Recording: Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Claudio Abbado [DG 435 683-2]
Published 1874.

The significance of this seminal composition is widely recognized, but often understated.  It is frequently described as a precursor to the symphonies, a sort of final exam in the art of orchestral composition before Brahms was finally ready to fulfill his long-awaited destiny in that most revered genre.  This formulation has the unfortunate effect of diminishing the intrinsic merits of this most transcendent masterpiece considered entirely on its own.  It was part of a return to instrumental composition for Brahms after a long hiatus.  By 1873, he had not published any fully instrumental works since the Horn Trio, Op. 40 in 1868, and he had focused almost entirely on compositions with voices in the interim.  This included most of his great works for chorus and orchestra, including the German Requiem and the Schicksalslied.  The variations arose around the same time as the first two string quartets, for which he had reserved the opus number 51 (the vocal compositions through Op. 55 were published earlier).  The quartets, his first statements in another revered genre, helped usher in the third compositional period, or “high maturity,” and the Haydn Variations were part of that as well.  The “Chorale St. Antoni” forms the second movement of a wind divertimento (one of six) attributed to Joseph Haydn (later cataloged as Hob. II:46) shown to Brahms by his friend C. F. Pohl, who was writing a Haydn biography at the time.  It has since been established that the divertimenti were most likely not in fact by Haydn, and his student Ignaz Pleyel is most often speculated as the actual composer.  Any connection of the “Chorale” to St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost things, is also mysterious.  But none of this really matters.  Brahms was attracted to the chorale, with its initial five-bar units, its distinctive opening gesture, its descending bass line, and its asymmetrical eleven-measure closing phrase, as particularly ripe for variations.  Because of the dubious attribution, the finished composition is often called the “St. Antoni Variations” or some variant, but it is unnecessary to give it any title other than that under which it was published.  As far as Brahms was concerned, it was by Haydn.  It started life as a composition for two pianos, a medium Brahms typically used for practical domestic arrangements of orchestral or chamber works.  Whether or not Brahms had orchestration in mind from the beginning, it eventually became the first major example of an independent set of variations for orchestra, essentially a new genre that paved the way for such masterpieces as Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, or Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra.  It was also the last independent set of variations he would publish, having already provided five great works for solo piano, including the masterful Handel Variations, and one for piano duet.  While the sequence of eight variations follows a logical pattern, each variation is so distinct in character as to form its own entity.  All the even-numbered variations except the climactic sixth are in the minor key.  And while the harmonic and melodic elements of the theme are always apparent, they are submerged within the style of each variation.  Brahms adhered strictly to the unique phrase structure of the theme in all variations but the fourth, where an extra measure was added at the end.  The third, fourth, and fifth all have varied instead of literal repeats of each section, and the eighth has a varied repetition of its first section only.  As he did with the fugue that closes the Handel Variations and the extended finales to both books of the Paganini Variations, Brahms wrote a summative finale that is based on the theme, but here his solution was another completely new idea: a passacaglia, or series of elaborations over a ground bass derived from the theme’s first five bars, essentially a set of variations within a set of variations.  Seventeen sub-variations over the ground bass culminate in the short coda, the inevitable and triumphant return of the original “St. Antoni” theme.  Brahms would return to the passacaglia idea on a larger scale as the finale of the Fourth Symphony.  The orchestration is utterly brilliant.  Brahms was faithful to the wind scoring of the “St. Antoni” theme except for the addition of the plucked low string bass line.  He demanded a substantial orchestra for the 17-minute composition, avoiding trombones but including four horns, trumpets, and timpani along with piccolo, contrabassoon, and at the end, even a triangle, which he would only again use in the Academic Festival Overture and the third movement of the Fourth Symphony.  The piccolo is used to great effect, especially in the fifth variation and the finale, and the contrabassoon, which was still a problematic instrument before 1879, was important for the work’s character.  He thankfully abandoned the idea of replacing it with a tuba, which would have been awkward without trombones (he would use contrabassoon instead of tuba in all symphonies except the Second).  If this monumental work of musical art was indeed a “final exam,” then no symphonies ever composed before or after Brahms’s First had a more effective preparation.

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP of the Divertimento in B-flat Major, Hob. II:46 attributed to Joseph Haydn, source of the “Chorale St. Antoni” (on page 4)

NOTE: Indications of key or time signature are only given if different from the previous variation or theme.
0:00 [m. 1]--CHORALE ST. ANTONI.  Andante.  B-FLAT MAJOR, 2/4 time.  Part 1.  Ten bars are in two five-bar units, the third bar of each segment being the one that disrupts what would be a square four-bar pattern.  The oboes and bassoons carry the melody and its lower harmonies, which are initially in sixths.  It begins with a long-short turning figure, then works down to a half-close with bouncing oboe.  A connecting upbeat with faster notes in thirds leads to the second, similar unit, which reaches full closure.  Plucked low strings and contrabassoon provide a walking bass with chromatic motion in the pivotal third and eighth measures.  Horns partly double the oboes and bassoons, and trumpets punctuate the louder second half. 
0:22 [m. 1]--Part 1 repeated.
