Recording: Martha Argerich & Alexandre Rabinovitch, Pianos [Teldec 4509-92257-2]
Published 1873.

For background on the origin and historical context of the variations, see the guide for the orchestral version, Op. 56a.  Brahms was skilled at writing for two pianos and piano duet, but most of his work for those media was in arranging practical versions of orchestral or chamber music for domestic use.  Though they also provide alternative versions of large-scale works, the cases of the Sonata in F Minor after the Piano Quintet, Op. 34b, and the Haydn Variations are different.  In both, the version for two pianos preceded the “definitive” scoring, and Brahms thought highly enough of those forms that he formally distinguished them by assigning the opus number of the “primary” version with a letter appended, something he did not do with most duo piano arrangements of his own works.  In the case of the Haydn Variations, this is clearly no mere “arrangement,” and it received even more treatment as a co-equal version than did the Sonata after the Quintet.  Here, the orchestral version and the two-piano version were explicitly designated Op. 56a and Op. 56b (the Piano Quintet was merely Op. 34 without the letter a).  The whole of Op. 56 thus properly consists of both versions.  The high level of idiomatic technique for the medium of two pianos, where both performers have access to the full length of the keyboard, is unusually apparent in the variations as opposed to his typical arrangements.  It is far from certain that Brahms even had orchestration in mind when he discovered the “St. Antoni” Chorale and started the variations.  A trial reading of the two-piano version with Clara Schumann may have convinced him both that the work had symphonic potential and that it was worth promoting as an original work for two pianists.  In a boon for musicologists, Brahms broke from his usual practice, retaining and preserving for posterity the full set of sketches for the Haydn Variations, which are most useful for study of his compositional process when consulting the two-piano version.  At any rate, the orchestration was not a simple transfer, and there are elements that were not retained.  The best known of these is the opening ornament to the seventh variation, which he initially assigned to flute, first violins, and violas, but then deleted, apparently finding it overtly pianistic.  The eighth variation, though it retains the intricate counterpoint, inversion, and canon applied to its main melodic idea, is substantially different in each version.  Both have a varied repetition of the first section, but there is little if any correspondence in what was changed.  In the finale, statements 9-13 of the ground bass are more rhythmically complex than the corresponding statements in the orchestral version, especially the long half-note triplets in statement 9, where the simpler rhythm of the orchestral version is given as an ossia alternative for the performer.  In statement 12, the bold shifting of the melody in six-note groups off the beat in an extreme syncopation was not replicated for orchestra, where the melody retains the six-note grouping, but those groups begin on the downbeat and are contained within the measure.  Finally, the tempo indications are slightly different for all variations except the third, sixth, and seventh.  Despite the brilliance of the orchestration, many subtleties of counterpoint and the musical lines are more apparent and audible in the two-piano version.  It is certainly performed far less than the orchestral version, but it remains a core work in the repertoire for two pianos, four hands.

The general practice in these guides has been to include important alternate versions of works within the same guide (see, e.g., Opp. 12, 18, 39, 52, 65, 103, 120 Nos. 1 & 2).  Given the history of the two-piano and orchestral versions of this music, however, as well as the scope of the differences and the nature of the piece itself, an exception is made in this case and a separate guide constructed for each version, as was also done for the Sonata for Two Pianos after the Piano Quintet, Op. 34b.  The fact that there is no “Op. 56” without the added “a” or “b” also plays a role.  The guide for the orchestral version provided a direct template for the following guide, but an effort has been made to treat the two-piano version independently, without reference to orchestral instruments.  Care has been taken to clearly differentiate between the two piano parts.

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.  In this recording, the theme, eight variations, and finale are on ten separate tracks.
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.  Both right hands, Piano 2 an octave lower, 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 faster sixteenth-note motion in Piano 1.  A connecting upbeat with faster notes in thirds leads to the second, similar but louder unit, which reaches full closure.  Both left hands provide a walking bass with chromatic motion in the pivotal third and eighth measures.  Piano 1 frequently doubles the lower octave in Piano 2.
0:22 [m. 1]--Part 1 repeated.
0:39 [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 Piano 1, whose right hand steadily works upward with the opening figure and its initial long-short rhythm, supported by held harmonies in Piano 2’s right hand with a “dominant” bass F, held in Piano 2 and repeated in Piano 1.  After the first four measures, the same rhythm and melodic material works its way back down, Piano 2’s right hand joining an octave below.  These last four measures, though pianissimo, have more active descending bass punctuation.
0:53 [m. 19]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  Now forte, the material from the second half of Part 1 is presented, spread over three octaves in both hands of Piano 1 with the right hand of Piano 2 between them, and the bass in Piano 2’s left hand.  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 both hands of Piano 2 in octaves with repeated B-flat octaves in both hands of Piano 1.  The prolongation has two identical two-bar gestures ending with faster motion.  The conclusion is five repeated B-flat chords (with continuing octaves in Piano 1) that quiet down over the last three bars, the final one held in the phrase’s eleventh measure.
