Recording: Verdi Quartet (Susanne Rabenschlag, 1st Violin; Johannes Hehrmann, 2nd violin; Karin Wolf, viola; Zoltan Paulich, cello) with Hermann Voss, 2nd Viola; Peter Buck, 2nd cello [Hänssler 98.539]
Published 1862.

Brahms regarded the string quartet as a hallowed genre, and treated it with the same reverence he famously held for the symphony.  In his first works for strings without piano, he added “extra” instruments to the quartet to get a sense of writing for strings while having two more instruments to aid him with harmony and texture.  The advantage of this is seen at the outset of the first sextet, when the first cello presents the opening theme against the bass provided by the second cello, something that would be impossible in a quartet.  The pair of violas often plays in parallel harmony, creating another sound that cannot be heard in a quartet.  In a sense, Brahms was conceding that it was easier to write for more instruments to “get his feet wet” before attempting the leaner and more “hallowed” genre of the quartet, for which he claimed to have made over 20 abortive attempts.  The first of the two sextets is an excellent product of the youthful Brahms and technically, the earliest of his chamber works that is played with any regularity (the original version of the Op. 8 Trio being rarely heard today).  He still uses a traditional Beethovenian scherzo movement here (in third position), something he would largely abandon later on (but, as he would do later, he sets it in a contrasting key).  The outer movements, while extremely expansive, have very clear-cut classical forms.  Both are sunny, melodious movements in an almost “pastoral” vein.  There are parallels between them, as both begin with the cello presenting the principal theme, and both end with prominent plucked (pizzicato) parts.  The second movement is perhaps the most famous.  It is a noble, if quite square Theme and Variations that boasts an especially exquisite coda.  The variations are structurally strict, but diverse transformations.  This movement exists in an often-played version for solo piano.  Its stern minor key adds a striking contrast to the rest of the Sextet’s brightness.  The character of the work is often compared to that of the two orchestral Serenades (Opp. 11 and 16) with which it is roughly contemporary.

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institute Lübeck--Color)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck--Monochrome)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)

1st Movement: Allegro ma non troppo (Sonata-Allegro form).  B-FLAT MAJOR, 3/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1.  A warm, expressive melody played by the first cello in a swaying triple meter, with the second cello accompanying as a bass.  The first viola plays an undulating background.
0:17 [m. 10]--The violins enter, leading into a second statement of the melody from the first violin and first viola in octaves.  It is more fully scored, with the first cello and second violin playing the undulating background.  The second viola has not yet entered.
0:32 [m. 20]--A new phrase increases the intensity of the theme.  The second viola finally enters, joining the first cello and second violin on syncopated repeated notes as the music makes an unexpected detour to D-flat major.
0:50 [m. 31]--The first violin plays a winding broken-chord line, then, with the first viola, leads the other instruments, who slide upward chromatically (skipping no notes) in thirds, to a gentle cadence in B-flat.
1:09 [m. 43]--Transition.  A fragment of Theme 1 in second violin and second cello, against a syncopated background from second viola, leads to a new element in the first violin.  This is a series of winding, melancholy triplets with active accompaniment from the first viola.  Motion toward F major.
1:23 [m. 51]--Restatement at a higher level of the Theme 1 fragment with syncopated background, followed by winding, melancholy triplets in the first violin.  The accompaniment moves from first viola to second cello, with the bass remaining in the first cello.  The triplets are extended by two bars.  The first violin slows to a “straight” rhythm.  Brahms marks for a slight slowing as the music reaches the new key of A major.
1:41 [m. 61]--Transition Theme.  While this is a new melody, it is in the “wrong” key and another melody in the expected key of F will follow.  This melody is therefore properly labeled as a “transition theme.”  Plucked notes from second viola and second cello punctuate short rising, richly harmonized phrases from the other instruments.  These gentle phrases strive ever higher.  The accompanying instruments play two bowed “bridge“ passages, then the second viola introduces distinctive plucked rising arpeggios.  These arpeggios are then bowed by first cello and second viola as the music moves decisively to F major.
2:18 [m. 85]--Theme 2.  Right at the cadence, the first cello begins the sweeping, exuberant second theme.    Second violin and second viola provide an accompaniment in a clashing triplet rhythm with wide arpeggios.  The second cello provides a steady bass (F major).
2:30 [m. 94]--First violin and first viola take Theme 2.  The first cello joins the accompaniment, but in straight rhythms like the theme.  The theme reaches higher and higher before being suddenly interrupted.
2:42 [m. 103]--A brief moment of disquiet as the violas and first cello pluck an isolated figure from Theme 2 with dissonant, chromatic notes.  These are played against a long held note (then a third) from the first violin and a dissonant, oscillating second violin.  Bowed cellos on the Theme 2 fragment lead to the Closing Theme.
2:48 [m. 107]--Closing Theme.  It is derived from the Theme 2 fragment that was just isolated.  It begins in gentle harmony, with the cellos providing an oscillating line in octaves.  On the second phrase, the violas move away from the melody and provide dovetailing descents in response, which are picked up by the cellos, who play them in rhythm with the theme (F major).
3:00 [m. 115]--The first violin adds a new countermelody with dotted (long-short) rhythm on top of the Theme 2 fragment.  The second violin and first viola begin to play plucked chords.  The music very gradually intensifies.