0:43 [m. 11]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  Part 2 has two subunits, an eight-bar contrasting phrase and an eleven-bar rounding/returning phrase.  The eight-bar unit is led by the oboes, who steadily work upward with the opening figure and its initial long-short rhythm, supported by held harmonies in bassoons and horns with plucked low “dominant” Fs in the low strings.  After the first four measures, the same rhythm and melodic material works its way back down, the bassoons joining the oboes.  These last four measures have more active punctuation in the horns and cellos but are marked pianissimo.
1:00 [m. 19]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  Now forte, the material from the second half of Part 1 is presented by the full woodwind section, including flutes and clarinets in addition to oboes and bassoons, supported by horns and trumpets, along with continuing plucked low strings.  In the fifth measure, the cadence is extended by a hymnlike prolongation of the main rhythm that briefly hints at the “subdominant” key of E-flat, carried by oboes, bassoons, and horns with long or punctuating B-flats in the other instruments.  The prolongation has two identical two-bar gestures ending with faster motion.  The conclusion is five repeated B-flat chords that quiet down over the last three bars, the final one held in the phrase’s eleventh measure.
1:23 [m. 11]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase.
1:40 [m. 19]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.  The final chord is marked with a fermata.
2:05 [m. 30]--VARIATION 1.  Poco più animato.  Part 1.  Bassoons, horns, and timpani pulsate five times on B-flat (landing on the third measure).  The violins, making their first entry, sweep up and wind back down, loosely following the contour of the theme.  Meanwhile, violas (also with their first entry) and cellos play a line in clashing triplet rhythm that winds down and back up, then plunges down.  The bassoons, with string basses, slide up in the last two measures of the first half.  In the second half, the B-flat pulsations are in flutes (with piccolo), oboes, and horns.  The triplet line moves to violins with violas, and the clashing line in “straight” rhythm is in cellos and bassoon.  The winds cadence against a descending triplet arpeggio.
2:19 [m. 30]--Part 1 repeated.
2:33 [m. 40]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  In the first half, horns and trumpets blast out the five-note pulsation on the “dominant” note F.  The violins sweep up and back down on “diminished seventh” and B-flat arpeggios.  The triplet motion is back in the violas and cellos.  In the quieter second half, there are exchanges on pulsations (now including harmony) between one group (clarinets, bassoons, horns) and another (flutes and trumpets).  The strings now all have triplet rhythm, with upward arching figures passed from violins to violas and cellos before downward arching lines are played by second violins and violas, then by first violins and cellos in a strong buildup.  The winds slide up with half-step motion.
2:44 [m. 48]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  The B-flat pulsation is now in all winds and brass except clarinets.  The strings have a new triplet lead-in before the first and second violins, playing in octaves, take over the original triplet line from the end of Part 1.  Violas and cellos have the arching line in straight rhythm.  The fourth measure is transitional, with wind motion.  The quieting prolongation’s two formerly identical two-bar gestures are differentiated by string scoring and register, both with dovetailing triplets.  Pulsations are in the winds, but clarinets (entering) with bassoons, then flutes, have rising figures in straight rhythm.  String triplet exchanges decorate the wind chords before the concluding eleventh bar.
3:00 [m. 40]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase. 
3:11 [m. 48]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.
3:29 [m. 59]--VARIATION 2.  Più vivace.  B-FLAT MINOR.  Part 1.  The first minor-key variation begins with a blast from the full orchestra, including trumpets and timpani, with the theme’s long-short rhythm in the woodwinds, the strings playing a broken octave with piccolo.  Clarinets and bassoons then quietly work their way down on the long-short rhythm while the low strings pluck out arpeggios that reach up, plunge down, and then come back up again.  The violins and violas have a bowed but detached descent, the violins breaking into winding triplets.  Oboes and horns also enter before the internal half-close.  The second half of the phrase is very similar, beginning with the loud blast, and reaching full closure in B-flat minor.
3:39 [m. 59]--Part 1 repeated.
3:49 [m. 69]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  The loud blast is heard again, but the strings play the long-short rhythm, the upper winds the broken octave, and the brass are absent.  The strings then descend in “diminished seventh” arpeggios passed from high to low.  The flute, alone, then joined by oboe, then horn, works its way up with the long-short rhythm.  In the pianissimo second half, the violins yearningly and repeatedly reach down on a broader long-short rhythm with cellos and basses reaching up against them, while the woodwinds continue to linger on the original faster long-short rhythm, holding notes over bar lines.  The phrase ends with a lead-in to the rounding phrase.
3:58 [m. 77]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  It begins with the full orchestra blast and the material from Part 1, scored as before.  The prolongation in the fifth through eighth measures is based on the orchestral blast, with trumpets and timpani, gradually inflected toward major.  The violins with piccolo have broken octave descents, the second a fourth higher.  The lower strings have rising octaves against them.  The other woodwinds have contrary-motion arpeggios after the long-short blasts.  The same gesture is stated twice, but the woodwind arpeggio begins a step higher the second time.  The cadence bars turn fully to major and quiet down.  Clarinets and bassoons descend in an arpeggio over reiterated B-flats before the final chord.
4:10 [m. 69]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase.
4:20 [m. 77]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.
