STRING QUARTET NO. 3 in B-FLAT
MAJOR, OP. 67
Recording: Melos Quartet (Wilhelm Melcher, 1st Violin; Gerhard
Voss, 2nd violin; Hermann Voss, viola; Peter Buck, cello) [DG
1876. Dedicated to “his friend” Professor Theodor
Wilhelm Engelmann in Utrecht.
Having toiled at length on the First Symphony, whose completion was
finally approaching, Brahms diverted himself with this
confident return to another hallowed genre. Like the Third Piano
Quartet, it is a single example of a form in which he
had previously published a pair of works closely
together. He approached that form with serious
post-Beethoven logic in the C-minor and A-minor
works published three years earlier as Op. 51. Now
Brahms seems to throw off those shackles and hark back to
Mozart (more specifically that composer’s “Hunt” Quartet, K.
458 in the same key of B-flat). This last quartet is
full of extreme compositional virtuosity, but it is virtuosity
in which its composer clearly took great satisfaction, even
seeming to congratulate himself on his efforts in the coda of
the final variation movement. Brahms’s previous forays
into cyclical composition include elements in the three early piano sonatas and the
end of the German
Requiem. Here, he takes the main theme of
his first movement and manages to transform it into the last
two variations of his finale. Not only that, but the
finale’s variation theme itself, in a seemingly insignificant
viola triplet line, reveals the potential for adapting it to
the 6/8 first movement theme. The later cyclic returns
in the First
Violin Sonata would be more extensive, and those of the
more subtle, but the overt and natural way Brahms does it
here, concealing the effort required, is uniquely
satisfying. The opening movement itself exploits the
combination of “compound” 6/8 meter and “simple” 2/4 meter in
the dichotomy of its two main themes, the “hunting call” and
the jaunty dance, later bringing them together.
Distinctive characteristics of the beautiful slow movement are
its agitated central section and the “false” return of the
main theme in the wrong key. The third movement
intermezzo has an extensive structure like that of the C-minor
quartet. The viola is the lead instrument in this
melancholy waltz, and Brahms achieves a wonderfully odd effect
by muting the other three instruments. This stays in
force even when the first violin, for example, takes the lead
role. This was the first time Brahms closed an
instrumental work with variations, and he would do it again in
Quintet (where he also returns to the opening of the
first movement, albeit as a coda and not one of the actual
variations) and the Second Clarinet Sonata. As
joyous and impressive as this quartet is, the composer must
have found the genre too restrictive. In his remaining
20 years of compositional activity, his only chamber works
without piano use
Thus, as with the piano sonata, the violin sonata (whose first example
was four years later), the piano trio, and the piano quartet,
this is another genre with three contributions by Brahms.
IMSLP WORK PAGE
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First
Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche
Vivace (Sonata-Allegro form).
B-FLAT MAJOR, 6/8 and 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1. In a “hunting” 6/8 rhythm,
the second violin and viola quietly but confidently play a
harmonized call, with accents on the weaker third and sixth
notes of the first measure. Then all four instruments
respond with the same figure, much louder, again with accents
on the third and sixth notes of the first measure. Once
again, the second violin and viola lead quietly with a second
phrase, this time without the disruptive accents, and it is
repeated forcefully by all four instruments.
0:12 [m. 9]--Beginning with the last part of the
preceding measure, the second violin and viola now change the
6/8 feel to a 3/4 feel, from two beats divided into three
parts to three beats divided into two parts. The music
is still notated in 6/8. The second violin plays
strongly accented notes, with a repetition and then a descent,
against the leaping viola. Keeping with the pattern, all
four instruments echo this at a louder level, now with the
first violin and cello playing the longer notes. The
second violin and viola play the leaping notes again, but with
ambiguous groupings that could be in either two or three
0:17 [m. 13]--The second violin now moves upward
chromatically, by half-step, again with the 3/4 grouping,
against the leaping viola. This upward chromatic motion
is taken in the forceful echo by the first violin, the cello
joining the second violin and viola on the leaping motion with
0:22 [m. 17]--In a fifth and final alternation, the 6/8
feel is fully restored. A swinging descent in the second
violin is played against three-note rising arpeggios in the
viola that briefly suggest the “relative” G minor. In
the response, the first violin plays the descent, harmonized
by second violin and viola, and the cello the three-note
arpeggios. At the arrival point, the second violin and
viola begin the original “hunting” call before the first
violin soars upward in a rapid B-flat scale, the cello playing
arpeggios against it. This pattern is heard again, with
both the “hunting” call and the scale reaching a third
higher. The hunting figures become continuous under
shorter scale fragments until the first violin arches up and
0:33 [m. 25]--Transition. The two violins now
play the “hunting” figure before the viola and cello descend,
with the viola playing scales at twice the speed of the
cello’s arpeggios. Notes from the minor key are
introduced. The pattern is repeated a third
higher. Then all four instruments exuberantly take the
“hunting” call, placing strong disruptive accents on the third
and sixth notes of the next two measures. These arrive
emphatically on the “dominant” key, F major, where the
instruments play four quickly descending scale figures, the
first with two instruments, the second and third with three,
and the last with all four (the cello added last). This
last scale with all four instruments has eight notes instead
of the six in the other three.
