STRING SEXTET NO. 2 in G MAJOR, OP.
Recording: Amadeus Quartet (Norbert Brainin, 1st
Violin; Siegmund Nissel, 2nd violin; Peter
Schidlof, viola; Martin Lovett, cello) with Cecil Aronowitz, 2nd
Viola; William Pleeth, 2nd Cello [DG 419 875-2]
The G-major Sextet,
almost exactly contemporary to the Piano
Quintet, is a considerably more sophisticated and
complex work than the Sextet in B-flat, Op.
18. While such a comparison should not diminish
the beauty and nobility of the much-loved earlier piece, the
G-major is entirely on another level in terms of form,
harmony, and counterpoint. The richness of the string
sonority is unrivaled in Brahms’s chamber-music output.
The first movement, in triple time like that of Op. 18, is extremely rich in content;
indeed, its 605 measures are the second highest count of any
Brahms instrumental or vocal movement, behind only the early
E-flat-minor Scherzo for solo piano, Op.
4 (and Rinaldo
excepted). From the outset, the home key is undermined
by half-step motion, borrowings from the minor key, and a
temporary pivot to the foreign key of E-flat. The
initial buzzing half-step in the first viola pervades much of
the movement. The end of the exposition contains an
unusually literal biographical reference. Brahms had a
passionate relationship with Agathe von Siebold, daughter of a
professor in Göttingen, and was even engaged to her in
1859. In an strange mixture of anxiety and pride, Brahms
broke off the engagement. At the climax of the second
theme, Brahms memorialized this tumultuous episode by
musically spelling Agathe’s name. In German notation,
B-natural is called H, so the sequence A-G-A-B-E is actually
A-G-A-H-E. Brahms even included the T by placing its
closest musical equivalent D in harmony with the B (H).
He constructed the succeeding music so that the AGA(T)HE
cipher can also appear on its original pitches when the music
is transposed in the recapitulation. The huge chromatic
descent over tremolos at the end of the development
section is also notable. Brahms placed the G-minor
scherzo movement second. The stately duple-meter piece
is based on the opening bars of the A-minor
gavotte from a series of unpublished
dances written in the 1850s. The gavotte’s
companion pieces, the A-major sarabande
and gavotte, would later provide the
basis for the middle movement of the F-major Quintet, Op. 88. The “Presto giocoso”
trio section provides an extreme contrast, but the transition
back to the scherzo is especially artful. As in Op. 18, the slow movement is a theme
and variations in the relative minor key (in this case
E). Brahms introduces fugal counterpoint in the third
and fourth variations, similar in style to the finale of the
contemporary E-minor Cello Sonata, Op.
38. The slow final variation and the exquisite
coda are in serene major. The finale, in compound triple
time (9/8), utilizes artful tremolo effects that are
placed in contrast with a more soulful, yearning theme.
It is a concise, but satisfying closing movement. The
Sextet has been called a spiritual successor to Schubert’s
final Quartet in G major and his monumental Quintet in C
major. Seven years later, Brahms’s next publications for
strings alone would be two works in that most hallowed genre,
FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition [monochrome] from the University of Michigan)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
1st Movement: Allegro non troppo (Sonata-Allegro
form). G MAJOR, 3/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1. The first viola starts,
very quietly, with a murmuring, almost buzzing oscillation on
a half-step, the keynote and the “leading tone.” This
continues as a background through the entire first two large
phrases of the first theme. After two measures, the
first violin begins its arching melody, mezza voce.
The second violin and second viola enter on long notes, and
the second cello plucks a low G. The first violin
reaches upward, and strikingly emphasizes notes borrowed from
the minor as it ascends (two fifths separated by a
half-step). The first cello enters in response,
reversing the violin motion with a downward leap.
0:07 [m. 7]--The first violin continues its arching
figures, using the minor-key notes to veer toward E-flat
major, but then it just as suddenly re-asserts the the home
key of G, which seems especially slippery despite anchoring
plucked “dominant” notes in the second cello. After two
upward stretches, the second reaching higher, there is a
series of downward leaps of a fifth or fourth, alternating
between the home keynote G and the “dominant” note D.
These leaps are passed from the first violin to first cello,
then second violin and viola, and finally second cello.
0:18 [m. 17]--The first violin begins a second
statement, but this time it reaches higher, even more strongly
suggesting the key of E-flat by using that note as the top
pitch. Because the line has reached higher, it must turn
back down, which it does on a syncopated note held across a
bar line. The first cello adds a second downward leaping
response before the original one. The entire passage is
lengthened by two bars.
0:25 [m. 23]--The instruments have all again reached
the same point as at 0:07 [m. 7], but the first violin has
held another note over a bar line. The initial arch and
the first upward stretch are the same as before, but the
second upward stretch is placed higher. It uses the same
pitches (A and D), but now has higher pivot and top
notes. The downward leaps follow in the same instrument
sequence as before, but the orientation of the alternation
between G and D is reversed. The second cello
unexpectedly changes its leap to a downward half-step, and the
continual first viola murmur finally ceases.
0:36 [m. 33]--The first instruments all join in unison
on a downward-arching arpeggio that suddenly makes a striking
turn to B major. The second instruments support this
with a held F-sharp, the second cello joining the arpeggio
after two measures with an even lower octave. The other
second instruments still hold long notes. Another
arching arpeggios immediately follows, this time on E
major. Here, the second viola and first cello switch
places, with the former joining the arpeggio and the latter
holding long notes.
0:45 [m. 41]--The instruments all join in harmony, with
the first cello marking downbeats, and turn back to G
major. After a descent, the harmonies become syncopated,
held over bar lines four times. They then descend
together again. Finally, the first violin plays the
familiar murmuring half-step, immediately passing it to the
second violin leading into the next statement of the theme.
0:58 [m. 53]--The first cello presents a full statement
of the theme’s opening phrase as previously played by the
first violin. Against this, the first violin plays the
murmuring half-steps on the “dominant” note and its leading
tone, briefly joined an octave lower by the second violin, but
unlike the previous first viola murmur, the half-steps now
gradually work their way downward. The other instruments
provide harmonic support.
1:03 [m. 57]--At the point of the arching figures and
upward stretches corresponding to 0:07 and 0:25 [m.7 and m.
23], the first violin, playing sweeping, highly decorative
arpeggios, alternates with the second violin on the murmuring
half-step figures. The second cello again plucks
isolated bass downbeats. The downward leaps follow the
previous pitch pattern, now passed from first cello to the two
violas, and then second cello. Above the leaps, the two
violins both play the murmuring half-steps in alternation, now
remaining on the level of the “dominant” note, but working to
higher octave levels.
1:13 [m. 67]--The first cello continues with the second
large phrase with the higher reach and stronger suggestion of
E-flat. The violins continue on the murmuring
figures. The second violin quickly drops out, and the
first works downward with the murmuring motion as it had
before. The violas and second cello provide a background
in long notes as before. The statement follows the
previous violin pattern up until the first upward
stretch. At this point, the violins again alternate
decorative arpeggios in the first with murmuring motion in the
1:24 [m. 77]--The first cello stalls, repeating the
first upward stretch on the same pitch level with one change
on the bottom note. It then slowly works upward with two
more similar stretches. The violins continue their
alternation, and the second cello plucks the “dominant”
note. These stretching motions are then passed to the
first violin, harmonized by the second violin and the two
violas. The murmuring motion is passed to the two cellos
in alternation, remaining on the “dominant” level. There
is a strong buildup, the first real rise above a piano
level. There are four stretching patterns in these upper
instruments, working steadily higher as the volume rapidly
builds to forte.
1:38 [m. 91]--Finally, the first violin reaches a high
“leading tone” and repeats it in syncopation with notes held
over three bar lines. The second violin, violas, and
first cello either harmonize the first violin syncopation or
emphasize the downbeat with strong descending arpeggios.
Finally, the first violin re-establishes the downbeat in
preparation for a very strong cadence. At the same time,
the cellos and second viola take over the syncopation from the
first violin in a forceful descent toward the cadence.
1:42 [m. 95]--Transition. At the cadence, the
first cello emerges with a feverish descent in repeated notes
(each melodic note reiterated twice). Above it, the
second violin, first violin, first viola, and second viola
enter in quasi-imitation (without the reiterations) on
syncopated notes held over bar lines. The instruments
quickly move to a cadence on the “dominant” key, D
major. From that cadence, the first viola leads a
similar sequence with the descent in reiterated notes.
Second violin, first violin, first cello, and second viola
enter in succession. This time, they all arrive one more
level up the circle of fifths, on A. The reiterations
are briefly passed to the second viola. The second cello
is absent from the entire passage.
1:57 [m. 111]--The reiterated notes pass back to the
first viola. The violins come in above it, and the
second cello finally joins the first with bass support.
The music seems to want to move up one more level, to E
(minor), but it continues to stall on A. The
reiterations pass to the second violin with the first cello
and first viola playing the descents. There is another
reiteration of the half-close on A, suggesting E minor.
2:04 [m. 119]--The volume is suddenly hushed. At
this point, the reiterated notes pass to the second viola,
which maintains them until the onset of Theme 2.
Throughout, it is doubled below (in non-reiterated notes) by
the second cello. The patterns take on an oscillating
quality. Against this, the remaining four instruments
play a series of chord patterns, with downbeat chords followed
in the next measure by chords on the heavily emphasized middle
beat. These, in turn, lean into the next downbeat
chord. After A is again emphasized, the patterns leap up
to D, then move up by step to E and F-sharp.
2:12 [m. 127]--At this point, the off-beat chords stop,
and the sustained harmonies slide down, then leap back
up. The volume rapidly builds. The first cello
drops out. The note A and its chord are now established
as the “dominant” of D major, the key of the second
theme. D major is itself the “dominant” of the home key,
G major. The first cello has a plucked note at the high
point as a huge arrival on D major is prepared for the entry
of Theme 2.
2:19 [m. 135]--Theme 2 (D major). The refreshing,
buoyant melody is played by first cello, beginning with an
upbeat. The first viola takes over the oscillating
motion, which now consists of murmuring half-steps as well as
wider skips and leaps. The second viola and second
violin provide smooth lines of counterpoint while the second
cello marks the downbeats with firm plucked notes. After
a full statement of the eight-measure phrase, the first violin
(who has been taking a brief break), joins the first cello an
octave above for a second statement of the phrase. The
first violin even adds an ornamental turn in the first full
2:34 [m. 151]--The theme is now fragmented.
Interrupting the cadence, the first cello starts the theme
again, at a quieter level, turning to D minor. After two
measures, the first violin comes in to double the cello and
pivots to F major. Both statements add ornamental turns
to the head of the theme. After this, the second cello
abandons its plucked notes and takes the bow. The first
viola breaks its oscillation. The first violin emerges
from the thematic fragment, steadily working by half-step,
building in volume, and becoming syncopated, holding notes
over bar lines. The second violin and first cello play a
counterpoint in octaves, the first viola doubles the first
violin an octave below, the second viola plays heavily
syncopated repeated notes, and the second cello continues to
mark the bass, also with a chromatic ascent. After two
quick surges, the first violin decorates its ascent with skips
to sighing two-note descents.