4:35 [m. 88]--VARIATION 3.  Con moto.  B-FLAT MAJOR.  Part 1.  Oboes, doubled by bassoons, take the lead, dolce e legato.  The gentle melody, whose relationship to the original theme is still apparent, reaches up wistfully and spins itself out with a syncopated lower harmony.  Against this, the lower strings, without violins, also have a flowing, mostly unison counterpoint.  A horn entry provides additional counterpoint in the pivotal third and eighth measures of the phrase, and a mild buildup leads into the second half.
4:51 [m. 98]--Part 1, varied repeat.  The violins join the violas on an upbeat, using faster sixteenth notes that did not appear in the first statement.  From there, the first varied repeat of the work proceeds.  The flowing oboe/bassoon melody is now in violins and violas, both divided with the lower parts providing the harmony.  Cellos and basses retain the original flowing counterpoint.  The flutes now take the lead with the bassoons instead of the oboes, and the material is new.  It is a series of florid, decorative rising arpeggios that dovetail between the two flutes and two bassoons, creating a rapturous effect.  In the third and eighth measures, there is an entry for oboe(s) and horn(s) building to the half-close and then the full cadence.
5:10 [m. 108]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  A questioning turn is given by a horn against a descending bassoon.  The clarinet answers with another turn given against a descent from another horn.  The sequence begins again, except now the “answer” is given by dolce first violins against descending violas.  The second half of the phrase has the horn continuing the turning figures against descents from the oboe.  Violins and violas join on a rising line that leaps up full-heartedly to a descending syncopation as the oboe and horn break into flowing contrary motion.  The low strings underpin all of this with longer notes. 
5:27 [m. 116]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  The beginning is like Part 1 in its original statement (not the varied one).  This time, the flutes join the oboes and bassoons in an upper octave and violins lead the lower strings, adding contrary motion.  The prolongation resembles the contrasting phrase with its questioning turns.  The oboes take the place of the clarinets in the first exchange, and in the second exchange, the clarinet joins the horn on the “question” and is joined by flute and oboe on the “answer.”  The cadence measures have descending clarinets in minor-inflected thirds and sixths, punctuated by oboe and horns.  The only string presence is a light cello foundation.  An exposed horn arpeggio leads into the varied repeat.
5:47 [m. 127]--Part 2, varied repeat, contrasting phrase.  The “questions” and “answers” are now given by oboe and 3rd horn, respectively, but now the accompanying descent is a faster flowing line from violas against the “questions” and cellos against the “answers.  Flutes, bassoons, and two horns provide a background in held harmonies.  In the second half, flutes and bassoons drop out, and the rising line leaping to a syncopation is taken by the 3rd horn alone.  The turning figures are in the clarinet, and the faster flowing motion is in the oboe, derived and developed from the previous string descents.  As the horn leaps to its syncopation, the oboe arches down and back up, joined by the clarinet in contrary motion.
6:03 [m. 135]--Part 2, varied repeat, rounding phrase.  The first four measures are now like Part 1 in its varied statement, with florid, decorative rising arpeggios in flutes and bassoons over the flowing string melody.  In the prolongation, a horn is answered by an oboe with the faster flowing descents from cellos, then violas.  The second exchange has clarinet answered by flute (with descending harmonies), the descents now in first violins, then violas.  The cadence measures again have clarinets in thirds and sixths with minor inflections, punctuated by oboe and horn, but now there is faster rising motion in cellos and violas.  Horns, bassoons, and basses provide a foundation.  Brahms marks these closing measures with a ritardando.
6:31 [m. 146]--VARIATION 4.  Andante con moto.  B-FLAT MINOR, 3/8 time.  Part 1.  For the first variation in a new meter and the second in minor, solo oboe and horn are doubled on an arching melodic line, dolce e semplice, accompanied by violas in a faster-moving line with arching motion in the opposite direction and some syncopation.  Lower strings pluck discreetly.  In the second half of the phrase, the arching melody is joined by flute and bassoon and includes the note C-flat a half-step above the keynote, a so-called “Phrygian” inflection.  Cellos join violas on the faster line, basses join at the end, and all four wind instruments obtain harmony from their “second” partners.
6:50 [m. 156]--Part 1, varied repeat.  The arching dolce e semplice melodic line is transferred to the violins and violas in unison (an octave lower than the oboe/horn statement), while solo flute and clarinet (its first entry in this variation) play the faster-moving line that begins with downward motion, a fifth above where the violas had played it.  This is “invertible counterpoint,” with the lower line moving above the higher one at the distance of a fifth/twelfth.  In the second half, the strings gradually add harmony, and the faster wind line is strengthened by the addition of bassoons (the second of which doubles the low strings).
7:11 [m. 166]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  The solo oboe and horn are again doubled, making two rising gestures in the first four bars.  The faster lines are now passed from falling cellos to rising first violins and violas.  The string basses and bassoon provide lower support.  In the second half of the phrase, the oboe and horn motion becomes more continuous and obtains lower harmony from the “partner” instruments.  The faster cello line is extended and arches down before being passed for a measure to the first violins and violas.  They descend and then pass the falling line back to the cellos.