0:41 [m. 31]--Quickly quieting down, the first violin
begins to undulate on the adjacent notes C and D, punctuated
by the other instruments. After a measure of this, the
second violin and viola play figures in the “hunting” rhythm
against the continuing undulation. The first violin then
breaks its undulation, rising and falling against smooth
harmonies, still incorporating elements of the
undulation. Finally, the second violin takes the leading
role, playing a smoothly arching dolce melody
against the first violin, which now reaches up and down in
fast arpeggios, and held notes in viola and cello. This
reaches closure and a brief pause.
0:52 [m. 39]--Now beginning halfway through the measure
with a sudden accent before quieting down, the first violin
undulates again, this time on a half-step. The second
violin and cello enter against it, zigzagging down.
Notes are introduced that first suggest F minor, then its
“relative” A-flat major. The first violin breaks from
its undulation into a series of highly decorative figures,
including motion up and down, both stepwise and
arpeggiated. The other instruments provide a smooth
background, the viola introducing mild syncopation. This
continues with new minor-key harmonies. The viola
emerges in a questioning gesture leading back to F minor/major
against widely arching first violin arpeggios.
1:07 [m. 50]--Very quietly, and in F minor, the second
violin and cello play in unison the smoothly arching melody
first heard in the second violin before 0:52 [m. 39].
After two measures, the first violin and viola enter.
The smoothly arching melody is repeated, now with the two
violins in unison and the viola and cello, also in unison,
playing in exact contrary motion (“inversion”) to the
violins. The second measure of this is repeated, then
appears to repeat again, but this last repetition is diverted
to a unison F (the second violin dropping out). This
unison F is played two more times in syncopation.
1:17 [m. 58]--The last unison F leads into a “false
start” of Theme 2 in F major. The meter changes to 2/4,
and the jaunty melody with long-short-short rhythm begins in
the first violin, harmonized by second violin and cello with
viola punctuations. But this is cut off after two
measures by the 6/8 meter and the previous minor-key
material. This quickly lands again on the unison F, and
after three measures, the 2/4 meter again asserts itself for
the actual beginning of Theme 2.
1:24 [m. 63]--Theme 2 (F major, 2/4 time). The
jaunty but quiet melody begins again, with its distinctively
leaping long-short-short rhythm. It now
continues, adding syncopated notes held over bar lines.
The second violin drops out after three measures, and the
viola joins on the long-short-short rhythm for three more
measures. The “jaunty” rhythm then breaks off, and the
first violin introduces a broader melody that sweeps down,
suggesting A major and gradually increasing in volume.
It now reaches a fourth higher with this broader idea, then
another fifth higher (an octave above the original level), a forte
volume level now having been achieved. This quickly
recedes as the first violin swoops back down in the F major
1:40 [m. 75]--Again hushed, all four instruments play a
harmonized fragment from the “bottom” portion of the broader
melody. It almost too easily vacillates between A major
and F major as it marches down. It then breaks
off. With pauses on the downbeats of three straight
measures, the instruments entering after each silent downbeat,
there is a halting but gentle and charming cadence back in F
1:49 [m. 81]--Closing material. The first violin
again begins the “jaunty” melody, with fragments of the
broader idea below. The second violin then imitates the
“jaunty” idea with the first violin moving to the “broader”
melody. This breaks off, and the first violin emerges
into a continuous series of faster 16th notes in two-note
slurs, with the first note of each slur repeating the second
note of the last. These reach up, then emerge into wider
leaps. Against them, the viola plays fragments of the
broader idea, the second violin plays syncopated figures, and
the cello has off-beat punctuations. This continues for
seven measures before the other three instruments break off
and leave the first violin alone.