2:44 [m. 161]--The first violin and first viola reach a
high B and stall there. The second violin and viola also
stall. The second cello speeds up and continues its
chromatic bass ascent, now joined an octave above by the first
cello. After two syncopated reiterations of the high B,
at the climax, the first violin and first viola launch into
the famous “AGA(T)HE” cipher, beginning on the upbeat with the
A. H is B-natural in German notation. The second
violin and first cello play a strong syncopated D (a
substitute for T) against the B (H). The second viola
moves to plucked chords, and the second cello also marks the
half-close of the quotation with plucked notes. The
figure is twice reiterated, unchanged, for a total of three
2:52 [m. 169]--The violins, in thirds, trail downward
after the “Agathe” statements. Then, suddenly, the
cellos in octaves state the figure one more time, with the
second moving away on the E. The upper instruments enter
in syncopation above the cellos. There is a strong turn
toward A major, and indeed, the “Agathe” figure is now stated
in that key, transposed up a fifth and no longer outlining the
name. The scoring is the same, but the second viola and
first cello switch places. It is only stated once before
the violins have the same downward trail in thirds and the
cellos loudly enter with the figure in octaves again.
3:03 [m. 180]--The violins enter in syncopation again,
but now they are calm and usher in a new closing phrase.
The violas follow after them, inverting their direction,
and the cellos provide long supporting bass notes in wide
harmonies. D major is quickly re-asserted. Two
short rising lines are followed by a wide arpeggio that again
makes a strong hint at A major. This arpeggio makes a
powerful buildup to a high A. It then quickly descends,
moving toward a cadence in D. At the top of the
arpeggio, the cellos move away from long notes to dovetailing
arpeggios in detached notes. The satisfying cadence only
really arrives in the bass, as the first violin and first
viola interrupt it to begin the brief closing material.
3:14 [m. 191]--Closing material. It is all based
on variations of the “Agathe” figure. The cadence is
interrupted by another sudden diminishing of volume. The
first viola leads, imitated by the first violin, with the
second viola and the two cellos following in turn with
trailing lines of counterpoint. A half-close is
3:23 [m. 199]--Interrupting the half-close, the pattern
begins again an octave higher, with the second violin taking
over for the first viola and the latter for second
viola. There is a faster and higher upward reach than
before. It once again builds in volume, then descends in
both volume and pitch to a luxuriantly extended cadence,
accompanied by cello arpeggios, with mild chromatic motion on
the way. The cadence is reached in full, but it
immediately merges with the transition to the repeat.
The first four measures of this are not marked as part of the
first ending. The second violin, still in D, turns to
the familiar murmuring motion from the opening. The
first violin and second viola, in turn, intone the opening
gesture from Theme 1, stated a fifth higher than usual.
3:43 [m. 217a]--First ending. The second violin
continues to murmur. The first violin plays the opening
of Theme 1, but makes a downward turn after the first
minor-key inflection, which emphasizes the minor key
character. It is imitated halfway through by the second
viola, which is in turn followed by the first viola another
octave lower. Finally, the first cello, with an upward
leap and slide, initiates the motion back to G major, with the
second cello setting up the bass motion. The second
violin murmur changes to a whole step to help facilitate the
3:57 [m. 229a (m. 1)]--The last two measures of the
first ending (mm. 229a-230a), which is an exceptionally long
14 measures) correspond to mm. 1-2. The murmur is passed
from second violin to first viola at the original level, with
the second viola and the cellos confirming the bass motion
back to G. The repeat sign indicates a jump back to m.
3, where Theme 1 proceeds as at the beginning.
4:04 [m. 7]--Continuation of the first statement
establishing strong emphasis on E-flat, as at 0:07.
4:15 [m. 17]--Second statement reaching higher, as at
4:22 [m. 23]--Continuation of second statement, as at
4:33 [m. 33]--B-major and E-major arpeggios, as at
4:42 [m. 41]--Turn back to G major with syncopated
harmonies, as at 0:45.
4:55 [m. 53]--Cello statement of Theme 1 with murmuring
motion winding downward, as at 0:58.
4:59 [m. 57]--Continuation of theme with violin
decorations and arpeggios, as at 1:03.
5:09 [m. 67]--Cello statement of second large phrase,
as at 1:13.
5:19 [m. 77]--Stall of thematic statement and strong
buildup, as at 1:24.
5:33 [m. 91]--Syncopated harmonies and strong cadence,
as at 1:38.
5:37 [m. 95]--Transition. Feverish cello and
viola descents, then motion to D and A, as at 1:42.
5:52 [m. 111]--Reiterated notes in first viola and
suggestion of E minor, as at 1:57.
6:00 [m. 119]--Oscillation in second viola and second
cello under chord patterns, as at 2:04.
6:08 [m. 127]--Rapid buildup with sustained harmonies
and preparation for Theme 2, as at 2:12.
6:15 [m. 135]--Theme 2 in D major, stated by first
cello, then joined by first violin, as at 2:19.
6:31 [m. 151]--Fragmentation of theme and chromatic,
syncopated ascent, as at 2:34.
6:40 [m. 161]--Climax and first statements of
“AGA(T)HE” cipher, as at 2:44.
6:47 [m. 169]--Trailing violins, cello statement, and
transposition of “Agathe” figure to A major, as at 2:52.
6:59 [m. 180]--New closing phrase, motion back to D,
and partial cadence, as at 3:03.
7:10 [m. 191]--Closing material. Calm variations
of “Agathe” figure, as at 3:14.
7:19 [m. 199]--Interrupted half-close, high upward
reach and buildup, then extended cadence, as at 3:23.
The four bars before the first and second endings (already
heard) become the transition to the development.
7:40 [m. 217b]--Second ending. The second violin
continues its murmur in D major/minor. The first violin
plays the Theme 1 opening, as it did at the beginning of the
first ending, but now it continues with the upward leap as
heard in the actual theme, making a strong turn to
minor. As it does this, the first viola imitates the
entire figure in exact inversion, leaping down to a close on D
an octave below. It is in turn imitated by the first
cello, who plays the original version two octaves lower.
All are marked mezza voce.
7:46 [m. 223b]--The second cello continues the
imitation pattern, playing the inverted first viola line an
octave lower as the first cello finishes its statement.
But at the same time, the first violin continues with the
arching arpeggios from the theme. These seem to stick
more to D minor than to suggest B-flat major (which would
correspond to the exposition). Again, its pattern is
inverted by the first viola before it finishes. The
first cello follows two octaves lower, as before, but this
time it is not inverted by the second cello, which moves to
plucked bass support. As the first cello plays, the
first violin enters with an upward expansion of the arpeggios,
arriving a cadence on D minor.
7:53 [m. 229b]--This measure corresponds to the
exposition repeat after the first ending. The murmuring
motion is passed to the second viola, who has been pausing,
and it alternates between the second viola and second violin
in each measure. The same series of imitations and
inversions follows, but the imitations come a measure
earlier. The first viola leads, followed immediately in
inversion by the first cello. The first violin, in turn,
plays the original line an octave higher, followed directly by
the second cello in inversion in a low octave.
Dovetailing immediately with this are closer imitations and
inversions on the arching line, with the same pattern of
8:01 [m. 237]--The imitation breaks as the second cello
completes its statement of the arching line. The
murmuring oscillation also breaks, with the second viola
moving to a syncopated pulse and the second violin joining it
in harmony a measure later. The cellos expand their
arching lines, and the first violin merges from its imitation
into a new marching arpeggio. The volume builds.
The first viola dovetails with this marching figure in a
quasi-imitation, punctuated by the cellos in unison.
This first marching line remains in D minor, but it is
followed by two more statements (with the same instrumental
orientation) that move up by step, toward E minor and then F
major. Finally, a climax is reached, and the pattern is
broken with a huge arrival on a half-close that reasserts D
8:12 [m. 249]--The murmuring oscillation returns on the
“dominant” of D minor, passed from first cello to second viola
to first viola. At that point, the violins enter in
harmony above the first viola, and the volume quickly
diminishes. The second viola begins a very long absence.
8:16 [m. 253]--The cellos, again mezza voce,
use the note C-sharp in the harmony to pivot to a key center
there. They both enter on a low bass C-sharp
octave. The first violin joins the first viola on the
oscillation, but instead of a half-step, it uses a minor
third. The second violin holds a long C-sharp.
From there, the first cello presents a full statement of the
main Theme 1 phrase in C-sharp minor. The second cello
doubles and supports it for four measures before dropping
out. Because the phrase is changed to minor, there is no
longer any ambiguity of key or major/minor mode. The two
violins, then the first viola, make slight motions at the
end. The first cello continues through the first two
downward leaps before passing the last two to the re-entering
8:31 [m. 267]--The music now becomes static. The
series of downward leaps in C-sharp minor are repeated by the
two cellos three times, with the intervals subtly varied on
the first and third of these to suggest F-sharp minor.
Above them, there is slow downward motion in the murmurings of
the first violin and first viola (with the former twice
expanding its third to a fourth), and the sustained second
violin also moves down slowly. The volume becomes even
quieter, diminishing to pianissimo as the second cello
reaches a low C-sharp and the violins drop out, leaving only
the first viola to murmur. The second cello holds its
C-sharp, then punctuates it. It does this a second time,
all under the murmuring first viola.
8:47 [m. 283]--With sudden force, the oscillating
gesture is passed from first cello to first viola. Then,
a fifth above, the first violin enters with an extension of
the oscillation, propelling it forward. As it does, it
is supported by second violin and (entering after a long
break) second viola. The entire pattern is then repeated
a half-step lower, on C. It is the same as before, but
now the second cello adds active plucked support, and the
first violin line turns up more at the end. A third
statement, another half-step lower, on B, largely follows the
first one, and a fourth one, still lower, on B-flat, follows
the second, with the active plucked second cello.
9:02 [m. 299]--Having reached A, the oscillations now
alternate between second viola and first violin, and they are
active. Against them, the first cello plays the familiar
downward leaps from the theme, followed by their upward
inversions from the first viola. There is a strong
harmonic motion through the “circle of fifths,” firmly
supported by the plucked second cello bass and harmonies in
the second violin. With all six instruments active,
there is a buildup to a climax. The patterns move
through A, E, B, and F-sharp (all minor).
9:09 [m. 307]--At the intermediate climax, the “circle
of fifths” motion is interrupted by a return to D major.
At that point, the first violin merges from the oscillation
into the downward leaps, followed in inversion by the second
violin. The oscillations move down to the first cello,
which now alternates with the continuing second viola.