7:27 [m. 174]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  Now forte, the first four measures are an embellished version of the original second half of Part 1, strengthened by the first violins joining violas and cellos on the faster downward-arching motion.  The prolongation resembles the contrasting phrase, with two identical rising, surging gestures in flute, oboe, bassoon, and horn with lower harmonies.  All strings except second violins have two faster descents landing on the “Phrygian” C-flat.  The semplice cadence measures have short upbeats leading to downbeats in the winds with faster downward motion in the strings.  This is the only variation to add a twelfth measure to the phrase.  The lower strings trail down after the third cadence bar.
7:53 [m. 186]--Part 2, varied repeat, contrasting phrase.  The instrumentation is reversed.  The violins and violas now have the two rising gestures, and the faster lines are passed from descending flute and clarinet to ascending bassoon.  These are again placed a fifth higher, creating “invertible counterpoint.”  The bass support is joined by horns.  In the second half, the strings are more continuous, with harmony in the second violins.  The faster line is again passed from flute and clarinet to bassoons (now doubled by string basses), then back to clarinet alone to lead into the rounding phrase.
8:09 [m. 194]--Part 2, varied repeat, rounding phrase.  The second half of Part 1 is again embellished, but the instrumentation is like it was in the varied repeat, with the main arching melodic line in the strings and faster motion (still a fifth higher than before) in the winds.  The rising, surging gestures of the prolongation are in first violins and violas, with the faster descents in flute, clarinet, and bassoon.  These are also moved up a fifth and briefly joined by low strings.  Oboes join to emphasize accents on the “Phrygian” note.  The upper strings have the upbeat-downbeat cadence figures, and the downward motion is in flute, clarinet, and bassoon.  The twelfth measure is still added, but the trailing wind motion stops on its downbeat.
8:35 [m. 206]--VARIATION 5.  Vivace.  B-FLAT MAJOR, 6/8 time.  Part 1.  The strings begin with a strong accent and downward turn, then violas and cellos continue softly with detached B-flats.  The flutes, oboes, and bassoons, all in thirds, begin on a two-note upbeat with detached leggiero arching motion and forceful syncopations leading into the fourth and fifth measures, all highly chromatic.  The low strings move away from B-flat with downward turns, and the winds close the first half with downward gestures off the main beat.  The second half begins with another strong accent and turn.  The winds start earlier, briefly adding piccolo and horns, then zigzag down while violins join the lower strings in detached groups of two repeated notes implying 3/4 (the basses only play the first note of each group).  The phrase closes with four hushed off-beat wind figures alternating in direction.  The strings add harmony to their two-note groups.
8:44 [m. 216]--Part 1, varied repeat.  The instrumentation is reversed, with the opening accent and turn in the winds.  The piccolo joins the flutes and clarinets on the repeated B-flats.  These descend with chromatic notes in the fourth measure.  The violins and violas now have the leggiero motion harmonized in thirds, with the strong accents again leading into the fourth and fifth measures.  Cellos, bassoons, and horns have brief reinforcing entries.  The fifth measure is altered significantly, with a full hemiola or cross-rhythm in the winds, with three two-note descents.  The strings also have two-note groups, but they begin off the beat and lead into the second half.  The reversed instrumentation continues, with groups of two repeated notes in the winds and descending zigzags in the strings.  The high piccolo mirrors the “opposite” string basses by playing only one note of the two-note groups.  The winds do not add harmony at the end and fall in unison.
8:52 [m. 226]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  In the first half, the forceful turn gesture is passed from low strings to second violins to first violins, with harmonic support in the horns.  The low strings repeat it.  The strings continue more quietly with repeated harmonies, then a quick upward arch and descent.  The piccolo and clarinet enter on an upbeat to begin the second half and are followed off the downbeat by oboe and bassoon, all using the turning figure.  This pattern continues, with the oboe and bassoon descending each time, over the turning figures and repeated notes in violas and cellos, the violins having dropped out.  At the end, the flutes take over from the piccolo, lightly descending with clarinets and bassoons over leaping octave F’s in the strings.
9:00 [m. 234]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  The first four measures strongly resemble the second half of Part 1, but without the loud accent.  In the prolongation, the patterns are continued and extended, with the off-beat two-note figures in alternating direction in flute, clarinet, and bassoon against two-note repeated groups in first violins and violas, all in descending patterns.  Second violins and cellos play the first note of each two-note group pizzicato.  Horns (and basses) enter, providing a foundation with repeated B-flats and some downward turns.  In the first two cadence measures, the strings on downbeats are answered by wind figures on upbeats, the piccolo joining the second.  A punctuating chord follows halfway through the last bar.
9:09 [m. 245]--Part 2, varied repeat, contrasting phrase.  The only change here from the first statement at 8:52 [m. 226] is in the last measure, where the woodwind descent is subtly changed to lead into the varied rounding phrase, and the violins join the violas and cellos on the leaping octave F’s in two-note groups that had been played against the wind descent.
9:17 [m. 253]--Part 2, varied repeat, rounding phrase.  The instrumentation is reversed from 9:00 [m. 234], but the strings leap up without turn figures in the first measure.  After this, the patterns resemble the second half of Part 1 in its varied repeat, but with the strings an octave higher.  The prolongation and cadence measures continue to reverse the instrumentation, with flute, clarinet, and bassoon on the two-note repeated groups, again in descending patterns, and off-beat two-note figures in alternating direction in the strings.  Only the horns and basses are as they were before.  The cadence measures are also reversed, winds on   downbeats and strings on upbeats.  The punctuating chord halfway through the last bar has plucked strings.
