Recording: Melos Quartet (Wilhelm Melcher, 1st Violin; Gerhard Voss, 2nd violin; Hermann Voss, viola; Peter Buck, cello) [DG 423 670-2]
Published 1873.  Dedicated to “his friend” Dr. Theodor Billroth in Vienna.

Brahms approached the string quartet with the same deference and reverence as the symphony.  He claimed to have destroyed 20 attempts at writing a quartet before finally publishing the two of Op. 51 when he was 40 years old.  This was likely hyperbole, but the gestation of the two works doubtlessly spread over several years and was certainly preceded by numerous abortive attempts.  The two earlier sextets, Op. 18 and Op. 36, provided experience in writing for strings, but with a bit more flexibility than the unforgiving exposure of four instruments.  The hallowed genre was pioneered by Haydn, then developed by Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert.  Schumann and Mendelssohn also contributed fine examples.  The Op. 51 quartets bear the stamp of middle-period Beethoven, but filtered through the precedent of later works.  Both are relentless in their serious logic, especially No. 1.  Brahms takes the medium to its absolute limit, packing the tightly argued forms with an overabundance of content, albeit largely derived from the most fundamental building blocks and motives.  They represent Brahms in his most unforgiving and intense minor-key mood.  The publication of two self-contained instrumental works of the same genre within one opus number, common enough with other composers, is rare for Brahms, and the only later example is found in the last chamber works, the clarinet sonatas of Op. 120.  The pair of piano variation sets, Op. 21, are the only precedent.  Interestingly, Schumann and Mendelssohn both published sets of three quartets under a single opus.

The first quartet in C minor is as tragic and inexorable in its progress as anything Brahms wrote.  The outer movements have such continuously aggressive energy that it bleeds into the middle movements.  While more gentle, both of them have a certain level of uneasiness.  The first movement is unstable in its sense of both key and meter.  While the opening scale and downward leap dominate proceedings (and even extend their influence to the finale), the harmonic motion is so fluid that any sense of arrival or respite is thwarted.  The agitated 3/2 meter is tightened in the coda to 2/2, further ratcheting up the driving force, such that Brahms is actually compelled to apply musical brakes, as it were, in the final bars.  For all the warmth and beauty of second movement “Romanze,” it still has a sense of sadness, and it is pervaded by anxiously halting rhythms, especially in the middle section.  The third movement is a superb exemplar of the  Brahmsian intermezzo or scherzo substitute.  It is surprisingly long and repetitive in comparison to the second and fourth movements, but the relaxed tempo in the odd 4/8 meter is balanced by further tonal instability.  The nominal key of F minor is consistently undermined with a bias toward the quartet’s home key of C minor.  The central trio section smiles through the shadows with colorfully charming effects, including striking approaches to both tremolo and pizzicato.  The finale is closely tied to the first movement in substance and character.  Brahms conflates the development and recapitulation to create an especially concise form.  After avoiding firm arrivals for the entire quartet, Brahms uses a massive cello pedal point on low C at the very end, which leads to an almost merciless, if incredibly satisfying resolution.  The guide for the somewhat more lyrical companion work in A minor is here.

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)

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

1st Movement:
Allegro (Sonata-Allegro form). C MINOR, 3/2 time, with coda in cut time [2/2].
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1.  Ominous and agitated, but hushed, the theme shoots upward in the first violin using a forceful long-short (dotted) rhythm, clearly outlining the C-minor scale and arpeggio.  The viola and cello begin an unsettled pulsation, harmonized in thirds and also establishing C minor.  The powerful ascent is almost immediately interrupted by an equally striking downward leap.  The theme continues with two shorter ascents, also followed by downward leaps.  The second violin gradually joins the first in a lower octave doubling.  Already in the third measure, there is a powerful crescendo.  The short fragments are followed by four continuous ascents, each reaching higher as the cello and viola gradually slide down.
0:14 [m. 7]--The instruments, having attained forte, achieve a huge arrival in two hammering chords, landing on the “dominant” chord of G major.  After the second chord is released, the viola holds an octave G for another full measure, having quickly receded in volume.  Because of the broad triple meter, the measures are long, so the held octave is full of tension.  After this, there is another pair of short chords, much lower and much quieter, sliding chromatically through the chord of G-flat major and down to F major.  Again, the viola holds an octave through the last beat of the measure and then another full measure.
0:22 [m. 11]--The following passage could be seen as the beginning of a long transition or as the second part of Theme 1.  It is a new idea in a new key.  The F major of the last chord is inflected to F minor, where the new idea is played.  The first violin has two similar expressive phrases, consisting of a gentle downward motion followed by an expansive and upward reaching continuation in triplet rhythm.  Under it, the second violin and viola play distinct fragments of the Theme 1 material.  The cello holds slow-moving long notes.  The second phrase moves toward C, but it is C major and at first seems like a “dominant” in F minor.
0:30 [m. 15]--There is in fact a full motion back to C minor here, analogous to the previous shift from F major to F minor.  The preceding idea with two expressive phrases is now played in C by the second violin.  The long notes are now played above, in the first violin, and the Theme 1 fragments are in viola and cello.  The end of the second phrase goes toward G, as would be expected, but the note F-sharp is then used as the central note of a diversion in a three-bar extension.  The cello plays the rising line from Theme 1 while the second violin trails down with the new idea, then drops out and passes it to the viola.  The viola and cello quietly break off.  They then play an isolated, tense, F-sharp, a seeming “dominant” in B minor.
0:43 [m. 22]--Transition.  The viola and cello make a three-note descent that definitively moves back to C minor.  Overlapping with this, the violins in unison (quickly spreading to octaves) charge upward in a scale motion.  Under this, the viola and cello immediately begin an almost full statement of Theme 1, stating the first four measures without alteration.  In the second of these measures, the violins, having ended their scale, move to a feverish, hammering accompaniment.  The first plays downward-arching octaves while the second pulsates on repeated chords.
0:52 [m. 27]--At this point, the viola and cello invert the direction of the fifth and sixth measures of the theme, and the sixth is altered harmonically to introduce the note C-flat and the chord of A-flat minor.  The violins continue their hammering motion.  After these two measures, the same material is passed to the violins in unison, now played in its original direction.  The viola takes over the pulsations and the cello plays long, leaping bass notes.  The A-flat-minor harmony gives way to the related E-flat minor, and there the familiar hammering chords are played.  They are immediately repeated with the first violin a third higher, strongly confirming E-flat minor.  The viola quickly emerges in angry upward-arching octaves.
1:02 [m. 33]--Theme 2 (E-flat minor).  It is very agitated, but hushed.  The viola’s arching figures contract from octaves and then expand, but the shape remains consistent.  It is derived from the first violin figuration from the transition.  Against it, the second violin plays a descending arpeggio on the offbeats, resting between the notes.  It is then joined by the first violin, and they play another arpeggio in harmony.  The cello enters with a sustained bass line, and the violins move to heavily syncopated figures, still beginning on offbeats and using repeated notes.  These build to a widely arching harmonized line.  This reaches high, builds in volume, then recedes as it moves to an arrival on the “dominant.”
1:17 [m. 41]--The first violin takes over the arching motion, which now becomes prominent and moves upward.  The arching intervals are narrow.  The cello, meanwhile, takes the offbeat descending arpeggios, which confirm E-flat minor over two measures, supported by harmonies in the two middle instruments.  The pattern is then reversed, with the cello playing the arching lines and the first violin the arpeggios.  The harmony shifts up a fourth, to A-flat minor.  The viola takes over the arching line from the cello in the second measure.
1:24 [m. 45]--The viola is the only instrument to play on the downbeat, sliding up from its figuration.  The other instruments enter immediately thereafter, in full harmony on the syncopated figures in repeated notes, as the key abruptly shifts down a step to F-sharp minor.  The second violin maintains the active arching motion. The viola continues to slowly slide up against the agitated harmonies.  After two measures, the level is wrenched up again, now brightly emerging in A major (“relative” to F-sharp minor).  There is a huge crescendo, and the first violin stalls on the half-step G-sharp—A.  This is hammered repeatedly as the other instruments play sweeping and overlapping upward arpeggios, forming rich harmony.
1:38 [m. 53]--The harmony suddenly and forcefully lurches to the “dominant” of E-flat, the key center of Theme 2.  But now it is E-flat major, with only a few hints at the former minor key.  The arpeggios continue, shooting up in second violin and viola, then taken by first violin, while the cello provides a solid bass.  The first violin then emerges into sighing, almost heaving figures in long-short rhythm while the second violin continues to churn on the arpeggios and the viola has its own more even “sighing” gestures.