3:11 [m. 123]--The countermelody is transferred to the second viola and second cello.  The violins now play the dovetailing descending figures.  The first viola continues its plucked chords, now played with the first cello.  The climax is reached, but quickly subsides as the exposition ends with echoes of the countermelody from the second violin and second viola.  A hint at Theme 1 in the second violin and first cello serves as a transition to the repeat.
3:38 [m. 1]--Theme 1 from the first cello, as at the beginning.
3:51 [m. 10]--Violin statement of Theme 1 melody, as at 0:17.
4:07 [m. 20]--New phrase and motion to D-flat major, as at 0:32.
4:24 [m. 31]--Winding line and cadence in B-flat, as at 0:50.
4:43 [m. 43]--Transition with Theme 1 fragment and melancholy triplets, as at 1:09.
4:57 [m. 51]--Continuation of transition at higher level and motion to A major, as at 1:23.
5:15 [m. 61]--Transition Theme in A major, as at 1:41.
5:52 [m. 85]--Theme 2 from the cello in F major, as at 2:18.
6:04 [m. 94]--First violin and viola on Theme 2, as at 2:30.
6:16 [m. 103]--Dissonant moment of disquiet, as at 2:42.
6:22 [m. 107]--Closing Theme derived from Theme 2 fragment, as at 2:48.
6:34 [m. 115]--Countermelody from first violin and slow intensification, as at 3:00.
6:46 [m. 123]--Buildup to climax and end of exposition, as at 3:11.  The hint at Theme 1 in the second violin and first cello now transitions out of the exposition into the development section.
7:12 [m. 141]--The development emerges seamlessly and begins to work with Theme 1 in the key of G minor (relative to the home major key of B-flat).  Fragments of Theme 1 are passed between the first viola and the two violins.  The accompanying instruments are plucked.  An arching figure in shorter notes emerges, leading into the next section.
7:38 [m. 158]--Motion to a new minor key, A minor.  A three-note descending arpeggio beginning on an upbeat is isolated from Theme 1.  It was heard in the previous passage as well.  It is passed between second violin and first cello in alternation.  The two violas in harmony present overlapping, syncopated responses that connect the violin and cello.  The music moves to D minor.  The first violin enters with the arpeggio beginning on the downbeat, creating a rather dense counterpoint at the end of the passage.
8:00 [m. 173]--Forceful development of the triplets from the transition at 1:09 and 4:43 [m. 43] in G minor.  First violin and then first viola play them against a rich and fully scored accompaniment in “straight” rhythm.  Buildup to a huge climax with repeated notes and full scoring for all six instruments.  The two violins play in triplet rhythm.  The violins and cellos suddenly drop out at the top of the climax, leaving the two violas, whose pulsations slow to longer notes, to bring the music back down to a quiet level.
8:29 [m. 192]--Development of the transition theme from 1:41 and 5:15 [m. 61] in E minor.  It is first heard in the violins against the continuing viola pulsation.  It is then played by the first cello.  The cello statement changes key, to D minor.  The two violins and the first cello then play the theme in imitation, leading to a full cadence in D minor.
9:02 [m. 214]--Re-transition, beginning with the D-minor cadence.  Note the highly syncopated bass in the second cello.  Material from Theme 1 is passed between the first cello and the violas.  There is a buildup of intensity as the music moves back to the home key of B-flat.  The syncopation moves up to first cello and second viola.  The violins enter with the Theme 1 material  Then the syncopations are taken by the violins over a huge swelling of volume as the moment of return is approached.
9:34 [m. 234]--Theme 1.  It enters in a new, powerful, and fully scored version.  The lower instruments take the melody while the violins (and second cello) continue the syncopations from the end of the development.
9:48 [m. 243]--The new phrase from 0:32 and 4:07 [m. 20] begins in the violins, with the syncopation moving to the violas and first cello.  It moves in a different direction from before, avoiding the motion to D-flat.  It maintains the power and builds even more, leading to very high notes in the first violin over richly scored accompaniment.
10:09 [m. 257]--The winding broken-chord line from 0:50 and 4:24 [m. 31] begins in the second violin.  The first violin adds high octave doubling on certain two-note figures within the broken-chord line.  As in the exposition, sliding chromatic notes in the violas and cellos are heard as the violins lead to a cadence.  This time, however, the intensity from the beginning of the recapitulation is still maintained, and the cadence is powerful rather than gentle.
10:27 [m. 269]--Transition.  It is very similar to 1:09 and 4:43 [m. 43] in the exposition, but an alteration to the triplet line causes the music to stay at home in B-flat instead of moving toward F.
10:41 [m. 277]--The passage is analogous to 1:23 and 4:57 [m. 51], but the second violin plays a decorated variant of the Theme 1 fragment.  The triplet passage now begins at the same level as the previous one instead of higher.  Other than the fact that the active accompaniment stays in the first viola instead of moving to the cello, the triplets are completely analogous, with their extension and slowing.  Because of the alteration from before, the new arrival key is D major rather than A major.