9:29 [m. 264]--VARIATION 6.  Vivace, 2/4 time.  Part 1.  In a refreshing return to 2/4 meter after the preceding rhythmic complexities, bassoons, including contrabassoon, and all horns quietly but exuberantly present the jaunty new variant, with both continuous sixteenth notes and a long-short-short rhythm.  The harmonies evoke the hunt with a “horn fifth” sound.  The strings discreetly pluck material from the theme.  The fifth bar and its upbeat are suddenly loud, the strings taking bows.  Flutes and clarinets enter on a half-close in the “relative” G minor, bridging to the second half.  Woodwinds take the lead, joined by trumpets, timpani, and bowed violas and cellos (the violins and basses are still plucked).  The horns drop out, but two of them bridge to the repeat in a first ending after a cadence in G major (deviating from the usual B-flat).
9:43 [m. 264]--Part 1 repeated.  The horns do not enter in the second ending.
9:56 [m. 274]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  It is in the minor key and incredibly forceful, building to a climax.  The first four measures are two similar gestures.  Oboes, clarinets, two horns, and violas play the “continuous” rhythm from Part 1 while all other instruments loudly play a long F.  These latter instruments then play a G-flat arpeggio in long-short-short rhythm with timpani, the higher ones descending and the lower ascending, while the former instruments hold the harmony.  The second gesture moves the arpeggio up to B-flat minor.    In the last four bars, both main rhythms are used in a powerful rising buildup with back-beat trumpet blasts.  The rising strings break twice at the end and turn to major as the piccolo enters.
10:05 [m. 282]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  The strings and bassoons add a powerful upbeat and two leaping figures to a full and satisfying reprise of the Part 1 material, now with a B-flat cadence.  The prolongation uses the gestures from the beginning of the contrasting phrase, with the arpeggios now on C-flat major and E-flat minor.  The cadence measures use a turning figure in sixteenth notes, but the violins, violas, and later piccolo are offset a beat later than the flutes, oboes, clarinets, and horns, creating an overlap and crossing a bar line.  The lower instruments have steady rhythms, and the long-short-short rhythm is thumped on timpani.  The “offset” strings add an extra two notes to come together before the last two forceful chords.
10:21 [m. 274]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase.
10:31 [m. 282]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.
10:51 [m. 293]--VARIATION 7.  Grazioso, 6/8 time.  Part 1.  This variation is a siciliana.  In the first phrase, flute and violas have a lilting melody, which continually descends and leaps back up with notes held over bar lines.  A steady long-short pulse is provided by clarinets, bassoons, and violins, continuously descending.  The lower strings respond to the melody, at first in the second halves of measures, with rising figures in the lilting rhythm before a full-measure arpeggio at the end of the phrase.  In the second phrase, the melody is taken by first violins and bassoon, the steady long-short pulse moves to the lower strings, and the rising responses to the other woodwinds.  Horns enter to support the cadence.
11:15 [m. 293]--Part 1 repeated.
11:40 [m. 303]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  The first half still uses the siciliana rhythms, with the violins taking the lead on a melody like Part 1, but with a turn toward the minor.  The long-short pulsations are in clarinets, bassoons, and horns, the rising responses in lower strings.  In the exhilarating second half, the violins, in octaves, soar high over two measures, building in volume.  Flute, clarinets, and bassoon descend in the siciliana rhythm while horns have the long-short pulse, and the lower strings (with second bassoon) trail down.  In the last two measures, the violins plunge back down and recede, but their 6/8 groups now clash with an implied 3/4 pulse in the other instruments, creating a strong cross-rhythm or hemiola.
11:59 [m. 311]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  The first four measures are scored much like the first half of Part 1.  At the end of the fourth measure, several contrasting elements are placed in a complex relation for the prolongation.  The flute and clarinet (at first with violas) begin a series of descents in the siciliana rhythm that cross bar lines in implied 3/4 groups.  Horns and violins have a syncopated rising line in displaced 3/4.  Two sequential descents, also crossing the bar line, come from one horn.  Only low strings and bassoons keep up the long-short pulse.  The sequential descents, which take the lead, are played next by oboe and violas, then by first violins and one horn (the violas moving to the syncopation), and finally by all violins.
12:16 [m. 319]--Part 2, rounding phrase, cadence measures.  The previous pattern persists.  The violins move back to the syncopation, now joined by flutes along with horns (leaving the siciliana descent to the clarinet, which is joined again by violas), and the sequential descents are again taken by one horn, the second one repeated to restore the downbeat.  The syncopated patterns close the variation, but the lead horn that had played the descents now has a syncopation within the measure, displacing it from the other horns, violins, and flutes.  The pulsation in low strings and bassoons slows down as the volume fades.  The instruments finally come together on a pianissimo chord halfway through the last measure.
12:26 [m. 303]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase.
12:46 [m. 311]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.
13:04 [m. 319]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase, cadence measures.
