PIANO SONATA NO. 2 in F-SHARP
MINOR, OP. 2
Recording: Martin Jones, pianist [NI 1788]
Dedicated “with deep respect” to Clara Schumann.
The F-sharp-minor sonata, Op. 2, is more overtly “romantic” than
the C-major, Op. 1, which follows
classical form more regularly. It was actually composed in
1852, earlier than most of the C-major work, but the young
composer placed the latter at the head of his publications at
Schumann’s recommendation. Op. 2 is a type of “fantasy-sonata” in the
spirit of some of Beethoven’s works, and later of Robert
Schumann’s piano sonatas. Unlike Op. 1,
where the first movement was clearly the most weighty, Brahms
shifts the emphasis here to the finale, which is in a full sonata
form complete with repeat. The first movement, by contrast,
is a concise and tight argument, without a full coda or an
exposition repeat. It contains many passages of overt
virtuosic display that are atypical of the composer, especially
the second theme. The second movement displays a great
similarity to the corresponding variation movement of Op. 1. It is again based on an “old
German love poem,” although Brahms doesn’t explicitly state that
here, and the melody is his own. Again, there are three
variations over the two-part theme, and again, the third is a rich
major-key version. As in Op. 1,
Brahms directs the Scherzo to immediately follow the variations,
and the movements are thematically linked as well. But
whereas in Op. 1, the connection was
only a brief hint at the end of the variations, which came to a
complete close, here the link is more explicit. The
variations tail off without resolution, and the Scherzo is
basically the fourth variation. Brahms thus obscures the
boundaries between the movements. Only with the arrival of
the trio section, which is completely unrelated to the variations,
is the division clear. The finale has a curious slow
introduction and an even stranger (and similar) coda. The passionate themes of the main portion are
highly “Schumannesque,” and
therefore quite derivative. The movement, while the biggest,
is also the weakest. This sonata is generally regarded as
the least impressive of the three, but no other work of the
composer reveals a closer connection to his early-romantic
predecessors, especially Schumann, and the middle movements are
very fine. Some commentators have described it as his most
“un-Brahmsian” work of all, and therein lies much of its interest.
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (Later Simrock Edition from Brahms's time)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf
& Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf
& Härtel Sämtliche Werke,
with handwritten measure numbers)
Allegro non troppo ma energico (Sonata-Allegro form).
F-SHARP MINOR, 3/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme
1. In the passionate, almost violent opening, a full rolled
chord is followed by an angular gesture in octaves from both
hands. This pattern, with another rolled chord, is stated
again a sixth lower. The music then becomes suddenly quiet, and
rumbling tremolo figures
begin in the bass on the “dominant” chord. Against this, the
right hand plays four-note gestures with repeated notes in the
middle. These expand outward, then upward, building
powerfully toward a huge chromatic scale that descends in
octaves. The scale slows and is broken by three successively
wider leaps to the same upper note.
0:19 [m. 9]--The first
rolled chord and angular octaves are restated. The angular
gesture is then expanded. It is harmonized by two sixths,
then completely by thirds in both hands. The last three
notes are then stated twice more in a short-short-long
pattern. The last of these merges into a triplet rhythm,
where these three notes (thirds) are again given twice more before
they break upward and descend in a slower, heavy arpeggio, all
harmonized in thirds. The last thirds are broken by rests in
a stepwise descent to a long pause that includes the anticipatory
0:38 [m. 16]--Transition
passage. It is built on a mysterious and ominous rising
figure in the bass that includes a long-short triplet rhythm on
the last beat of each bar. The figure is passed three times
from the low bass to full chords in the right hand, played in the
middle range of the piano. The bass figure begins to move
upward and be doubled an octave below. The next three bass
statements are punctuated by quiet outbursts of the angular
gesture (now given steady, close harmonies below) from Theme 1.
1:03 [m. 28]--Rather than
alternating with the angular gestures, the rising figure in the
bass now underpins them. Both are now given without octave
doubling. A motion to the “dominant” key of C-sharp is
almost complete. After two angular gestures, the right hand
reaches upward, then meanders down and back up in arpeggios.
This happens over six rising bass figures (the last two of which
omit the upward turn). Both hands slow down. The right
hand plays two low isolated four-note descents against a rising
short-long motion in the low bass. Two isolated bass notes
followed by rests prepare for the stormy entry of Theme 2.
1:26 [m. 40]--Theme
2. The left hand starts by playing angular triplets in
octaves. The right hand responds by making an attempt at a
passionate, arching melody, also in triplet octaves, underpinned
by a pulsating left hand. It then joins the angular left
hand in repeated chords. This happens three times, with the
repeated chords interrupting the right hand’s attempts at
beginning a true melody. The chords and bass octaves always
recede to a quiet level, then build rapidly as the melody tries to
assert itself (C-sharp minor).