2:02 [m. 92]--The first violin continues alone, still
retaining the repeated notes between slurs, but steadily
working downward. After five measures, as the first
violin approaches a cadence, the second violin enters, but
surprisingly it is in 6/8 time (going against the prevailing
2/4) and playing the original “hunting” material from Theme
1. After another measure, the cello enters, imitating
the first violin’s cadence motion while that instrument
continues downward. The imitation continues as the first
violin moves back to its original level, all while the second
violin continues the 6/8 “hunting” gesture. Finally, the
viola enters in unison with the first violin as that
instrument moves up an octave and the cello moves down one.
2:12 [m. 101]--After steadily building up under the
second violin’s 6/8 entry and the cadence imitations, all four
instruments suddenly come together in a powerful unison on the
6/8 “hunting” rhythm that the second violin had
established. After quickly working down, they suddenly
break off without a complete cadence, allowing a full-measure
rest to serve as the first ending (m. 103a) before the
2:16 [m. 1]--Theme 1 opening with “hunting” calls and
2:26 [m. 9]--3/4 “feel” with accented notes, as at
2:32 [m. 13]--Chromatic upward motion in violins, as at
2:37 [m. 17]--Restoration of 6/8 feel with swinging
descent, rising arpeggios, and rapid first violin scales
against the original “hunting” rhythm, as at 0:22.
2:48 [m. 25]--Transition. Motion to F major
culminating in rapid descending scales, as at 0:33.
2:55 [m. 31]--Undulating motion and dolce
melody, as at 0:41.
3:06 [m. 39]--Continuing undulation, decorative
figures, minor-key harmonies, and questioning gesture with
widely arching arpeggios, as at 0:52.
3:20 [m. 50]--F-minor presentation of smoothly arching
melody, then arrival on unison F, as at 1:07.
3:31 [m. 58]--“False start” of Theme 2 cut off by
minor-key material in 6/8, as at 1:17.
3:38 [m. 63]--Theme 2. Jaunty F-major melody in
2/4 time, then broader melody, as at 1:24.
3:54 [m. 75]--Fragments of broader melody, gentle and
charming F-major cadence, as at 1:40.
4:03 [m. 81]--Closing material. Jaunty melody
with fragments of broader melody, then first violin emergence
into continuing 16th notes, as at 1:49.
4:16 [m. 92]--First violin continuation alone, then
second violin entry in 6/8 and cello imitation, as at 2:02.
4:26 [m. 101]--Powerful unison on 6/8 “hunting”
rhythm, as at 2:12. The “pause” after the breakoff is
now only half a measure.
4:29 [m. 103, second ending]--The first violin and
viola quietly echo the last three notes before the breakoff,
then pause and echo them again. The second violin and
cello join on a drone harmony while the other two instruments
echo the three notes two more times in close succession.
Then all four instruments come together on a harmonized
arching line in long-short rhythm, marked sotto voce.
As they arch up and back down, they arrive on D minor
(“relative” to F major, where they ended the
exposition). They then arch up and back down again,
making a harmonic shift and key change to A minor, with a full
4:44 [m. 114]--After the arrival on A minor, the first
violin and viola shift the key again and play the three-note
echo a third higher than before. This time, the other
instruments join right after the pause, and the three-note
figure is played one additional time for a total of
five. This creates a slightly longer pause before a new
statement of the sotto voce arching motion, which now
begins in F minor, then shifts on the second wave to a full
arrival on C minor.
5:00 [m. 126]--The first violin and viola echo the
three-note figure yet again and again a third higher.
But this time the continuation is a meditation on Theme 1 in
the distant key of F-sharp major, marked molto dolce
sempre. The key signature changes to three sharps
here. The first violin begins the meditation, harmonized
by the other instruments, the cello providing a solid
bass. The second violin and viola then continue in
harmony. There is some mild syncopation. The first
violin takes over again, and once again passes to the second
violin and viola under its syncopation, and there is a brief
diversion to D major.
5:11 [m. 135]--Re-establishing F-sharp major, the first
violin begins to swing back and forth over a slow harmonic
background. With more mild syncopation, it approaches an
arrival point. This is immediately diverted again, this
time toward G. The first violin descends in syncopation
against the Theme 1 material in second violin and viola, this
time marked diminuendo e calando, fading away to an
extremely quiet level. Shifting back to F-sharp, the
viola plays the swinging motion while the first violin slows
down and leaps up two octaves. Two slower gestures,
stretching out the swinging motion, lead toward a full
5:32 [m. 149]--The meter abruptly shifts to 2/4, and
Theme 2 is now subject to development, beginning in F-sharp
major. All instruments except the first violin begin the
Theme 2 music, and then the first violin enters against it
with a widely downward-sweeping line. The Theme 2
material picks up again in all instruments, becoming
harmonically active, propelled by the cello. The key
center moves from F-sharp through A major, C major, and E
minor, building and becoming agitated.