1:12 [m. 11]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase.
1:26 [m. 19]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.  The final chord is marked with a fermata.
0:00 [m. 30]--VARIATION 1.  Andante con moto.  Part 1.  The Piano 2 bass pulsates five times on B-flat (landing on the third measure).  Its right hand sweeps up and winds back down in octaves, loosely following the contour of the theme.  Meanwhile, Piano 1 plays a line in clashing triplet rhythm, in octaves between the hands, that winds down and back up, then plunges down.  The Piano 2 left hand slides up in the last two measures of the first half.  In the second half, the B-flat pulsations are high in the Piano 2 right hand.  The triplet line in Piano 1 moves up an octave, and the clashing line in “straight” rhythm is in the Piano 2 bass.  Piano 2 reaches a cadence against a descending triplet arpeggio in Piano 1.
0:11 [m. 30]--Part 1 repeated.
0:20 [m. 40]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  In the first half, Piano 1 in octaves blasts out the five-note pulsation on the “dominant” note F.  The right hand of Piano 2 sweeps up and back down on “diminished seventh” and B-flat arpeggios.  The triplet motion is in the Piano 2 left hand.  In the quieter second half, there are exchanges on pulsations between the left and right hands of Piano 1, the former supported by a moving bass in Piano 2.  Piano 2 has the triplet rhythm, with upward arching figures passed from the right to left hand before downward arching lines are played by both hands in a strong buildup.  The octaves in Piano 1 slide up with half-step motion.
0:30 [m. 48]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  The B-flat pulsation is now in Piano 2 octaves, widely spaced between the hands.  Piano 1 has a new triplet lead-in before its right hand, in octaves, takes over the original triplet line from the end of Part 1.  Its left hand has the arching line in straight rhythm.  The fourth measure is transitional, with motion in Piano 2.  The quieting prolongation’s two formerly identical two-bar gestures are differentiated by scoring and register.  Dovetailing triplets move from Piano 1 to Piano 2 (with the hands exchanged in the latter).  Pulsations also move from high in Piano 2 to low in Piano 1, and rising figures in straight rhythm move from low in Piano 2 to high in Piano 1.  Falling off-beat triplet figures in the Piano 2 left hand decorate the closing chords before the concluding eleventh bar.
0:40 [m. 40]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase. 
0:49 [m. 48]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.
0:00 [m. 59]--VARIATION 2.  Vivace.  B-FLAT MINOR.  Part 1.  The first minor-key variation begins with a blast from both pianos, with the theme’s long-short rhythm in Piano 1, Piano 2 playing a doubled broken octave in contrary motion.  Piano 1 then quietly works its way down on the long-short rhythm, doubled in octaves between the hands and harmonized in sixths, while Piano 2’s bass plunks out arpeggios that reach up, plunge down, and then come back up again.  Its right hand has a detached descent that breaks into winding triplets 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.
0:09 [m. 59]--Part 1 repeated.
0:17 [m. 69]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  The loud blast is heard again, but Piano 2 plays the long-short rhythm, and Piano 1 the broken octave.  Piano 2 then descends in “diminished seventh” arpeggios passed from high to low.  The Piano 1 right hand, with harmonies from the left, works its way up with the long-short rhythm.  In the pianissimo second half, the Piano 2 right hand yearningly and repeatedly reaches down on a broader long-short rhythm with its left hand reaching up against it, while Piano 1 continues 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.
0:25 [m. 77]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  It begins with the loud blast and the material from Part 1, scored as before.  The prolongation in the fifth through eighth measures is based on the blast and gradually inflected toward major.  Piano 2 has broken octaves in contrary motion, the second a fourth higher.  Piano 1 has octave arpeggios in contrary motion after the long-short blasts.  The same gesture is stated twice, but the Piano 1 arpeggio begins a step higher the second time.  The cadence bars turn fully to major and quiet down.  Piano 1 continues the arpeggio over leaping and reiterated B-flats in Piano 2 before the final chord.
0:35 [m. 69]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase.
0:43 [m. 77]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.
0:00 [m. 88]--VARIATION 3.  Con moto.  B-FLAT MAJOR.  Part 1.  Piano 1 takes the lead, dolce e legato, the hands doubled an octave apart.  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, Piano 2 also has a flowing counterpoint in octaves.  Piano 1 has an added inner harmonic voice in the pivotal third and eighth measures of the phrase, and a mild buildup leads into the second half.