13:18 [m. 322]--VARIATION 8.  Presto non troppo.  B-FLAT MINOR, 3/4 time.  Part 1.  In the first phrase the muted violas and cellos, pianissimo sempre, play a sinuous, winding line in triple time in which the contour of the theme can be detected.  Muted first violins enter in the fourth measure, an upward arpeggio, holding a note, then doubling the line with some octave displacement.  In the second phrase, piccolo, clarinet, and bassoon, also pianissimo sempre, turn the sinuous line upside down.  At the same time, the first violins introduce groups of two repeated notes with slurs between them on another winding line.  The violas double this without the repeated-note element.  An arching line rounds off the phrase.
13:28 [m. 332]--Part 1, varied repeat.  The first phrase is now played by first violins and violas.  Bassoons have entered to emphasize the downward motion derived from the theme.  The end of the phrase deviates from the first statement, forgoing the upward arpeggio in favor of a trill leading to the “dominant” note.  Flutes and horns enter to support the trill with more downward motion.  The second phrase is taken by the same wind instruments (piccolo, clarinet, and bassoon), but the string accompaniment, now from second violins and cellos, does not use the repeated note groups.  The wind arpeggio is also replaced by a trill in piccolo and clarinets on the “Phrygian” C-flat against rising lines.  Violas and basses enter here.
13:38 [m. 342]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  As horns hold the “dominant” note F, the cellos and first violins have a very close canon, or imitation a third apart and at the distance of only one beat on another winding melody derived from the Part 1 material.  The canon breaks in the fourth measure.  In the second half of the phrase, the canon is turned upside down in both pitches and placement as the higher flute and oboe now lead the lower violas, again at the distance of a beat.  The oboe enters with a theme-like descent as the canon breaks.  The piccolo and first violins close the phrase off, entering with a brief rising line.
13:46 [m. 350]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  The first four measures are a culminating tour de force.  The material is derived from Part 1, as usual, but the violas and cellos play their original line at the same time the piccolo, clarinet, and bassoon play the inverted version, the first time they have been played simultaneously.  Flute and oboe have slower descending lines, and the violins re-introduce the groups of two repeated notes.  In the fourth measure, these repeated notes are joined by piccolo, clarinet, and lower strings. 
13:50 [m. 354]--Part 2, rounding phrase, prolongation and cadence measures.  The prolongation introduces a new, slower arching line in oboe and one horn.  The piccolo, two horns, and violins play repeated B-flats, holding them over bar lines and beats, creating syncopation.   There are also repeated timpani beats on B-flat.  Flute, clarinet, and bassoon descend with repeated-note groups while violas and cellos ascend.  This is reversed with the second arching line from the oboe and horn.  The violas are joined by second violins as the cellos join the entering basses on the repeated syncopated B-flats.  The B-flat continues in the cadence measures, now harmonized with a D in second violins and violas while the flute, clarinet, and bassoon descend in two note groups to the clipped final chord, which is surprisingly punctuated by trumpets.
13:56 [m. 342]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase.
14:04 [m. 350]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.
14:09 [m. 354]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase, prolongation and cadence measures.
14:18 [m. 361]--FINALE.  Andante.  B-FLAT MAJOR, Cut time [2/2].  Passacaglia with 17 ground bass statements and coda.  Statement 1.  The five-measure ground bass is clearly derived from the first phrase of the theme and its bass line.  The second and third measures come directly from the theme itself, the others from the bass.  The first statement is not a simple presentation.  String basses and half the cellos have the ground bass line, but the other cellos harmonize it, beginning a third above, from the second measure.  The violas enter there, imitating the first two measures of the ground while the second violins add a lower syncopated line.  These upper voices become more active and chromatic, and the violas divide.  The tempo should be the same as the original theme, despite the doubled note values in cut time.
14:28 [m. 366]--Statement 2.  All cellos and basses have the ground, joined by contrabassoon.  The first violins, bassoons, and horns enter after the second violins and violas hold a syncopated note over the bar line.  They join the active and chromatic motion as the flute and oboe imitate the first two measures of the ground beginning on the second measure.  From there, the material is like the first statement with richer scoring.  A clarinet enters in syncopation on the last measure.
14:39 [m.371]--Statement 3.  The syncopated first and second violins, in harmony, soar above the ground, which is joined by violas, then the first violins imitate the ground, still in syncopation.  Meanwhile, clarinets and bassoons add another line of counterpoint in steadily rising lines.  Flutes and oboes then join.  As the wind instruments conclude with a chromatic descent in the last measure, the violins with violas (the latter leaving the ground) play a forceful harmonized motion in detached triplet rhythm, moving down and back up.  A strong crescendo begins in the last two measures.
14:47 [m. 376]--Statement 4.  The triplet rhythm is passed between instrument groups while being played against rising or falling motion in “straight” rhythm.  In the first measure, the triplet figures are in all wind instruments and horns (except contrabassoon, which participates in the ground bass) along with violas, continuing from the end of the last statement.  Falling chromatic motion is in the violins.  In the second measure, the triplets move to the violins while the woodwinds have falling chromatic motion.  In the third measure, triplets are only in bassoons and violas while the other woodwinds have falling chromatic motion, and the violins introduce rising straight motion.  In the fourth and fifth measures, the triplets are in winds with falling motion in the strings.  The horns have triplets but add a punctuating descent in straight rhythm.