1:45 [m. 51]--The
passionate melody finally emerges, and when it does it quickly
quiets down. As hinted, the right hand plays it in octaves,
sometimes filled with harmonies, while the left hand plays
pulsating chords punctuated by bass octaves. Both hands are
in triplet rhythm (implied 9/8 time). Most significantly,
the melody does not arrive in C-sharp minor, but in its relative
major key of E. There are many chromatic notes and
dissonances, so it is not an untroubled major.
1:56 [m. 58]--A second
statement of the passionate melody begins, but now it is more
agitated, an effect brought about by the inclusion of upper
neighboring notes that interrupt the left-hand pulsations.
The second gesture shifts to E minor. After the first two
gestures, there is a sudden and striking harmonic detour to an
unexpected and remote C major. Despite this shift, the
chromatic and dissonant notes persist, and the melody begins to
include fuller harmonies and to powerfully build in
intensity. The climax jumps an octave and slows down, and
completes a motion back to C-sharp minor.
2:14 [m. 69]--At the
climax, the right hand erupts into the repeated chords heard at
the beginning of Theme 2, and the left hand returns to the angular
octaves. Triplet rhythm is still in force. Then both
hands break into two short ascents in octaves. A third
ascent (in isolated straight rhythm!) arches back down over
pulsating left hand chords. A pause is followed by a
strong cadence in C-sharp minor. Two powerful cadence
gestures with heavy syncopation lead to a downward plunge in full
chords from both hands to a low C-sharp octave.
2:31 [m. 80]--Three
descending bass octaves, leading down from the C-sharp, create a
transition to the development section.
2:36 [m. 83]--The
development begins by working with the main figure of Theme 1 (the
music here moves back to straight rhythm). Loud rolled
chords and initial gestures then subside in second gestures of the
main figure. These “second” gestures move to minor.
There are three of these patterns, first in D, then A, then B
major and minor. The left hand plays broken fifths and
sixths under the detached right hand notes on the main
figure. After the statement in B, three quiet arpeggios lead
to A major (relative key to F-sharp minor).
2:51 [m. 92]--Theme 2 is
now given extensive development in A major. The left hand
plays its angular triplet patterns, but they are not in
octaves. The passage is rather quiet and gently
expressive. The material of the right hand is the passionate
3:05 [m. 100]--The
material from Theme 2 begins anew, now at a lower level and with a
two-voice imitative counterpoint. The opening gesture of the
passionate melody begins to be isolated, and the music begins to
steadily build. Rising arpeggios become more
prominent. The harmony moves toward C-sharp minor through
the use of such colorful harmonies as “diminished” chords.
3:19 [m. 108]--Four
interjections of the main figure suddenly erupt, initially
vacillating between A major and C-sharp minor (both are keys
closely related to the home key of F-sharp minor). Then, in
the last two interjections, C-sharp is more firmly established.
3:26 [m. 112]--Re-transition.
material again begins, as if trying to hold off the main figure as
long as possible. The C-sharp reveals itself to be the
preparatory “dominant” chord of the home key, F-sharp (here
implied to be F-sharp major).
High syncopated chords in the right hand begin to interrupt the
Theme 2 material. These build powerfully, leading to a
dramatically plunging arpeggio in octaves split between the
hands. The right hand then turns this around, speeding up
and suddenly breaking off.
3:42 [m. 123]--Theme
1. Its initial statement is altered in significant
ways. After the rapid right-hand ascent, the first chord,
instead of being an F-sharp minor chord, is a dissonant
“diminished seventh.” The angular gestures are altered with
chromatic notes, and the second rolled chord is omitted. The
following rumbling tremolo
in the bass and the four-note figures in the right-hand are also
altered with chromatic notes, and are much more dissonant.
Only with the descending chromatic scale in octaves is order
4:00 [m. 131]--Instead of
being harmonized, as in the exposition, this statement of the main
gesture is given in near-imitation between the hands, the left
hand following and beginning a step higher (with octave
displacement) than the right. A slight shift brings the left
hand back to the same pitch level as the right (but at a lower
octave) in the imitation. The right-hand octaves begin to be
harmonized at this point, but not the left-hand octaves.
4:06 [m. 134]--Suddenly,
the short-short-long patterns from 0:19 [m. 9] emerge, with new
octave doubling. The hands come together on the triplet
rhythm and plunging descent. The three isolated harmonies
are as in the exposition, but the right hand is two octaves
higher. They are now repeated two octaves lower (one octave
in the left hand, which is now very low) before the pause.
These are slightly softer. The long transition from the
exposition is omitted.
4:26 [m. 144]--Theme 2
begins immediately, without a transition, in the home key of
F-sharp minor. It is given as in the exposition at 1:26 [m.