0:13 [m. 98]--Part 1, varied repeat.  Piano 2’s right hand has 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 Piano 1 melody and its lower harmony are now in the right hand only.  The left hand has the flowing octave counterpoint originally in Piano 2.  The material in Piano 2 is new.  It is a series of florid, decorative rising arpeggios doubled in the hands two octaves apart, creating a rapturous effect.  In the third and eighth measures, there is the added inner voice in Piano 1 building to the half-close and then the full cadence.
0:29 [m. 108]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  A questioning turn is given in Piano 1’s right hand against a descent in its left.  Piano 2 answers with another turn against a descent, both in its right hand.  The sequence begins again, except now the “answer” is a step lower.  The second half of the phrase has the Piano 1 left hand continuing the turning figures against higher descents from its right hand.  Piano 2 has a dolce rising line in its right hand that leaps up full-heartedly to a descending syncopation as Piano 1 breaks into flowing contrary motion.  The Piano 2 bass underpins all of this with longer notes. 
0:45 [m. 116]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  The beginning is like Part 1 in its original statement (not the varied one).  Piano 2 is more richly scored, adding another octave and then contrary motion.  The prolongation resembles the contrasting phrase with its questioning turns.  Piano 1 now follows Piano 2 in the first exchange, and in the second exchange, both pianos join with new harmony on the “answer.”  The cadence measures have descents in minor-inflected thirds and sixths from the Piano 2 right hand, punctuated by upbeat-downbeat figures in Piano 1.  Piano 2’s left hand has the bass foundation.  In the closing bar, an arpeggio in the Piano 1 left hand leads into the varied repeat.
1:03 [m. 127]--Part 2, varied repeat, contrasting phrase.  The “questions” and “answers” are now given by the right hands of Piano 2 and Piano 1, respectively, but now the accompanying descent is a faster flowing line in each left hand against the “question” and “answer” in its respective right hand.  In the second half, the rising line leaping to a syncopation is taken by the right hand of Piano 1.  The turning figures are in the left hand of Piano 2, and the faster flowing motion is in its right hand, derived and developed from the previous left-hand descents.  As Piano 1 leaps to its syncopation, Piano 2’s right hand arches down and back up, with its left hand in contrary motion.
1:19 [m. 135]--Part 2, varied repeat, rounding phrase.  The first four measures are now like Part 1 in its varied statement, with dolce florid, decorative rising arpeggios in Piano 2 (now not in strict octaves) over the flowing Piano 1 melody.  In the prolongation, Piano 1 is answered by Piano 2 with the faster flowing descents in the left hand of each.  The second exchange is an octave higher, both pianos joining on the “answer” with the flowing motion in Piano 2’s left hand.  The cadence measures again have descents in thirds and sixths with minor inflections, now in Piano 1 punctuated by Piano 2, but now there is faster rising motion in both left hands.  Brahms marks these closing measures with a ritardando.
0:00 [m. 146]--VARIATION 4.  Andante.  B-FLAT MINOR, 3/8 time.  Part 1.  For the first variation in a new meter and the second in minor, Piano 1 plays an arching melodic line in octaves, dolce e semplice, accompanied by Piano 2 in a faster-moving line with arching motion in the opposite direction.  This adds broken octaves in the fourth bar where there had been syncopation in the orchestral version.  The left hand has detached bass notes.  In the second half of the phrase, the arching melody adds a higher octave and includes the note C-flat a half-step above the keynote, a so-called “Phrygian” inflection.  Light harmony and counterpoint are added.  The left hand of Piano 2 adds a lower octave on the faster line.
0:16 [m. 156]--Part 1, varied repeat.  The arching dolce e semplice melodic line is transferred to Piano 2 with no octave doubling, lower than Piano 1 played it, while Piano 1 plays the faster-moving line that begins with downward motion, a fifth plus an octave above where Piano 2 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, Piano 2 gradually adds harmony, and the faster Piano 1 line is strengthened by the addition of a lower octave, which now trails in syncopation in the last two measures.
0:35 [m. 166]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  Piano 1 has two rising gestures in the first four bars with bass support.  The faster lines are now passed from falling left hand to rising right hand in Piano 2.  In the second half of the phrase, the Piano 1 motion becomes more continuous and obtains lower harmony.  The faster Piano 2 left hand line is extended and arches down before being passed for a measure to the right hand.  It descends and then passes the falling line back to the left hand.
0:47 [m. 174]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  Now forte, the first four measures are an embellished version of the original second half of Part 1, with both hands of Piano 2 playing together on the faster downward-arching motion.  The prolongation resembles the contrasting phrase, with two identical rising, surging gestures in Piano 1 with lower harmonies.  Piano 2 has two faster descents in octaves landing on the “Phrygian” C-flat.  The semplice cadence measures have short upbeats leading to downbeats in Piano 1 with faster downward motion in Piano 2.  This is the only variation to add a twelfth measure to the phrase as Piano 2 continues to trail down in the extra measure.
