clarinet reaches its lowest register
at the end of the passage, as does the viola).
2:14 [m. 77]--Closing section. Brahms very
effectively brings the viola down to the lower octave here on
its descents (somewhat matching the clarinet in the
recapitulation). He adds a rolled chord, notated in
grace notes, leading up to the first note of the descent that
pauses on the second beat. This gesture is extremely
typical and idiomatic for string instruments and here, it
begins with the low viola C. In the cadence gesture that
follows, the low octave again allows the viola to take
advantage of its rich low C. This occurs as the piano
begins its second forceful upward surge. The following
viola figures remain in the low octave while the piano makes
its treacherous leap.
2:29 [m. 86]--Again, the viola descent pausing on the
second beat is in the low octave and preceded by a rolled
chord notated in grace notes (and beginning with the low
C). On the second note of m. 87, the viola makes a huge
leap, shifting up to the high octave for the final cadence
notes of the exposition (including the last isolated middle
C’s) and matching the clarinet.
2:37 [m. 90]--Lyrical theme in A-flat major. The
initial viola responses in its first four bars (mm. 92-95) are
an octave lower than the clarinet part. This differs
from the D-flat theme in the exposition, where they were at
the same level. The remaining four bars (mm. 96-99),
already at the low end of the range for both instruments,
obviously match the clarinet version with a much smaller leap
down to the initial low note (E-flat).
2:57 [m. 100]--In this continuation of the lyrical mood
in E major, moving to C-sharp minor, the viola part matches
the clarinet part. This is an extended high range for
the instrument, notated in the treble clef rather than the
alto clef for an unusually long period.
3:27 [m. 116]--Passionate transformation of lyrical
theme in C-sharp minor. The viola remains in the higher
3:34 [m. 120]--Passionate version of Theme 2 in C-sharp
minor. The two viola imitations are both in the lower
octave. The clarinet jumped with the piano to the higher
octave on the second one. Brahms also adds a rolled
chord to the first note of this second imitation in the
viola. The viola entry at the motion to F-sharp minor is
also an octave lower than the clarinet.
3:52 [m. 130]--Climax and return of introduction in
F-sharp minor. The syncopated viola octaves at the
beginning remain in the lower octave, continuing from the
previous passage. The last of these is a low C-sharp,
the other viola note unavailable to the B-flat clarinet
(again, its lowest pitch is the D). In the more subdued
re-transition approaching the recapitulation, the viola notes
match those of the clarinet.
4:08 [m. 138]--Theme 1. Unlike the clarinet,
which here sounded an octave lower than the first
presentation, the viola is in the same register here as it was
there. Of course, this means that it is in the same
octave as the clarinet at this point. Like the clarinet,
the viola uses the ascending triplet arpeggios to move to the
high octave (where it had not been in the exposition).
These triplet arpeggios are altered to reach less high than
they do in the clarinet. Presumably this was done for
ease of execution on the viola, but the alterations avoid the
leaps up to the original thematic notes on the last pitches of
the arpeggios, which is somewhat unfortunate.
4:20 [m. 145]--This is one of the most distinctive
alterations for the viola in the two sonatas. The piano
still has most of the interest, with the dotted rhythms and
dissonant diminished seventh chords, but the dynamic two-note
descents in the clarinet are made even more dramatic for the
viola. The first short figure, consisting of two leaps
down a diminished seventh (minor sixth), is brought down an
octave. After that, the longer lines of two-note
descents are brought back up, but the first note of each is
made into a double stop. The
double stops combine the original clarinet notes for the most
part. The lower note of each figure becomes a “pedal”
note, not in the original clarinet part, but fitting the
harmony (first D, then G). In the second set of double
stops, the pedal G simply brings the already repeated G of the
clarinet down an octave. All of this makes this new,
abbreviated transition more effective on the viola.
4:34 [m. 153]--Transition theme (Transition Part
2). The presentation of the theme in F major remains in
the higher octave in the viola. This was already in the
instrument’s high range on its first presentation in D-flat,
and it now reaches to the highest note thus far (high C) in
the viola part.
5:03 [m. 168]--Theme 2. After the first piano
bars, the viola enters, maintaining the same register as the
5:16 [m. 176]--As in the exposition, the viola adds an
octave grace note to the first entry of the imitation to lend
it strength. Unlike the exposition, the viola in this
passage matches the clarinet, including the arpeggios.
Because of the changes to the viola part from the clarinet
part at the analogous passage of the exposition (at 1:45 [m.
61]), with the shift to the lower octave, the music matches
the exposition more closely here than in the clarinet
version. Only the very last note is shifted down the
octave, with the viola leaping down instead of up.