10:59 [m. 287]--Transition Theme from 1:41 and 5:15 [m. 61].  The recapitulation is supposed to remain in the home key, but in order to get there, Brahms sets the “extra” transition theme in D major, which has the same relationship to B-flat as A major did to F in the exposition.  It follows the theme from the exposition rather closely, with some important voicing changes.  These include the plucked accompaniment being played only by second cello, and the later, faster rising plucked arpeggio being played by the first viola instead of the second.  Decisive motion back to B-flat and strong arrival.
11:38 [m. 311]--Theme 2, now in the home key.  It is played by the first viola instead of the first cello.  The accompanying instruments are the same as in the exposition at 2:18 and 5:52 [m. 85].
11:51 [m. 320]--Since the first viola had the previous presentation, Brahms now assigns the first cello to double the first violin on the restatement of Theme 2.  The first viola takes the first cello’s previous “straight” accompaniment as heard at 2:30 and 6:04 [m. 94].  Buildup of intensity as the music reaches higher before being interrupted.
12:03 [m. 329]--Moment of disquiet, as at 2:42 and 6:16 [m. 103].  The first viola now harmonizes with the long notes in the first violin, leaving the dissonant plucked figure to the second viola and first cello.
12:10 [m. 333]--Closing theme in the home key, with the same scoring as at 2:48 and 6:22 [m. 107].
12:22 [m. 341]--First violin countermelody, as at 3:00 and 6:34 [m. 115].  Very gradual intensification.  The plucked chords are played by second violin and second (not first) viola, and there are other scoring reassignments.
12:34 [m. 349]--Countermelody transferred to first viola and second cello, similar to 3:11 and 6:46 [m. 123].  Climax and subsequent dissolution/relaxation to end the recapitulation.  Essentially, the viola parts are reversed from the exposition in this passage.
12:55 [m. 363]--The coda begins with a dreamy, lingering passage based on Theme 1.  It is similar to the beginning of the development, but remains in the major key.  The first cello leads, followed by first viola, and the other instruments join in a final swell of intensity and retreat that includes chromatic notes.  The second violin plays an oscillating accompanying, the second cello a long pedal bass note that becomes syncopated during the retreat.  Descending figures lead smoothly into the final passage as the music slows.
13:33 [m. 387]--Brahms marks the slower ending “Poco più Moderato.”  The first viola plays the Closing Theme in pizzicato (plucked strings).  All instruments except the second cello, which holds over its pedal bass note, are now plucked, punctuating the melody with chords.  The first violin takes over from the first viola, and the second cello finally abandons its long bowed note to join the pizzicato.  All remains quiet and gentle through a high-reaching arrival and subsequent confirming cadence gestures.  Then suddenly, the instruments take up their bows for the strong final chords.
14:03--END OF MOVEMENT [398 mm.]

2nd Movement: Andante, ma moderato (Theme and Variations).  D MINOR, 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme, Part 1.  The first viola presents the broad, noble, and somewhat tragic theme.  It begins with an upbeat.  The violins are absent.  The lower instruments have accompanying chords that are steady, strong, and austere.  Note the many florid decorations in the melody.  Part 1 ends on a half-close.
0:24 [m. 9]--Theme, Part 1, Varied Repeat.  The first violin now plays the theme an octave higher, and with the entry of the violins, the accompaniment becomes more rhythmic and full, especially in the first viola, which just gave up the melody to the first violin.  It plays very forceful, rhythmic gestures.
0:45 [m. 17]--Theme, Part 2.  The second phrase of the Theme is again given to the first viola, with the violins dropping out.  The steady accompaniment continues.  Part 2 is somewhat more striving and tense than Part 1.  The cadence is extremely satisfying.  The viola reaches into its very highest register.
1:08 [m. 25]--Theme, Part 2, Varied Repeat.  The second phrase is repeated an octave higher by the first violin.  The accompaniment is again more full and rhythmic.  The cadence is even more satisfying as the violin reaches into its very high register.
1:29 [m. 33]--Variation 1, Part 1.  The first cello begins a broken-chord “deconstruction” of the theme, which is echoed and imitated by higher instruments, who enter from the bottom up.  First viola and second cello play accompaniment from the outset, with the other instruments also taking an accompanying role as the “deconstructed” theme is passed to higher instruments.  At the close, there is a quick downward motion.
1:48 [m. 33]--Variation 1, Part 1 repeated.
2:07 [m. 41]--Variation 1, Part 2.  The second phrase passes the “deconstructed” theme more freely between the instruments in a sort of “arch-like” arrangement.
2:25 [m. 41]--Variation 1, Part 2 repeated.
2:43 [m. 49]--Variation 2, Part 1.  The violins, imitated by the violas, intensely play a new, forceful triplet rhythm.  The second half of the phrase is more gentle and restrained in the violins, who turn to “straight‘ rhythm.  The violas quietly continue the triplet rhythm underneath them, creating a fine example of Brahms’s famous clashing rhythms.  A strong downward cello line in triplets leads to the repeat or to Part 2.
3:01 [m. 49]--Variation 2, Part 1 repeated.
3:20 [m. 57]--Variation 2, Part 2.  The second phrase follows the pattern of the first, with the forceful triplets followed by the more gentle second half and the clashing rhythms.  There is a powerful crescendo at the end, with another strong cello line.
3:38 [m. 57]--Variation 2, Part 2 repeated.