The second violin harmony moves to first viola. The
second cello still plays its plucked bass to mark the harmonic
motion. Another “circle of fifths” starts, moving from D
major to A, E, and B (all minor). Harmonies that
appeared in the previous passage now support leaps in the
opposite direction from before. The intensity is
9:16 [m. 315]--The major climax is now reached with
another harmonic diversion, now to the home key of G.
The oscillations are now harmonized in three instruments,
second violin and the two violas. The second viola
quickly drops out, though. In contrary motion, the first
violin and the two cellos in octaves forcefully reiterate the
leap from G to the “dominant” note D, the first violin arching
down and the cellos up. After this first motion, the two
cellos are in unison instead of octaves. In the second
statement, the violin does not arch back up, but joins with
the cellos in unison on their downward swing. The
oscillation in second violin and first viola works downward,
but emphasizes the notes from E-flat major, re-creating the
ambiguity from the beginning.
9:23 [m. 323]--Suddenly, the bottom seems to drop out
as a unison D in first violin and cellos slides down to
C-sharp and the volume suddenly drops to piano.
The leaps are changed to dissonant tritones, or
“augmented fourths.” The first violin is joined an
octave below by the second as the first viola, joined by the
re-entering second viola, moves to a hushed tremolo.
The violins and cellos leap up their tritones, building
powerfully. After four measures, things slide again to
D, which now plays the role of a preparatory “dominant.”
The second violin and first cello move to slow triplet
pulsations against the viola tremolos and the solid
second cello bass. The first violin starts a long,
two-octave chromatic descent over all of this, diminishing
9:34 [m. 335]--Re-transition. Quietly, at the end
of its long chromatic descent, the first violin intones a
familiar arpeggio from Theme 1. It then drops out as the
tremolos and pulsations continue below. The first
viola moves from the tremolo to the triplet pulsation,
passing the former briefly to the second violin. It (the
first viola) then states the continuation of the familiar
Theme 1 arpeggio as the second violin drops out. It
re-enters with pulsations as the second viola subtly moves
back to the murmuring half-step from the very beginning,
merging seamlessly into the two-measure two-measure lead-in to
the main theme as the second violin, first viola, and two
cellos fade out and the plucked second cello bass moves moves
home to G.
9:42 [m. 343]--Theme 1 continues as in the exposition,
but with second viola instead of first playing the murmuring
half-step. The first viola takes the background
previously played by the second violin and second viola, and
the second violin itself adds a new plucked arpeggio in
counterpoint to the theme. The arching motion from 0:07
and 4:04 [m. 7] follows. The new plucked arpeggio is
passed down to the second cello and back up to the second
violin. In the downward leaps (where the new arpeggio
drops out), the first viola takes the place of the second,
which continues on the unmoving half-step murmur.
9:58 [m. 357]--Second statement of theme reaching
higher, analogous to 0:18 and 4:15 [m. 17]. Again, it is
enhanced by the addition of the plucked arpeggios in the
second violin and second cello. The second viola
continues with the half-step, and the first viola plays double
stops, taking the previous first viola and second violin
notes, as before. Because of the longer statement, the
second violin adds a downward plucked arpeggio after the
second cello notes. The continuation from 0:25 and 4:22
[m. 23] follows. The second violin has its previous
upswing, and again, the first viola replaces the second on the
10:15 [m. 373]--B-major and E-major arpeggios,
unchanged from 0:36 and 4:33 [m. 33].
10:23 [m. 381]--Turn back to G major with syncopated
harmonies, unchanged from 0:45 and 4:42 [m. 41].
10:37 [m. 393]--Analogous to 0:58 and 4:55 [m.
53]. The violin parts are unchanged. The melody
itself is given to the first viola instead of the first
cello. The first cello now takes the new plucked
arpeggio counterpoint by itself, the second violin being
otherwise occupied. It begins with upward motion.
The second viola takes the notes previously played by both
first and second violas, now in double stops.
10:41 [m. 397]--Continuation, analogous to 1:03 and
4:59 [m. 57]. Again, the violin parts with their
decorations are unchanged. The first viola continues
with its statement of the theme. The first cello
continues with its plucked arpeggios, now adding brief
descents and arching figures. The second viola now moves
a bit away from the previous viola parts, with some of their
notes being covered in the first cello’s plucked notes.
The downward leaps are altered. The first viola
obviously replaces the first cello. The second leap is
taken by second viola alone, the third by first cello alone
(briefly breaking from its plucked notes), and the last, as
before, by second cello.
10:51 [m. 407]--Second large phrase, analogous to 1:13
and 5:09 [m. 67]. As expected, the first viola continues
to present the theme, and the first cello continues with the
new plucked arpeggios, but there is a subtle, sophisticated
change at the top of the rising line. Instead of
suggesting E-flat major, the melody is altered to suggest
A-flat major, a striking harmonic detour. The descending
first violin line, the double-stops in the second viola, and
the second cello bass are changed to reflect this. At
the upward stretches, the first viola returns to the original
G-major line. The two violins resume their alternation
on the murmuring and decorative figures, but the contour of
both is changed from the exposition to minimize the downturns.
11:00 [m. 417]--Analogous to 1:24 and 5:19 [m.
77]. The first viola stalls, as the first cello had done
before. The contour of the violin lines continues to
emphasize the upward reach, minimizing the downturns.
The first cello still plucks the new arpeggios. As in
the exposition, the stretching motions are passed to the first
violin, the murmuring figures to the cellos, and from this
point (m. 423, corresponding to m. 83), the scoring and the
strong buildup are unchanged from the exposition.
11:13 [m. 431]--Syncopated harmonies and strong
cadence, unchanged from 1:38 and 5:33 [m. 91].
11:17 [m. 435]--Transition. The feverish first
cello descent, moving toward D major, is unchanged from the
first half of the passage from 1:42 and 5:37 [m. 95].
The second half of this passage, led by the first viola and
moving to A, is cut completely.
11:25 [m. 443]--This passage corresponds to 1:57 and
5:52 [m. 111]. Because the motion to A has been
completely excised, it begins a fifth higher, still on
D. This is a simple way to facilitate the later arrival
of Theme 2 in the home key of G. The scoring, led by
first viola, is remarkably the same in this transposition.
11:32 [m. 451]--Corresponds to 2:04 and 6:00 [m.
119]. Other than the transposition up a fourth and some
slight changes and exchanges in the second violin and first
viola parts, it follows the pattern exactly, led by the
oscillations in second viola and second cello.
11:40 [m. 459]--Rapid buildup, corresponding to 2:12
and 6:08 [m. 127]. Again, the transposition is the only
significant change other than some exchange of the second
violin and first viola parts. In the approach to Theme
2, however, there is a two-measure extension given to the
violins, the first trailing after the second, working up with
wide leaps and broken octaves.
11:49 [m. 469]--Theme 2, in the home key of G major,
analogous to 2:19 and 6:15 [m. 135]. It is now given to
first viola instead of first cello. The oscillating
motion is given to the first violin, who plays broken octaves,
beginning on a sustained high D and then working
downward. The second cello provides a more constant
bass, throbbing with a low D on alternating strings. The
lines of counterpoint are provided by second violin and first
cello, and are significantly more active and chromatic than in
the exposition. As before, the repetition is passed to
the first violin, now at the same level and without
doubling. The second viola takes over one of the
counterpoint lines. It and the second violin basically
exchange their lines from before. The first cello now
takes the plucked bass, and the second cello takes over the
12:04 [m. 485]--Fragmentation of theme and chromatic,
syncopated ascent, analogous to 2:34 and 6:31 [m. 151].
The two violin parts and the second viola basically follow
their same patterns from the exposition. For the first
four measures, the other three parts are exchanged, the first
viola taking the leading line previously played by first
cello, the second cello playing the previous first viola
oscillations, and the first cello playing the plucked
bass. After four measures, these three instruments
return to their original roles.
12:14 [m. 495]--Climax and first statements of
“AGA(T)HE” cipher, analogous to 2:44 and 6:40 [m. 161], scored
as before, but played in G major on notes previously not used.
12:21 [m. 503]--Trailing violins, cello statement, and
transposition of “Agathe” figure, analogous to 2:52 and 6:47
[m. 169]. The analogous transposition brings the
“Agathe” figure to its original pitches in D major, and the
actual letters of the name. This shows extremely clever
compositional planning. The scoring is largely similar,
but the violas and cellos are thinned out, with more unison
playing instead of octaves in the cellos.
12:32 [m. 514]--New closing phrase, motion back home to
G, and partial cadence, analogous to 3:03 and 6:59 [m.
180]. The scoring is extremely similar, with a notable
difference being the shift down an octave in the violins at
12:44 [m. 525]--Closing Material with variations of the
“Agathe” figure, analogous to 3:14 and 7:10 [m. 191].
The scoring is as before, with the first viola leading and
other instruments following. There is a subtle octave
displacement in the second cello part.
12:52 [m. 533]--Interrupted half-close, high upward
reach and buildup, then extended cadence, as at 3:23 and 7:19
[m. 199]. The scoring is thinner. The first violin
and second viola parts are largely as before. The cellos
are used less, especially the second, with some elements being
transferred from first viola to second violin, first cello to
first viola, and second cello to first cello. But the
pattern approaching the cadence is essentially
unchanged. The cadence arrives in G, coinciding with the
13:09 [m. 547]--Brahms marks the coda “Un poco
sostenuto.” The first four measures, beginning with the
arrival of the cadence, are analogous to the four measures
preceding the two endings of the exposition (grouped with the
closing material above). The murmuring oscillations are
in the second viola instead of the second violin, and the two
upward leaps are in the first violin (as before) and the first
viola (taking over for the second). The second cello is
absent for some length.
13:14 [m. 551]--A statement of Theme 1 begins, with the
two violins and first viola in harmony over the oscillating
second viola. The signature E-flat in the theme is
re-notated as D-sharp, underscoring a new harmonic turn, which
is now toward B major instead of E-flat (the same distance in
the opposite direction). The first cello inverts the
opening leap, as would be expected, but it is also changed to
reflect the turn to B major. The second viola
oscillation steadily widens to an octave. After the
initial leaps, the theme takes a new direction, with a
surging, but still quiet syncopated line in harmony.
After quickly moving back to G, it descends, then surges
forward again with heavy syncopation, leading to a weak
cadence. The second viola again narrows, but only to a
whole step, not a half-step.