1:08 [m. 186]--Part 2, varied repeat, contrasting phrase.  The parts are reversed.  Piano 2 now has the two rising gestures, and the faster lines are passed between the hands in Piano 1.  These are again placed an octave plus a fifth higher, creating “invertible counterpoint.”  In the second half, Piano 2 is more continuous, with added lower harmony.  The faster line is again passed from the right hand of Piano 1 (now in octaves) to the left hand, then back to the right to lead into the rounding phrase.
1:21 [m. 194]--Part 2, varied repeat, rounding phrase.  The second half of Part 1 is again embellished, but the scoring is like it was in the varied repeat, with the main arching melodic line in Piano 2 and higher, faster motion in Piano 1.  The rising, surging gestures of the prolongation are in Piano 2, with the faster descents in Piano 1 octaves.  These are moved up an octave plus a fifth from the earlier statement (two octaves in the right hand).  Piano 1 adds lower harmony with the C-flat, and Piano 2 adds trailing bass descents a tenth below the Piano 1 left hand.  Piano 2 has the upbeat-downbeat cadence figures, and the downward motion is in Piano 1.  The twelfth measure is still added, but Piano 1 stops on its downbeat.
0:00 [m. 206]--VARIATION 5.  Poco presto.  B-FLAT MAJOR, 6/8 time.  Part 1.  Piano 2, in bass octaves, begins with a strong accent and downward turn, then continues softly with detached B-flats.  Piano 1, in high thirds doubled an octave apart between the hands, begins on a two-note upbeat with detached arching motion and forceful syncopations leading into the fourth and fifth measures, all highly chromatic.  Piano 2 moves away from B-flat with downward turns, and Piano 1 closes the first half with downward gestures off the main beat.  The second half begins with another strong accent and turn.  Piano 1 starts earlier, now two octaves apart, then zigzags down while Piano 2 plays detached groups of octave pairs switched between the hands, implying a 3/4 cross-rhythm.  The phrase closes with four hushed, harmonized off-beat Piano 1 figures, alternating in direction and high/low register.
0:08 [m. 216]--Part 1, varied repeat.  The parts are reversed, with the opening accent and turn in high Piano 1 octaves, continuing with the repeated B-flats.  These descend with chromatic notes in the fourth measure.  Piano 2 now has the motion harmonized in thirds, with the strong accents again leading into the fourth and fifth measures, now with a lower descending half-step adding reinforcement.  The fifth measure is altered significantly, with a full hemiola or cross-rhythm in Piano 1, with three two-note descents.  Piano 2 also has two-note groups, but they begin off the beat and lead into the second half.  The reversed parts continue, with detached groups of octave pairs in Piano 1 and descending zigzags in Piano 2.
0:16 [m. 226]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  In the first half, the forceful turn gesture is passed immediately from Piano 2 to Piano 1, which states it twice in rising sequence.  Piano 2 also states it again after repeated octaves.  Both pianos move in the third measure to pairs of octaves (in Piano 2) and chords (in Piano 1) passed from left to right hands.  The right hand of Piano 1 begins the second half on an upbeat with the turning figure in octaves and is followed just off the downbeat by its left hand in single notes.  This pattern continues, with the left hand descending each time, over the turning figures and repeated notes in Piano 2.  At the end, Piano 1 lightly descends in octaves over leaping octave F’s in Piano 2.
0:23 [m. 234]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  The first four measures strongly resemble the second half of Part 1, but with alternating single notes an octave apart instead of alternating octaves in Piano 2.  In the prolongation, the patterns are continued and extended, with the off-beat two-note figures in alternating direction in Piano 1’s right hand against alternating hands in octaves in Piano 2, all in descending patterns.  The left hand of Piano 1 provides a foundation with repeated B-flats and some downward turns.  In the first two cadence measures, Piano 2 and the left hand of Piano 1 are answered by upbeat figures in Piano 1’s right hand.  A hushed punctuating chord follows halfway through the last bar.
0:32 [m. 245]--Part 2, varied repeat, contrasting phrase.  The only change here from the first statement at 0:16 [m. 226] is in the last measure, where the Piano 1 descent is subtly changed to lead into the varied rounding phrase.
0:39 [m. 253]--Part 2, varied repeat, rounding phrase.  The parts are reversed from 0:23 [m. 234], but Piano 2 leaps up without turn figures in the first measure.  After this, the patterns resemble the second half of Part 1 in its varied repeat.  The prolongation and cadence measures continue to reverse the parts, with Piano 1 on the alternating notes an octave apart, again in descending patterns, and off-beat two-note figures in alternating direction in Piano 2’s right hand.  The bass foundation is now in the left hand of Piano 2.  The cadence measures are also reversed, with Piano 1 and the left hand of Piano 2 on the downbeats and the right hand of Piano 2 on upbeats.  The final chord is slightly altered, moving the lowest note up an octave.