14:57 [m. 381]--Statement 5.  After the intricate counterpoint of the first four statements, this one is more straightforward.  It represents the climax of the buildup from statements 3 and 4.  A timpani entrance on the upbeat supports the horns leading into this statement.  From there, all forcefully, the upper strings with timpani and even trumpet support play rising pairs of chords on the second and third bars of each measure while woodwinds and horns leap up or down on the upbeats and downbeats.  At the end of the last measure, the second violins and violas have a three-note descending upbeat figure leading into the next statement.
15:06 [m. 386]--Statement 6.  This resembles statement 5, with the same alternation, but the chords are different and a three-note descending upbeat figure is added to the texture, moving in alternation between strings (second violins and violas) and winds (clarinets, bassoons, and horns).  The woodwinds continue down leading into the next statement.
15:15 [m. 391]--Statement 7.  While the original ground bass continues, the first violins, with horn support, now have a faster version (so-called “diminution”) of the first six notes of the ground bass that leads into syncopation over bar lines.  Second violins and violas have leaping figures in tremolo.  In the second measure, bassoons echo the rhythm of this new faster figure derived from the ground bass.  In the third measure, the woodwinds, led by flutes, also with horn support, have a sequential imitation of the faster figure, and it also leads to syncopation.  In the last two measures, there is another exchange at a lower level between the first violins and the woodwind group.
15:24 [m. 396]--Statement 8.  The first chord has a striking D-flat borrowed from the minor key, but the variation is in major.  The tremolo in second violins and violas moves more slowly between chords, but the tremolo itself is now in faster triplet rhythm.  First violins and horns have an intensified version of the faster figure derived from the ground bass, adding eighth notes after the syncopation, and striving higher.  This continues, with strong harmonic support from the woodwinds, until the fourth measure, which emerges into a fortissimo descent in triplet rhythm.  This triplet descent is taken by flutes and oboes in the fifth measure.  Rolls on timpani punctuate the first and last measures of this statement.
15:34 [m. 401]--Statement 9.  There is a rapid diminuendo in the first measure, and both the contrabassoon and cellos drop out of the ground bass, leaving it to string basses alone.  The first violins, in octaves, gently descend with some mild syncopation and chromatic motion.  Second violins and violas dovetail falling and rising motion in fast triplets marked dolce while clarinets, harmonized in thirds, have rising lines with syncopation in the middle of the measure.  Cellos enter with rising arpeggios in straight rhythm, pizzicato, in the second measure.  In the fourth, the triplets in second violins and violas are all descending, and in the last, they arch down and up.  The first violin melody turns back up, and horns discreetly enter at the end.
15:43 [m. 406]--Statement 10.  The string basses drop out, and the ground bass is played by cellos alone.  Flutes enter harmonized in thirds and emerge into the mildly syncopated lines, doubled by violas also harmonized in thirds.  A solo oboe takes the lead with yearning off-beat syncopated figures that include chromatic half-step motion and downward leaps.  The oboe melody is derived from the first violin melody in Statement 9.  The oboe figures turn upward in the last two measures.  The faster triplets from the last statement are now passed between second and first violins, mostly descending, but with two ascending upbeats in first violins.  Horns make the same discreet entrance at the end as they did in the last statement.
15:53 [m. 411]--Statement 11.  This statement is much like statement 10, especially in the continuation of the fast triplets in the second and first violins.  The figures that were played by the solo oboe are now played in harmony by flutes, clarinets, and bassoons, molto dolce, and while still off the beat, they are now in slow triplet rhythm instead of syncopation.  The most notable thing about the statement is the transference of the ground bass to violas, with the cellos only plucking it.  Flutes drop out in the last bar.
16:01 [m. 416]--Statement 12.  The fast triplets continue in the second and first violins, changed slightly from the last two statements.  The ground bass moves up again and is strikingly played by a solo horn, semplice.  The violas and cellos double the horn, plucking out the notes of the ground bass.  The melodic element in this statement is provided by a solo flute, which descends, incorporating chromatic notes, then moves to jagged lines that also contain chromatic notes, and finally works its way back up, all in slow triplet rhythm notated in groups of six.  The source is still the first violin melody from Statement 9.
16:11 [m. 421]--Statement 13.  Of all the presentations of the ground bass, this is the most discreet and the least audible.  It is only in the plucked violas and includes shifts of register.  The flute solo in the previous statement is now transferred to clarinets and bassoons, who harmonize it.  The flutes join after the first measure, and all woodwinds are marked dolce.  There is a major change in the string figuration.  Rising plucked arpeggios in straight rhythm are passed from cellos to violins, and second violins then move to half-step descents.  The arpeggios are reduced from four to three notes in the last two measures.  There is a large crescendo, and at the end, the melody of the woodwinds shifts toward the minor key.
16:18 [m. 426]--Statement 14.  The next three statements are all in B-flat minor and continue a large buildup.  At the end of the last statement, the cellos and basses had subtly entered with a bowed upbeat on four detached rising notes.  This four-note figure is then turned around by violas and second violins.  The first violins enter, exchanging the figure with second violins, the violas moving to an angular long-short rhythm.  The ground bass is played now by a purely melodic instrument, the oboe, its piercing tone making up for the inaudibility of the bass in the last statement.  Bassoons and cellos reiterate B-flat on long notes held over bar lines.  At the end, the violin exchanges shorten to two leaping notes before a smooth ascent.