5:45 [m. 161]--Another harmonic wrench upward leads to
G minor, which is also indicated by a change in the key
signature to two flats (same as the home key, B-flat
major). A highly restless episode follows, with octave
leaps in the Theme 2 rhythm passed between the instruments,
viola to second violin to first violin, while the cello
provides a marching bass. The sequence is heard again at
a higher level.
5:52 [m. 167]--Suddenly, the second violin and viola
begin to play in triplet rhythm, equivalent to the 6/8 meter,
on material like the arching line at the beginning of the
development. Meanwhile, the cello joins the agitated
Theme 2 exchanges. Almost immediately, that instrument
also, along with the first violin, takes up the triplet
figures while the other two play the leaping Theme 2
figures. The triplets are then abandoned as the first
violin reaches very high, and the instruments descend on
syncopated rhythms and Theme 2 fragments toward another strong
arrival on G minor.
6:00 [m. 175]--At the arrival point, the triplets
return in first violin and cello, and are then passed to
second violin and viola. These are always played against
the Theme 2 fragments. The descent on syncopated rhythms
follows again, this time with the instruments
re-arranged. Most notably, the violin parts are
reversed, with the second violin set lower. The arrival
point is abruptly cut off with a full-measure rest.
6:11 [m. 184]--The 6/8 meter returns, and so does the sotto
voce arching line, now beginning in G minor.
Following the pattern, the second wave appears to move toward
an arrival on D minor, but this is averted by a half-step
motion in the first violin.
6:21 [m. 192]--Re-transition. With the averted
arrival, the instruments now meditate on the arching motion,
moving back home to B-flat major in preparation for the
recapitulation. After two waves, the violins move
higher, and Brahms indicates both a slowing and a diminishing
volume (dim. e rit. poco a poco). Two more
waves lead to a sweeping violin descent against rising viola
and cello. This is repeated, breaking off before an
anticipated cadence in B-flat, marked with a fermata.
The actual arrival is the sudden and satisfying original
presentation of Theme 1 that follows.
6:40 [m. 205]--Theme 1. The first call from the
second violin and viola is heard as at the beginning, as is
the response with all four instruments. The second
phrase from the two instruments is also presented without
change. Its response, however, is deftly varied.
The first violin is an octave higher, and the contour of the
cello line is adjusted. But most importantly, the
direction is altered to remove an upward jump at the end and
move continuously downward, with the key moving toward the
“relative” G minor.
6:51 [m. 213]--The exchange with the 3/4 “feel” and
accented notes follows as at 0:12 and 2:26 [m. 9] but with a
different key center. This G minor of the preceding
altered arrival is changed to G major for this exchange.
The response with all four instruments is additionally varied,
adding leaps in the first violin.
6:56 [m. 217]--The chromatic upward motion in the 3/4
grouping follows, as at 0:17 and 2:32 [m. 13], but both the
initial statement from second violin with leaping viola and
the response are more harmonically active and not placed where
expected. The initial call seems to move from G toward
C, while the response moves further toward F (the “dominant,”
which would not be expected in Theme 1 of the
recapitulation). The response also reinforces the first
violin motion with the second violin and viola, with only the
cello playing the leaping motion.
7:01 [m. 221]--The final alternation is not only
changed from its statements at 0:22 and 2:37 [m. 17] but also
extended. The swinging descent is heard in the second
violin with viola triplets, as expected, but in F major
instead of B-flat. The response begins as expected, but
after four notes the descent is arrested, and those four notes
are repeated an octave lower. At the same time, the
cello drops out, leaving the arpeggios to the viola, and the
second violin enters in imitation against the first, beginning
the four-note descent a step higher. This imitation and
exchange between the violins continues, with the first violin,
then the second, bringing it up another step each. This
extension appears to move back toward G.
7:08 [m. 226]--There now follows the full response to
the original swinging descent, but it is the original one as
heard in the exposition, landing on B-flat major as it had
done there. Thus, all these key shifts and changes in
Theme 1 have been for variation and interest, not for the sake
of structure. The rising scales against the “hunting”
call do not follow immediately, however. Brahms instead
inserts an emphasizing gesture with the top three instruments
leaping down in the “hunting” rhythm.
7:14 [m. 230]--The scale figures happen now against the
hunting calls, but they are diverted to the key of
E-flat. This key, the “subdominant,” is expected, since
it will allow the transition to move toward B-flat for Theme 2
(which is typically in the home key in the recapitulation) as
it had toward F in the exposition. The scale figures are
reduced to two, however, and they each have a downward turn at
the end. The shorter scale fragments and the arching
first violin are omitted. They are replaced by leaping
gestures in the “hunting” rhythm in all instruments except the
first violin. These remain in E-flat, turning upward.