0:00 [m. 264]--VARIATION 6.  Vivace, 2/4 time.  Part 1.  In a refreshing return to 2/4 meter after the preceding rhythmic complexities, Piano 2 quietly but exuberantly presents the jaunty new variant, with both continuous sixteenth notes and an accented long-short-short rhythm.  The harmonies evoke the hunt with a “horn fifth” sound.  The fifth bar and its upbeat are suddenly loud.  Piano 1 enters on a half-close in the “relative” G minor, bridging to the second half with turn figures.  Both pianos are fully active in the second half, with Piano 1 taking the lead.  Piano 2 bridges to the repeat in a first ending after a cadence in G major (deviating from the usual B-flat), also using the ever-present turn figures.
0:12 [m. 264]--Part 1 repeated.  The Piano 2 bridge is not present in the second ending.
0:24 [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.  Piano 1 plays the “continuous” rhythm from Part 1 while Piano 2 loudly plays a long F.  Piano 2 then plays a G-flat arpeggio in long-short-short rhythm with the hands in contrary motion, while Piano 1 holds 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 forceful back-beat accents.  Piano 2’s rising figures break twice at the end and turn to major.
0:34 [m. 282]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  A powerful upbeat and two leaping figures are passed from Piano 2 to Piano 1 and back, adding 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 and the parts reversed.  The cadence measures use a turning figure in sixteenth notes, but Piano 1 is offset a beat later than Piano 2, creating an overlap and crossing a bar line.  The rhythms are steady, and the “offset” Piano 1 adds an extra two notes to come together before the last two forceful chords.
0:47 [m. 274]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase.
0:56 [m. 282]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.
0:00 [m. 293]--VARIATION 7.  Grazioso, 6/8 time.  Part 1.  This variation is a siciliana.  In the first phrase, the right hand of Piano 1 has a lilting melody, which continually descends and leaps back up with notes held over bar lines.  It retains an opening ornament that Brahms deleted from the orchestral version.  A steady long-short pulse is provided by the left hand of Piano 1 and the right hand of Piano 2, continuously descending.  The left hand of Piano 2 responds 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 an octave lower by Piano 2, the steady long-short pulse with continual descent is in both left hands, and the rising responses are high in Piano 1’s right hand.
0:23 [m. 293]--Part 1 repeated.
0:49 [m. 303]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  The first half still uses the siciliana rhythms, with Piano 1 taking the lead on a melody like Part 1, but with a turn toward the minor.  The long-short pulsations are in Piano 2, the rising responses in Piano 1’s left hand bass.  In the exhilarating second half, Piano 1, in octaves, soars high over two measures, building in volume.  The right hand of Piano 2 descends in the siciliana rhythm while its left hand has the long-short pulse, and the bass of Piano 1 trails down.  In the last two measures, the right hand of Piano 1 plunges back down and recedes, but its 6/8 groups now clash with an implied 3/4 pulse in Piano 2 and, initially, its own left-hand bass, creating a strong cross-rhythm or hemiola.
1:09 [m. 311]--Part 2, rounding phrase.  The first four measures are scored much like the first half of Part 1, but with the parts reversed.  At the end of the fourth measure, several contrasting elements are placed in a complex relation for the prolongation.  The right hand of Piano 2 begins a series of descents in the siciliana rhythm that cross bar lines in implied 3/4 groups.  The top voice of Piano 1 alternates with its left hand on a new syncopated rising line in displaced 3/4.  Two sequential descents, also crossing the bar line, come from a middle voice in Piano 1.  Only the Piano 2 bass keeps up the long-short pulse.  The sequential descents take the lead and are played in high Piano 1 octaves, then its left hand, and finally in even higher octaves.
1:27 [m. 319]--Part 2, rounding phrase, cadence measures.  The previous pattern persists.  The right hand of Piano 1 moves back to the syncopation, the extended long-short descents are in the right hand of Piano 2, and the sequential descents are again taken by Piano 1’s left hand, the second one repeated to restore the downbeat.  The syncopated patterns close the variation, but the left hand of Piano 1 now has a syncopation within the measure, displacing it from its right hand.  The pulsation in the Piano 2 bass slows down as the volume fades.  Everything finally comes together on a chord halfway through the last measure.
1:37 [m. 303]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase.
1:57 [m. 311]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.
2:16 [m. 319]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase, cadence measures.