13:27 [m. 563]--Another statement of the altered theme
begins, corresponding to the higher-reaching second statement
in the exposition. The first viola begins it, but it is
passed to the first violin. The second cello finally
enters with the inverted leap, and the first cello drops
out. There is another harmonic motion, this time to E
major, and the second viola again widens its oscillation, but
not to a full octave. The surging syncopated line
follows again with a quick shift back to G, this time with a
higher, longer, more urgent ascent and descent. The
second cello now provides a chromatically rising bass
line. Brahms indicates a steady increase in volume and
speed. This time, the arrival is on the “dominant”
13:40 [m. 575]--The surging syncopated line gathers
strength and again moves forward, with a forceful swell in
volume. The second cello now establishes a powerful
“pedal point” on the “dominant” note, D. The first cello
rejoins after its absence, doubling the first violin on the
ever more excited syncopated line. After two upward
surges, the second cello finally moves to the keynote, G, and
the first violin shoots even higher. At this point, the
first cello joins the second viola, strengthening the
oscillating motion, which again widens.
13:50 [m. 587]--At the climax, there is a sudden
harmonic detour back toward the “dominant” key of D.
This is marked by rapidly repeated triplet double stops in
second violin and second viola as the oscillations stop.
The two cellos also reiterate their bass notes, but in
straight rhythm. The lower instruments cut off, and the
first violin descends with a scale in the “dominant” key as
the volume diminishes. At the end of this, there is
another unexpected, accented, syncopated dissonance
(significantly on E-flat), over a strong “dominant” arrival
with more repeated triplet double-stops and straight-rhythm
bass notes in the same instruments. The first violin
descent follows an octave lower, but this time it incorporates
chromatic notes and skips, leading to an arrival on G major,
with the volume now diminishing all the way to piano.
13:57 [m. 595]--The first violin drops out after its
second descent. The second viola returns to the familiar
half-step murmur on its original pitches. The second
violin and first viola, in harmony, have longer lines above
the oscillation, also including half-step motion over small
swells of volume, including the crucial note E-flat. The
cellos provide bass support, the second plucked. After
two such “swells,” the first violin enters on an upbeat with a
rising octave, then a huge upward arpeggio with repeated
notes, building rapidly to forte again. This
arpeggio once again emphasizes E-flat major. As this
last flourish reaches the top, the second viola murmuring
breaks, and three full chords in all instruments mark the
final G-major cadence.
14:15--END OF MOVEMENT [605 mm.]
2nd Movement: Scherzo
– Allegro non troppo; Presto giocoso; Tempo primo (Scherzo
with Trio). G MINOR, 2/4 and 3/4 time.
SCHERZO (Allegro non
troppo, G minor, 2/4 time)
0:00 [m. 1]--The first violin, harmonized by the second
violin and first viola, presents the stately gavotte theme of
the Scherzo. Its quasi-baroque nature is emphasized by
the ornaments (short trills) in the melodic line. The
second viola and the two cellos, meanwhile, provide a constant
plucked background. At first, they pass a figure of a
leap up (a fourth or fifth) then down an octave, beginning off
the beat. After two such patterns, the second viola
drops out for a time, leaving the plucked figures to the
0:11 [m. 9]--The theme is extended with a metrically
unusual closing phrase. It begins with a falling third
that is held across a bar line. The third is reiterated,
followed by an arching figure in triplet rhythm. The
short trills in the first violin are still heard, with the
second violin and first viola continuing to harmonize.
Under the triplets, the plucked background is changed to
briefly incorporate the downbeats. On the triplet
figure, the second violin harmonizes in thirds. The
entire gesture is then repeated under a held first violin A,
with the viola harmonizing the second violin. This
statement is a fourth lower and moves to the “dominant” key, D
major. The second viola re-enters the plucked
background, the first cello dropping out.
0:21 [m. 17]--A delayed cadence on D in the second
violin merges with the second major idea, derived from the
triplets of the cadence phrase. It is in D minor, not
major. The first violin and first viola, in octaves,
play three arching figures and a fourth, more cadence-like
one, all in triplets as the other four instruments rest.
The first arching figure is stepwise; the other two are
arpeggios. After four measures, the first cello plays
the same pattern, shifting it to A minor. The first
violin and first viola continue in octaves with a syncopated
0:32 [m. 25]--The original D-minor version of the
triplet theme is now played by the entering second violin and
second viola. The syncopated accompaniment continues in
first violin and first viola, while the first cello adds
a bass line clearly derived from the opening gavotte
theme. The A-minor version does not follow, but the
cadence gesture is repeated in the first viola as the second
cello finally joins in, taking up a short-long figure from the
gavotte theme and passing it back to the first cello.
The first violin and second viola drop out, followed by the
second violin. The first cello then provides a full
cadence in D minor in the sixth measure, which is haltingly
reiterated, with plucked second cello, in the seventh.
0:41 [m. 32]--The transition back to the repeat is two
measures, the expected eighth bar of the aborted phrase and an
added, asymmetrical ninth measure, which also serves as the
first ending (m. 33a). The first viola drops out, and
the first cello, with plucked support from the second, plays a
rising line that reiterates the D-minor cadence, then changes
D to a “dominant,” leading back to G minor with a falling
Part 1 Repeated
0:44 [m. 1]--Opening gavotte melody, as at the
0:54 [m. 9]--Metrically unusual closing phrase and
motion to D, as at 0:11.
1:04 [m. 17]--Second, D-minor idea in triplets, as at
1:15 [m. 25]--Statement of triplet idea with fuller
texture, cut off early by cello cadence, as at 0:32.
1:24 [m. 32]--Transition to Part 2. The second
measure, also the second ending (m. 33b) is only changed by
replacing the falling octave with a rising half-step,
propelling the key toward E-flat.
1:26 [m. 34]--The violins and violas take over for the
first cello, launching into the contrasting or “b”
section. The second viola pulsates in triplets
underneath the other three, who play in harmony. The
phrase is a continuation of the rising cello line, in a
mixture of major and minor, on E-flat. As they conclude
it, the cellos enter again (the second still plucked), with
the same rising line heard at the second ending, this time
moving up another half-step, to E, where the upper instruments
repeat the same pattern.
1:35 [m. 41]--The cellos again enter against the
conclusion of the phrase, but now in octaves, with the second
bowed. The sequence continues, but it is shortened
greatly. The violins and violas quickly take over from
the cellos, propelling the music further upward. Then
the same two-measure pattern follows, moving up another
half-step. At the same time, the volume builds, and
there is a great sense of tension. Then the sequence is
shortened even more, to two-note figures alternating in the
cellos and violins and steadily rising. The violas melt
into a pulsing background, now in “straight” rhythm. The
cellos begin three such exchanges, and the violins follow as
expected on the first two.
1:42 [m. 47]--The violins, in octaves above the pulsing
violas, move up more than expected, to a high G. But
this does not signal a return to the home key just yet, as G
seems to be working as a “dominant” in C minor. The
rising half-step from high F-sharp to G is reiterated twice,
with the cellos interjecting a rising figure that reaches a
half-step above an octave. The mood is tense, and the
volume is full.
1:46 [m. 50]--As the violins land on the high G a third
time, the second cello suddenly states the head of the main
gavotte theme, clearly in C minor. It is immediately
imitated by the first cello, then the first viola. These
close imitations are in stretto, coming before the
previous statement has concluded. The order is then
reversed, with the theme passed back to the first cello, then
the second cello. The second viola does come in with the
first, but it only joins in harmonic support with the second
cello during its “gap.” The first cello actually makes
its two statements in direct succession. As the gavotte
figure is passed up and down these lower instruments in C
minor, the volume quickly diminishes.
1:53 [m. 56]--Suddenly, the violins and violas gently
intone the theme on G, but it is sweetly inflected to G major.
The tentative first measure, still in minor, with second
violin and first viola in harmony above after-beat pulses from
the second viola, is reiterated with the first violin entering
an octave higher, the second violin taking over from the first
viola, and the violas joining on the after-beats. The
theme then continues through its first four measures.
2:00 [m. 61]--Interrupting the theme, the first cello
enters with a rising G-major triplet arpeggio that is then
taken up by the second violin. The first viola echoes
the end of the thematic fragment, unexpectedly and plaintively
turning to B minor. In that key, the triplet arpeggio
again follows, this time with the first violin following the
cello. Now the second viola plays the thematic echo,
turning to D major. The arpeggio in that key follows in
first viola and second violin. The third statement of
the thematic echo is played by the first cello, who turns,
following the pattern, to F-sharp minor. The first
violin takes the arpeggio in that key by itself, delaying it a
measure. The second cello enters in support with a
plucked descent, and the pattern breaks.
2:10 [m. 69]--With a slide up to G, the reprise, or “a’
” section begins. The first eight measures of the main
scherzo/gavotte theme are stated as at the beginning and at
2:20 [m. 77]--The closing phrase is replaced by a
similar six-measure passage that begins with the violins a
third higher. The two falling thirds held across bar
lines are now followed by a sudden upward motion that uses the
falling thirds and speeds up. Then a falling arpeggio
settles things down. This “replacement” passage (still
without the second viola) keeps the music in G, avoiding the
motion to D from Part 1. This is confirmed by a strong
G-minor cadence over anticipatory arching triplets.
2:28 [m. 83]--The “second theme” from 0:21 and 1:04 [m.
17] is transposed to the home key of G minor. This time,
the octaves are in the two violins, and the first viola takes
the previous first cello continuation, now in D minor instead
of A minor.
2:39 [m. 91]--The continuation from 0:32 and 1:15 [m.
25] is played in G minor, with altered scoring. The
triplets are only played by the second viola, which enters
here, the syncopated line is played by the violins, still in
octaves, and the “bass line” from the gavotte melody is played
by first viola. The first cello adds a new plucked bass
support. The cadence gesture is repeated by the second
violin. The second cello enters as expected, now
exchanging its figure with the first viola. The first
cello then abandons its plucked bass to provide the full
cadence in the sixth measure. But this time the halting
reiteration does not follow.
2:46 [m. 97]--The ending is expanded. The first
violin responds to the cello cadence in a questioning way,
using the same figure on the “dominant” level, and the first
cello then repeats its cadence. Meanwhile, the two
violas and the second cello all pluck supporting notes, and
the second violin continues with a gentle counterpoint.