4:44 [m. 155]--The
passionate melody emerges, as at 1:45 [m. 51]. It is now in
the analogous A major.
4:57 [m. 162]--The passage
from 1:56 [m. 58] is presented, with its associated buildup and
agitation. There are, however, some major alterations.
The right hand is played at a lower level than in the
exposition. The pulsations previously in the left hand are
played by the right hand, which intersperses them with its
octaves. The new left hand accompaniment is none other
than the “ominous” bass rising figure from the transition passage
that was omitted in the recapitulation, thus making the
recapitulation more “complete.” The right hand moves to the
level of the exposition at the harmonic detour, now to F
major. At the slowing climax, intensified from the
exposition, the “ominous” figure stops and the pulsations move to
the low bass.
5:15 [m. 173]--The climax
emerges, and at first follows the pattern of 2:14 [m. 69], but the
first four bars with the repeated chords and the short ascents are
repeated a third higher.
5:24 [m. 179]--A large
extension is inserted into the closing material to ratchet up the
intensity. This extension, although it is inserted in the
middle rather than at the end of the closing material, functions
as a coda. It is extremely powerful. Remaining in the
triplet rhythm, the right hand plays bell-like chords that
alternate with single lower notes. The left hand plays the
established angular patterns. Then both hands join in unison
octaves (two octaves apart), playing three series of gradually
descending angular gestures derived from Theme 1. The three
series of gestures are separated by two “deceptive” cadences.
5:40 [m. 191]--Following
the insertion, the closing material from 2:14 [m. 69] resumes with
the heavily syncopated cadence gestures. The insertion has
essentially replaced the brief straight rhythm, descent, and pause
before the strong cadence (which is the point of resumption
here). After the analogous downward plunge to the low octave
(now F-sharp), the movement closes with two sharp chords, then two
more final chords, which are suddenly and unexpectedly
quiet. They are very low, and played with the soft pedal.
6:00--END OF MOVEMENT [198 mm.]
2nd Movement: Andante con
espressione (Small Theme and Variations). B MINOR, 2/4
time, with two 2/8 bars.
0:00 [m. 1]--THEME.
Part 1. Like the corresponding movement of Op. 1, it is based on an old German folk
song, but the melody is Brahms’s own. It is built upon a
call-and-response structure. A bare melody in the left hand
is given responses in thirds from the right hand. These
responses move in contrary motion to the continuing left-hand
motion. After two of these calls and responses, there are
shorter two-note alternations in which the responses (still mostly
in thirds) sound almost like echoes. There is then a closing
left hand phrase with some decoration and lighter off-beat
responses from the right hand, still in thirds.
0:26 [m. 9]--Part 2.
It begins with two more call-and-response sequences, but they are
more harmonically adventurous, moving to D major and G
minor. The rest of the phrase has a more melodic and
decorative left hand with more steady full chord responses in the
right hand. This passage seems to shift first to E-flat
major and then back to D, building from the hushed level. At
the top, in a two-bar extension, the left-hand melody descends,
and there is a deft harmonic motion back to B minor, but the theme
ends on a dissonant half-cadence. The dissonance comes from
an extra note that makes the last chord a so-called “ninth” chord.
1:00 [m. 19]--VARIATION
1. Part 1. A middle voice is added to the original
structure. In it, off-beat repeated notes follow each note
of both call and response and stay steady on the note G. The
bare left hand calls are given a lower octave, and the right hand
responses in thirds are moved up an octave. At the two-note
alternations, both hands are given new harmony. The left
hand actually leaps up to play responses at the original level,
and the right provides upper harmony. Finally, at the
closing phrase, also given new harmony, the off-beat repeated
notes slide up to the keynote B, isolated and expanded to octaves.
1:21 [m. 27]--Part
2. Again, besides the addition of the off-beat notes, which
are now more active, the structure and character of the variation
are changed little. Again, the left hand melody is mostly in
octaves with some added harmonies, and the right hand responses
are an octave higher above the off-beat notes. The right
hand chords in the second half of the phrase now move to after the
beat and take over for the added middle voice. The same
buildup and dissonant half cadence follow with the off-beat
1:54 [m. 37]--VARIATION
2. Part 1. The call-and-response gestures are now
altered and placed against a faster countermelody. Both the
“call” and the response are in the left hand, with the right hand
playing the countermelody. Against the response, the
countermelody is very high and syncopated. Brahms uses
three-staff notation effectively here. The calls, but not
the responses, suggest new harmonic directions, with the faster
countermelody played near the original B-minor pitches and the
lower call itself hinting at D.
2:07 [m. 41]--The two-note
responses are greatly altered, each preceded by a strong
syncopated figure, with the echo effect compressed to one beat at
a higher pitch level. F major and D minor are strongly
suggested. The closing phrase begins strongly and restores B
minor with rolled chords, but it dissipates into a quiet
descending arpeggio in octaves that begins with skipping
syncopation. The descent extends Part 1 by a bar.