0:00 [m. 322]--VARIATION 8.  Poco presto.  B-FLAT MINOR, 3/4 time.  Part 1.  In the first phrase, Piano 2 with its hands two octaves apart, sempre mezza voce e legato, plays a sinuous, winding line in triple time in which the contour of the theme can be detected.  The fourth measure is an upward arpeggio, and the fifth remains higher.  In the second phrase, Piano 1, also with hands two octaves apart and sempre mezza voce e legato, turns the sinuous line upside down.  At the same time, Piano 2 introduces broken octaves on another winding line, its left hand supporting the top notes.  These become syncopated.  An arching line in Piano 2 rounds off the phrase as Piano 1 completes the inverted line.
0:08 [m. 332]--Part 1, varied repeat.  The first phrase is again played by Piano 2, its hands now one octave apart.  Piano 1 initially hints at the downward motion of the theme against syncopated broken octaves in the left hand, then plays arching arpeggios in octaves before again moving to the syncopation.  The second, inverted phrase is again taken by Piano 1, still two octaves apart but contracting to one at the very end.  The figuration in Piano 2, though it has syncopation, moves away from the broken octaves.  From the third measure, Piano 2 has a sweeping downward arpeggio in the right hand and is then joined by the left hand two octaves lower on a rising arpeggio, roughly opposing the thematic motion in Piano 1 through the end.
0:15 [m. 342]--Part 2, contrasting phrase.  Piano 1 now has a very close canon, or imitation a third (tenth) apart and at the distance of only one beat on another winding melody derived from the Part 1 material.  The right hand follows the left.  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 right hand of Piano 1 leads its left hand, again at the distance of a beat.  Piano 1 enters with a rising line as the canon breaks.
0:22 [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 left hand of Piano 2 plays its original line at the same time the right hand of Piano 1 plays the inverted version, the first time they have been played simultaneously, though they are greatly separated in register.  The “inner” voices, the left hand of Piano 1 and the right hand of Piano 2, reintroduce the broken octaves and syncopation, including prominent descending lines.
0:25 [m. 354]--Part 2, rounding phrase, prolongation and cadence measures.  The prominent slow arching line from the orchestral version is absent.  The left hand of Piano 1 and the right hand of Piano 2 play broken octaves on B-flat in opposite directions.  The right hand of Piano 1 and the left hand of Piano 2 have arching arpeggios in contrary motion.  In the second gesture, these arpeggios are in both right hands, arching outward instead of inward.  The Piano 2 left hand now has low broken octaves on B-flat, and the left hand of Piano 1 does not change from its broken octaves.  The cadence measures continue with broken octaves in both pianos, leaping between hands and in opposite directions.  Piano 1 plunges from high to low and Piano 2 rises from low to high before the last high chord and bass B-flat.
0:30 [m. 342]--Part 2 repeated, contrasting phrase.
0:36 [m. 350]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase.
0:39 [m. 354]--Part 2 repeated, rounding phrase, prolongation and cadence measures.
0:00 [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.  The left hand of Piano 2 has the ground bass line, but the right hand harmonizes it, beginning a tenth and two octaves above, from the second measure, the top line developing into a syncopated voice.  The left hand of Piano 1 enters at the same time, imitating the first two measures of the ground.  Its right hand enters late, joining the active, chromatic upper voices.  The tempo should be the same as the original theme, despite the doubled note values in cut time.
0:10 [m. 366]--Statement 2.  The ground now adds an upper octave.  The right hand of Piano 2 holds an open fifth over a bar line.  The active, chromatic music continues as the left hand of Piano 1 also holds a note over a bar line.  Its right hand, in high octaves, imitates the first two measures of the ground from the second measure.  From there, the material is like the first statement with richer scoring and continuing heavy syncopation.
0:19 [m.371]--Statement 3.  The right hand of Piano 2, in strongly syncopated harmony, soars above the ground, then imitates it, still in syncopation.  Meanwhile, Piano 1 adds another line of counterpoint in steadily rising lines, reaching higher.  As the right hand of Piano 1 concludes with a chromatic descent in the last measure, the left hand of Piano 1 and the right hand of Piano 2 play a forceful harmonized motion in detached triplet rhythm, moving down and back up.  A strong crescendo begins in the last two measures.
0:29 [m. 376]--Statement 4.  The triplet rhythm is passed between the three hands not presenting the ground while being played against rising or falling motion in “straight” rhythm.  In the first measure, the triplet figures are in both hands of Piano 1, including high octaves, continuing from the end of the last statement.  Falling chromatic motion is the right hand of Piano 2.  In the second measure, the triplets move to the right hand of Piano 2 while that of Piano 1 has falling chromatic motion.  In the third measure, triplets are in the left hand of Piano 1 while its right hand has falling chromatic motion, and the right hand of Piano 2 introduces rising straight motion.  In the fourth and fifth measures, the triplets are in the right hand of Piano 1 with falling motion in the other two hands.  The left hand of Piano 1 ends with a strong downward leap.