This entire sequence is then repeated. The first violin
appears to begin it a third time, but, in alternation with the
second violin, it works upward, building greatly in
volume. The first cello, the “cadence” instrument,
briefly drops out. The violins briefly pause at the high
2:55 [m. 104]--The second violin leads a slower descent
as the first cello re-enters. The descent is taken up by
the first viola (taking its bow) as the violins drop
out. A seemingly final arrival on G is reiterated in the
3:02 [m. 109]--Coda. This addition is somewhat
unexpected. As the first cello settles into a
triplet-rhythm oscillation in broken octaves on G, the first
violin leads a brief passage of imitation. Its yearning
line gently arches and descends. It is imitated closely
by the second violin, then even closer by the second
viola. The imitation is broken as the first violin uses
a dotted rhythm to fall to a cadence, supported by motion in
the oscillating first cello and plucked notes in the second
3:07 [m. 113]--Another passage of imitation follows,
led by the first viola, which enters here. It is
followed by the second violin, then, at the same distance, by
the first violin and second viola in octaves. This time,
these last instruments provide the cadence, with the first
violin reaching very high. That top instrument
reiterates its cadence twice, as the first viola takes over
the oscillations from the first cello and the second violin
adds a plaintive counterpoint alternating with the
cadences. The lower three instruments are all
plucked. Finally, all six instruments come together in a
decisive, but quiet close, with the first violin leaping down
from its height. The top three are bowed, the bottom
TRIO (Presto giocoso, G major, 3/4 time)
3:17 [m. 121]--The trio section has a “Slavonic”
character that almost sounds like something Dvořák might have
written. Bursting out in bright major, it is presented
by all six instruments in full, almost swaggering
sonority. An upbeat from violins and first viola leads
into the heavily syncopated theme in triple time. These
three instruments play together in harmony. The cellos
and second viola provide the rhythmic accompaniment. The
first cello plucks the downbeats, the second cello bows
consistently with wide leaps from the downbeats, and the
second viola plays double-stop harmonies on the two “upbeats”
of each measure.
3:22 [m. 129]--The second half of the theme reaches to
higher octaves in the violins and moves toward D major.
Toward the end, all six instruments come together in a brief
break from the syncopation and accompaniment patterns.
The lead-in to the repetition of the theme easily moves back
3:27 [m. 137]--Repetition of the theme. The first
half is unchanged other than the new two-note upbeat and
continuous accompaniment from the first statement.
3:31 [m. 145]--The second half is also a near-exact
repetition, but a subtle alteration in the portion where all
six instruments come together causes the key to veer to B
minor rather than D major.
3:36 [m. 153]--The upbeats lead directly into a new
phrase, whose principal interest lies in the
downward-scurrying figures (emerging from longer notes)
presented in unison by second violin and first cello.
The other instruments heavily emphasize downbeats of notes
held for almost two measures (five beats) and the upbeats
leading into them, also mostly in unison. Again
beginning on G major, the music moves in waves that gradually
work upward. After three iterations, the downbeat-upbeat
patterns speed up, reduced to one measure. Finally,
these patterns come to a stop, and the volume rapidly
diminishes as the second violin and first cello, still rushed,
plunge downward under a preparatory “dominant” harmony.
3:43 [m. 165]--The first violin, with the first cello
undulating beneath it, presents a hushed, straightened-out
version of the theme without overt syncopation. The
second violin sustains long notes. The first viola and
second cello only briefly join at the halfway point between
the two phrases. The second viola is completely
absent. Although the strong, overt syncopation is not
present, Brahms does play with the meter on the back half of
each phrase, making it sound like the notes are grouped in two
rather than three. At the end of the second phrase, the
first cello changes from undulation to heavily syncopated bass
notes, the first viola enters to take over the undulating
accompaniment, and the key again turns to B minor.
3:53 [m. 181]--A transitional phrase based on the
“scurrying” figures from 3:36 [m. 153] immediately turns back
to G major via its “dominant” chord. The rushing figures
are now only played by the first violin, which now shoots
upward after long notes. The other instruments, except
first cello, play the longer upbeat-downbeat patterns, again
speeding up after three iterations. Finally, the first
violin, joined an octave below by the second violin, rushes
upward and the volume rapidly builds. The first cello
also enters here, joining the others on sustained
chords. This upward surge merges into the return of the
main dance theme.
4:00 [m. 193]--The upbeat approaches from on high, and
the main theme is again presented.
4:05 [m. 201]--The second, higher half moves to D
major, as in the original presentation.
4:10 [m. 209]--The music quickly moves back home to
G. At this point, there is an exchange between the
“scurrying” figures and the syncopated main theme. Under
the former, the violas have a surging pulsation.
Fragments of both elements are twice exchanged. After
the second exchange, the main theme takes over and expands
upward, reaching high in the first violin. At the top, a
note from the minor key, E-flat, becomes prominent, signaling
the beginning of the transition to minor and the scherzo
4:21 [m. 227]--Transition to scherzo reprise. All
of a sudden, the violins and cellos drop out, leaving the
violas with a hushed, skeletal phrase derived from the main
theme, played in octaves and in minor. After this, the
violins and cellos take over, shifting back to major and
playing a fragment of the “hushed” version of the theme from
3:43 [m. 165]. But this is quickly cut off by the
violas, who play their ominous minor-key fragment again.
4:27 [m. 239]--The violins and cellos again attempt the
“hushed” version, but they are now infected with the minor
key, even going beyond it with the pathos-laden flattened
second degree (A-flat). They are interrupted by the
ominous octaves again. This time, they are played by
second viola and second cello, and are plucked. They
also begin a fourth lower. As they conclude, the violins
and first viola suddenly come in with the first three
harmonized notes of the scherzo theme, one to each bar.
One measure of the fast triple time trio is equated to one
half-measure of the slower duple-meter scherzo. A
plucked D (the preparatory “dominant”) in the cellos sets up
the return of the actual scherzo section.
4:36 [m. 251]--The entire scherzo reprise is written
out in the score, although the only variation is in the
coda. Opening gavotte melody, as at the beginning and at
4:46 [m. 259]--Metrically unusual closing phrase and
motion to D, as at 0:11 and 0:54 [m. 9].
4:56 [m. 267]--Second, D minor idea in triplets, as at
0:21 and 1:04 [m. 17].
5:06 [m. 275]--Statement of triplet idea with fuller
texture, cut off early by cello cadence, as at 0:32 and 1:15
5:15 [m. 282]--Transition to Part 2, as at the second
ending from 1:24 [m. 32].
5:18 [m. 284]--Contrasting section mixing major and
minor on E-flat and E, as at 1:26 [m. 34].
5:26 [m. 291]--Shortened sequences, upward motion, and
building volume, as at 1:35 [m. 41].
5:33 [m. 297]--Motion to high G in violins with
reiterations, as at 1:42 [m. 47].
5:37 [m. 300]--C-minor imitation of main gavotte theme
in violas and cellos, as at 1:46 [m. 50].
5:45 [m. 306]--Gentle major-key inflection of gavotte
theme, as at 1:53 [m. 56].
5:51 [m. 311]--Rising triplet arpeggios with thematic
echoes and motion through B minor, D major, and F-sharp minor,
as at 2:00 [m. 61].
6:01 [m. 319]--Reprise of main theme’s first eight
measures, as at 2:10 [m. 69].
6:11 [m. 327]--New transition with strong G-minor
cadence, as at 2:20 [m. 77].
6:19 [m. 333]--Second theme in G minor, as at 2:28 [m.
6:29 [m. 341]--Continuation with new scoring, as at
2:39 [m. 91].
6:36 [m. 347]--Expansion of ending with upward motion
and buildup, as at 2:46 [m. 97].
6:45 [m. 354]--Descent and arrival on low G, as at 2:55
[m. 104]. In preparation for the new coda, the first
viola does not play the last reiteration of the G.
6:52 [m. 359]--New coda. The original coda is
replaced by a variation with completely altered
character. It is marked “Animato,” and the quiet, almost
resigned mood is replaced by one of angry defiance. All
instruments are bowed. The previous straight rhythms are
changed to agitated triplets. The outlines of the
original are still present. The imitations are now in
the three “first” instruments, moving down and each separated
by a measure. The second violin doubles and harmonizes
the imitations, while the second viola and second cello
provide pulsating motion replacing the previous oscillations.
6:56 [m. 363]--The outlines of the original closing
passage are present in this one. The imitations rise up
from first viola through second violin and finally first
violin, reaching very high. A fourth imitation is added
in the second viola. The triplet rhythm is still in
force, and the cellos provide the pulsating background.
The reiterations of the cadence are in the violins and cellos,
the violas continuing the feverish triplet motion in
octaves. The ending, with the decisive downward leaps,
incorporates long-short rhythms and is extended by a measure
for a longer descent and a forceful finish.
7:08--END OF MOVEMENT [371 mm.]
3rd Movement: Poco adagio (Theme and
Variations). E MINOR (last variation in E MAJOR), 4/4
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme,
Part 1. For most of the theme, the cellos and second
viola are absent. In this first part, the first violin
presents the expressive melody. It rises upward in two
leaps of a fourth (a similar contour to the first movement’s
main theme), then slowly descends stepwise with a short
decorative trill before another wide leap of a sixth.
The second violin adds descending three-note figures beginning
after the strong beats, and the first viola contributes
winding five-note figures in triplet rhythm, also beginning
off the strong beats. The whole two-measure gesture is
then stated a step lower. It slows at the end, and the
wide closing leap is replaced by a third, with the two lower
instruments briefly holding up.
0:17 [m. 5]--Theme, Part 2. The two violins begin
the phrase harmonizing in thirds. The first viola still
adds its winding triplets. After the first yearning
notes, which turn to B minor, the violins vary them by adding
triplet rhythms. These build in volume, and then the
first violin erupts into a passionate outburst of shorter
sixteenth notes as the second violin descends chromatically
and the first viola abandons its triplets in favor of isolated
falling octaves. The three instruments settle down on
the “dominant” harmony in B minor.
0:33 [m. 9]--The second part of the theme is “rounded,”
returning to patterns from Part 1. The first violin
rises with the leaping fourths, then falls, also with leaping
fourths. The second violin figures add downward leaps,
as do the first viola’s triplets. The second viola
enters here for the first time as a mildly syncopated bass
support. The cellos are still silent. The key
moves back to E minor, but then colorfully veers to F
(major/minor mixture) on the descent. In the last two
measures, the first violin plays a cadence phrase in E minor,
derived from the main rising line, and the lower instruments
add notes on strong beats. The first viola still plays
in triplets, but adds wide downward-arching leaps. The
second violin and first viola trail chromatically, in thirds,
slowing after the cadence.
0:49 [m. 13]--Variation 1, Part 1. The cellos now
make their entrance. In fact, an upbeat in long-short
triplet rhythm from the second cello begins the
variation. In the first part, the first violin and first
viola, in octaves, play two long, somewhat foreboding
chromatic descents separated by the leap of the sixth from the
middle of the phrase. The second violin rests. The
first cello and second viola play an accompaniment in rising
plucked arpeggios, passing them back and forth. The
second cello provides bass support, emphasizing the long-short
rhythms on the upbeats.
1:06 [m. 17]--Variation 1, Part 2. The turn to B
minor follows as expected. The same patterns from Part 1
continue, with chromatic descents in the first violin and
first viola, plucked arpeggios in second viola and first cello
(the latter adding descents in the last two measures), and a
bass with long-short upbeats in the second cello. There
is a buildup to the midpoint, then a receding, as
expected. Halfway through, the first viola breaks from
its octaves with the first violin, then reverses direction,
harmonizing the first violin line.