1:44 [m. 57]--On an upbeat, the violins and viola suddenly come together in the forceful upward arpeggios.  The cello, leaping up and down, introduces the long-short rhythm again in the next measure, but the other instruments quickly take it up.  This happens in a very close succession of second violin, then viola, then first violin.  The result is that the rhythm overlaps between the viola and cello playing long notes on the main beats and the violins playing in syncopation halfway off the main beat.  All play the “heaving” figures, the violins in octaves.  The key is now unabashedly major.  Suddenly, the volume dies down, the first violin drops out, and the viola pulsates in double stops off the beat, leaving the cello and second violin stalled, the former leaping (with a brief minor inflection), the latter murmuring on the overlapping rhythms.
1:55 [m. 63]--Closing material (E-flat major).  The first violin enters on the upbeat with a gentle line marked dolce and utilizing the chromatic note A-natural.  The other instruments all continue the figuration they have just established, and they are all quite static, with slow harmonic motion.  After two broad downward-arching phrases, the first violin winds its way upward in faster notes.  Strong syncopation is introduced, with notes held over beats, and there are more chromatic inflections.
2:04 [m. 67]--The accompanying instruments finally break their continuous motion with two detached chords as the first violin plunges down in an arpeggio from its high point.  The other instruments briefly break, and the first violin is left alone as it works its way back up.  It then again arches down and back up, but from a lower high point and incorporating minor-key inflections.  The other instruments play the gently punctuating chords (the second violin entering earlier), then drop out.  Having reached a third (lower) high point, the first violin breaks into widely arching figures before arriving on a conclusive scale descent to E-flat.  The other instruments provide a backdrop of sustained, slow-moving harmonies.
2:23 [m. 75]--The first violin drops out after its arrival, but at that point, the cello suddenly plays the unmistakable opening gesture of Theme 1, including its distinctive downward leap.  This entry attempts to assert E-flat minor, but it cuts off under the harmony in second violin and viola.  The cello then plucks out two thumps on the “dominant” note of B-flat as the first violin, attempting to resist, again plays its conclusive descent in major.  The pattern is repeated, with the cello again making the entry on Theme 1.
2:34 [m. 80, first ending]--The three-measure first ending (mm. 80a-82a) is extremely elegant in its motion back to the home key of C minor for the exposition repeat.  The downward leap of the cello’s Theme 1 entry is subtly expanded to a full octave, and G-flat is re-spelled as F-sharp.  This, along with a new and flexible “diminished seventh” harmony, allows the cello to slide up to G for its plucked notes.  G is the “dominant” of C minor.  The first violin plays its conclusive descent, but it is changed from major to minor and moved down a third to arrive on C, an arrival that coincides exactly with the return of the opening.
2:42 [m. 1]--Theme 1 opening with rising scales, downward leaps, and powerful crescendo.
2:52 [m. 7]--Hammering chords, held viola octave, and quieter chords, as at 0:14.
3:01 [m. 11]--Expressive new idea in F minor, as at 0:22.
3:08 [m. 15]--Continuation in C minor, then gradual trailing off to isolated F-sharp, as at 0:30.
3:22 [m. 22]--Transition.  Theme 1 in low instruments with feverish, hammering violins, as at 0:43.
3:31 [m. 27]--Inversion of Theme 1 and motion to E-flat minor, as at 0:52.
3:41 [m. 33]--Theme 2 in E-flat minor.  Agitated violin lines above arching viola figures, as at 1:02.
3:56 [m. 41]--Figures passed between instruments in motion toward A-flat minor, as at 1:17.
4:03 [m. 45]--Agitated harmonies moving to A major as first violin stalls on half-step, as at 1:24.
4:16 [m. 53]--Lurching shift to E-flat major, then sighing, heaving figures, as at 1:38.
4:23 [m. 57]--Forceful arpeggios, overlapping “heaving” figures, and diminishing volume, as at 1:44.
4:33 [m. 63]--Closing material in E-flat major.  Gentle first violin line that winds upward, as at 1:55.
4:42 [m. 67]--Widely arching, lightly accompanied first violin line and descent to E-flat, as at 2:04.
5:01 [m. 75]--Twofold Theme 1 entry in cello, alternating with first violin descent to E-flat, as at 2:23.
5:13 [m. 80, second ending]--Although the cello’s downward octave leap on F-sharp is retained, the second ending diverges immediately after that.  The cello slides down to F rather than up to G, and does not pluck notes, rather repeats its octave gesture.  Meanwhile, the first violin, instead of playing a descent starting on G, now ascends up a scale and beyond, beginning on A.  The notes of this scale are long, some held over bar lines, and the underlying harmonies, especially the cello playing an slow descending arpeggio that obscures the 3/2 meter, confirm a motion to A minor, the first key of the development section.
5:22 [m. 84]--Hushed and mysterious, the two violins begin a tremolo while the cello provides a solid bass.  Against this, the viola plays the main rising Theme 1 gesture in A minor.  With the dissonant leap as a harmonic bridge, the viola repeats the gesture a half-step higher, on B-flat major.  After this, the pattern is repeated, but now taken by the first violin (the viola taking over the tremolo with the second violin).  This time, a statement from the cello (on F) bridges the two violin statements on A minor and B-flat.  At the same time, the volume begins to build.  The cello again overlaps at the end of the pattern, this time leading over the continuing crescendo to an emphatic, full cadence in A minor.
5:37 [m. 92]--At the cadence, a forceful three-note figure derived from the theme is passed between the viola and the two violins.  Rising gestures alternate with falling ones, the latter played in harmony by two instruments.  The cello leaves its bass foundation to add its own falling gestures before the instruments come together in a suggestion of C major.
5:44 [m. 96]--In a sudden juxtaposition, Theme 2 unexpectedly enters at a hushed level.  It begins in F minor, and is then quickly inflected to F major.  The material is all familiar, but the plucked cello is new.  The syncopated figures with repeated notes serve to shift the music harmonically again, moving toward E minor.
5:51 [m. 100]--Both patterns from 5:37 [m. 92] and 5:44 [m. 96] are repeated in a sequence.  The forceful three-note figures are played beginning in E minor and, after having been passed around, come together in a suggestion of G major.  Then the Theme 2 segment begins in C minor/major (following the analogous pattern), moving toward B minor at the syncopated figures with repeated notes.
6:06 [m. 108]--With the arrival on B minor, a new pattern begins.  The viola continues with the arching, largely broken octave accompaniment to Theme 2.  The cello plays a variant of the main Theme 1 line against it.  The rhythm is the same, but it ranges much more widely, outlining the B-minor chord in first inversion.  As it concludes with the downward leap, the violins enter with the syncopated, repeated-note figures from Theme 2, harmonized in thirds.  This entire sequence is repeated a step higher, in C minor.
6:13 [m. 112]--The key signature changes to four sharps, and the music arrives in C-sharp minor.  The cello again plays a version of Theme 1, this time closer to the original, the viola continuing its angry arching lines.  Now the violins imitate the Theme 1 gesture in a harmonized version.  They then continue with the syncopated, repeated-note figures as the cello plays yet another statement of the rising Theme 1 gesture.  The harmony vacillates from C-sharp minor to A major, then back again as the second violin alone now imitates the cello line.  Above it, the first violin continues the syncopated, repeated-note figures.  This last pattern, with the second violin imitating the cello, is repeated with the first violin an octave lower.
6:24 [m. 118]--The viola finally abandons its constant, insistent arching accompaniment.  It joins the cello, initially in octaves, on fragments of the Theme 1 line.  Meanwhile, the violins, in harmony, play a fragmented version of the now ubiquitous and hammering repeated-note figures from Theme 2.  The cello and viola break into harmony, leading to an apparent cadence in C-sharp minor.  This, however, is interrupted by a repetition of the pattern with the parts reversed, violins on the Theme 1 fragments with cello and viola on the repeated-note figures.  But the violins do not break into harmony, instead continuing upward in unison octaves, ratcheting up the tension as the first violin reaches very high.
6:36 [m. 125]--At this climax, the repeated-note figures take over in all instruments, and their syncopated character returns.  The violins alternate with the viola and cello.  The latter play in very dissonant, clashing harmonies while the violins lean heavily toward an arrival on A.  The second violin adds a persistent B below its figures as a double-stop, almost a “pedal point.”  After two measures, the figures are reduced to simple long-short dotted rhythms, with the viola and cello plunging downward.