0:38 [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.  The bass upbeat from Piano 1 leads into it.  From there, Piano 1 forcefully plays rising pairs of chords on the second and third bars of each measure while its left hand supports the right hand of Piano 2 leaping up or down on the upbeats and downbeats.  At the end of the last measure, the right hand of Piano 2 has a three-note descending upbeat figure leading into the next statement.
0:46 [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 the right hand of Piano 2 and the left hand of Piano 1.  The latter continues to descend leading into the next statement.
0:53 [m. 391]--Statement 7.  While the original ground bass continues in the lowest notes of Piano 2, Piano 1 now has a faster version (so-called “diminution”) of the first six notes of the ground bass that leads into syncopation over bar lines.  Piano 2, moving up from the ground notes, has leaping triplet figures dovetailing from the left to the right hand.  In the second measure, the left hand of Piano 1 echoes the rhythm of this new faster figure derived from the ground bass.  In the third measure, the right hand of Piano 2 has a sequential imitation of the faster figure, and it also leads to syncopation.  Piano 1 now takes over the leaping triplets from the Piano 2 bass, moving down instead of up and with rich harmony.  In the last two measures, there is another exchange of the faster figure from the right hand of Piano 1 to that of Piano 2.
1:01 [m. 396]--Statement 8.  The first chord has a striking D-flat borrowed from the minor key.  The ground bass moves to the left hand of Piano 1 for all but the fourth measure.  The harmonies of the leaping triplets in Piano 2 become more static, and they dovetail down from the right to the left hand.  The right hand of Piano 1 has an intensified version of the faster figure derived from the ground bass, adding eighth notes after the syncopation, and striving higher.  This continues until the fourth measure, which emerges into a forte descent in triplet rhythm over faster arching triplets in the Piano 1 left hand (which passes the ground bass back to Piano 2) and a harmonized straight descent in the right hand of Piano 2.  That hand takes over the descending triplet line in the fifth measure, and the two left hands exchange their material.
1:10 [m. 401]--Statement 9.  There is a rapid diminuendo before it begins, and the ground bass loses its lower octave.  The right hand of Piano 1, in octaves, gently descends in long half-note triplets implying 3/2 with chromatic motion (the simpler rhythm from the orchestral version is indicated with a so-called ossia).  The left hand of Piano 1 plays arching motion in fast triplets marked dolce while the right hand of Piano 2 plays harmonies in straight rhythm.  That hand drops out in the fourth measure, where the fast triplets in the lower voice of Piano 1 now all descend and the high melody in slow triplets turns upward.
1:19 [m. 406]--Statement 10.  The ground bass moves fully to the left hand of Piano 1, whose right hand pauses for this statement.  A melody with yearning off-beat syncopated figures that include chromatic half-step motion and downward leaps is at the top of Piano 2.  It is derived from the melody in slow triplets from Statement 9.  It turns upward in the last two measures.  The faster triplets from the last statement are now passed down from the right to the left hand of Piano 2.  These are integrated with the syncopated melody (which is notated within the triplet rhythm) and are themselves syncopated, beginning off the beat.
1:29 [m. 411]--Statement 11.  This statement is much like statement 10, especially in the continuation of the fast dolce triplets, which move to Piano 1.  The ground bass is back in Piano 2, but in a higher octave.  The melody is played in both the right hand of Piano 1 and above the ground in the left hand of Piano 2, where it begins on the beat an octave lower until the last measure.  The right hand of Piano 2 adds an arching counterpoint, also in triplets and beginning off the beat, sempre dolce e grazioso.  From the second measure, its top notes are notated as a direct harmony to the main melody.  The ground bass drops back to the lower octave in the fourth measure but omits the distinctive downward octave leap.
1:41 [m. 416]--Statement 12.  The fast triplets continue in Piano 1, now grazioso, still beginning off the beat.  The ground bass, without its lower octave, is again isolated in the left hand of Piano 2, whose right hand takes a pause.  The melody is at the top of Piano 1, descending, incorporating chromatic notes, then moving to jagged lines that also contain chromatic notes, and finally working its way back up, all in slow triplet rhythm notated in groups of six.  It is fully syncopated and incorporated into the faster triplets below it, which are all broken octaves in alternating directions until the fourth measure, where the rising gestures leap to upper harmonies.  The source is still the melody from Statement 9.  The full syncopation, including notes held over bar lines, is a major departure from the orchestral version.
1:52 [m. 421]--Statement 13.  The ground bass moves back to the left hand of Piano 1, whose right hand now has a pause.  The melody from statement 12 is now embedded within continuous triplet figuration in both hands of Piano 2, marked molto dolce.  The melodic notes clearly emerge at the top of the texture, and are still off the beat, landing in mostly the same rhythmic orientation as they did in statement 12, but without the overt syncopation.  The figuration under the melody changes from lower notes alternating with the melody to arpeggios incorporating it and back to lower notes.  The left-hand figuration is in upward arching groups before moving to syncopated descending groups in the last two measures.  There is a large crescendo, and at the end, the melody turns toward the minor key.