1:21 [m. 21]--The second violin enters for the
“rounding,”alternating with the second cello on the long-short
upbeat figures. It is doubled by the second viola, who
leaves the plucked arpeggios to the first cello alone.
One long chromatic descent in the first violin and first
viola, turning to E minor and moving through F, as in the
theme, is followed by a soaring cadence gesture in E
minor. The accompanying instruments trail after the
cadence, slowing as in the theme.
1:37 [m. 25]--Variation 2, Part 1. This variation
is based on close neighbor-note motion. The second cello
leads in again with the long upbeat, and all the other
instruments except second violin enter together in harmony
right before the downbeat. All except the first cello
play the close, largely chromatic neighbor-note figures.
The first cello has more leaping motion. The first
violin holds some notes while the others move. They all
continue to alternate with the second cello. The initial
three-note figures expand halfway through the phrase, and the
second violin enters there. The second cello continues
to play its three-note figures, but adds a mild syncopation
under the other instruments.
1:57 [m. 29]--Variation 2, Part 2. The first
cello drops out. At the turn to B minor, the violins and
violas (with the second viola pausing for half a measure) play
the close neighbor motion in triplet rhythm. The second
cello plays wide octaves, but also adds upbeats in the triplet
rhythm. The instruments wind up and down, the second
violin dropping out halfway through. Everything remains
quiet, and Brahms adds a dolce marking, but there is
some agitation. At the end, a first violin descent slows
to straight rhythm.
2:12 [m. 33]--At the “rounding,” the first violin and
the two violas lead. The second violin remains absent
through the phrase. The second cello follows in
alternation, and the first cello, which was absent for the
first half of Part 2, joins the first violin and violas after
their initial lead-in. The highly chromatic first
violin, which again includes some held notes (including across
bar lines), moves steadily downward. The violas and
especially the first cello have some wider motion. The
return to E minor and the pass through F follow as expected,
and as usual, the instruments slow for the last cadence in E
2:35 [m. 37]--Variation 3, Part 1. Più
animato. This forceful variation is fugal in nature,
with dense imitations. The second cello begins, as in
the previous variations, now with a repeated-note upbeat in
dotted (long-short) rhythm. It leaps up an octave, then
breaks into stepwise triplet figures that wind down and
up. The second viola imitates it a half-bar later and an
octave higher, and the first cello, a fourth higher, a
half-bar after that. It is followed an octave higher by
the first viola. All the entries begin with the repeated
notes and octave leap. Meanwhile, the second cello
introduces arpeggios as it closes its phrase.
2:39 [m. 39]--The second violin follows as expected, a
fourth higher, but now the second viola, then the second
cello, begin again with even closer imitation (called stretto),
one beat later in succession, each an octave lower than the
last. The first cello adds leaps and reaches a closing
point. Finally, a full measure after the second violin,
the first violin enters a fourth above it. The phrase
comes to a conclusion on the “dominant” with a combination of
the triplets and the long-short rhythm (the latter in first
viola and first cello).
2:43 [m. 37]--Variation 3, Part 1 repeated. For
the first time, Brahms indicates that each part of the
variation is to be repeated. A “first ending” on the
second half of the last measure (m. 40) places the short note
of the second cello upbeat in anticipation of the repeat.
2:46 [m. 39]--Second violin entry with close
imitations, then first violin entry and arrival on the
“dominant.” The “second ending” places the short note of
the upbeat in the first cello, a fifth higher to lead into B
2:50 [m. 41]--Variation 3, Part 2. The imitations
are less prominent in the second part. In the quieter
contrasting B-minor bars, they are reduced to the two cellos,
with the second following the first, then the first beginning
another statement a step higher and the second quickly
breaking the imitation. Above them, the violins present
an arching line in thirds. This is immediately repeated,
with a wider opening reach and with the two violas doubling
the violins. A similar pattern follows, with the second
violin adding mild syncopation. The repetition with
viola doubling is a step higher, and the volume builds.
2:58 [m. 45]--In the “rounding,” the imitation is also
less complex. The two violas and the first cello begin a
statement in harmony at the return to E minor. The
second cello adds bass support using the repeated-note
dotted-rhythm upbeat figure. The violins follow the
lower instruments, also in harmony. The imitation
quickly breaks at the passage through F (now clearly minor),
and the top five instruments, still in their previous groups,
play arching lines, largely with the groups in contrary
motion. The second cello continues to provide a
dotted-rhythm bass line to all of this. The first ending
quickly moves away from the cadence to lead back to B minor
and the repetition.
3:06 [m. 41]--Variation 3, Part 2 repeated. First
four bars in B minor.
3:14 [m. 45]--The “rounding” bars are stated
again. The second ending has a more solid cadence, but
it is immediately followed by the upbeat leading into
3:22 [m. 49]--Variation 4, Part 1. This vigorous
variation also uses imitation, but this time two separate
ideas are presented at the same time. The violas lead
with the dotted-rhythm upbeat, but they each present a
different idea. The first viola leaps down to a rapid
arching figure in sixteenth-notes. The second viola
plays a detached line in broken thirds. The first viola
is imitated a fourth above by the second violin, and the
second viola a fifth below by the first cello. The
imitation is consistent through two bars, as the leading
violas briefly pause. The “outer” instruments, the first
violin and second cello, enter as if they were going to
imitate, but they instead play leaping lines in the same
character as the “upper” and “lower” idea.
3:26 [m. 51]--The entire pattern begins again a step
lower, but after a measure, it is shifted up, leading to the
half-close that ends the first part.
3:30 [m. 49]--Variation 4, Part 1 repeated. The
first ending has the violas returning to their initial upbeat.
3:34 [m. 51]--Restatement of pattern leading to
3:38 [m. 53]--Variation 4, Part 2. The second
ending has a new upbeat in the first viola leading to the
contrasting passage in B minor. For maximum contrast, it
is marked pianissimo and dolce. The
imitation is reduced to leaping octaves (an octave apart)
passed between the violas on the dotted-rhythm upbeat.
The violins and the cellos play descending lines in harmony,
the cellos taking over for the violins. After two
sequences of this pattern, the violins and cellos come
together, building in volume in preparation for the “rounding”
3:45 [m. 57]--In the “rounding,” the imitation is
reduced to the rapid figures beginning with the dotted-rhythm
upbeat that leap down, and they are in the violins. The
second leads, and the first follows, initially a third
lower. The violas, in harmony, play a variant of the
detached figure that was previously used in imitation.
The first cello reiterates the dotted-rhythm upbeat and
downward-leaping octave, and the second cello, plucked,
provides a bass line, also with leaping octaves. The
turn to F minor occurs while the violins are playing in
imitation. This breaks, with the first violin reaching
high and emphasizing the dotted-rhythm figure. The
second cello takes the bow at the approach to the cadence.
3:54 [m. 53]--Variation 4, Part 2 repeated. The
opening first viola upbeat is omitted.
4:01 [m. 57]--The “rounding” bars are restated.
The second ending has a very short upbeat leading into the
4:10 [m. 61]--Transition to Variation 5. This
quiet, intense transition, still in the faster tempo, helps to
set up the final variation. It is five measures
long. The second violin and the violas have the short
upbeat, which leads into a harmonized downward slide that uses
the dotted rhythm and is highly syncopated. At the same
time, the first cello plays a rising line that is none other
than the initial gesture of the original theme. It plays
this gesture twice in succession, with a continuous
rise. Neither of these is at the original pitch level
(the first suggests A minor, the second B minor).
Finally, the first violin enters with a longer, slowed down
version of the gesture on the original pitches, harmonized by
the other instruments, including isolated plucked notes from
the second cello. All except first violin pause on a
4:23 [m. 66]--Variation 5, Part 1. Adagio.
The slow tempo returns. The rising upbeat in the violas
is notated in eighth notes (still in the last measure of the
fast tempo), but the continuation is in sixteenth notes,
indicating that this variation is twice as slow. That
viola upbeat is heard as the first violin holds its suspended
note. The key signature changes to E major. The
violas lead into the gentle final variation, supported by
plucked notes in second violin and the cellos. They play
arching harmonized lines, in the soothing major key. The
first violin and second cello (bowed) enter with brief
imitation, then continue, the first violin taking over the
lead role. The second violin provides a plucked
background throughout, as does the first cello, although the
latter twice takes the bow to continue and harmonize the
second cello line.
4:48 [m. 66]--Variation 5, Part 1 repeated. The
viola upbeat is now notated as sixteenth notes in the first
5:13 [m. 70]--Variation 5, Part 2. The
contrasting passage is now in B major, still using the gentle
arching lines. The violas again lead in harmony, with
the first violin following and taking over. The second
violin drops out for two measures. The plucked
background is taken by the cellos, who alternate on the
“dominant” note in B major, F-sharp, an octave apart.
The passage is more chromatic than Part 1. The second
violin enters in the last two measures, adding an additional
line of counterpoint that harmonizes the first violin.
At the end of the phrase, the cellos take the bow, still on
the F-sharp, but the second cello holds it and plays, as a
double-stop, a dissonant leaning motion into the fifth above
it. The violas lead into the “rounding.”
5:40 [m. 74]--The “rounding” is similar to Part 1 in
most ways, except that both cellos now play plucked notes,
taking the bow together at two points, including at the end of
the phrase. The passage through F is now major and is
prolonged. The second violin is again plucked, but now
adds double-stop and triple-stop chords. The violas
sustain the arching lines, and the first violin again takes
over the lead. The variation reaches a full close in E
major with chromatic tinges and a brief first violin trill.
6:07 [m. 70]--Variation 5, Part 2 repeated. The
viola upbeat is different, continuing as a descent at the end
of the variation. The second violin upbeat is now a
two-note harmony, still plucked.
6:33 [m. 74]--The “rounding” follows. After the
cadence, the violas continue with a new upward-moving upbeat
(instead of arching downward) leading into the coda, which is
in the character, major mode, and slow tempo of Variation 5.
7:01 [m. 78]--Coda. The second cello lands on a
low E, which it sustains as a “pedal point” through most of
the coda. The violas, at first, continue with the
arching arpeggios, although the second adds syncopation.
The first violin takes the lead with its own slower,
expressive line, which is also syncopated. The first
cello plays two-note, then four-note upward arpeggios before
slowly descending. Finally, the second violin enters,
harmonizing with the first on descents. The first viola
breaks from the arpeggios, moving to halting downward octave
leaps. The second viola harmonizes the first cello, then
drops out. The volume builds toward a climax. Now
the second violin and first viola join on the arpeggios.
They work upward under the soaring first violin. The
second viola re-enters with the halting downward octave leaps.