2:22 [m. 46]--Part
2. The pattern of Part 1, with three-staff notation,
continues. The same motions to D major and G minor are
preserved, but they are much stronger. The “calls”
completely surrender to the faster melody, while the “responses”
try to hold on a bit longer. The second response rises to a
grand and rather sudden climax. The second half of the
phrase continues the climax, still written on three staves, with
rolled chords. The motion to E-flat major is now very
strong. Imitation is introduced. The motion to D major
is delayed until the two-bar extension, but is also very strong,
with powerfully descending right hand chords over the original
melodic figures from the theme. Two-staff notation returns
in these last two bars.
2:50 [m. 56]--Variation 2
is extended in a powerful interlude. The motion back to B
minor and the half-cadence on the ninth chord are avoided.
Grand syncopated chords in D major alternate with the original
melody in D minor The syncopated chords become dissonant,
and are isolated in two short, disorienting interjections notated
as 2/8 bars. The left hand then begins a strong descent
based on the original melody, still in D minor, with the right
hand playing syncopated broken octaves in triplet rhythm.
Both hands slow down with longer notation, including long
full-measure triplets in the left hand. The left hand
arpeggios transform the dissonant syncopated chords into a
“dominant” harmony leading to F-sharp major.
3:19 [m. 66]--A change at
the end of the left-hand arpeggio helps the expected F-sharp pivot
instead back home to B minor. The syncopated chords enter
again. Brahms notates the tempo as “Largo.” There are
three statements of the syncopated chords punctuated with low bass
octaves on F-sharp. These rapidly diminish in volume.
The third of these lands on F-sharp major, but because B minor has
been heard, F-sharp now functions as its preparatory “dominant”
harmony, where it is suspended on a long pause.
3:41 [m. 68]--VARIATION
3. Part 1. Brahms returns to the main tempo and shifts
to B major for a lush transformation of the theme (a similar
process to that used in Variation 3 of Opus 1’s slow
movement). The variation is also marked “con
molt’agitazione” and “sempre molto sostenuto.” The
“agitation” comes from the rapid shifts between soft and
loud. The “calls” are in the low range, with bass octaves on
the original theme, and soft, while the “responses” are suddenly
louder and higher, without the low bass octaves. Both have a
triplet rhythm on the first beat followed by three two-note
descents. There are biting chromatic notes borrowed from the
3:53 [m. 72]--The two-note
responses are transformed, with the original pattern only heard in
the low bass of the “call.” Against this, the right hand
continues the pattern heard at the beginning of the variation,
with a triplet rhythm followed by a two-note descent. The
responses are again louder and higher. The final phrase
suddenly erupts into joyous full triplet rhythm with syncopation
and rolled chords, but it trails off in a descending arpeggio on a
4:04 [m. 76]--Part
2. The soft-loud pattern of Part 1 continues. The
harmonic motion of these calls and responses is now to D-sharp
minor and G-sharp minor, more easily reached from B major.
The second half of the phrase makes strong reference to the
original, but continues the soft-loud alternation with triplet
rhythms, especially noticeable in the new “responses.” The
“calls” are quiet, but agitated, with fast arpeggios and repeated
chords. Motion is to A major, then back to the “dominant”
chord of the home key. At this high point on the last two
bars, the joyous climax heard at the end of Part 1 returns, but
the triplets are abandoned in favor of an even faster straight
rhythm, still with syncopation and rolled chords.
4:30 [m. 85]--The last
bar, as in Part 1 of the variation, trails off in a descending
arpeggio, but in the fast straight rhythm instead of the
triplets. The arpeggio itself is different from that at the
end of Part 1. Instead of trailing off on the stable home
chord, the chord is the unstable “dominant.” On the last
beat, the arpeggio slows to a triplet. This is the end of
the “variation,” left achingly unresolved. Two transitional
bars are tacked on, using a slow stepwise descent in the low bass
to shift back to B minor. Brahms directs that the scherzo
movement (which can be seen as “Variation 4”) should follow
immediately after a brief pause.
4:42--END OF MOVEMENT [87 mm.]
Scherzo - Allegro; Trio - Poco più moderato (Scherzo with Trio;
also continuation of Variations). B MINOR, 6/8 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1.
It is quite obviously related to the theme of the preceding
variations, and the entire scherzo section can be seen as
“Variation 4.” The opening call-and-response is simply
transferred to the 6/8 meter. The calls are played in
octaves, the responses in much higher harmonies. They are
fast, but light and secretive. The second half of the first
scherzo strain transforms the descents and closing phrase,
erupting into a powerful, thumping rhythm with increasing harmony
and pitch. It reaches a full cadence.