3:57 [m. 65]--Variation 3, Part 1.  The cellos stormily rush up and down.  The other instruments respond with short two-note figures.  There is a buildup in the second half as the cellos play a sequence of rising scales.  At the end, the violins and violas play rushing, descending scales to close off the phrase.
4:14 [m. 65]--Variation 3, Part 1 repeated.
4:31 [m. 73]--Variation 3, Part 2.  The cellos continue their rapid, stormy, arching scales in octaves.  Slightly longer responses from the other instruments.  The second half has another buildup with rising cello scales.  This time, the violins emphatically play the closing gesture of the theme during the last of them. Descending, decorated scales from violins, then violas end the variation.
4:49 [m. 73]--Variation 3, Part 2 repeated.
5:06 [m. 81]--Variation 4, Part 1.  A dramatic shift to the major key (still on the same keynote, D, as is typical with “modal shifts” in variation movements).  This version of the melody is extremely warm and expressive.  It is played by first violin and first viola with a gently descending accompaniment from second viola and first cello.  The second violin only joins at the very end of the phrase with a low harmonization.
5:26 [m. 89]--Variation 4, Part 1, Varied Repeat.  For the repeat, the first violin takes the melody an octave higher, while the first viola stays at the same level.  This time, the second violin plays the descending accompaniment with the first cello, the second viola taking over the low harmonization at the end.
5:46 [m. 97]--Variation 4, Part 2.  For the second phrase, the music becomes slightly more intense, as in the original theme.  It is also highly chromatic, with a long rising half-step scale.  The second violin and first viola now play the melody.  The first violin is entirely absent for the phrase.  The descending accompaniment is again in second viola and first cello.
6:08 [m. 105]--Variation 4, Part 2, Varied Repeat.  In an intensification, the two violins now play the melody an octave higher than the first statement.  The first viola joins the accompaniment.  Brahms indicates great expressiveness in this phrase.
6:29 [m. 113]--Variation 5, Part 1.  This variation remains in the major key.  After the swell of emotion at the end of the last variation, it is suddenly very quiet.  Both cellos drop out completely.  In a “music box” effect, the first viola plays a variant of the melody in its very highest register over a repeated “pedal point” D.  The violins accompany with short figures, usually descending octaves, also in a very high range.
6:50 [m. 113]--Variation 5, Part 1 repeated.
7:11 [m. 121]--Variation 5, Part 2.  The first viola continues its high melody with the violin responses.  Now the cellos join in with descending plucked punctuations.  In the second half of the phrase, all the four top instruments play in harmony in a lower range, the cellos continuing their short plucked punctuations.
7:34 [m. 121]--Variation 5, Part 2 repeated. 
7:56 [m. 129]--Coda, Part 1.  A full statement, without repeats, of the Theme in its original minor-key form.  It is played by the first cello with light accompaniment.  The violins play short plucked figures as echoes.
8:41 [m. 144]--Coda, Part 2.  As the theme reaches its cadence, the violins begin an extremely gentle and organically emerging extension.  A short phrase derived from the end of the theme is passed twice between violins in harmony and first cello, then the violins play a longer phrase.  The second cello plays a constant, throbbing low D.
8:58 [m. 150]--Coda, Part 2, continued.  The previous sequence is repeated with cello and violins responding to the viola pair, the violas then playing the longer phrase.  The second cello continues its constant low D, moving only during the last viola phrase.  The entire extension mixes major and minor, and the final four closing bars after the last viola phrase move decisively to a warm major-key cadence.
9:34--END OF MOVEMENT [159 mm.]

3rd Movement: Scherzo - Allegro molto; Trio - Animato (Scherzo with Trio).  F MAJOR,  3/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--A rustic and heavy tune with strong accents and trills.  The violins play it in harmony with a steady, wide-ranging bass from plucked cellos in unison.  The violas enter in the third bar with brief rising figures.  These develop into a more active counterpoint at the end of the twelve-bar phrase.  The last half also has a powerful crescendo and key change that propel the phrase to a strong cadence in C major.
0:11 [m. 1]--Part 1 repeated.
0:21 [m. 13]--Part 2.  In a contrasting phrase, the six instruments enter in imitation from top to bottom on the main tune.  The music turns briefly to minor.  There are strong syncopated accents on the third beats of bars, with notes and chords held across bar lines.  After all the instruments have entered, the top lines become more active, leading to a quick descending arpeggio and the return of the main material.
0:31 [m. 25]--Part 2, continued.  A quick return to major and a reprise of Part 1.  The violas play in harmony from the outset, merging into their counterpoint after six bars.  After the first eight bars, the remainder of the phrase is altered and extended using material from the contrasting phrase.  This extension helps to avoid the key change, and the ending, which returns to the Part 1 material, is in the home key after an even more powerful increase of volume.  The last four rising notes are repeated for emphasis.
0:45 [m. 13]--Part 2 repeated.  Reprise of contrasting phrase from 0:21.
0:55 [m. 25]--Reprise of return and extension from 0:31.  The repeated four rising notes merge directly into the Trio.
TRIO - Animato
1:09 [m. 43]--Part 1.   The Trio remains in F major.  It is much more animated and exuberant than the main Scherzo.  It grows out of the punctuating repeated notes at the end of the Scherzo, which are restated an octave lower to lead into the Trio.  The cellos propel things forward with jubilant rising arpeggios as all six instruments play together.  The material is based on a descending scale in a long-short rhythm.  Part 1 is brief, and quickly moves to C major, as the Scherzo had done.