6:44 [m. 129]--The arrival point is almost joyous, and while the harmony is the anticipated A major, it is never fully confirmed in the bass.  All four instruments almost frantically pass the cascading gestures to each other, from high to low.  For three measures, A major is maintained (without a complete arrival), but the fourth veers back to C-sharp minor.
6:51 [m. 133]--Re-transition.  It is both abrupt and brief.  The music suddenly becomes quiet after the huge climax.  In the cello and viola, C-sharp slides down to C, which (as B-sharp) had functioned as a leading note in C-sharp minor.  Now, with the key signature changed back to the three flats of C minor, it suddenly becomes the keynote.  The viola begins to hammer on that C while the cello plays an arpeggio in the rhythm of Theme 1.  The violins, harmonized in thirds, play the first three notes of Theme 1 itself.  The measure is repeated once, then again, with the note values doubled and stretched to two measures.  The last third is held into the next measure, which contains the disguised and subtle arrival of the recapitulation.
6:58 [m. 137]--Theme 1.  Out of the note held over the measure, the theme emerges in its original rhythmic form.  While lacking its assertive onset, it proceeds with steadily increasing strength, and with more doubling in the second violin than before.  A new element is a more active bass in the cello, which is lower and moves downward with more purpose, still played in tremolo.  By the third measure, this cello descent is quite chromatic.  The viola in double stops ends up taking the previous harmonies.  As the theme reaches the series of powerful, continuous ascents, the cello, abandoning the tremolo, adds a new, assertive descending arpeggio.
7:09 [m. 143]--At the point analogous to 0:14 and 2:52 [m. 7], the first pair of hammering chords and the following held viola octave essentially matches its model.  Its quiet sequel, however, is subtly shifted so that the chords at first remain on G and only descend to F-sharp instead of F.  There the second viola octave is held.  Then, a surprising third pair of chords is added, this time a near shadow, with all instruments plucked except the viola.  These plucked chords descend such that the top violin note moves down through E to D, but the harmony ends up on B minor.  The viola now holds a single held D through the following measure.
7:21 [m. 149]--Two more measures are appended to the already extended chord/octave passage.  The viola is still the only instrument bowed, and it makes a smooth descent, at first chromatic, as the other instruments play plucked notes around it.  The cello plays an ascending pattern on the beats while the violins, in harmony, follow with an arch on the off-beats.  The harmony suggests D major throughout.
7:25 [m. 151]--The passage from 0:22 and 3:01 [m. 11] follows, taking on more of a “transition” character by being set in a different key than in the exposition.  The first expressive phrase is set a step higher, in G, but it is a curious mixture of G major and minor.  The second violin and viola play their Theme 1 fragments together, rather than in succession, and the more active cello arches up and back down.  The second phrase begins the same way, but by its second measure, it effortlessly arrives at the same motion to C major as heard in the exposition.  Approached from G instead of F, however, the arrival is more decisive.
7:33 [m. 155]--The passage beginning with a shift to C minor is analogous to 0:30 and 3:08 [m. 15], and even virtually identical to it for three measures, the only difference being a more florid viola line in the second measure.  But in the fourth measure, where there had previously been a motion to G at the end of the second phrase, Brahms instead diverts to F.  Thus, the approach to C and the departure from it are an exact reversal from the exposition.  The scoring is also changed, with the cello dropping to a low C and holding it, the first violin and viola taking over the Theme 1 fragments.  The three-bar diversion follows as expected, but with the cello holding the low C, it is less active.  The cello does rise from the low note before the pause and isolated note, which is now a low E, a step lower than the previous F-sharp.
7:47 [m. 162]--Transition.  Analogous to 0:43 and 3:22 [m. 22].  The quiet three-note descent is stated twice, extending the passage by a measure.  The first one, in first violin and viola, is surprisingly at the same pitch level as the one in the exposition, but the middle note is altered to avoid a strong arrival.  The second statement, in second violin and cello, rearranges the intervals and arrives on F, so there is no tonal motion.  Against the second statement, the first violin emerges strongly from a held note into the upbeat to the following upward charge, which is in F minor.  The cello and viola follow the pattern from the exposition, but the “hammering” first violin octaves add a new, dynamic downward motion.
7:57 [m. 168]--The passage from 0:52 and 3:31 [m. 27] follows its exposition presentation, transposed to F minor.  The viola and cello octaves continue as expected.  The violin octaves and harmonies are adjusted, with the first violin now static on an octave D-flat.  An extremely subtle change has great consequence when the violins take over the dotted-rhythm octaves.  Corresponding to the exposition, the harmony would be A-flat minor, but it is changed to A-flat major.  The cello, instead of holding long notes, joins the viola on the pulsations.  The hammering chords are also subtly altered.  The A-flat-major harmony, coupled with re-positioning of the cello leaps, facilitates a motion back home to C minor.  The viola octaves begin, heralding the arrival of Theme 2 in the home key.
8:08 [m. 174]--Theme 2 in C minor.  It corresponds closely to 1:02 and 3:41 [m. 33], but adds a plaintive cello line in the first two measures, its smooth motion somewhat offsetting the off-beat violin interjections.  From the third measure, where the cello previously entered, the transposition is quite literal.
8:22 [m. 182]--Closely analogous to 1:17 and 3:56 [m. 41].  Motion to F minor recalls the transition.
8:29 [m. 186]--Corresponds to 1:24 and 4:03 [m. 45].  The agitated harmonies, now in E-flat minor, create a neat connection to the exposition, where the theme began in that key.  The major key that follows is notated as G-flat/F-sharp major (presented as both in succession).  After the huge crescendo, the first violin stalls on a half-step, as expected, now F (notated as E-sharp) and F-sharp.
8:43 [m. 194]--Analogous to 1:38 and 4:16 [m. 53].  The “lurching” shift is to the “dominant” of C major.  The sighing, heaving figures follow as before.
8:49 [m. 198]--Continuation with forceful arpeggios and overlapping “heaving” figures, analogous to 1:44 and 4:23 [m. 57].  The second violin and viola reverse roles from the exposition in this whole passage.  There is also some shifting and displacing of the original register, but the overall correspondence is still very close.
9:00 [m. 204]--Closing material in C major, corresponding to 1:55 and 4:33 [m. 63].  The first violin line is directly transposed.  The second violin and viola continue to reverse roles from the exposition.  The cello leaps up midway through the passage because a direct transposition would reach below its range.
9:09 [m. 208]--Widely arching first violin line, corresponding to 2:04 and 4:47 [m. 67].  Here, again because of a direct transposition reaching lower than the violin’s range, there is an alteration and an octave shift in the middle, with the first violin beginning lower than the exposition, but finishing higher.  The result is that the third high point is higher, not lower, than the second, and on the same level as the first.  The lower three instruments again provide sustained, slow-moving harmonies.  The conclusive descent is to a C, but because of the previous register shift, it is higher than the exposition’s E-flat.
9:28 [m. 216]--Two Theme 1 entries in the cello, interrupted by repetition of first violin descent to C, almost exactly analogous to the end of the exposition at 2:23 and 5:01 [m. 75].
9:40 [m. 221]--Here, Brahms’s extremely careful planning is masterful, but almost concealed.  These three measures correspond to the first ending at 2:34 [m. 80].  But now Brahms is already at home in C.  So he does not expand the cello leap to an octave, instead retaining its first leap to the note F-sharp, the goal of the altered leap in the first ending!  The plucked cello notes have already been on G.  After this, the music can proceed as in the first ending, with the change from major to minor in the first violin descent.  This passage shows that the exposition repeat in this movement should not be omitted under any circumstance, as the first ending’s absence would lessen the impact of this moment at the end of the recapitulation.
9:47 [m. 224]--At the arrival point, Brahms changes the time signature from 3/2 to cut time or 2/2.  The effect of this is to create a rushed feeling without really speeding up, although he does indicate agitato along with crescendo.  The first material is a compressed version of Theme 2, with off-beat entries and then agitated rising figures.  A four-measure unit is heard twice, the second time with the lead first violin an octave higher.  In the first statement, the cello plays broken octaves on C.  These are passed to the viola for the second statement.
9:56 [m. 232]--The first violin marks an arrival with a downward octave leap.  At the same time, the second violin begins a double-stop tremolo while the cello and viola shoot upward in a clear derivation of Theme 1, now in major.  The rocketing upward motion is then passed to the violins,also in major, the viola taking the tremolo, and the cello moving downward.  The pattern repeats at a higher level, with the forceful upward motion passed back to viola and cello, then again to the violins, with similar exchange of parts and the cello culminating in a descending octave.  Things are now extremely agitated and intense.