7:18 [m. 234]--Transition. It begins like 0:33
and 2:48 [m. 25] but it is abbreviated. The two
statements of the “hunting” figure are varied, with the second
violin taking the scale descent on the first, then passing it
to the viola on the second. The exuberant eruption of
the hunting figure with the disruptive accents is omitted, and
the four quickly descending scale fragments follow directly,
in the home key of B-flat major.
7:24 [m. 238]--From this point, with the firm
establishment of the home key in the transition, the
presentation more closely matches that of the
exposition. The undulating motion begins as at 0:41 and
2:55 [m. 31], but the distribution of the material among the
instruments is different. The viola, not the first
violin, plays the undulation and its continuation, and the
cello takes the role previously taken by the viola. The
smoothly arching dolce melody is played by the first
violin instead of the second.
7:35 [m. 246]-- The continuing undulation, decorative
figures, minor-key harmonies, and questioning gesture with
widely arching arpeggios follow, as at 0:52 and 3:06 [m. 39],
but the roles of the second violin and viola are now reversed
throughout. The mild syncopation and the questioning
gesture itself are in the second violin instead of the viola.
7:49 [m. 257]--The quiet unison statement of the
smoothly arching melody, followed by its repetition against
contrary motion, is heard in B-flat minor, analogous to 1:07
and 3:20 [m. 50]. The second violin and viola continue
to play mostly in reversed roles from before. Again,
there is an arrival on a syncopated unison note, now B-flat.
8:00 [m. 265]--The “false start” of Theme 2 in 2/4 cut
off by the minor-key 6/8 material follows, analogous to 1:17
and 3:31 [m. 58], with the second violin and viola still
reversing their previous roles.
8:07 [m. 270]--Theme 2 in B-flat major, 2/4 time.
Its presentation is analogous to 1:24 and 3:38 [m. 63].
In the second measure, the second violin and viola subtly
return to their original roles from the exposition. The
third and final statement of the broad downward sweeping idea
is changed to begin at a lower level, apparently to prevent
the first violin from reaching too noticeably high. A
narrower, straighter scale descent serves to return it to its
8:23 [m. 282]--Fragments of the broader melody lead to
the gentle and charming cadence, analogous to 1:40 and 3:54
[m. 75]. The cadence itself is subtly, but beautifully
varied. The first violin reaches higher in its isolated
notes, serenely leaping down. This leaves the second
violin to play the actual cadence with its distinctive grace
8:32 [m. 288]--Closing material, analogous to 1:49 and
4:03 [m. 81]. It begins as in the exposition, but with
the higher transposition to B-flat, the first violin makes a
register shift right before its continuous 16th notes, moving
them lower than they were before. Just before this, and
probably because of the lower first violin, the second violin
and viola once again seamlessly move to a reversal of their
8:45 [m. 299]--The first violin continues alone,
analogous to 2:02 and 4:16 [m. 92]. The second violin
makes its entrance on the 6/8 “hunting” material (resuming its
original role). There is redistribution of the other
instruments. The first violin itself leaps up and plays
the imitation previously taken by the cello, with the viola
entering to continue the original downward line. The
first violin quickly returns to the original line with the
viola in unison, the cello now entering with its original role
on the imitation.
8:56 [m. 308]--Powerful unison on 6/8 “hunting” rhythm,
analogous to 2:12 and 4:26 [m. 101]. A half-measure
pause follows before the transition into the coda.
8:59 [m. 310]--The quiet echoes follow as at the
beginning of the development section, but they are at
different pitch levels, first lower, then higher, and they are
harmonized in all four instruments. They also shift keys
along the “circle of fifths,” first to E-flat, then to
A-flat. After these first two interjections, separated
by pauses, the viola and cello are changed to 2/4 meter, the
violins remaining in 6/8. The violins resume the hunting
figures, making them continuous and steadily rising, while the
lower two instruments begin to play the jaunty rhythm from
Theme 2. They continue this as the violins rise upward
on long notes, and the key makes another shift, to
D-flat. All of this occurs over a rapid buildup in
9:06 [m. 316]--The chromatic upward motion of the long
violin notes has moved the music back to B-flat.
Although the viola and cello are still in 2/4, they now take
up the notes of Theme 1 in unison, doubled in length.