1:15 [m. 43]--Part 1 repeated.
1:22 [m. 53]--Part 2.  The six instruments play an expansion of the opening figure in forceful unison.  The trio material from part 1 is stated and extended in the unexpected and remote key of D-flat.  The extension becomes somewhat contemplative, and culminates in a series of long-short two-note “sigh” figures.  These make a rather striking key change to B-flat major. 
1:36 [m. 73]--Part 1 is restated and varied, beginning on B-flat and ending on F.  The key relationships are analogous to Part 1 itself.  The restatement reaches somewhat higher at its climax than had Part 1, and the violas are more active.  Ending and cadence in F major [to m. 82].
1:42 [m. 53]--Part 2 repeated.  Reprise of unison passage and extended statement in D-flat from 1:22.
1:57 [m. 73]--Reprise of varied restatement of Part 1 beginning on B-flat and ending on F.
2:05 [m. 1]--Part 1, as at 0:00 and 0:11.  No repetition.
2:15 [m. 13]--Part 2, contrasting phrase, as at 0:21 and 0:45.
2:25 [m. 25]--Return and extension, as at 0:31 and 0:55.  The repeated four rising notes lead to the coda.
2:39 [m. 83]--The coda is based on the Trio and is approached in the same way.  It begins with the Trio’s first five bars, then digresses with an elaboration and rising sequence of rhythmic figures derived from the Trio, including a distinctive long-short-short-short rhythm and descending scale fragments.
2:46 [m. 95]--All six instruments come together for a large complete chromatic scale (half-steps, skipping no notes) in unison.  This emerges into a series of rapidly repeated first violin notes with accompanying chords moving like the descending scales from the Trio.  Two final chords end the movement.
2:57--END OF MOVEMENT [106 (+42) mm.]

4th Movement: Rondo - Poco Allegretto e grazioso (Large true Rondo form).  B-FLAT MAJOR, 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--The expansive, sunny, and leisurely Rondo theme is played by the first cello with light accompaniment from the second viola and a plucked bass line from the second cello.  The theme has a regular phrase structure and is completely closed.
0:19 [m. 17]--The theme is passed from the bottom three to the top three instruments, the first violin taking the melody with smooth, somewhat chromatic accompaniment from second violin and first viola.
0:38 [m. 33]--A new phrase, characterized by its two opening repeated chords, which are played by second viola and second cello.  The first cello again takes the melody, which winds expansively and chromatically.
0:47 [m. 41]--Full statement of the Rondo theme from all six instruments, with pizzicato strings in first viola and first cello until the cadence.  There is a swell in volume during the second half, and the first violin varies this part of the melody by striving higher than the original tune at the climax and holding the top note over a bar line.  The volume diminishes at the cadence.
1:05 [m. 57]--Transitional passage moving away from the main Rondo melody.  Some reiterations of the closing cadence lead to a new detached triplet rhythm in the upper three instruments.   This reaches a high point, then a quiet undulating passage moves the music to F major.
1:22 [m. 71]--The contrasting theme begins with a harmonized upward striving figure which is immediately turned upside down by the cellos, then relaxes and dissipates into a series of descending figures (F major).
1: 29 [m. 77]--Another leisurely and expressive melody in the character of the Rondo theme.  It is presented by the first violin and first viola with undulating accompaniment from second viola and first cello.  The second cello holds a long F.  The second violin drops out during this melody.  Motion to C major.
1:42 [m. 89]--Return of the upward striving figure, which immediately steers the music back to F.  It is stated three times with increasing intensity.  The succeeding descent is in longer notes, with pulsations in the cellos.  It settles to a cadence in F major.
1:56 [m. 101]--Statement of the leisurely and expressive melody from the first cello.  It overlaps with the preceding cadence.  The first violin and first viola provide very quiet undulating accompaniment.  The second cello again holds a long F that moves at the end.  The second violin and second viola are both absent during this statement of the melody, which is extended by one bar and moves to the home key of B-flat.
2:11 [m. 114]--Re-transition.  It is based on the upward striving figure, which is presented by the cellos, to whom the violins respond.  This merges into a series of quiet repeated violin notes that then become syncopated.  The other instruments provide a very chromatic accompaniment based on the Rondo theme.  The syncopations briefly oscillate between two notes.  The accompaniment then emerges as Rondo theme fragments passed between the instruments over continued syncopation in the violins.  These nebulous fragments emerge joyously and brilliantly into the Rondo theme itself.
2:38 [m. 138]--Statement of the Rondo theme with full scoring.  The theme is in its original form, without the variations heard at 0:47 [m. 41].
2:56 [m. 154]--The new phrase from 0:38 [m. 33].  The repeated chords are again played by second viola and second cello, the phrase itself by first cello.  The phrase is now extended two bars by echoes in the violins.
3:08 [m. 164]--Full statement of the Rondo melody, including the swell in volume and varied climax with higher notes.  The accompaniment is different throughout.  The first half has a new line in descending arpeggios from the second violin that obscures the rhythm by beginning the arpeggios off the beat.  The second half introduces triplet rhythms in the second violin and second viola, and the pizzicato notes only begin then, later than at 0:47 [m. 41] and 2:38 [m. 138].