10:01 [m. 236]--At this point, the first violin is extremely high, and, back in minor, it plays a wailing line reaching to a D-flat on the fifth ledger line above the staff.  This is a climactic moment.  Against it, both the second violin and viola now have the tremolo, and the cello plays the forceful upward lines from Theme 1.  After this, the first violin plays the distinctive downward leaps from Theme 1 while the cello takes the wailing line, leaping up to do so.  The pattern is repeated, this time with the first violin an octave lower.  In the repetition, the cello is at the same bass level for the forceful lines, but an octave lower for the wailing line.  The repetition an octave lower begins a rapid settling down.
10:09 [m. 244]--The second violin and viola emerge into the agitated repeated notes derived from Theme 2, alternating with the tremolo.  The cello again plays the forceful upward gestures from Theme 1, again in major, and using its lowest C.  The first violin now plays feverish accented chords, also in major, on the weak beats, assisted by second violin and viola, who accent the beginnings of their repeated-note figures.  The third of these chords is on a striking “Neapolitan” D-flat chord, from which it takes over the ascending Theme 1 figure from the cello.  The entire sequence is then repeated.
10:18 [m. 252]--Now things settle completely down in an extended diminuendo.  The major key is firmly established.  The cello plays one more upward gesture in the main rhythm, then slows to a gentle triplet rhythm for the next one.  The first violin chords settle on C major, while the second violin and viola slow their tremolo down to the same triplet rhythm.  The cello retains this, with rocking figures emphasizing the low C.  The first violin chords thin to an octave and a sixth, moving down, while the inner instruments and cello slow down even more to a straight rhythm.  The cello and first violin now both play on weak beats, holding notes over bar lines.  The intense, dramatic movement closes on a transfigured C-major chord.
10:44--END OF MOVEMENT [260 mm.]

2nd Movement: Romanze – Poco Adagio (Ternary form--ABA’ with coda).  A-FLAT MAJOR, 3/4 time.

A Section
0:00 [m. 1]--The second violin, viola, and cello introduce the gentle, richly harmonized upward gesture in long-short (dotted) rhythm that permeates the movement.  The first violin enters at the end of the first measure, responding with an expressive melody, also in the long-short rhythm.  The other instruments change the harmony on two successive statements of the upward gesture under the first violin melody.  Things stall on the fourth measure, with the introduction of chromatic notes.  The second violin becomes independent here, and introduces the dissonant note C-flat.  A strongly reiterated D-natural in the first violin helps move the key to E-flat major, where the six-measure phrase ends with a syncopated cadence.
0:26 [m. 7]--A D-flat in the second violin moves the key back to A-flat, where the phrase is repeated in a new scoring.  The first violin joins the harmonized upward gesture, which is consequently moved higher as a whole, and the cello takes the melody.  The closing measures with the E-flat cadence are a bit less active.  The second violin again becomes independent, but its line is an octave higher.  It again brings back D-flat to lead into the next phrase.
0:51 [m. 13]--The next phrase introduces a change, with a direct shift to C major and the marking dolce.  The second violin and viola play the upward gesture, and the first violin soars above in long notes.  The cello is absent for two measures.  When it re-enters, the key immediately shifts back home to A-flat and the volume reaches its quietest level.  The first violin twice descends in a syncopated rhythm.  At the end of the phrase, again six measures, the dotted rhythm and upward gesture break.  The first violin, with colorful chromatic inflections, leads the other instruments smoothly into the last phrase of the main A section.
1:17 [m. 19]--The instruments now come together in full, warm harmony.  Throughout the A section, the dynamic level has swelled and receded, but now there is a real buildup.  The first violin appropriates the upward gesture in a yearning melodic line.  After two upward swings, the melodic line, in syncopation, sinks down to an apparent cadence, but this is abruptly cut off right at the arrival point.
1:30 [m. 22]--The second half of the phrase is a varied repetition of the first three bars.  The cello initially takes the yearning melodic line (with the viola covering its previous chromatically-tinged harmony), but on the second upward swing, it is joined an octave above by the first violin.  The same sinking, interrupted cadence follows, with the first violin an octave higher and the lower harmonies slightly altered.  Brahms indicates that the previous buildup should quickly recede.
1:42 [m. 25]--In a very brief two-bar transition, the viola, then the second violin, and finally the cello begin pulsing quietly on the triplet rhythm that dominates the B section.  They harmonize closely.  In the second measure, they move downward, and the first violin enters in “straight” rhythm with an echo of the two interrupted cadences.
B Section--A-flat minor
1:51 [m. 27]--In block harmonies, the instruments play sighing, dolce halting figures in triplet rhythm beginning off the beat.  After the first gesture, they become shorter.  Following the first set, the second begins on an unexpected harmony, B major, but it is such a subtle shift that the first violin is able to stay on the same pitches (notated differently) until about halfway through this second set of figures.
2:04 [m. 31]--Now the first violin breaks free with a soaring line, still beginning off the beat, but rising above the other instruments, who pulsate on chords.  The phrase begins in B major.  The first violin swells to a high point, then moves to a straight rhythm for its descent, clashing with the pulsing chords.  On this descent, it moves away from B major.  The volume quickly recedes, and the first violin continues its descent, alternating between syncopated triplet rhythm and straight rhythm.  The descent finally reaches a full cadence on E-flat minor.  Brahms makes much use of “enharmonic” relationships, where notating pitches in different ways can make key relationships seem more distant than they are.
2:20 [m. 35]--The sequence of dolce halting figures begins again.  The first set, which is again in A-flat minor, begins the same in the first violin, but the other instruments are on different pitches, most notably the cello, which is on a low E-flat.  The opening harmony is the “dominant” on that E-flat.  The first violin pitches remain as before until the very end, where they reach lower.  In the second set of figures, the cello slides up to E, and the other instruments reach higher.  The set is a wholesale transposition of the previous figures in B major up to E major.
2:33 [m. 39]--With the transposition to E major, the soaring melody from 2:04 [m. 31] is primed for an arrival back home on A-flat (instead of the previous E-flat).  But in a twist, the soaring melody is played by the cello instead of the first violin, at least for its first sweeping arch.  The first violin joins the other instruments in the pulsating chords.  With the continuing descent and the alternation between syncopated triplet rhythm and straight rhythm, the melody moves back to the first violin and reaches the expected cadence in A-flat minor.
2:48 [m. 43]--Re-transition.  After the cadence, the cello continues with its off-beat pulsations, moving steadily upward.  Against this, the first violin and viola, in harmony, bring back the familiar upward gesture in dotted rhythm from the main section.  Briefly turning to E major, the instruments continue upward, now joined by the second violin, and return to A-flat (with a deft respelling of G-sharp as A-flat).  A third sequence continues to move up and builds in volume, briefly touching on C minor.  At the top, the first violin stalls while the second violin and viola ease back downward and recede.  The pulsing off-beat cello drops down to a low E-flat and is now plucked.  All of this melts into the return of the main theme.
A’ Section
3:12 [m. 49]--While the outlines of the first phrase are maintained, it is greatly varied through the introduction of a triplet rhythm.  Most recognizable is the initial gesture in the lower three instruments, but already above it, the first violin begins its decorations in the triplet rhythm, distinctively holding notes over the beats.  This triplet rhythm continues in a highly embellished version of the original first violin melody.  It slowly infects the second violin and viola as well, the cello alone resisting it.  The harmonic structure of the phrase is maintained, most clearly in the cello line, and the decorative first violin line marks the expected arrival on E-flat with an upward arpeggio in a faster sixteenth-note rhythm.
3:34 [m. 55]--The second phrase is both more florid and higher than the first.  The first violin soars in broad sixteenth-note patterns with distinctive octave leaps both up and down.  As with the previous statement in triplets, it holds notes over beats.  The other instruments again begin with the familiar gesture, but they also devolve into the sixteenth-note patterns.  The cello takes over the familiar melody, as it did before in the second phrase.  In the fourth measure, with the first violin reaching very high levels, the triplet rhythm works its way back into the texture, clashing with the sixteenth-note patterns.  The viola moves below the cello, providing a bass for its melody.  The phrase again ends with a first violin arpeggio.