Presumably this is because the viola is an octave lower in the
5:29 [m. 183]--In the canon with the intensified piano
part, the viola is moved down to the lower octave. The
original register would have brought the viola to an
uncomfortably high level. The instrument has been
unusually high through much of the recapitulation, but perhaps
Brahms felt that this was too high, so he brought it
down. Unfortunately, the lower octave obscures the
5:36 [m. 187]--The low octave is retained for the first
two bars of the imitation on the “sighing” broken thirds, but
it must be shifted up in the third bar, the upward leap in the
descending sequence causing another disruption of the
canon. The jump is necessary because continuing in the
low octave would reach below the range of the viola at the end
of the descent.
5:44 [m. 192]--Closing section. The clarinet was
already lower here than in the exposition, and the viola
matches it, adding a rolled upbeat before the first forceful
descent that pauses on the second beat. This upbeat
consists of the notes one and two octaves below the first G of
the descent. At the point where the viola “saves” the
piano from the treacherous descent (after its second upward
surge), Brahms adds another wrinkle by keeping the viola in
the low octave where the clarinet had gone back to the high
one. Again, this allows the viola to take advantage of
its low C, which it uses at the end of the powerful
descent. This descent is also preceded by a rolled
chord. The cadence gesture that follows remains an
octave lower than the corresponding clarinet part.
5:59 [m. 201]--The last viola descent moves back up to
the high octave of the clarinet, and is preceded by a grace
note an octave below. The piano then makes its
transition to the coda with the dramatic transformation of the
first notes from the main theme.
6:09 [m. 206]--The mournful return of the main theme,
its unexpected transformation to major, and the following
B-flat-minor elaboration of the triplet figures passed between
viola and piano, are all in the same octave register as the
clarinet except for the last three notes of the last triplet
figure. These are changed from B-flat--A--G to G--F--D, which helps transition to the lower
octave, where the viola will play the following “sostenuto”
6:26 [m. 214]--At the melancholy reverie marked
“sostenuto ed espressivo,” Brahms takes advantage of the warm
lower register of the viola by taking its part down an octave
from the clarinet. For this effect, he sacrifices having
the viola play the oft-repeated note C in the same octave as
the piano (as the clarinet does).
6:42 [m. 219]--In the varied repetition, expansion, and
intensification of the “sostenuto” phrase, Brahms uses a
repeated C in the second measure (m. 220) to move the viola
back up to the original higher register with a simple octave
leap. At the climax, the viola again reaches a high C,
its highest note in the movement. It remains in the
original high octave until it breaks off and the piano trails
7:09 [m. 227]--Version of four-bar introduction, sotto
voce, in the piano.
7:20 [m. 231]--The first two bars of the original
introduction and the reiterations of the note C in the viola
remain in the original high octave to close the movement.
7:45--END OF MOVEMENT [236 mm.]
2nd Movement: Andante un poco Adagio (Ternary
form with varied return). A-FLAT MAJOR, 2/4 time.
This movement fits the string instrument sound
and the viola range well, and Brahms did not make any changes
in the viola part from the clarinet part. There are no
changes of register, direction, or rhythm.
0:00 [m. 1]--Main theme, first four bars.
0:17 [m. 5]--Continuation of the main theme with motion
to E-flat and “deceptive” cadence.
0:48 [m. 13]--Restatement of the main theme without
motion to E-flat.
1:03 [m. 17]--Abbreviated continuation of main theme
with full cadence in A-flat.
B Section--D-flat major
1:28 [m. 23]--Lilting arpeggios in D-flat, then C-flat
1:42 [m. 27]--Chromatic arpeggios and motion to
1:54 [m. 31]--Lilting arpeggios in the viola in D-flat,
then in the lower octave in C-flat.
2:08 [m. 35]--Pattern similar to 1:42 [m. 27], with
motion to E major.
2:27 [m. 41]--Main theme in E major in the piano with
descents in the viola. Diversion with triplet rhythm.
2:42 [m. 45]--Main theme in C major in the piano.
Diversion with triplet rhythm.
3:01 [m. 49]--Main theme in lower octave with triplet
arpeggios in the piano.
3:20 [m. 53]--Continuation of main theme in lower
octave, motion to E-flat, then back to A-flat.
3:54 [m. 61]--Statement of main theme in original
octave with piano arpeggios in contrary motion.
4:12 [m. 65]--Abbreviated continuation of main theme
with cadence and syncopated extension.
4:39 [m. 71]--Return of arpeggios from B
section, then dissonant climax in the piano.