They are notated in quarter-note triplets, one for each of the
two bars. These lengthened notes make a return to the
“3/4 feel,” adding yet another layer of rhythmic
complexity. Against this, the violins play a syncopated
descending line in harmony, still in 6/8, but resembling the
16th notes from the closing material. After a pause, the
upward harmonic sequence is played again in the violins, but
it is compressed, without the pauses and with shorter rising
notes. The viola and cello return to Theme 2 figures.
9:13 [m. 322]--Now the first violin plays the
lengthened Theme 1 notes with the “3/4 feel,” but since it is
still in 6/8, there is no triplet notation. The viola
joins the second violin on the syncopated descending line, but
the viola, still in 2/4 is notated in triplets to match the
6/8 second violin. The cello plays leaping octaves on
F. After two measures, the second violin changes meter
to 2/4, leaving only the first violin in 6/8. The second
violin and viola play the “original” 16th-note descents from
the closing material. The first violin returns to the
“regular” 6/8 Theme 1 figures, the cello now leaping in
9:17 [m. 326]--Now the first violin changes to 2/4,
placing all four instruments in that meter. The two
violins, in harmony, now play the 16th notes from the closing
material, with their two-note slurs and repeated notes.
Surprisingly, the viola and cello now take up the Theme 1
“hunting” material, but Brahms keeps them in 2/4, notating the
rhythm in triplets. These two clashing, juxtaposed
elements continue for six measures, with the violins
descending and ascending in waves with upward leaps, gradually
working to a high level. The viola and cello in triplets
become wider, steadily working downward.
9:25 [m. 332]--In the last two measures of the phrase,
the violins plunge downward in the 16th notes while the viola
and cello arrest their triplet motion, playing solid
punctuating leaps and chords in their 2/4 division.
These measures prepare for the return of 6/8 and Theme 1 in
all four instruments.
9:28 [m. 334]--With the full return of 6/8, the second
violin and viola begin Theme 1 as at the beginning, complete
with the weak-note accents, but they are interrupted by the
entry of the first violin and cello. The presentation is
continued with even more emphatic accents on the weaker
notes. The second violin and viola again emerge with
their presentation, now with cello support, even extending it
slightly higher. The first violin enters, and the strong
continuation is also extended higher, with the cello playing a
rising arpeggio. The instruments break off before the
two closing chords, which bring this rhythmically and
metrically complex, but utterly delightful movement to a
joyously satisfying close.
9:41--END OF MOVEMENT [340 mm.]
2nd Movement: Andante (ABA’ form with “false”
return). F MAJOR, 4/4 time, with two measures of 5/4.
0:00 [m. 1]--A two-measure introduction precedes the
main theme. It is led by the second violin, which
provides a “preview” of the theme’s opening. The first
notes of the arching melody are played, with the second and
fourth notes greatly extended. The other instruments add
their own gloss to this preview, emphasizing the rising thirds
from A to C and from F to A. The motion passed from the
cello to the viola under the first long note in the second
violin merges seamlessly into that instrument’s melodic
continuation. The first violin emerges into a rising
chromatic line under the second long note.
0:11 [m. 3]--The first violin now takes over with the
full presentation of the tender cantabile theme in F
major. The first phrase arches up and back down, then
reaches up to another descent, punctuated by a grace note and
some chromatic motion. Under this, the second violin and
viola play chords in a pulsing syncopation, with the cello
providing a foundational bass. The second, “answering”
phrase makes a very brief harmonic detour up a step to
G. After a downward leap, the melodic line shifts toward
the “dominant” harmony on C, punctuating this with a rising
triplet and another downward leap.
0:44 [m. 11]--The cello begins to pulse on a repeated
C. In a contrasting phrase, the first violin makes a
strong upward motion, first by step, then by leap, supported
by harmonies in second violin and viola. After a sighing
downward turn, the upward motion begins again from that point,
rising high and making a bold, striking motion to the somewhat
distant key of A-flat major. The pulsing cello moves to
1:01 [m. 15]--The next phrase continues in A-flat with
a descending dolce line like those from the first
phrases. Like the upward motion, this descending line is
repeated from that point, and moves back to the “dominant”
harmony on C.
1:17 [m. 19]--A sliding half-step motion on the upbeat
leads back to F major and the varied restatement of the main
melodic phrase. It begins like 0:11 [m. 3], but the
cello adds a downward chromatic line. Subtle chromatic
notes are added to the end of the first phrase. The
“answering” phrase is greatly varied to avoid the motion to
the “dominant.” The brief harmonic detour to G seems to
follow, but the first violin line is now in a strong triplet
rhythm. These triplets are echoed by the viola, which
quickly moves back to F. The viola continues its
presentation as the violins add new three-note leaping and
turning figures beginning off the beat. The cello slides
upward. A long, warm cadence with a first violin trill
closes the theme.