16:28 [m. 431]--Statement 15.  This is the second minor-key statement.  The viola has an upbeat lead-in, and then the violins enter with smooth winding lines, steadily building.  The violas have angular long-short motion, while cellos and bassoons have leaping octaves.  The ground bass is now a ground treble, being played by flutes, oboes, and horns above the orchestra.  In the last two measures, the string and bassoon lines become detached and build even more.
16:36 [m. 436]--Statement 16.  In the third minor-key statement, there are strong hints of the original St. Antoni theme.  The rhythm and contour of the thematic opening are played in imitation by bassoons with contrabassoon and low strings, then clarinets and flutes with piccolo (the latter entering with great effect), then oboes with trumpets.  The ground bass is now forcefully played by the first violins in octaves, initially supported by horns, but the horns take over the “St. Antoni” theme rhythm at the end.  Propulsion is provided by second violins and violas, who continue the steady motion of the last statement in detached notes.  The buildup over the course of the statement reaches great intensity.
16:45 [m. 441]--Statement 17.  The flutes with piccolo and clarinets have a gentle upbeat that intrudes on the forceful ending of the last statement and moves abruptly back to major.  This upbeat leads to more overt statements of the original “St. Antoni” rhythm.  The oboes and bassoons have later entries on the upbeat and the rhythm, which is also supported by trumpets and two horns.  The violins have sweeping lines in shimmering measured tremolo, supported by the violas.  These lines, combined with the ground bass and the woodwind rhythms, give the clearest impression yet of the original theme’s return.  The ground bass itself is in cellos and two horns.  And in an indulgence for Brahms, a triangle reinforces upbeats and downbeats.  After a powerful buildup, the fourth and fifth bars of the original theme emerge grandly in winds and horns over the tinkling triangle and a descending tremolo arpeggio in violins and violas.
16:54 [m. 446]--Coda.  The first two measures sound as if they could begin another ground bass statement.  The opening rhythm of the theme is played by all strings, but beginning on B-flat (like the ground bass) instead of D.  Timpani and brass provide strong support, while oboes, clarinets, and bassoons add an upward rushing scale in the second half of the measure.  The second measure is similar, but the violins are moved an octave higher, the lower strings move to the next notes of the ground bass with its harmonies, and flutes with piccolo join the upward rushing scale, which adds an opening downward turn.
16:58 [m. 448]--Now comes the triumphant, inevitable, and unambiguous return of the “St. Antoni” theme, in an abbreviated version combining the first half of Part 1 and the rounding phrase of Part 2.  The first measure, however, is different, the melody still set a third lower, beginning on B-flat, creating a connection to the ground bass.  It is played by first violins with violas.  The low strings have an entirely new G-F bass, and the second violins anticipate the theme’s second measure, continuing from the two-bar preparation.  The triangle marks the return, supporting the timpani, and the wind scale is heard again without flutes.  From the second measure, the theme is in its original form, with its original bass, with flutes joining the sweeping scale.  In the last two measures, the scale turns down and horns support the theme.
17:09 [m. 453]--The rounding phrase of Part 2, which of course begins like the second half of Part 1, is presented in the grand full orchestral scoring.  In the first two measures, the sweeping wind scales descend in flutes and oboes and ascend in clarinets and bassoons, but clarinets descend in the third bar.  In the fourth measure, the scales take a break.  In the prolongation, the two hymn-like gestures are played by all horns and woodwinds except the lowest and highest, piccolo and contrabassoon.  These join the strings, who now have the sweeping scale in unison.  The triangle continues to ring.  Against the cadence chords in the winds, the scales become continuous in the strings, and the volume rapidly quiets down.
17:29 [m. 463]--The last measure of the cadence chords, the original eleventh measure of the rounding phrase, is now stretched to four measures of repeated chords, having greatly quieted down.  The chord is held in the last two bars, thus expanding the fifth original chord to five new chords (nine total).  The triangle, piccolo, two horns, and violins all drop out.  The scale figures, now only in violas and cellos, slow down from eight-note groups to six-note groups in triplet rhythm.  This moment evokes the end of the second movement from Haydn’s “Clock” Symphony (No. 101).  Brahms indicates a ritardando in addition to this “written-out” slowing in the actual notes.  Halfway through the third bar, the scale slows even more to straight eighth notes, but still in two six-note groups, creating an extreme metric disruption.
17:40 [m. 467]--Everything has faded away, and beats on timpani have kept the meter secure against the disruption in violas and cellos.  As it happens, the last note of the second six-note group lands on the downbeat.  Suddenly, the full orchestra enters fortissimo, the tempo returns to normal, and the strings play a sweeping upward scale in sixteenth notes as the winds and brass begin the final sequence of leaping chords.  The triangle joins in the second bar, where the strings also join the chords.  Leaps to lower notes in the first two measures are replaced by rests in the third and fourth.  This closing passage of chords is, significantly, five measures long, with a cadence and repeated B-flat chords leaping down and up.  The note B-flat is heavily scored in the held final chord, especially in strings, and supported by rolling timpani.
17:58--END OF VARIATIONS [471 mm.]