3:26 [m. 180]--The violins begins with forceful repeated notes derived from the opening chords of the melody heard at 0:38 [m. 33] and 2:56 [m. 154].  The violas enter with rapidly sweeping accompaniment figures passed between them.  The cellos follow the violins on the forceful repeated notes.  These become more active, with smaller note values, but the longer repeated notes return in powerful octaves.  B-flat major, moving to D minor.
3:39 [m. 192]--A more gentle phrase based on the same material is played in harmony by the violas in E-flat major.  The cellos play a low, throbbing E-flat.  The first cello joins the harmony after five bars, leaving the low E-flat to the second cello.  Halfway through the expressive phrase, the violins join as well, creating a warm, full harmony.  The low E-flat persists in the second cello until the half-close.
3:57 [m. 208]--The forceful material returns in B-flat, overlapping with the previous half-close.  The repeated notes are now led by the violas and the rapidly sweeping accompaniment figures are now passed between the violins.  Motion to G minor instead of D minor.
4:05 [m. 216]--Stormy and passionate development of the forceful material beginning in G minor and quickly moving to C minor.  The rapidly sweeping gestures are passed between the second violin and second viola while the first violin and first viola, followed by the cellos, take the opening repeated notes.  These now sound like hammer blows.  The material builds to an intense climax as the repeated notes evolve into two-note hammering gestures that fall in the upper instruments and rise in the cellos.  This is followed by a rapid subsiding, with the first viola and first cello left alone on the two-note figures.  Motion to A-flat.
4:27 [m. 236]--The gentle phrase from 3:39 [m. 192] returns, now in A-flat major.  It is decorated by occasional triplet rhythms.  The two-note rising figures continue from the previous section in the accompaniment.  The phrase develops into a re-transition as the “sweeping figures” subtly enter in the second violin.  The repeated chords are passed between the first violin and the lower three instruments, the first viola continuing the two-note rising figures.  This material builds to an intense climax.
4:57 [m. 264]--The climax marks the return of the home key.  The music then subsides in preparation for the return of the Rondo theme.  The second viola plays a triplet rhythm.  The cellos play long held notes in octaves, first on B-flat, then on F, which has a very strong pull toward B-flat, increasing the tension, anticipation, and expectation before the return of the long-absent Rondo theme.
5:13 [m. 278]--Rondo theme.  In this statement, the four phrases are separated with alternation.  The second viola is completely absent, and only the first viola plays continuously with a flowing line.  The violins play in the first and third phrases, and the cellos in the second and fourth.  Each pair drops out when the other enters in alternation.
5:31 [m. 294]--Contrasting phrase from 0:38 [m. 33] and 2:56 [m. 154].  It is scored as at 2:56, but the extending echoes are played by the first viola instead of the violins.
5:43 [m. 304]--An unexpected key change sliding a half-step upward heralds a presentation of the Rondo theme in B major from the first cello.  The statement is aborted by echoes from the violins as the theme reaches its distinctive trills.  These echoes, reduced to two-note “sigh” figures over viola syncopations, gently force the music back down to B-flat, where quiet rising figures, the second in triplet rhythm, lead to the next contrasting section.
6:04 [m. 322]--The tune from 1:29 [m. 77] is now heard from the violins in the home key of B-flat.  It is not preceded by the upward striving figures.  The violas provide the undulating accompaniment, while the second cello holds a long B-flat before moving at the end.  The tune changes keys, as it has on its other appearances, moving to F major.
6:18 [m. 334]--The upward striving figures have note been forgotten and are now heard from the four upper instruments, the cellos immediately inverting them.  They lead back to B-flat major with a gentle cadence after three statements.  Their appearance here is analogous to the one at 1:42 [m. 89].
6:31 [m. 346]--Statement of the leisurely melody in B-flat, analogous to the one at 1:56 [m. 101].  The cello plays the melody, the first violin and first viola the undulating accompaniment, while the second cello again holds a long B-flat.
6:46 [m. 359]--Re-transition based on the upward striving figures, as at 2:11 [m. 114].  It follows the course of the previous re-transition, with the nebulous fragments of the Rondo theme and the high syncopated violin notes.  It is extended, however, by a long series of leaps, descending in the first violin, ascending in the second cello.  These are derived from the previous ending and serve to keep the music in the home key.  The syncopations have moved from the violins to the second viola, who alone accompanies the two outer instruments on this extension.  The violin leaps move steadily downward, the cello ones upward.
7:21 [m. 389]--The Rondo theme is now stripped to its essential elements.  The two-note leaps in the previous re-transition carry their character into the Rondo theme.  It is reduced to groups of two harmonized notes (with occasional upbeats), passed between the upper three and the lower three instruments, who alternate in every bar.  The theme is still very recognizable, and the cadence played by the first cello at the end is as it has always been.
7:40 [m. 405]--Contrasting phrase, last heard at 5:31 [m. 294].  The two violins now play the repeated chords.  The cello still has the melody, but plays a variation in triplet rhythm.  The second cello plays plucked bass notes.  The first viola joins the violins, then they speed up the repeated chords over a crescendo.  The ending of the phrase is highly varied, leading to the climactic statement of the Rondo theme.