B Section--D minor
1:52 [m. 27]--Another two-measure
introduction/transition leads from F major to the “relative”
key of D minor, the principal center of the active, agitated B
section. The violins take the melodic lead, underpinned
by rising motion passed from the cello to the viola. The
first violin takes up the rising motion, moving into its high
register as the volume dramatically increases. The
motion in the second violin sets the stage for the following
2:02 [m. 29]--With forceful intensity, all four
instruments play short upbeats leading into strong and
dramatic chords. The third of these is rounded off by a
quick descending scale line in the first violin, harmonized by
the others. Another upbeat and chord, with a downward
leap, is quickly echoed by all instruments except the first
violin, which holds its note. The other three
instruments then hold their notes as the first violin
reiterates its downward leap from a step higher. The
other instruments then respond without a direct echo,
seemingly moving toward A minor. Although Brahms does
not indicate a decrescendo here, the intensity is
clearly meant to recede.
2:23 [m. 33]--A suddenly quiet murmuring phrase
follows, not in A minor, but the related C major. It is
tender, with mild syncopation and warm harmony, contrasting
greatly with the agitated, intense chords. The phrase is
answered by an even quieter statement a third higher.
This answer has more of a minor character, and indeed it is in
E minor, changing to major at the end.
2:41 [m. 37]--Forcefully moving from E through A, a
massive upbeat in all four instruments, with an upward slide
in the first violin, leads back to D minor and the dramatic
chords. This time, the interplay between the first
violin and the other instruments is in force from the outset,
without the rhetorical pauses heard before. The quick
descending scale line in the first violin is now not fully
harmonized, instead dovetailing with a similar descent in the
second violin, the lower two instruments continuing their
long-short rhythms. The second violin continues downward
in two more descents, punctuated by first violin leaps.
An emphatic leap to the “dominant” A is echoed by cello, then
first violin, then the other two.
3:00 [m. 41]--The quiet murmuring phrase is now heard
in F major (the movement’s home key), with the first violin
set very high. The answering phrase does not follow the
previous pattern. The first violin holds its last note,
and the viola leads the answer, which is in C minor instead of
the expected A minor.
3:17 [m. 45]--Instead of a return to the dramatic
chords, the first violin now emerges into a tranquillo
rhapsodic line of continuous sixteenth notes, meandering in a
wave-like motion. There are chromatic inflections, but
the line seems to want to re-establish the realm of F major
and D minor. The lower instruments add isolated off-beat
punctuations based on the murmuring phrase. These hold
to C, but seemingly as a “dominant” harmony. The final
descent of the first violin’s line is a descending arpeggio on
the “dominant” in F major, suggesting an arrival there, but
this is quickly diverted.
3:26 [m. 47]--Two disruptive measures of 5/4 are
inserted here, and they are as harmonically unstable as they
are metrically. The second violin briefly takes up the
first violin’s meandering sixteenth notes against the
continued isolated punctuations in second violin and
viola. Passing the wandering line back to the first
violin, the second violin joins the lower instruments.
The key center is ambiguous, but it appears to be A-flat
major, with minor inflections. The first violin wanders
away on the extra beat. A similar pattern follows in the
second 5/4 measure, but this shifts to the even more distant B
major and stays there.
3:36 [m. 49]--With 4/4 restored, an arching figure is
passed between the second violin and the first violin, with
continued off-beat punctuations. The first statement, in
the second violin, remains in B major. The remaining
exchanges are harmonically dynamic, moving in a “circle of
fifths” pattern through G, C, and finally F. After the
second and first violins each have two statements of the
arching figure, the first violin suddenly leaps up and
cascades downward in a series of arpeggios while the other
instruments continue their off-beat punctuations. This
builds strongly in volume. The arpeggios then shift to D
minor while the other instruments play forceful syncopations,
the first violin descending nearly to its lowest pitch.
3:52 [m. 53]--A full arrival on D minor is averted by a
disruptive chromatic low G-sharp in the first violin.
That instrument now works upward in a series of short descents
that become syncopated as the other instruments begin to
pulse. At the high point, the first violin passionately
descends in a highly chromatic, syncopated line. The
other instruments richly accompany this, and the second violin
has a strong rising line. The first violin finally
settles down again to murmur in its lowest register as the
other instruments break off. Brahms indicates a slowing,
and the cello joins the syncopation. This seems like a
re-transition, and indeed the A section material will
return here, but it will return in the “wrong” key.