3:59 [m. 61]--While the phrase corresponds to 0:51 [m. 13], only the most basic harmonic structure is similar.  With the first violin reaching the top of its arpeggio, the key makes the expected shift to C major.  The dotted rhythm, however, disappears, and the arpeggio introduced by the first violin is passed between the upper three instruments.  The cello provides a foundation with steady plucked notes.  After the first three measures and the motion back to A-flat, the triplet rhythm returns in the first violin as it plunges downward.  At the same time, the other instruments slow down and the cello, taking the bow, provides a bass line resembling the end of the original phrase.
4:22 [m. 67]--Finally, the music takes on the firmly recognizable outline of the climactic final phrase of the main A section, corresponding closely to 1:17 [m. 19].  But it is not an exact repetition, as the triplet rhythm continues its presence, initially in the cello and viola for the first two upward swings before the interrupted cadence.
4:35 [m. 70]--Corresponding to 1:30 [m. 22], the repetition with the melody in the cello follows as expected, the now pervasive triplet rhythm moving to the again soaring first violin.  The expected sinking, interrupted cadence arrives, hinting at a return of the B section material.
4:47 [m. 73]--As before, a two-bar transition follows, but the pulsing rhythm is replaced by pizzicato chords in the two violins and cello.  These are heard on the first two beats of each bar.  The echo of the interrupted cadence is now in the viola, and it already begins in the first bar.  It then extends further downward in the second bar, implying a motion toward D-flat instead of A-flat.
4:56 [m. 75]--The coda begins with the sighing, halting figures from the B section.  After initially suggesting a harmony on D-flat, they they turn surprisingly upward, making a striking motion toward the distant key of E major.  Once there, the shorter two-note figures are heard.  In the third measure, the first violin presents an entirely new idea, a yearning melody in E.  This melody is in “straight” rhythm, clashing with the persistent triplets of the lower instruments, which move steadily upward.  When the melody turns back down, so too do the second violin and viola, but the cello continues to move up.
5:11 [m. 79]--The first violin breaks off briefly, but the other instruments continue the steady triplet motion.  The sequence begins a step higher, with the halting figures initially suggesting E-flat, then turning to G-flat, where the yearning first violin melody in straight rhythm begins again.  But this time, the other instruments do not move upward, and the melody is diverted in its second measure, essentially stalling on a note held over the bar line.  The other three instruments now begin a downward motion, extending the phrase, as the first violin also swings its way down, moving back home toward A-flat major.
5:30 [m. 84]--In a two-bar transition, all instruments move to straight rhythm.  The first violin begins a descent that becomes fully chromatic after the first two notes.  The other instruments settle on off-beat punctuating chords as the volume diminishes approaching the arrival.
5:38 [m. 86]--Now the top three instruments begin an incredibly warm reminiscence of the beautiful closing phrase from the main A section melody.  The melody is divided between the two violins, who exchange positions.  An expressive octave leap in the first violin, followed by a downward swing, is punctuated by three plucked cello arpeggios.  The sequence begins again, moved up a fourth, but after the octave leap, the first violin reaches even higher against the returning cello arpeggios.
5:56 [m. 90]--Unexpectedly, the violins suddenly drop out.  The viola and cello, the latter now bowed and in double stops, take up the main melodic gesture, making a surprising harmonic diversion, again to the distant key of E major.  This detour is striking at such a late point.  The violins immediately respond, still in E, but Brahms re-spells it as F-flat to help facilitate a quick motion back home.  With a surge, A-flat major makes its final conquest as the first violin reaches its top note and begins a beautiful descent in triplet rhythm.  This descent is in two waves separated by an upward leap.  The second violin accompanies in clashing straight rhythm, the viola echoes the opening gesture, and the cello plays pairs of plucked chords.
6:13 [m. 94]--The movement closes with gentle sighing gestures in the violins, a last reminiscence of the opening gesture in the viola, and more warm plucked cello chords.  The final chord is off the beat, with the violins now plucked and the cello bowed.  The third of the chord, C, is on top, creating a suspended effect.
6:36--END OF MOVEMENT [96 mm.]

3rd Movement: Allegretto molto moderato e comodo; [Trio] Un poco più animato (Intermezzo and Trio).  F MINOR, 4/8 and 3/4 time.

ALLEGRETTO [INTERMEZZO] (F minor, 4/8 time)
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1.  Beginning on an upbeat, the first violin plays a descending chain of two-note suspensions, semplice.  The F-minor key is confirmed by the opening D-flat, but the melody and underlying harmony have a strong pull toward C minor from the outset.  The first violin figures leap back up each measure, reaching higher for the third gesture.  Meanwhile, the viola has a plaintive counterpoint with heavy syncopation.  The second violin and cello provide a steady pulse, bass line, and harmony.  The first half of the phrase moves strongly toward E-flat major.  The second half begins the same way, but the third gesture avoids the large leap, becomes more strongly chromatic, and settles to a full cadence in C minor.
0:18 [m. 9]--After the cadence, an upbeat immediately moves back to F minor for the contrasting phrase.  The first violin and viola are now in unison, as are the second violin and cello.  The latter pair keeps the two-note figures moving, while the first violin and viola hold long notes before joining the others on upbeats.  After the first two measures, the instruments move gradually upward and the minor-key harmonies move through A-flat and B-flat on their way back to C.  The volume swells and recedes.  During the descent to the cadence, the second violin and cello split into harmony, and then the first violin and viola abandon their unison as well, the latter joining the faster motion.
0:31 [m. 15]--At this second cadence, the cello starts to pulse on a low C.  The second violin and viola, in unison, slide downward chromatically.  The first violin has a new and passionate melody that starts high and winds its way downward.  It culminates in an arch figure that is imitated by second violin and viola as the cello pulsation slides upward.  After another descent in first violin and cello, the former leaps back up.  The pattern is repeated, but now with the first violin on the descending chromatic notes, and the second violin and viola taking the passionate melody.  An extra imitation of the arch is added, and then the instruments descend to a third C-minor cadence, complete with reiterations in the cello.
0:52 [m. 25, first ending]--The two-measure first ending begins with a first violin arpeggio in C minor over another cello reiteration.  But the second violin, followed by the viola, introduces the note D-flat to make a transition back to F minor for the repeat.  Their entries, along with syncopated leaps in the first violin, merge smoothly into the opening upbeat.
0:55 [m. 1]--Part 1 repeated.  First phrase in two halves, settling to first C-minor cadence.
1:12 [m. 9]--Contrasting phrase with pairs of instruments in unison, as at 0:18.
1:25 [m. 15]--Passionate new melody against chromatic descents, as at 0:31.
1:46 [m. 25, second ending]--Part 2.  The first violin plays the same arpeggio as in the first ending, but now the second violin and viola responses also remain in C minor.  The upper three instruments break into syncopated pulsations as the cello enters, also with heavy syncopation, using the plaintive counterpoint heard from the viola at the beginning.  Suddenly, the harmonies change, and both the syncopated pulsations and the cello melody shift down a half-step to B minor.  The pattern is repeated with the melody in the first violin and the pulsations in second violin double stops and viola (the cello briefly pausing).  It seems as if this passage will make another shift down to B-flat as the cello re-enters, but the arrival is averted.
2:07 [m. 35]--The cello prominently begins the melody again, this time in its low register.  The expected arrival on B-flat is diverted toward E-flat minor.  Over two measures, the cello reiterates the melody in the low register, now sounding ominous, as the violins and viola decorate with pulsations.  Suddenly, almost without warning, all four instruments break into an upward unison scale passage in triplet rhythm with repeated notes and a crescendo.  All except the first violin sharply cut off on the top note.  The first violin holds it.
2:13 [m. 38]--The held violin note leads into a smooth passage marked dolce and lusingando.  The viola enters against the note and then leads the first violin in a passage of canon (imitation) at a fifth above.  This canon is rather static, and heavily features a long note tied to the first note of a triplet.  The syncopation of the triplets betrays a relationship to the original viola melody.  The motion of the triplet figures alternates between ascending and descending.  Meanwhile, the cello and second violin similarly alternate in plucked leaps against the canon.  The cello always leaps down a fifth, while the second violin intersperses an upward leap.  The whole passage is in heavily flat major keys, moving through G-flat and C-flat.
2:21 [m. 42]--The canon stalls for a measure, although the first violin and viola still alternate, the former descending, the latter ascending.  In the next measure, the two instruments seamlessly come together, harmonized in beautiful triplet sixths, and they play a sweeping, downward-arching line in pure D-flat major.  At the same time, the second violin and cello break from their plucked notes.  As the first violin and viola reach the upward end of their sweep, the viola shoots farther upward, harmonizing at the end in a third instead of a sixth.  The first violin holds its note, and the second violin enters with an echoing figure.  Both violins hold notes over the bar line.