7:52 [m. 415]--Climactic statement of Rondo theme.  The first cello, its original instrument, plays it.  The second violin, first viola, and second cello play a plucked (pizzicato) accompaniment.  The second viola has an oscillating line in straight rhythm, and the first violin crowns everything with a soaring line in descending triplet figures.  The first viola takes over the melody from the first cello (which harmonizes it) in the second half of the theme, which seems as if it is going to go in the direction of the varied version with higher notes, but avoids the cadence and continues.
8:10 [m. 432]--The extension of the Rondo melody continues and swells to a climax.  Figures similar to the theme’s cadence gesture lead to two more repeated notes held across bar lines.  The first violin now leads the melody.  The descending triplets move to the first viola.  More cadence gestures are played as the music diminishes.  Four two-note descending leaps in the violins (the last two stretched out into a single one in the first violin) settle everything down for the coda.
8:33 [m. 451]--The repeated chords from the contrasting phrase is now plucked in the lower four instruments.  The violins linger on the contrasting phrase itself, playing a variant with several evocative chromatic notes that do not belong to B-flat major.
8:44 [m. 459]--The lower instruments, except for second viola, now bow the repeated chords.  The violins, joined and harmonized by the second viola, play another similar variant of the contrasting theme with plucked strings (pizzicato).
8:56 [m. 468]--Brahms now marks that the music should steadily accelerate with the indication “Animato, poco a poco più.”  The repeated chords become very animated, passed between plucked violins and plucked cellos.  A detached running line in the first viola propels the acceleration.
9:09 [m. 480]--The violins and cellos are now bowed.  The second viola enters, taking over the pizzicato element.  The first viola continues its detached running line.  The repeated chords swell up and down the scale, becoming ever faster.  In the continuing alternation, the second viola joins the cellos, abandoning the plucked notes.  A huge increase in volume leads to the final climax, with the violas coming together in a fast tremolo-like repeated chord.
9:23 [m. 498]--In the final passage, the fast viola tremolo is taken over by the violins, who use it to punctuate the highly exuberant ending chords.
9:48--END OF MOVEMENT [508 mm.]

Arranged from the second movement of the Sextet, Op. 18
Recording: Martin Jones [NI 1788]
Set for Clara Schumann as a friendly greeting on September 13, 1860
Published 1927.

Before the final revisions and publishing of the String Sextet in B-flat, Clara Schumann heard Brahms trying it out.  Especially impressed with the variation movement, she ardently requested that Brahms make a piano arrangement.  He did this, presenting it to her as a birthday greeting in 1860, two years before the Sextet was published.  While the arrangement is performed frequently and Brahms himself seems to have been particularly fond of it, it has attracted negative criticism as a piece of piano music.  In attempting to retain most of the music written for six instruments while transferring it to two hands, Brahms asked for several awkward techniques, including many wide rolled chords and anticipatory bass notes jumping to the upper harmonies.  He also assigned a great deal of harmony to the right hand, asking it to split chords with the left hand under the melody, which makes voicing and projection of the melody itself difficult.  Continuity of inner voices is also made difficult by the many jumps.  The rushing scales in variation 3 are far more effective on cello strings than on piano keys.  In general, the piece demands a performer with very large hands.  If played with sensitivity, the arrangement can be highly effective and virtuosic, although it is certainly inferior to the idiomatic original version for strings, where it also serves as part of a greater whole.

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)

Andante, ma moderato.  D MINOR, 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme, Part 1.  The right hand plays the middle-range melody as well as the top parts of the supporting chords.  The florid decorations from the original are retained.  Part 1 ends on a half close.
0:25 [m. 9]--Theme, Part 1, Varied Repeat.  The melody moves up an octave.  The supporting chords are now all rolled.  Brahms preserves the rhythmic viola gestures, requiring large jumps in both hands to cover the off-beat notes and the top parts of harmonies.  Some bass notes toward the end must be played as anticipations right before the left hand jumps to an inner line.
0:45 [m. 17]--Theme, Part 2.  The second phrase of the theme requires the right hand to reach higher, leaving the left hand to play widely spaced intervals that must be rolled by those with smaller hands.  More “anticipatory” bass notes jumping to the inner line occur near the cadence.
1:06 [m. 25]--Theme, Part 2, Varied Repeat.  Again, the melody moves up an octave and the supporting chords are all rolled.  The rhythmic gestures are maintained, as in the varied repeat of Part 1.  Because of the more upward reaching melody, even larger jumps are required here.
1:27 [m. 33]--Variation 1, Part 1.  The right hand plays the “deconstructed” melody as it moves from the middle register to the upper register, taking the roles of all the instruments to whom it is passed in the original.  The main beats and some off beats are punctuated with rolled chords.  The quick downward motion at the end is passed to the left hand.
1:47 [m. 33]--Variation 1, Part 1 repeated.
2:05 [m. 41]--Variation 1, Part 2.  The more “arch-like” line of the second phrase requires the left hand to participate in some of the “deconstructed” theme, making large leaps.  The climax in the second half of the phrase includes widely-spaced anticipatory bass notes.
2:24 [m. 41]--Variation 1, Part 2 repeated.