0:10 [m. 1]--Part 1
0:21 [m. 9]--Part 2.
The opening calls and responses correspond with Part 2 of the
variation theme, including pitches and harmonies. Again,
they are light and secretive. The remaining bars replace the
melodic section with a similar powerful, thumping rhythm to that
heard in Part 1, but the motion to E-flat from the variations is
preserved. After a cadence, a softer echo an octave lower
completes the original ten-bar structure. It is extended,
however, by one last echo that is even softer and another octave
lower. The cadence is stretched out by one bar with pauses
and a cross-rhythm, so Part 2 has thirteen total bars. It is
TRIO (D Major) - Poco più moderato
0:38 [m. 22]--Part
1. The Trio is much longer than the Scherzo, which is
unusual. It begins with a soaring three-chord upbeat, then
breaks into soft bell-like harmonies in both hands. These
include dotted (long-short) rhythms, which are also used in
leaping, off-beat bass responses. There are three statements
of the bell-like material. The second is in A minor, the
third in G minor. The G-minor statement is extended, builds
greatly, and moves not to D major, but to D minor, where it recedes and
reaches a half-cadence.
1:04 [m. 22 (m. 36, first
ending)]--Part 1 repeated.
1:32 [m. 36, second ending]--Part
in E minor and F-sharp minor, working upward. It slowly
builds again. An extension again moves back to D minor (not
major). This stalls on the preparatory “dominant” chord
(which can also be used in the major key), and starts to build
more strongly. Finally, three of the leaping bass responses
are isolated. They are octaves on the “dominant” note, A.
1:55 [m. 48]--D major
returns in a glorious manner for an amplified statement of the
material from Part 1. The chords are more full, and they
reach to higher octaves. Brahms marks full volume here and grandioso. The pattern
follows Part 1 through the statements in A minor and G
minor. The extension, however, is new, and moves
emphatically to D major, not minor, with exuberant leaps.
There is a quiet echo of the climax, and then one last bar of loud
bell sounds. These recede, isolating chords and bass
2:23 [m. 63]--Transition
back to Scherzo. Fragments of the bell theme in the right
hand alternate with hints of the Scherzo in the low bass.
Dissonant blocked half-steps are heard in the right hand as the
widely leaping scherzo figures continue in the left. The
speed increases, and Brahms implies 3/4 grouping in two bars of
half-steps and leaping figures. Finally, a descending scale
harmonized in sixths, still with the leaping scherzo figures in
the bass, moves strongly back to B minor and directly into the
2:39 [m. 73] --Part
1. It is played literally as before except for the last bar,
where the first two chords are suddenly given one more beat of
space between them, creating a cross-rhythm and avoiding the full
2:50 [m. 81]--Part 1,
varied repeat. Introducing new material into the reprise,
Brahms has the right hand play a ringing measured trill while the
left hand takes all of the previous scherzo material. In the
“thumping” rhythm during the second half, the right hand plays
harmonies below the trill and eventually moves the pitches of the
trill itself downward, participating in the melodic
presentation. In contrast to the first statement, this
varied repeat is played at a full volume.
2:59 [m. 89]--Part 2,
variation. For the statement of Part 2, the ringing trill
continues. It follows a similar pattern to that of the Part
1 repetition, even moving the trill downward at the analogous
point. The harmony follows that of Part 2 from the first
presentation before the Trio. The first “echo” is somewhat
varied and remains at full volume. Where the second, lower
echo would be expected, the trill is instead isolated,
accelerating until it is no longer measured, and everything
becomes slower (on a global level, not in the trill) and
quieter. The three-bar ending is preserved here, so Part 2
retains its thirteen total bars.
3:15 [m. 101]--Halfway
through the last bar of part 2, there is a sudden transformation
to major, and the Trio theme is heard in a reminiscence under the
continuing trill. After three bars, an echo moves above the
trill as the music shifts back to minor, the volume becomes ever
quieter, and the tempo becomes ever slower.
3:27 [m. 106]--The final
flourish is in the original fast tempo and at full volume.
It begins with groups of rising octaves in the left hand.
The trill continues until the very last descending scale fragment
in octaves, where the right hand joins two octaves above the left.
3:41--END OF MOVEMENT [109 mm.]
Finale - Introduzione: Sostenuto; Allegro non troppo e rubato
(Sonata-Allegro form with introduction). F-SHARP MINOR,
0:00 [m. 1]--The stark
octaves of the opening slowly wind their way down. This
detached octave line is an anticipation of the main theme (Theme
1) of the movement. The figure is stated twice, the second
time in a hushed manner and an octave lower. The octaves
suggest A major, the “relative” major to F-sharp minor.