4:56 [m. 75]--Final statement of main theme with
syncopated C’s in the viola and high descent of chromatic
octaves in the piano.
5:41--END OF MOVEMENT [81 mm.]
3rd Movement: Allegretto
grazioso (Ternary form resembling a scherzo and
trio). A-FLAT MAJOR, 3/4 time.
A Section (“Scherzo”)
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1. Gentle Ländler
beginning in E-flat, moving to A-flat. Viola plays the
melody in the same octave where the clarinet played it.
0:12 [m. 9]--Part 1, varied repeat. The viola
plays the clarinet figures without changes.
0:22 [m. 17]--Part 2. Boisterous Ländler
melody. The low notes are very suited to the viola.
0:32 [m. 25]--Transitional bars.
0:37 [m. 29]--Return of melody from Part 1. The
viola part in the very first measure (m. 29) is altered from
the clarinet, with an upward arching figure instead of an
ascending one. The second measure of the second phrase
(m. 34) is brought down an octave to prevent an awkward leap
on the viola. A large, but smoother leap brings things
to the original level in the next measure. This is
necessary for the two-bar extension with the shift back down
to retain its effect.
0:49 [m. 39]--“Codetta” with the viola working upward
and then the Ländler coming to a close. First
ending, m. 46a.
1:00 [m. 17]--Part 2 repeated. Boisterous
Ländler melody, as at 0:22.
1:10 [m. 25]--Transitional bars, as at 0:32.
1:15 [m. 29]--Return of melody from Part 1, as at 0:37.
1:27 [m. 39]--“Codetta,” as at 0:49. Second
ending, m. 46b.
B Section (“Trio”)--F minor
1:39 [m. 47]--Part 1. Gentle, long piano descent
with syncopated right hand. The static low notes here
are much more resonant on the viola than on the clarinet,
which has a distinctively hollow tone in its low register.
1:49 [m. 55]--Part 1, varied repeat. Viola absent
for four bars, then re-enters. The last measure moves to
2:01 [m. 63]--Part 2. Soaring phrase in A-flat
and E-flat, then emphatic motion to F minor.
2:22 [m. 79]--Closing phrase similar to Part 1.
Because of the long descent, Brahms does not shift the octave
here, but the viola begins its line very high in its range.
2:35 [m. 63]--Part 2 repeated. Soaring phrase and
motion to F minor, as at 2:01.
2:57 [m. 79]--Closing phrase similar to Part 1, as at
3:11 [m. 89]--Widely spaced low F’s in the piano, the
second with fermata.
A’ Section (“Scherzo”)
3:17 [m. 91]--Part 1, as at the beginning.
3:27 [m. 99]--Part 1, varied repeat. Similar to
0:12 [m. 9], but the piano plays without the viola and with
wide left hand arpeggios.
3:38 [m. 107]--Part 2. Boisterous Ländler
melody, as at 0:22 and 1:00 [m. 17].
3:47 [m. 115]--Transitional bars, as at 0:32 and 1:10
3:53 [m. 119]--Return of melody from Part 1, as at 0:37
and 1:15 [m. 29]. The two alterations from the clarinet
part are still retained here.
4:06 [m. 129]--“Codetta,” as at 0:49 and 1:27 [m. 39],
with “calando” marking at the piano entry.
4:24--END OF MOVEMENT [136 mm.]
4th Movement: Vivace (Rondo form). F MAJOR,
Cut time (2/2).
FIRST STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A)
0:00 [m. 1]--Introduction, with fanfare-like intonation
of three repeated F’s. The viola entries on the upbeat
flourish are both moved down an octave, still with the octave
descent between them. This takes advantage of the
instrument’s low C, unavailable on the clarinet and here
sustained before the beginning of the theme.
0:11 [m. 9]--Part 1 (a). Grazioso
rondo theme with light staccato answer, then motion to
A minor. The viola returns to the original higher
0:21 [m. 17]--Part 2 (b). Arpeggios moving
from A minor back to F minor. The viola follows the
piano and slides back into the theme.
0:32 [m. 25]--Part 3 (a’). Expansion of
the main melody, merging into the tolling F’s and figures from
0:46 [m. 36]--Transition. Mostly played in the
piano and based on material from the introduction. The
viola enters at the end with a descending arpeggio.
FIRST CONTRASTING THEME (B), C major
0:55 [m. 42]--Melody in triplets harmonized in sixths,
with low tolling C’s in the bass. The first two triplet
leaps up two octaves in the viola are moved down an octave
from the clarinet, again taking advantage of the low C.