2:30 [m. 46]--The second violin slides down in mild syncopation, and another smooth passage similar to that at 2:13 [m. 38] ensues.  This time, the canon is between the first and second violins, with the first violin leading.  The pattern follows as expected, but the relationships between individual notes are different.  This time, the downward-sliding second violin leads the harmony a half-step down, to C major.  The cello and viola now have the plucked leaps, mostly in fifths, although the first cello leap is an octave.  The key relationships are similar, but ordered somewhat differently, with C moving through F and B-flat.
2:40 [m. 50]--As at 2:21 [m. 42], the canon stalls for a measure, but unlike the previous passage, the plucked notes, now in the cello and viola, become more active, and they decisively shift the key back to F.  The harmonized downward-arching triplet line is played in F major.  The violins subtly shift their harmonies between sixths and thirds over the course of the arch, eventually reaching the same upward end of the sweep.  The cello and viola respond in a similar way to the second violin before, but in harmony. 
2:48 [m. 54]--The passage is extended by two measures as the responding figure is passed to the violins and back to the cello/viola pair, which then holds repeated, mildly syncopated notes over the bar line.  The second violin pointedly enters as the cello slides down, moving the music to F minor for the varied reprise of Part 1.
2:54 [m. 56]--Varied reprise of Part 1.  For all but the last two measures, the violins and cello reprise the opening two-part phrase unchanged.  The viola, however, replaces its original plaintive counterpoint with the related smooth phrase in triplets used for the canons in Part 2.  These are prominent in the first two gestures of each half, with the third gesture reverting closer to the original line.  At the end of the phrase, in the last two measures, there is an extremely artful change to the pattern as the first violin reaches almost imperceptibly farther downward where it had previously become chromatic.  The other instruments are adjusted.  The result is that the motion to C minor is avoided and the full cadence stays home in F minor.
3:11 [m. 64]--The end of the phrase is reiterated an octave higher, as if to confirm the F-minor cadence.  It is then repeated a third time yet another octave above, but the cadence is now lengthened, and the other instruments gently follow the first violin with a confirming gesture.  The viola seems to start another reiteration at the original octave.  The entire contrasting phrase from 0:18 and 1:12 [m. 9] is replaced by these short reiterations.
3:17 [m. 66]--The passionate melody from 0:31 and 1:25 [m. 15] is now given in F minor.  The pulsing cello (now on F) is slightly delayed, beginning off the beat.  The violins also start off the beat, leaving the viola exposed on its apparent reiteration of the cadence.  The pulsing cello interrupts this, and the viola, along with the second violin, moves into its chromatic downward slide.  The remainder of the passage follows as before in the higher F-minor key, with only minor adjustments.
3:38 [m. 76]--Surprisingly, the first ending is given as at 0:52 [m. 25a] in a direct transposition.  The first violin arpeggio is followed by the second violin and viola, as in that first ending.  It merges right into the opening theme, which, following the pattern, is briefly transposed to B-flat minor.  However, as the original theme had a strong pull to C minor, so is the pull to F minor strong here.  The opening gesture with the viola counterpoint now avoids a repetition and works quickly downward to a full arrival in the home key.  This entire modification of the opening gesture is repeated in the cello (the viola still has the counterpoint).  Interjections from the violins (previously heard in second violin and cello) now add a level of punctuation.
3:50 [m. 82]--The cello repeats the end of the descent an octave higher.  The violin notes do not move up, but the viola counterpoint does.  Then the second violin echoes this repetition up another octave, but modifies it, adding jumps and ending on the note B-flat.  This time the viola stays put, the cello drops out, and the first violin moves its punctuation up to the high octave.  Finally, the cello repeats the second violin modification, but adds a final leap down to low F.  The viola counterpoint also works down to the instrument’s low C.  The punctuating violin notes become more isolated before the final arrival on F.  As the cello holds the note, the other instruments pluck a gentle F major chord to end the main intermezzo.
TRIO (Un poco più animato, F major, 3/4 time)
4:02 [m. 87]--Part 1.  The upbeat in the new 3/4 meter is also the last beat of the 4/8 measure (m. 86) at the end of the main intermezzo.  The first violin plays a dolce melody that leaps widely up and down.  Its cheerful, rustic nature is underpinned by a “buzzing” effect in the second violin.  The same note, A, is continuously played, alternating between a fingered and an open string.  The viola and cello, meanwhile, provide the bass and harmony as they pluck on the first and third beats of each bar.  The first phrase remains solidly in F major, but without any firm arrival points.
4:11 [m. 95]--The second phrase begins with a turn to the “relative” minor key, D minor, emphasized by a half-step descent to a long “leading” C-sharp in the first violin and a break for the plucked viola and cello.  After two of these half-step descents, the pattern is shifted down a step, and there follow two similar gestures suggesting C minor.  Here, the harmony dictates that the second violin moves from its “buzzing” A to an oscillating octave on G.  The lower strings take their bows and now hold their harmonies instead of resting during the long leading notes.
4:19 [m. 103]--A four-measure closing phrase seems to briefly move back to F before the first violin gently descends to a full cadence in C, now C major.  During this descent, the second violin oscillation becomes more active, circling around the note C.  The viola and cello continue to play bowed harmonies in support of the cadence.  The second violin trails after the arrival and leads into the first ending (m. 106a), which ends with the upbeat to the repeat.
4:23 [m. 87]--Part 1 repeated.  First phrase with dolce melody and buzzing A, as at 4:02.
4:31 [m. 95]--Second phrase with motion to D minor and C minor, as at 4:11.
4:39 [m. 103]--Closing phrase and cadence in C major, as at 4:19.  In the second ending (m. 106b), the second violin plays the lower two notes of the chord, where it had previously played the upper two, preparing for the new upbeat into Part 2.
4:43 [m. 107]--Part 2.  The first violin twice makes an upward leaping gesture, similar in character to the half-step descents heard before.  The oscillation moves to the viola, now on an octave C.  The second violin and cello respond in pleasant harmonies to the two leaps.  There are then two further such leaps, now reaching higher, and with harmonies suggesting E minor and G major.  The oscillating viola moves to E.  The second of these higher leaps is extended by two full measures.  The first violin then drops out, and there is a further two measure extension in which the second violin and cello stretch out their notes, creating an implied 3/2 measure or “hemiola.”  This also lengthens the upbeat into the next passage.
4:55 [m. 119]--The main theme of the trio section is played in a highly imaginative re-scoring.  First, the upbeat is extended to two beats because of the preceding “hemiola.”  The second violin again starts its “buzzing” repeated A.  The first six measures of the theme are now played pizzicato, with the melody divided between instruments.  The first violin and cello play rich chords on the first and third beats of each measure.  The viola plays the notes on the second beats of each measure.  The first four of these are all on A, made to sound strongly by plucking the pitch on two strings, one open, one fingered.  In the next two measures, the viola plays chords, and the new harmonies are on chromatic “diminished” chords.  The volume builds before the theme abruptly breaks off.  The viola joins the “buzzing” in a brief bridge.
5:03 [m. 127]--The “buzzing” breaks, and all instruments are now bowed.  At this dramatic high point, the violins play a new and full-hearted harmonized descending line. It has colorful chromatic notes, but confirms the home key of F major.  The viola plays a downward winding accompaniment culminating in broken octaves, and the cello bass line gradually becomes more active.  There are two statements of the line, with the second statement breaking its violin harmonies into shorter repeated notes for two measures.  There is a full cadence.
5:12 [m. 135]--The volume suddenly becomes quiet at the cadence, and the second violin begins its distinctive “buzzing” one last time.  In a charming “codetta,” the remaining instruments, all plucked, play descending cadence chords on the downbeats.  After one round of these, a second set is played an octave lower (although the cello bass remains at the same level), with the texture reduced to single notes in the first violin.  The last cadence is a dolce broken chord.  The second violin buzzes for two more measures and then, in the briefest of transitions, moves to an oscillating minor third on F, where the viola joins, moving in the opposite direction.  This leads directly into the upbeat of the main intermezzo.
5:23 [m. 1, upbeat from m. 146]--Part 1.  First phrase in two halves, settling to first C-minor cadence, as at the beginning and 0:55.
5:41 [m. 9]--Contrasting phrase with pairs of instruments in unison, as at 0:18 and 1:12.
5:53 [m. 15]--Passionate new melody against chromatic descents, as at 0:31 and 1:25.