0:20 [m. 5]--Three
successive rising figures (a fourth and two thirds) are heard in
the right hand. They are played over a bass pedal on E (the
“dominant” note of A major). Finally, a fourth, larger leap
(a seventh) collapses into a trill that gradually speeds up.
The harmony under this trill, including a bass arpeggio, veers
toward E major. The subsequent unmeasured, quiet flourish is
simply an arching, sweeping E-major scale.
0:40 [m. 9]--The
anticipatory octave line is played again, this time a step lower,
on G major. Again, the second statement is more hushed and
an octave lower than the first.
0:57 [m. 13]--The rising
figures with bass pedal, the subsequent accelerating trill, and
the beginning of the flourish begin as at 0:20 [m. 5], but a step
lower. The trill and flourish move to D major, as would be
expected. At the top of the rising scale beginning the
flourish, however, the descent is broken into a tinkling arpeggio
that includes some rising notes. Unlike the scale in the
first flourish, these arpeggios are strictly measured. They
are light, and include the note G-sharp, a memory of the A-major
1:19 [m. 18]--Two
expressive gestures with the “rising figures” are now heard.
The first moves from D minor to E minor. The second is
identical, but a third lower, moving from B minor to C-sharp
1:36 [m. 22]--Another
trill moves into a heavy descent that is in triplet rhythm, but
independent of the larger meter in the bar. This finally
moves to the home key of F-sharp minor. A rapid upward
arpeggio follows. Then nine repeated iterations of an octave
D in the right hand (the third through eighth of them in triplet
rhythm) are played over a bass arpeggio. Finally, the music
reaches a pause on the “dominant” chord in F-sharp minor.
2:00 [m. 25] --Theme
1. It begins with the same gesture as the introduction, in
the home key of F-sharp minor. It is passionate, but
subdued, played over a rocking bass with repeated lower notes
(pedal notes). There is a biting half-step dissonance on the
second bar of the melody. The second phrase begins a step
higher and is rounded off with a trill and cadence.
2:14 [m. 33]--A third
phrase begins even higher and briefly moves to B minor. The
fourth phrase ratchets it up to C-sharp, the “dominant.”
This phrase intensifies and is extended, breaking into a
descending arpeggio at a small internal climax. Repeated
two-note descents lead to the next statement of the theme.
2:29 [m. 44]--Theme 1
begins again in F-sharp minor. The first phrase is heard in
its entirety, but instead of moving to the second phrase, the
music again intensifies with two sequential repetitions upward of
the rising line at the end of the first phrase. This then
breaks into climactic arpeggios with sharply punctuated
chords. The second arpeggio arches down and back up in
triplet rhythm (groups of 6), the hands moving in opposite
directions. A decorated scale descent in octaves moves from dotted
rhythm to triplet rhythm. Two final chords after the scale
bring Theme 1 to a full close in F-sharp minor.
2:51 [m. 61]--Transition.
left hand plays the opening figure from Theme 1 at twice the speed
(shorter notes) in octaves, moving steadily downward. It is
very detached and heavily marked. The right hand joins after
two bars, and the Theme 1 figures are played in
counterpoint. The right hand includes some treacherous jumps
and full chords. When the music has moved to the new key of
A minor, the left hand settles onto low chords that include
syncopation held over the bar line.
3:04 [m. 71]--Theme
2. It is a romantic, yearning melody with decorative grace
notes, wide octave leaps, and many short pauses. The left
hand plays a steady accompaniment with a low bass note at the
beginning of each beat and many wide leaps. The theme begins
at a moderate level, but it reaches a series of two-note descents
that diminish greatly until these descents are separated by pauses
at a much quieter level. A final octave leap rounds off this
first statement of Theme 2 on a half-cadence (A minor).
3:16 [m. 80]--Theme 2
begins again, this time over fragments of Theme 1 in the left
hand. It begins in right-hand octaves, but then it
intensifies, including more chromatic notes in both the Theme 2
material and in the Theme 1 fragments in the left hand, which are
heavily accented. The passage moves to B-flat (major and
minor). Suddenly, this material is cut off, and a series of
soaring arpeggios begins, first in the left hand, then in both
hands. These are in triplet rhythm, with the second note of
each group replaced by a rest. The right hand alternates
between playing with the left hand in octaves and playing sharp,
detached chords. After beginning quietly, this passage
builds dramatically and moves emphatically from B-flat back to A.
3:36 [m. 95]--Closing
material. The cadence on A arrives on a major chord, but the
darkness of minor still tinges the music. The cadence leads
a series of long, slow-moving chords played over hammering
repeated off-beat octaves in the left hand. After two
statements of the chords and repeated octaves, the music suddenly
3:42 [m. 99]--Transition
to Exposition Repeat: After another strong arrival on an
A-major chord, two plagal cadences onto the chord are heard (with
the keynote remaining on the top and bottom of all chords).