7:29 [m. 82]--At the climax, the first violin has
reached a high point and lingers there with slow syncopated
notes. The instruments change roles again. Now the
first viola supports the first violin with straight notes
about an octave below. The second violin joins the
second viola on an oscillating motion. The first cello
continues to slowly descend. Finally, the first violin
works downward, and the volume begins to recede. The
first viola and first cello are in contrary motion with each
other as the latter turns upward again. The second
violin abandons the oscillations, leaving them to second
viola, and now doubles the first cello.
7:53 [m. 85]--The first violin finally reaches a
cadence, which Brahms marks with a molto ritardando
slowing. The other instruments come together under this
cadence. The second cello finally abandons its long-held
low E pedal point. Trailing after the cadence, the
violas play a tender reminiscence of the harmonized arching
motion typical of Variation 5. At the same time, the
first cello plays the rising fourth from the opening gesture
of the theme. The arpeggios are then played by the two
cellos under the rising fourth from the first violin.
The violas and cellos, moving down and up an octave
respectively, exchange the arpeggios again, with the rising
fourth in the second violin, then both violins in
octaves. The cellos extend their arpeggio down to the
final cadence. The violins have reached the high E from
their rising fourth, and the violas enter to complete the
harmony on the serene, sustained final chord.
8:33--END OF MOVEMENT [87 mm.]
4th Movement: Poco Allegro (Sonata-Allegro form
with abbreviated recapitulation). G MAJOR, 9/8 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1, Part 1. With quiet
intensity, the violins and first viola begin the harmonized
measured tremolo-like figures that dominate the first
part of the theme. The rapid repeated notes reach up to
outline a melody. The key is ambiguous, suggesting A
minor or E minor rather than G major. The violins break
from the tremolo for a descent, and the other three
instruments enter. The cellos, in succession, come in
with the tremolo figures, including the upward leaps,
in a sort of imitation. Finally, all six instruments
build up and essentially join together on the tremolo
figures with their melodic leaps, and G major is
established. Scales are heard in the lower
instruments. The volume recedes and quickly builds
0:09 [m. 5]--In a two-measure transition, the violins,
in thirds, plunge downward in scale motion as the two violas
and second cello begin a pulsing long-short motion on repeated
notes. This continues for a measure after the violins
drop out. The volume rapidly diminishes.
0:14 [m. 7]--Theme 1, Part 2. This is really the
principal melody, and the tremolo motion could be seen
as introductory except for its huge role in the development
section. The warm, noble melody is presented by first
violin and first cello in harmony. The pulsing motion
continues in first viola and second cello. Beginning
with repeated notes, these pulsations gradually move,
including leaping octaves in the first viola. After two
measures, the first cello joins the pulsations, leaving the
melody to the first violin, which adds a trill-like
ornament. The end of the first phrase overlaps with the
beginning of the second.
0:24 [m. 11]--In the second phrase, the first viola
begins a counterpoint to the first violin, leaving the
pulsations to the cellos. The trill decoration is heard
again. Longer notes are introduced in the swaying
motion, gradually rising. At the end of the phrase, the
second viola finally enters, joining the pulsations, and the
first viola slips away from the first violin to join them as
well. The second violin is absent for this entire
0:34 [m. 15]--The cadence overlaps again. The
theme is interrupted by a return to the “melody” of the first
part, but now it is stripped of the tremolo motion,
laying bare the actual leaping gestures, which emphasize
short-long rhythms. It also turns to the minor
key. The violins (the second entering) and first viola
pass the gestures to the second viola and cellos. The
entry of the lower instruments overlaps with a new closing
gesture (in second violin and first viola) decorated by a
brief trill. The overlapping exchanges continue through
a second statement at a higher level that briefly suggests A
minor. The lower instruments do not have the decorated
closing gesture a second time, as the overlapping entries are
cut off at this point.
0:45 [m. 19]--The violas drop out. The violins
and cellos return to the character of the gently swaying
melody from the main (second) part of the theme. In
pleasing harmony and in alternation, they undulate down and
back up. The violins then reach up in long-short rhythms
as the cellos play a harmonized ascending scale with mild
syncopation. The roles are then reversed as the violins
descend in harmony. The cellos convert the long-short
rhythm to a syncopation.
0:55 [m. 23]--The first viola enters, providing the
main melody in an contrapuntal epilogue to the theme.
The second viola is still absent. The second cello
settles on a low repeated pulsation on a “pedal point”
G. The epilogue begins very gently. After two
measures, the first violin reaches up another octave, as does
the second cello pedal point. Suddenly, the intensity
builds and the epilogue is extended by two measures. The
violins reach high with mild syncopation. The second
cello abandons the pedal point, joining the motion of the
first. The harmony lurches toward the “dominant” chord
in the unexpected key of B major.
1:10 [m. 29]--Transition. It begins in B major
and is based on the tremolo first part of Theme
1. The tremolo gestures themselves return in the
second violin and two violas, complete with the accented
melodic leaps from the beginning. The first violin joins
above with the melody. Scale descents are passed from
second violin and first viola to the two cellos, then back to
the previous instruments, who ascend. This last exchange
with the cellos is repeated, with the second violin moving up
an octave. The second viola joins the first cello on a
descent, then the second violin and first viola join the first
violin. They key moves toward D major, the expected
secondary key, and the volume builds. Finally, the
violas and first cello descend, and all instruments land on
the “dominant” chord in D major.
1:19 [m. 33]--Theme 2. The violins establish a
high, decorative leaping motion for one measure. Then
the first cello enters with the new melody itself, a swinging,
boisterous tune in its upper register. The first violin
continues with the high decorative leaping motion. The
violas play plucked two-note descents, and the second cello
adds a solid bass (D major).
1:31 [m. 38]--The second violin enters, taking up the
cello melody at a softer level. It begins like a
repetition. The first violin abandons the high leaping
figures for scale descents, and the first viola and second
cello play the now-ascending two-note plucked figures.
Suddenly, the second violin melody falters as the second viola
joins with a plucked descending arpeggio. The first
violin plunges further downward. The second violin
attempts to re-establish itself a third lower, but it falters
in the same way and the first violin falls even more as the
volume once again builds. Finally, the first violin
takes the lead with its plunging descent and is joined by the
first viola. The second violin joins the plucked
arpeggio in second viola and first cello.
1:42 [m. 43]--The violins drop out, and the lower
instruments suddenly make a mysterious drop to the note
C-natural, seemingly moving away from D major. The
effect, with its sudden quietness, is like the bottom dropping
out. Over held notes in first viola and second cello,
the first cello, then the first violin play downward arching
figures in the character of Theme 2. These suggest a
motion back to G major. These continue through
another measure as second violin and second viola join in slow
harmonies. The colorful chromatic note E-flat is
1:50 [m. 46]--The two measures with the faltering
melody and plunging scale are revisited. This time, the
melody is transferred from second violin to first violin, and
the scales are in the first viola. All three “second”
instruments play more isolated plucked notes against the
faltering melody. The first cello briefly pauses.
After the two statements, wherein D major is again asserted,
the volume builds, and the huge descent is heard again, even
more fully scored, with all instruments bowed.
1:58 [m. 49]--As before, the bottom drops out with the
note C-natural, now in all instruments. This time, it
does in fact herald a full motion back to G for the exposition
repeat. The second violin and second viola hold the
C-natural. A mysterious open fifth on A and E is heard
in the first viola, then the first violin. The second
viola drops out, while the second violin continues to hold the
C. This creates an A-minor chord. In the first
ending (m. 51a), the chord is heard again, even more
quietly. The A-minor chord confirms the suggestion of A
minor at the very beginning of the movement, and smoothly
leads into the repeat.
2:06 [m. 1]--Theme 1, Part 1, as at the beginning, with
2:15 [m. 5]--Two-measure transition, as at 0:09.
2:20 [m. 7]--Theme 1, Part 2. Warm, noble melody,
as at 0:14.
2:30 [m. 11]--Second phrase, as at 0:24.
2:41 [m. 15]--Version of Part 1 without tremolo
and with overlapping entries, as at 0:34.
2:51 [m. 19]--Undulating version of melody, as at 0:45.
3:01 [m. 23]--Epilogue and extension, as at 0:55.
3:16 [m. 29]--Transition beginning in B major based on
tremolo first part of theme, as at 1:10.
3:25 [m. 33]--Theme 2 in D major presented by first
cello after introductory measure, as at 1:19.
3:37 [m. 38]--Second violin statement of Theme 2, then
faltering with plunging descents, as at 1:31.
3:49 [m. 43]--Mysterious drop and arching figures
suggesting return to G major, as at 1:42.
3:57 [m. 46]--Restatement of faltering melody and
plunging scale, as at 1:50.
4:04 [m. 49]--Mysterious drop and transition, as at
1:59. The second ending (m. 51b) still has the A-minor
chord, but it is more full scored, including the second viola,
and the first violin fifth is an octave higher.
4:12 [m. 52]--The development section begins with a
short fugal passage based on the opening tremolo
figures. The second violin emerges from the chord,
playing the opening melodic line on its own. It quickly
diverges into arching figures derived from the scale
descents. The first violin then enters above it.
It adds a wider leap (a fifth instead of a fourth) to the
initial melodic gesture, then continues as had the second
violin, a fifth higher. Under this, the second violin
continues its figuration, then moves to slower leaping
gestures. The key of E minor (“relative” to G major) is
4:20 [m. 56]--The first viola enters with the original
theme, doubled below by the first cello, who plucks it in a
bare version without the tremolo. The violins
continue above with figuration. The slower leaping
gestures pass to the first violin. The harmony moves
quickly, though A minor and B minor and toward D major.
The violins and first viola come together, and the second
viola enters, taking over briefly from the first cello.
These two instruments also come together, the first cello
taking the bow. There is a buildup, and the expected
arrival on D major is highly unstable as the music keeps
4:31 [m. 61]--At the climax, the first violin leads the
thematic material in its original tremolo form, and is
immediately joined by the first cello, who also plays in tremolo.
The other instruments play the bare short-long rhythms,
contributing to the harmony (the second cello doubling the tremolo
bass of the first an octave below). This is very
unstable, moving through a string of minor keys, each of which
heavily emphasizes its own “dominant.” These keys move
down stepwise in each measure, from B minor through A minor,
and finally to G minor, the minor-key version of the home
key. The G-minor arrival is prolonged, with much
emphasis on the “dominant” harmony of D and the “subdominant”
on C. The first violin reaches high, and other
instruments, the second violin and second viola, join the tremolo
4:42 [m. 66]--Suddenly, the climax abates and the tremolo
is breathlessly isolated in pairs of instruments. A
series of alternations in these pairs follows in two
descending waves of three alternations each. The two
violins typically alternate with another pair. In the
first “wave,” the first alternation is with the two violas,
and the two following ones, which leap downward, are with the
first viola and first cello. The pairs play in thirds in
this “wave.” In the second “wave,” the pairs play in
octaves. The alternations are similar, but in the second
and third, the first cello is replaced by the second, and in
the third, the second violin by the first cello. The
second “wave” diminishes in volume and moves toward D minor.