2:02 [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 left hand of Piano 1 had subtly played an upbeat on four detached rising notes.  This four-note figure is then turned around, alternating in the left and right hands of Piano 2 (the first figure doubled by the inner voice of Piano 1), and turned around again.  An angular long-short rhythm emerges in the inner voice of Piano 1 above a repeated B-flat held over bar lines.  The ground bass is now at the top of the texture in the right hand of Piano 1.  At the end, the Piano 2 exchanges shorten to two-note leaps before the last smooth ascent.
2:09 [m. 431]--Statement 15.  This is the second minor-key statement.  Piano 1 has an upbeat lead-in, and then Piano 2 enters with a smooth winding line in octaves, steadily building with mild syncopation in the middle of the measure.  The angular long-short motion continues in the inner voice of Piano 1, while its leaping left hand incorporates broken octaves.  The ground bass, now a ground treble, continues at the top of Piano 1.  In the last two measures, all the lines become straight and detached, building even more.
2:17 [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 in Piano 2, its bass followed by a high upper voice and then a middle voice.  The bass of Piano 2 continues with marching upward arpeggios in quarter notes while the upper voices continue to exchange the St. Antoni rhythm.  The ground bass is now forcefully played by the right hand of Piano 1 in octaves.  Propulsion is provided by the left hand of Piano 1, which continues the steady motion of the last statement in detached descending lines expanding to octaves.  The buildup over the course of the statement reaches great intensity.
2:23 [m. 441]--Statement 17.  Piano 1 has a gentle rising upbeat in thirds (after a descending figure in sixths from Piano 2) 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.  It is played in forceful harmony by Piano 1 against sweeping lines in fast broken octaves from the right hand of Piano 2, along with another upbeat figure.  These fast broken octave lines, combined with the ground bass and the long-short rhythms, give the clearest impression yet of the original theme’s return.  The ground bass itself is passed from Piano 2 to Piano 1 after two measures.  In the first three measures, the long-short rhythms and broken octaves are exchanged between the pianos.  After a powerful buildup, the fourth and fifth bars of the original theme emerge grandly in Piano 2 beneath rapidly soaring broken octaves in Piano 1.
2:31 [m. 446]--Coda.  The first two measures sound as if they could begin another ground bass statement.  After another rising upbeat from bass octaves in Piano 1, the opening rhythm of the theme is played in octaves, but beginning on B-flat (like the ground bass) instead of D.  Piano 2 adds an upward rushing scale in bass octaves (with an opening turn) in the second half of the measure.  The second measure is similar, but the opening rhythm in Piano 1 is moved up two octaves with added harmony, its left hand moving to the next notes of the ground bass, and the upward rushing scale in Piano 2 is also moved up two octaves in the right hand, one in the left.
2:35 [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 high in Piano 1, in full harmony with an entirely new G-F bass, and an inner anticipation of the theme’s second measure, continuing from the two-bar preparation.  The scale is heard again in Piano 2 octaves (one, then two octaves apart).  From the second measure, the theme is in its original form, with its original bass.  After pausing, the sweeping scale turns down in the last two measures.
2:42 [m. 453]--The rounding phrase of Part 2, which of course begins like the second half of Part 1, is presented.  In the first three measures, the sweeping Piano 2 scales are in contrary motion.  In the fourth measure, the scales take a break.  In the prolongation, the two hymn-like gestures are played by Piano 2 in full harmony, including the usual intruding A-flat.  Piano 1 now has the sweeping scale, ascending with the hands three octaves apart (two in the last bar of the prolongation).  Against the cadence chords in Piano 2, the scales become continuous in Piano 1 (contracting to one octave apart in the last measure), and the volume rapidly quiets down.
3:00 [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 scale figures in Piano 1 slow 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.  Brahms enhances this further with the indication molto ritardando e diminuendo.
3:10 [m. 467]--Everything has faded away, and repeated bass B-flats have kept the meter secure against the disruption.  As it happens, the last note of the second six-note group lands on the downbeat.  Suddenly fortissimo, the tempo returns to normal, and Piano 1 plays a sweeping upward scale in sixteenth notes as Piano 2 begins the final sequence of leaping chords and lower notes.  Piano 1 joins the chords in the second measure.  This closing passage of chords is, significantly, five measures long, with a cadence and repeated B-flat chords leaping down and up.  The lower notes are replaced by rests after the second measure.  The note B-flat is heavily scored in the held final chord, in five octaves, three of them doubled in both pianos.
END OF VARIATIONS [471 mm., 16:13 total]