After these first two bars, the viola moves to the original
1:02 [m. 46]--Melody shifted up an octave, with
two-octave leaps moved to the piano bass. The viola
line, which plays in harmony a third above the piano, remains
in the high octave to keep the same effect, although this is
quite high for an extended passage on the viola. The
copyist wished to transpose it down the octave, but Brahms
corrected it back up.
1:09 [m. 50]--The soaring line in the viola also
remains in the higher octave used by the clarinet.
1:15 [m. 54]--Light variation in straight rhythm, with
imitations and octave shifts between piano and viola.
Then strong chords, also imitated between piano and viola,
leading to a sustained “dominant” chord.
1:28 [m. 62]--Re-transition. Repeated-note figure
on C in the viola, followed by more figures from the
1:33 [m. 66]--Tolling repeated C’s an octave lower on
the viola, followed by excited passage on the piano with
two-note harmonies followed by higher single notes, bouncing
around the keyboard. The viola enters with its upbeat
flourish in preparation for the theme, an octave lower than
the clarinet, as at the beginning.
SECOND STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A’)
1:48 [m. 77]--Part 1 (a). As at 0:11 [m.
1:59 [m. 85]--Part 2 (b). As at 0:21 [m.
17], but the viola does not play in the second phrase, and the
passage is given completely to the piano.
2:11 [m. 93]--Part 3 (a’). Similar to 0:32
[m. 25]. The viola and the piano right hand are reversed
in the first two bars, then the piano takes the staccato
bars alone with broken octaves. The second bar of viola
arpeggios is slightly altered to utilize the low C The
second phrase is as before, but comes to a complete close.
2:21 [m. 101]--Transition/Development.
Extroverted version of Part 2 (b) in the piano, moving
from C major to A major.
2:26 [m. 105]--Viola enters with rondo theme in D
minor. Low tolling repeated notes on D. Light staccato
portion is transformed to heavy bass octaves.
2:31 [m. 109]--Continuation of theme in D minor with
harmonization in thirds and sixths, and viola arpeggios in the
low register. Then trailing off of the theme and
short-long figures passed between viola and piano.
SECOND CONTRASTING THEME (C), D minor
2:47 [m. 119]--Semplice theme with dotted
rhythms, first played by piano alone, then answered by the
viola in the second phrase.
2:59 [m. 127]--Variation and decoration of the two
phrases, with their presentation reversed and the viola
presenting the first phrase.
3:10 [m. 135]--Beginning of third sequence, starting
with viola presentation, converted into seven-bar transition
with loud piano chords, sudden diminishing of volume, and
motion to F major in extended cadence.
FIRST CONTRASTING THEME (B’), F major
3:22 [m. 142]--The parts are re-arranged, with the
viola playing low tolling F’s and the piano right hand playing
the leaps up two octaves. Analogous to 0:55 [m. 42].
3:29 [m. 146]--Analogous to 1:02 [m. 46], with the
viola playing the groups of three tolling F’s an octave
3:36 [m. 150]--Analogous to 1:09 [m. 50]. The
piano plays the soaring line in broken octaves while the viola
plays rocking figures, also in broken octaves and triplet
3:43 [m. 154]--Analogous to 1:15 [m. 54]. The
piano takes all of the variation in straight rhythm with a
light touch. The viola briefly enters in the passage
that follows, which extends and intensifies the strong chords,
leading to the descent of first-inversion chords.
3:55 [m. 163]--Re-transition. Diversion to
D-flat, with viola playing the three motto notes on that
pitch, then pivot to A and back to F as the volume greatly
THIRD STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A”)
4:14 [m. 174]--Introductory fanfare appears
triumphantly in the viola, is extended with diversion to C
major, then settles back down in F major in preparation for
the varied rondo theme.
4:26 [m. 184]--Part 1 (a). Variation of
melody with light staccato character being applied to
the whole first phrase. Then heavy syncopated piano
chords in imitation between the hands. Viola settles
music back down in the expected motion to A minor.
4:37 [m. 192]--Part 2 (b). Arpeggios
replaced by block harmonies. At the end, the viola
slides into Part 3 with the familiar extended upbeat notes,
the piano also returning to the original form of the theme.
4:49 [m. 200]--Part 3 (a’). Familiar
version of the theme as heard at 0:32 [m. 25], up to the point
where the cadence merges into the return of the repeated note
4:58 [m. 207]--The repeated note motto expands into a
brilliant coda based on the introduction material. The
viola trill and arpeggios are as in the clarinet version, as
are the final notes and downward octave leap.
5:30--END OF MOVEMENT [220 mm.]
END OF SONATA
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