These cadences are heard over a faster four-note chromatic
(half-step) descent in the middle range. The second descent
is an octave lower. At the second cadence, the A-major chord is
repeated, with a resonant left-hand roll, three times to confirm
the arrival. Then the bass descends down to F-sharp, and the
outer A’s slide up a half-step, creating the “dominant” chord in B
minor or major, which is also repeated three times with left-hand
rolls. The whole passage rapidly diminishes from full power
to quiet anticipation.
4:00 [m. 111, first ending
(corresponding to m. 25)]--Theme 1, as at 2:00. The
opening is different. The upbeat approaches from below
rather than from above, and the first measure is played over
B-minor harmony instead of the “dominant” harmony on C-sharp heard
the first time. The second bar (m. 112, first ending) also
has a subtle difference, as the biting half-step dissonance is
held over from the previous bar (a result of the new harmony in
that bar). The repeat sign goes back to the third bar of the
exposition (m. 27).
4:14 [m. 33]--Third and
fourth phrases with intensification and extension, as at 2:14.
4:29 [m. 44]--New
statement of Theme 1 with climactic arpeggios, octave scales, and
full close, as at 2:29.
4:51 [m. 61]--Transition
based on Theme 1, as at 2:51.
5:04 [m. 71]--Theme 2, as
5:16 [m. 80]--Theme 2 over
fragments of Theme 1, motion to B-flat, and soaring arpeggios, as
5:36 [m. 95]--Closing
material with A-major chord and hammering left-hand octaves, as at
5:41 [m. 99]--Transition
to Development. Long chords and chromatic descents, as at
3:42. As before the exposition repeat, it ends on the
“dominant” chord of B (with bass on F-sharp).
5:58 [m. 111, second ending]--The
repeat is replaced by a loud reiteration of the last chords an
octave higher. This then moves directly to a B-major chord
on the downbeat. There, the entire pattern from the closing
material and the transition is repeated one pitch level
higher. This closes with three reiterations of the B-major
chord, a descending bass, and then three reiterations on the
“dominant” chord in C-sharp, following the pattern of 3:36/5:36
[m. 95] and 3:42/5:41 [m. 99].
6:19 [m. 126]--The long
chords and descending bass notes are extended from the pattern at
the end of the exposition. Here, a descending bass leads to
a chord on C-sharp (inverted, with bass on E-sharp), as would be
expected following the previous chords leading there, but this
chord is also a “dominant” chord, suggesting further motion to
F-sharp. It is also reiterated three times, and completely
rolled. The volume becomes even softer. Another
descending bass note moves to yet another “dominant” chord with a
bass on E. This chord, however, is a so-called “augmented
sixth” chord and begins the motion to the ultimate goal, which
will be G-sharp minor. Again, it is rolled and reiterated
three times at a very quiet level.
6:31 [m. 134]--The bass
descends again, to D-sharp. The following four chords break
the threefold reiterations and are only played once before the
bass descends. All of these chords remain anchored to
D-sharp, suggesting a pull to G-sharp minor. The descending
bass notes, of which there are also four more (one following the
last chord) make it down to A-sharp. All of the chords are
completely rolled, and this entire sequence of chords builds in
volume from the softest point at the beginning.
6:45 [m. 143]--Brahms
marks a rather sudden “Animato” here. The bass moves up an
octave, and the music erupts into a series of highly agitated,
mildly syncopated chords that first seem to overshoot, then
finally confirm the emphatic arrival on G-sharp minor. These
chords maintain their rhythmic pattern and include three series of
treacherous leaps up and down before settling on the
6:55 [m. 152]--Theme 1 is
presented beginning in G-sharp minor. This version continues
the agitated mood of the previous chords. The melody is
played in full harmony with feverish off-beat chords, some of
which are repeated in groups of three. The second phrase has
an active harmony, suggesting motion to C-sharp.
7:02 [m. 158]--The volume
is suddenly quiet, and the rising line from the theme is isolated
in a highly active sequence. This line moves up and arches
back down twice, first on C-sharp, then on D-sharp, again building
in intensity. Against this, the bass twice outlines the
opening figure from the theme. Then the rising line becomes
even more active, building feverishly and arriving unambiguously
on A-flat major in a cascading arpeggio with punctuating chords
and octaves in the left hand. These are in the same rhythm
that was used at 6:45 [m. 143]. (Note that A-flat and G-sharp are
the same note, so a key “center” is clear in the larger section
beginning from 6:45 [m. 143].)
7:17 [m. 170]--Theme 2 now
makes its first appearance in the development section. It is
played by the left hand in a jaunty, decorated major-key version
in A-flat. Against this, the right hand has running,
detached scales, then light chords as the left-hand theme moves to
the two-note descents. These descents move to the minor key,
and the theme gradually tapers down to a quiet level.