6:14 [m. 25, second ending]--Part 2.  Arpeggios breaking into pulsations with syncopated cello melody in C minor, repeated by first violin in B minor, as at 1:46.
6:35 [m. 35]--Cello melody in low register, moving to E-flat minor, then upward unison scale in triplets, as at 2:07.
6:41 [m. 38]--Smooth, syncopated passage in canon and triplet rhythm, moving through G-flat and C-flat, as at 2:13.
6:50 [m. 42]--Canon stalls, then arching harmonized triplet line in sixths played in D-flat major, as at 2:21.
6:59 [m. 46]--Second smooth, syncopated passage in canon and triplet rhythm, beginning in C major, as at 2:30.
7:08 [m. 50]--Canon stalls, then arching harmonized triplet line in sixths played in F major, as at 2:40.
7:17 [m. 54]--Two-measure extension leading to varied reprise of Part 1, as at 2:48.
7:23 [m. 56]--Varied reprise of Part 1.  Opening phrase with added triplet rhythm and avoidance of motion to C minor, as at 2:54.
7:40 [m. 64]--Reiteration and confirmation of cadence, as at 3:11.
7:46 [m. 66]--Passionate melody played in F minor, as at 3:17.
8:07 [m. 76]--Return of “first ending,” then modified statement of main theme opening, as at 3:38.
8:19 [m. 82]—Repetitions in cello and second violin, then closing plucked F-major chord, as at 3:50.
8:34--END OF MOVEMENT [146 (+86) mm.]

4th Movement: Allegro (Sonata-Allegro form with conflated development and recapitulation). C MINOR, Cut time [2/2].

0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1.  The forceful opening gesture, a rising figure given out in unison spread over three octaves, is reminiscent of the main theme from the first movement.  But it is terse and almost epigrammatic, abruptly cutting off with a distinctive descending leap down to the “leading tone” of B-natural.  Following this dramatic statement, the first violin leads the continuation with a descending third and feverish upward-shooting figures.  The viola plays these figures continuously, the second violin answers the first violin with both rising and falling gestures, and the cello plays a descending bass line.  The first violin rounds off its statement with a yearning figure, a longer note leaning into a broad descent.
0:08 [m. 7]--The lower instruments abruptly cut off, and the first violin continues with more agitated figures, now characterized by downward motion to repeated lower neighbor notes.  These are punctuated by longer notes held over bar lines.  The lower instruments punctuate the upbeats and downbeats with strong chords.  The harmony moves strikingly to the region of D major/G major followed by a turn back to the more closely related F minor.  The lower instruments play the rhythm of the main gesture while the first violin figures become continuous and reach upward.
0:16 [m. 13]--The first violin again arrives at the opening gesture, but this time the second violin and viola play a pattern of two-note descents based on the repeated neighbor-note figures.  C minor is re-established, and the theme continues as at the beginning.  After three bars, however, the first violin breaks from the expected pattern with more dramatic leaps, accompanied by full chords (double and triple stops in viola and second violin).  This last gesture that broke the pattern is repeated on higher notes, with the cello adding a powerful descending line in triplet rhythm.  A full cadence in C minor is approached.
0:27 [m. 21]--While the other three instruments play isolated harmonized versions of the opening gesture, the first violin embarks on two huge arching sweeps using the repeated neighbor-note figure or its directional variants.  The first of these is clearly on the home key of C minor, and the second is on G, the “dominant” harmony.  After this second sweep, the first violin changes the repeated-note figure to a downward leaping arch, dwelling on this version while the other instruments extend the material from the main gesture.  Finally, the first violin leads the viola and cello in a cascading descent, still using the repeated-note figure.
0:42 [m. 33]--Transition.  The cello lands on a sustained low C.  The other instruments play vigorous and passionate descending lines, with the first violin starting a distinctive undulating pattern.  The second violin and viola shadow the implied harmonies of the undulating first violin.  The direction sweeps upward and then back down, the first violin adding wide leaps and the cello becoming active.  The so-called “Neapolitan” harmony on D-flat is prominent.  After four measures, there is another arrival on C.  After this four-bar phrase establishing the pattern, there are two similar patterns of half the length.  These gradually establish B-flat as the “dominant” note in E-flat major.  This is confirmed with trailing viola and cello lines.
0:52 [m. 42]--The first violin suddenly enters on an jagged three-note upbeat leading to an octave leap.  The second violin immediately imitates this an octave lower.  Both instruments then play in the rhythm of the main opening gesture, the first violin arching down and back up, mainly by steps.  The imitation is not sustained, as the second violin begins to harmonize the first.  Meanwhile, the viola and cello alternate on the jagged upbeat and following leap.  The harmonized violin line culminates in a downward leap reminiscent of the main figure.  Then things quickly quiet down as the first violin winds down in a chromatic line.  In the accompaniment, the second violin and cello incorporate a rising four-note figure.
1:04 [m. 50]--Theme 2 (E-flat major).  The lead role is given to the second violin.  After a dolce yearning upward gesture, it descends, adding a distinctive turning motion before the resolution.  At first, there is a suggestion of B-flat, but a second statement again confirms E-flat.  The other instruments accompany with isolated chords, adding distinctive syncopation between statements.  The cello even imitates the turning motion.  The first violin now takes over the theme, initially doubled an octave below by the viola.  The theme reaches higher and builds.  The cello re-introduces the jagged upbeat figure from the transition, then unexpectedly takes over the Theme 2 melody.  Meanwhile, the other instruments take up the upbeat figure, the second violin and viola doubling its length.  The volume builds as the instruments all come together.
1:18 [m. 60]--The violins in harmony once again take up the descending line in the rhythm of the opening gesture.  The lower instruments continue with the upbeat figure, which had been associated with this line.  The violins quickly abandon the descent and also join in passing around the upbeat figure.  The key seems to have shifted from E-flat back to C minor, and this becomes even more apparent on a second statement of the descending line that is even more chromatic.  Again, the instruments gradually come together.  At the climax, in a highly dramatic and unexpected move, Brahms brings back the main opening gesture, with the violins on their original pitches while the viola and cello continue with the upbeat figure.
1:32 [m. 70]--Closing material.  After all instruments cut off, the cello plays the downward leap, holding the first note over the bar line.  This merges into a subdued (tranquillo) major-key presentation of the main theme, begun by the upper three instruments on a long held note with a biting dissonance between the violins.  The theme obtains a yearning quality as it slides into a half-close.  There is then a brief buildup with downward-arching figures on the first violin while the other instruments play longer syncopated harmonies.  The first violin settles down, also slipping into syncopation, but a full close is avoided.
1:55 [m. 81]--Re-transition.  The opening gesture is used in a passage of great intensification.  The first violin is followed in harmony by the other instruments in a rising sequence that builds in volume and agitation.  After three rising first violin statements, the sequence breaks.  The first violin and cello now overlap in the main rhythm, the cello leaping in fourths and fifths.  The second violin and viola provide supporting harmonies.  The  buildup becomes even more powerful.  The music seems to move toward a confirmation of C minor, but with another upward shift in the first violin and cello, the key of F minor is now strongly implied.  The final gesture making that implication cuts off abruptly and is repeated.
2:14 [m. 94]--The powerful return of the opening figure in the first violin at its original pitch level marks the beginning of the development.  Against this, the second violin and viola play the two-note descents in F minor based on the repeated neighbor-note figures, as at 0:16 [m. 13].  Instead of moving back to C minor, however, the continuation moves to A-flat major, the “relative” key of F minor.  The first violin and cello alternate on descending thirds.  The other instruments punctuate in faster rhythm on similar descending figures.  Then things stall and settle down as the cello dreamily imitates the first violin in a circular motion that includes the chromatic note G-flat.  A syncopated descent leads to the next harmonic shift.
2:25 [m. 102]--The violins play a powerful three-note descending arpeggio on the upbeat.  This leads to a full statement of the previous passage at a new harmonic level (a major third lower).  The cello now plays the opening figure, first suggesting C-sharp minor, then G-sharp minor.  The two violins play the pattern of two-note descents.  The continuation is in E major.  In this continuation, the first violin and cello trade their roles completely, the latter leading the former.  The second violin and cello play their previous patterns, but in the “dreamy” passage with circular motion at the end, they become more active and even introduce their own similar imitation crossing with that of the first violin and cello.  The close is more active and intense.