2:43 [m. 49]--Variation 2, Part 1.  The forceful triplet rhythm in two-note harmony is passed between the right and left hands.  The latter must leap up from initial downbeat chords.  The pianist’s technique for rapid repeated thirds, sixths, and other intervals is tested here.  In the second half, which is more gentle, the right hand plays the expressive line in “straight” rhythm, while the left hand, playing in the middle register, presents the rapidly repeated chords in triplet rhythm.  More anticipatory bass notes add to the difficulty of the left hand part.  The left hand also plays the heavy descending bass lead-in to the repeat or to Part 2.
3:02 [m. 49]--Variation 2, Part 1 repeated.
3:22 [m. 57]--Variation 2, Part 2.  The triplets continue to be passed between the hands, but now the ones in the right hand include three-note chords.  In the more gentle second half, as in Part 1, the right hand plays the expressive line in “straight” rhythm while the left hand plays the repeated triplet chords.  There is a large crescendo at the end leading to another heavy descending bass lead-in from the left hand.
3:42 [m. 57]--Variation 2, Part 2 repeated.
4:02 [m. 65]--Variation 3, Part 1.  The left hand plays the rushing, arching scales, while the right hand plays two-chord responses.  In the second half, the left hand scales are all ascending, requiring large jumps downward between them.  The right hand joins on the cascading downward passage at the very end.  The original octave doubling between the cellos on these rushing scales is not practical on the piano, and is only preserved at the beginning of each run and at the tops of the arching lines.
4:22 [m. 65]--Variation 3, Part 1 repeated.
4:41 [m. 73]--Variation 3, Part 2.  The left hand continues its rushing, arching scales.  The responding chord passages from the right hand are somewhat longer.  The second half has another buildup with rising scales and large jumps.  The right hand emphatically plays the final cadence gesture from the original theme at the end.  Descending scales in the right hand, then in both hands, end the variation.
5:00 [m. 73]--Variation 3, Part 2 repeated.
5:20 [m. 81]--Variation 4, Part 1.  A dramatic shift to the major key (still on the same keynote, D, as is typical with “modal shifts” in variation movements).  The warm, expressive variation is quite effective on the piano.  The melody must be well voiced above the descending harmonies in the middle voices.  The first statement of the melody is in the middle range.
5:36 [m. 89]--Variation 4, Part 1, Varied Repeat.  The melody moves an octave higher, and is doubled in octaves.  The left hand must take over the upper middle voice, played by the right hand in the first statement of Part 1.  This necessitates anticipatory bass notes that jump to the continuing middle voice lines.
5:54 [m. 97]--Variation 4, Part 2.  Moving back to the middle range, Brahms preserves the octave doubling of the melody in this phrase.  The middle voices are again split between the hands, as in part 1, but because of the octave doubling on the melody, the right hand is much more tricky to execute here.
6:12 [m. 105]--Variation 4, Part 2, Varied Repeat.  This varied repeat includes an intensification.  The melody moves up an octave and is still played with octave doubling.  The middle voices (in octaves) must again be played by the left hand only, requiring anticipatory bass notes, some of them preceding very large jumps.  There is a softening at the very end of the variation.
6:32 [m. 113]--Variation 5, Part 1.  This variation remains in the major key.  After the swell of emotion at the end of the last variation, it is suddenly very quiet.  The right hand moves to the upper middle register to play a variant of the melody and a repeated “pedal point” D in the middle of the piano.  The right hand plays very high two-note responses, usually in thirds descending an octave.  This is a “music box” effect.
6:49 [m. 113]--Variation 5, Part 1 repeated.
7:07 [m. 121]--Variation 5, Part 2.  The high left hand melody continues, as do the right hand responses.  The left hand now jumps down to some punctuating low bass notes (transferred from the cello parts).  In the second half, both hands play oscillating chords together, but moving in opposite directions.  The left hand still jumps for a couple of low bass notes.
7:27 [m. 121]--Variation 5, Part 2 repeated. 
7:48 [m. 129]--Coda, Part 1.  A full statement, without repeats, of the Theme in its original minor-key form.  The right hand moves to the lower middle register to play the theme, while the left hand plays considerably thinner bass harmonies.  The right hand jumps to play the short echoing figures originally taken by the violins.  Most of these have rolled-chord harmonies, imitating plucked strings, and are played very softly.
8:28 [m. 144]--Coda, Part 2.  The right hand plays the entire extension, both the two upper presentations and the lower responses.  The harmonies are mostly in thirds.  The right hand also takes the longer “rounding” phrase after the two statements and responses.  The left hand plays a constant throbbing low D, sometimes rolling it to another one two octaves higher.  At the end, this D is moved up an octave and harmonized in the bass (dropping out for one note in a moving harmony).
8:44 [m. 150]--Coda, Part 2, continued.  The previous sequence is repeated, but the throbbing D is played in to the right hand as well as the left in rolled octaves.  The left hand plays the initial presentations, while both hands play the higher responses in full harmony.  The texture is very full.  The “rounding” phrase is played by the right hand in the middle of a full texture, with the low throbbing left-hand notes moving down to A, then back up to D for the final chords.  The highest right hand notes remain on D with one exception for a moving harmony.  The last chords in the major-key cadence are played by the left hand.
9:38 (including “run-off” time)--END OF PIECE [159 mm.]