7:27 [m. 179]--A
descending arpeggio merges into the opening of Theme 2 in the
right hand. It begins in A-flat minor with the running scale in the left hand,
but then it quickly veers away, reiterating the distinctive
fragment with the grace note. This active passage reaches a
climax on a descending scale in octaves that marks the return of
the home key, although it is notated as G-flat minor rather than
7:38 [m. 187]--Re-transition.
in a very heavy manner, first in bass octaves and then, with
harmonization, in the right hand. As this music builds, it
breaks into a slow triplet rhythm with octaves passed increasingly
between the hands until they alternate on every octave. They
come to rest on a low C-sharp (the “dominant” note) and everything
suddenly stands still.
7:54 [m. 197]--Brahms
indicates “poco sostenuto” here, and indeed the music is highly
reminiscent of the “rising figures” from the introduction.
They are played over a sustained “pedal” note on a low
C-sharp. The figures are passed from the left to the right
hand, the latter playing in octaves, and they steadily slow down
even more in anticipation of the return.
8:06 [m. 204] --Theme 1
emerges seamlessly., with the opening note held over from the
final long, slow note of the development section. It has
subtle variations in the harmony and accompaniment from the
outset, but the most striking variation is in the second phrase,
where Brahms seems to want to shift everything up a half-step, but
then quickly moves back home at the trill and cadence, which is
extended a bar with broken arpeggios.
8:22 [m. 214]--The third
and fourth phrases are presented essentially as they were at 2:14
and 4:14 [m. 33], but instead of moving to two-note descents in
preparation for a new statement of the theme, the descending
arpeggio is extended downward and breaks off with a low octave on
the harmony of the “dominant” chord. The restatement and the
transition are completely omitted.
8:36 [m. 225]--Theme 2,
now in the home key of F-sharp. It begins with an almost
jaunty variant in major, with a subtly varied contour that
includes half-step ascents and descents. At the point of the
two-note descents, it has moved back to minor and follows the
pattern established at 3:04 and 5:04 [m. 71].
8:49 [m. 234]--Theme 2
played over fragments of Theme 1, as at 3:16 and 5:16 [m.
80]. The internal harmonic motion is to G minor and
major. Then follow the soaring octaves in triplet rhythm
with the second note replaced by a rest, as before.
9:08 [m. 249]--Closing
material in F-sharp major, corresponding to 3:36 and 5:36 [m. 95].
9:14 [m. 253]--At the
point of the former transition, the intensification
continues, and triplet rhythms are introduced. Octaves, then
faster figures, also in triplet rhythm, are passed between the
hands. The harmony moves away from
9:21 [m. 258]--The music
is now in G minor/major, and a huge statement of the initial
gesture from Theme 1 in the bass is heard under the increasingly
rapid and highly chromatic motion. Brahms uses three-staff
notation here, with the left hand jumping from the Theme 1 gesture
in the bass up to higher harmonies accompanying the continuing
fast triplets. The gesture from the theme is reiterated in a
lower octave. The music rapidly subsides and slows down as
the triplets decrease in volume and run out of energy, with
left-hand rolled chords giving way to detached two-note
harmonies. The key is an unambiguous G major.
CODA - Molto sostenuto
9:44 [m. 268]--The tempo
and character of the introduction return, but the key shifts to
Four octaves make the half-step harmonic motion back to F-sharp
9:52 [m. 270]--The
familiar “rising gestures” from the introduction are heard.
This time, they are played over a suggestion of Theme 1 in
the bass rather than a pedal point.
10:03 [m. 272]--A series
of three accelerating trills accompanied by wide left-hand
arpeggios and internal rising gestures is followed by two more
extremely quiet trills that lead into arching, sweeping unmeasured
flourishes. These confirm F-sharp major after the last two
trills had briefly moved to B and E major.
10:29 [m. 277]--Another
trill leads into a final, very quiet flourish This consists
of rising chromatic scales with leaps down from initial
notes. The notation and rhythmic grouping suggests that m.
277 should actually be broken into two bars, but Brahms notates it
as one, presumably to preserve the continuity and flow of this
rising flourish. When m. 278 does arrive, it is a measured
bar. Rolled chords punctuate the four beats, the first three
of which are a continuous downward F-sharp major scale punctuated
by more trills. The last beat continues the scale, but it is
longer, faster, and less measured.
10:46 [m. 279]--The bottom
F-sharp of the scale, which is still hushed and secretive, is
followed by two suddenly loud, jarring rolled F-sharp major
chords. The second of these is wider, with a higher right
hand and a lower left. These two sudden rolled chords
emphatically close this large-scale movement. The slow coda
has the effect of arresting, rather than fulfilling the movement’s
11:13--END OF MOVEMENT [280 mm.]
END OF SONATA
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