2:35 [m. 110]--The development continues with a harmonically active passage that makes more reference to the opening and its continuation.  The viola and cello play the opening figure, now in E minor (easily moving there from E major), as the violins cascade downward with the two-note figures.  The cello then continues with the original Theme 1 material, still in E minor.  The second violin and viola play similar upward fragments, but the first violin elaborates on the “yearning” figure that rounds off the phrase.  This material is then used to move to A minor, where the first violin imitates the cello on the “yearning” figure.  The second violin/viola figures now move downward, and they settle onto a repeated syncopated third.
2:49 [m. 120]--All instruments come together, gathering strength.  All except the first violin play a long-short pattern, hovering on A minor.  The first violin plays downward-arching figures derived from 0:08 [m. 7] and elsewhere.  Everything culminates in the upward-shooting figures from the first violin.  The other instruments join these in harmony, with the viola and cello plunging downward.  This leads to a huge arrival point that marks the end of the development.
2:54 [m. 124]--Transition, analogous to 0:42 [m. 33].  We now see that the entire short development section, beginning as it did with the opening gesture and continuing to work with Theme 1 material, has actually stood in lieu of Theme 1 itself, thus merging the development and recapitulation.  Starting the transition in A minor reveals careful planning.  By analogy with the exposition, the “dominant” arrival will be on G, which will of course lead back to, rather than away from the home key area of C for the remainder of the movement.  The first violin and cello follow the same pattern as before, but the inner lines of the second violin and viola are somewhat rearranged and interchanged throughout.
3:05 [m. 133]--Continuation with jagged upbeats and octave leaps, analogous to 0:52 [m. 42].  The key of C major is established.  Again, the pattern from the exposition is closely followed, with the second violin and viola continuing to occasionally reverse roles.
3:16 [m. 141]--Theme 2 in C major, analogous to 1:04 [m. 50].  Here, adherence to the exposition model is close.  The second violin leads, and the melody is then taken over by first violin and viola, as before.
3:30 [m. 151]--Dynamic passage with descending lines and upbeat figures, analogous to 1:19 [m. 60].  The viola reverses roles with the cello at one point, and the second violin lines are altered for the sake of register in the new key.  The key appears to move back toward A minor.  The opening gesture makes a dramatic return, as before, with the viola taking over for the second violin.
3:44 [m. 161]--Closing material, analogous to 1:32 [m. 70], with the cello holdover.  The major-key presentation of the theme is now marked mezza voce, along with dolce ed espressivo.  The biting dissonance is now a double stop in the viola.  Unlike the rest of the reprise, this passage is set significantly higher.  Halfway through, at the downward-arching lines and syncopation, there is a highly unexpected and magical turn to the passage’s original key, E-flat major.  This flares up and quickly subsides, as the descending syncopated lines lead back to the “dominant” harmony in C.  At this point, the correspondence to the exposition ends with a new re-transition into the coda.
4:07 [m. 172]--Re-transition, somewhat corresponding to 1:55 [m. 81], but leading into the extended coda.  Like the previous re-transition, this one steadily builds, but it makes more use of the descending leap from the opening figure.  The long-short rhythm of this leap is reiterated seven times in the top three instruments, although the leap is not consistent and two times, the downward motion of the first violin is only a step.  Against this, the cello plays octave leaps with emphasis on the second beat of each measure.  The whole passage is rich with chromatic notes, usually serving as “leading tones.”
4:18 [m. 180]--At the high point, the violins hold a long note as the cello and viola settle into a pattern of syncopation that the violins also immediately join.  The first violin is least active, holding repeated notes in the middle of each bar (at first with the cello) before gradually descending.  The second violin and viola have more motion within the bar, but they, along with the first violin, hold notes over bar lines.  The only downbeat articulations in this passage are in the cello, which first slides up, then becomes more active and starts to descend by wide leaps.  The second violin and viola join the first violin in the slower motion.  The whole passage settles down.  Two quiet, isolated chords, also held over bar lines, are punctuated by a single cello note.  These chords set up the arrival of the “dominant” harmony, G, to begin the extended coda.
4:36 [m. 192]--The coda utilizes the main theme, including whole passages from the exposition that were omitted from the conflated development and recapitulation.  The key signature of C minor, absent since 2:25 [m. 102], returns.  After the anticipatory pause, the violins suddenly and forcefully rush upward in harmony, using the familiar two-note slurs.  The viola and cello, after an octave leap, plunge downward against the violin surge.  This all leads to a grand statement of the opening gesture in the first violin.  It is now accompanied and harmonized by the continuing two-note slurs, which are played in an arch pattern ans passed between pairs of instruments.  These continue under two altered, lower reiterations of the distinctive descending leap.
4:43 [m. 198]--The continuation of Theme 1 heard after the opening gesture provides most of the material for the coda.  It is first presented in an intensified form, with higher upward-shooting figures in the first violin.  The viola, then the second violin, provide nearly parallel harmonization for these figures.  The viola settles into syncopated double stops.  The cello plays a slow bass line that mostly descends by half-steps.  As the passage reaches its high point, the first violin sweeps downward, recalling the “yearning” motion.  This is harmonized by another arching line from both second violin and viola, using the two-note slurs.
4:52 [m. 205]--Almost imperceptibly, the original continuation from the third measure of the movement emerges out of the first violin descent.  The original upward-shooting gestures and yearning motion are heard.
4:57 [m. 209]--The passage from 0:08 [m. 7] is restated.  The only variation is small, but effective.  The strong chords formerly heard on upbeats and downbeats are now reiterated in the rhythm of the first violin
5:05 [m. 215]--The return of the opening gesture would be expected here by analogy, but Brahms inserts an extended passage loosely based on the material from 0:27 [m. 21].  Having arrived in F minor, the first violin inverts the direction of the opening gesture.  The cello plays the gesture in its original direction.  The second violin and viola move against both with upward octave leaps and neighbor notes.  They all cut off except the first violin, which plunges down.  The same pattern is presented a third lower, with the first violin an additional octave lower (the second violin crossing above it).  The cello now has leaps and neighbor notes.
5:10 [m. 219]--The second violin and cello take over the “inverted” version of the main gesture, with the first violin and viola playing the octave leaps and neighbor notes.  The key moves back home to C minor.  After the outer instruments expand outward, the first violin again plunges down.  The viola, then the second violin and cello join it.  The large descent leads to a low C on viola and cello.
5:17 [m. 225]--As the low instruments reach the bottom, Brahms moves “backward,” presenting the material from 0:16 [m. 13] in a most powerful variation, without the opening gesture.  Instead of playing the thematic continuation as heard in the third measure (and again just now at 4:47 [m. 209]), the material is transformed into powerful chords passed between the violins and the lower instruments.  After the first two measures, there is a seamless merge into the intensified original material, including the cello’s descending line in triplet rhythm and the approach to a C-minor cadence.
5:27 [m. 231]--The concluding passage is incredibly intense.  It begins with the cello establishing a pedal point on its low C, which it will hold—with continuous syncopated pulsations—for the next 13 measures.  Above it, material based on the vigorous, passionate descending lines from the transition (first heard at 0:42 [m. 33]) is used for a massive buildup of speed and energy (stringendo).  The first violin, viola, and cello (on other strings above the pedal point) play the descending lines while the second violin adds the powerful churning, undulating motion associated with them.  All gradually become more syncopated, but the viola is the steadiest, and it also adds the ascending inversion of the lines.  The initial pattern is stated twice.
5:31 [m. 235]--The first violin reaches higher, and its descent becomes longer and very syncopated, with notes held across bar lines.  The viola and cello are again less syncopated (except for the pedal point) and the second violin continues the churning motion.  As the first violin completes its descent, the viola joins the agitated motion of the second violin, and syncopation becomes even heavier in all the instruments.  The first violin draws out its cadence as the second violin and viola settle onto forcefully syncopated repetitions of a dissonant “diminished seventh” chord.  At the cadence, the cello pedal point finally breaks.
5:41 [m. 244]--The first violin shoots up with the familiar pattern involving repeated notes.  The cello quickly joins in the opposite direction, plunging down.  The second violin and viola also shoot upward, the second violin including octave leaps.  This all culminates in the fully harmonized downward leap from the opening gesture, but it now lands on F-sharp, the leading tone of the “dominant” harmony.  This leap had been heard toward the end of the passages from 0:16 [m. 13] and 5:17 [m. 225] against the descending triplet-rhythm line in the cello.  In both cases, a C-minor cadence was approached, but the arrival was diverted into new material.  It is now at last granted finality with a pause and three powerful chords.  This final gesture bears a more than superficial resemblance to the very opening of the first movement.
6:03 (runoff after 5:48)--END OF MOVEMENT [248 mm.]