4:51 [m. 70]--The second part of Theme 1, the actual
“main melody,” takes over. This is really an extended
“re-transition,” since the recapitulation begins with this
melody. It is harmonized in second violin and first
viola. It appears to be played in a mixture of D minor
and D major, but G minor asserts itself in the second
measure. The melody is decorated by octave tremolo
interjections in first violin and second viola. After
two measures, while the second violin holds a note, the first
viola is joined by the second in a brief arching, modulating
bridge. The second cello adds a brief tremolo on
a fifth, and the first violin tremolo shadows the
viola bridge. The entire three-measure pattern is then
stated in B-flat major (relative to G minor).
5:05 [m. 76]--The “re-transition” character of the
mysteriously transformed theme becomes more pronounced.
The previous viola bridge at first leads to F-sharp, but the
second violin again joins the first viola, and the “bridge”
figure is used to re-assert G minor. It winds its way
downward. The first violin has two octave tremolo
interjections, then drops out. The second cello has four
such interjections on a fifth, then fourths. The second
viola adds brief answers to the downward-winding lines in the
second violin and first viola. The first cello, which
has been relatively inactive through this re-transition, only
plucking at key points, continues that role. The fourth
measure of this passage is a repetition of the third.
5:14 [m. 80]--Theme 1, Part 2, as at 0:14 and 2:20 [m.
7]. It emerges so naturally from the preceding
re-transition that it is almost unnoticeable. The change
from G minor to G major is also subtle. The first part
of the theme, with the tremolo figures, was prominent
in the development, and it is omitted here.
5:24 [m. 84]--Second phrase, as at 0:24 and 2:30 [m.
5:35 [m. 88]--Version of Theme 1, Part 1 without the tremolo
and with overlapping entries, as at 0:34 and 2:41 [m. 15].
5:45 [m. 92]--Undulating version of melody, as at 0:45
and 2:51 [m. 19].
5:56 [m. 96]--Epilogue and extension, as at 0:55 and
3:01 [m. 23]. The first four measures and most of the
fifth measure follow the exposition without change. At
the end of the fifth measure, the first violin leaps down to
the lower octave. Other than this, the sixth measure is
also largely the same, but at the very end, the lurch toward B
major is diverted, and the buildup lands on the “dominant”
harmony in the home key.
6:11 [m. 102]--Theme 2. The entire transition
passage based on Part 1 is omitted. Theme 2 is stated in
the home key of G major. It is now given to the first
viola instead of the first cello. The other instruments
largely maintain their previous roles from 1:19 and 3:25 [m.
33]. The first violin has the leaping decoration, the
second cello the solid bass. The plucked two-note
descents are now in the second violin and second viola.
The first cello plays in the rhythm of these, doubling the
second cello bass an octave above.
6:22 [m. 107]--Analogous to 1:31 and 3:37 [m.
38]. The scoring is changed. While the second
violin still has the thematic material, it is skeletal in
nature. Downward arpeggios are plucked. The
two-note plucked figures, now repeated notes, are in the two
violas and second cello. The first violin still has the
scale descents. The “faltering melody,” however, is
passed to the first viola, which bows it. The second
violin continues with plucked arpeggios. The climactic
plunging descent is scored largely as in the exposition.
6:35 [m. 112]--Analogous to 1:42 and 3:49 [m.
43]. The bottom now “drops out” to the note
F-natural. The scoring is similar to the exposition,
except that the arching figures that were in the first cello
are now in the first viola. The suggested key is C
major, and the “colorful” chromatic note is A-flat.
6:42 [m. 115]--Analogous to 1:50 and 3:57 [m.
46]. The faltering melody is in the first violin, as in
the exposition, but the scales are in the second violin
instead of the first viola. The first cello now
participates in the plucked notes. The climactic
plunging descent is again very similar, but the second violin
and first viola again reverse roles and the second cello does
not participate. The second viola and first cello are
plucked, making it less assertive than before. G major
6:49 [m. 118]--Now something unexpected happens.
The previous transition, either to the exposition repeat or to
the development, is replaced by an extension of the plunging
descents. Two more are played, over a bass in the second
cello that descends by half-steps, building on the drop from
F-sharp to F-natural heard before. In these descents,
the first violin is the only instrument playing the
scales. All the other instruments are bowed except the
second viola, who plays plucked chords. The first viola
also plays chords instead of arpeggios, but they are
bowed. In the first descent of the extension, the first
violin begins a third lower, and the suggested key is D
minor. In the second, the first violin reaches high,
above where it was before, and the suggested key is C minor.
6:54 [m. 120]--Transition to Coda. The home key
of G is again asserted, but it is the minor-key version.
The violins meander narrowly, supported by the second cello
bass. The second viola continues its plucked chords,
supported by the first cello. The first viola meditates
on the downward-arching figures. After two measures,
there is another harmonic shift, toward the “Neapolitan”
chord, A-flat major. Finally, the violins introduce more
new material, an expressive harmonized phrase that, for the
first time, introduces “straight” rhythm (in the form of
“duplets”) superimposed on the triple-division based 9/8
meter. Against this, the first viola continues its
arching triple-division figures. G major is once again
7:07 [m. 125]--The meditation is interrupted by the
sudden return of the last plunging descent from the
extension. It now begins on the downbeat, and is
extended by a full third of a measure, resulting in a more
precipitous plunge. The second viola and first cello
take the bow here. The meditations follow, with the
narrow meanderings and arching figures, but the roles are
reversed. The violas and cellos take over on the former,
and the violins, second followed by the first, play the
7:18 [m. 129]--The expressive “straight” phrase follows
in the second violin, with both violas now playing the
undulating arpeggios. It is now greatly extended,
forming the basis of a buildup toward the coda. The
first violin soars above it, and the cellos play a smooth,
steady bass under the undulating violas. The second
violin melody, still remaining in straight “duplet” rhythm,
breaks into a trill, gradually increasing in speed. The
buildup merges into the large coda in faster tempo.
CODA – Animato
7:32 [m. 135]--The coda begins with a fugue-like
passage similar to the beginning of the development section,
but the key is centered on G major and its “dominant,” D
major, from the beginning. The second violin begins
first with the tremolo, doubled below by the plucked
second viola. After two measures, the first violin,
doubled by the plucked first viola, comes in above while the
seconds continue with figuration, then slower leaping
7:40 [m. 139]--The cellos enter, the first in tremolo,
the second plucked an octave below. The upper
instruments continue their figuration and leaps, the violas
still plucked. After one measure, the cellos drop out,
and the upper instruments suddenly drop in volume. They
attempt to restart the theme again. This two-measure
sequence is then given again, this time veering toward A
minor. The cellos again enter with a surge of volume,
then drop out as the upper instruments become suddenly hushed.
7:48 [m. 143]--The first violin leads out of the
sequence with an extension of its figuration, focusing on
downward-arching patterns. The second viola and first
cello briefly drop out. The second violin, first viola,
and second cello provide leaping support, the latter two still
plucked. The key moves through E major and D
major. The second viola and first cello re-enter as the
volume builds. Both violas and the second cello take
their bows. The key touches on C major, then strongly
moves back home to G major. At the top of the buildup,
all instruments except the second cello join in the tremolo
7:56 [m. 147]--All six instruments, including the
second cello, now play the tremolo in a grand sequence
based on the opening theme. They move steadily upward,
one step each in the first three measures. In the fourth
measure, they shoot up even faster. The cellos abandon
the tremolo and propel the other instruments forward
with powerful three-note descents using a fast long-short
(dotted) rhythm. The continuous upward motion has
shifted the key to the distant F major, a whole step below the
main key, and a most unexpected arrival point. This
arrival on F is delayed, causing great anticipation, which is
only heightened when the cellos expand their rapid dotted
rhythms to a slower descent in the regular 9/8 flow.
8:08 [m. 153]--The music is suddenly quiet, and a
series of exchanges in pairs of instruments using the
repeated-note tremolo follows, similar to the passage
at 4:42 [m. 66]. Again, there are two waves of three
descending alternations, and the first is played in
thirds. This time, the first violin is paired with the
first viola. On the first alternation, they are joined
by the second violin. The first two alternations are
with the second viola and first cello. The third is with
the two cellos. This “wave” moves from F major to C
8:12 [m. 155]--The second “wave” is in octaves, again
with the first violin and first viola leading. The first
violin plays broken octaves instead of repeated notes on the
first two alternations. The “following” instruments are
second violin and second viola, then second violin and first
cello, and finally the two cellos (with the second plucking
its last note instead of playing the tremolo).
This even quieter wave remains centered on C, but shifts to
8:16 [m. 157]--The first viola, with downward-arching
figures supported by plucked notes in the second cello, leads
into a return of the second part of Theme 1, the “main
melody.” This lead-in measure remains in C major, but
when the violins enter in octaves with the melody, the key
quickly moves back home to G. The violins are followed
and harmonized by the second viola and first cello, also
playing in octaves. The theme blossoms upward, building
in volume. The first viola continues its faster
figuration, then expands to wide arpeggios, and the second
cello continues its plucked bass foundation.
8:24 [m. 161]--The previous passage is presented again
with new scoring, beginning quietly. The first viola is
joined by the second violin in the lead-in measure, and the
second viola, bowed, plays the bass support, doubled above by
the first violin. When the melody enters, it is in
unison from the cellos, and they are followed by the violins
in octaves, a sort of role reversal from the previous
statement. The second violin leaves the faster
figuration to the first viola, and the second viola quickly
takes over for the second cello, passing the pulsing bass to
the latter instrument. Again, there is a joyous buildup.
8:33 [m. 165]--The first cello takes the lead in an
exultant continuation, harmonized by second violin and second
viola. The first viola continues its faster figuration,
then quickly moves to an oscillation, where it is joined by
the second viola. The first violin joins the first cello
melody an octave above.
8:37 [m. 167]--At the climax, the opening tremolo
figures return in second violin and first viola, and they are
quickly joined by the first violin and second viola. The
cellos, in octaves, begin a leaping bass accompaniment.
After two measures, the two violins alternate on the familiar
downward-arching figures, supported by isolated chords.
After two alternations, the violas support them with tremolo
8:45 [m. 171]--In the final peroration, all
instruments, at first using the familiar mildly syncopated
rhythm from the opening tremolo melody, zigzag
downward in unison. The second violin and the violas use
the tremolo, but the first violin and the cellos do
not, making their leaps move forceful. All six
instruments then stall on a G-D alternation before landing on
a unison downbeat G. This is followed on the upbeat and
the last downbeat by two punctuating G-major chords with rich
double and triple stops.
8:57--END OF MOVEMENT [174 mm.]
END OF SEXTET
BRAHMS LISTENING GUIDES HOME