A’ Section--D major and F major
4:14 [m. 57]--D minor changes to D major, and the main
A section theme returns there. This is a type of
“false” return because it does not begin in the movement’s
home key. It is varied in a charming way, with off-beat
fragments passed between the cello and first violin, the other
instruments playing continuous accompaniment with some
syncopation and arpeggios. The presentation is
marked dolce e grazioso. Despite the dovetailing
first violin and cello, the contours of the theme are clearly
recognizable. The exchanges stop in the second measure
of the “answering” phrase (after the brief harmonic motion,
now to E) as the first violin takes over, leading to the
rising triplet and downward leap to the “dominant” (now A).
4:47 [m. 65]--The contrasting phrase begins,
corresponding to 0:44 [m. 11]. Under the strong upward
motion in the first violin, the cello has a new descending
line with a triplet figure instead of its former
pulsations. The harmony turns to D minor. The
first violin leaps down instead of its former sighing
turn. All instruments now join in a chromatic upward
slide. The violin now plays the descending line that had
been introduced by the cello, while the viola and cello take
the expected second statement of the strong upward
motion. There seems to be a move to the long delayed
home key of F, but in the next measure, as the cello leaps
down and the first violin moves up in syncopation, there is an
unexpected shift to A-flat.
5:04 [m. 69]--With the motion to F and then A-flat,
Brahms seems to have achieved the home key only to abandon it
again. But A-flat had been in force at this point in the
earlier statement of this material. This allows the
music to return to its former level while still delaying the
full return of F, a highly sophisticated maneuver. This
next phrase closely matches the earlier presentation at 1:01
[m. 15], now at the same pitch level and key, with the
descending lines in A-flat moving to the “dominant” harmony on
C. There is some variation, mainly in the more
decorative viola and in the cello, whose pulsations are now
5:20 [m. 73]--The sliding half-step motion finally and
definitively leads to F major, and the varied restatements of
the opening and answering phrases are presented in an almost
identical manner as at 1:17 [m. 19]. The only real
difference is in the viola, which adds triplet rhythm to its
syncopated pulsations. This breaks at the original
exchange of triplets between the first violin and viola in the
“answering” phrase. The arrival at the long, warm
cadence with the trill follows as expected.
5:54 [m. 81]--An introductory lead-in begins, like the
ones at the opening and before the B section.
The closing F of the last cadence is used to pivot to another
colorfully distant key, D-flat major, where that note is the
third. As with the other lead-ins, upward rising motion
is passed from cello to viola as the violins stretch out the
opening notes of the main theme. As in the “lead-in”
before the B section, the first violin rises high as
the volume builds. This time, the apparent introduction
is extended into a full four-measure phrase, with the first
violin turning downward and the thematic variant continuing
and settling down toward an apparent full cadence in
D-flat. This, however, is broken off right before its
6:12 [m. 85]--The note D-flat does arrive after the
break-off, but it is changed to C-sharp and harmonized to
facilitate a motion back to F major. The descent toward
an arrival there, in the second violin, is likewise broken
off. It is repeated an octave higher, then breaks off
yet again. While the second violin has the leading
motion, the other instruments richly harmonize it, most
notably the first violin’s sighing figures.
6:23 [m. 87]--A third statement of the same fragment
begins, but now it is extended, working upward and building
strongly, with active lines in the second violin and viola and
prominent use of the note D-flat/C-sharp, which seems to hold
over from the detour to that key area. After reaching a
high point of pitch and volume, the first violin makes its way
downward, with the harmony and melody lingering on the
“dominant” note C. The volume rapidly diminishes.
6:42 [m. 92]--The cello emerges into rising figures
like those in the “lead-in” passages, and these are passed up
to the violins as the final F-major harmony is gradually
established. Another sequence of rising figures
incorporates the viola. The violins finally arrive on a
high F, the first an octave above the second, as the viola and
cello very briefly drop out. As the first violin holds
its note, the other instruments punctuate the arrival with a
distinctive “plagal” cadence, which gives the conclusion an
almost benedictory character as the last F-major chord is
7:06--END OF MOVEMENT [95 mm.]
3rd Movement: Agitato [Allegretto non troppo]
(Intermezzo and Trio). D MINOR, 3/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--All instruments play with mutes through
the movement except for the viola, which usually has the
leading melodic role. With an upbeat, the viola leads
into the expressive and melancholy main melody, characterized
by a long-short rhythm at the beginning of each measure and a
winding motion up and back down. The muted instruments
respond with gestures beginning just off the downbeat and
leaning into the second and third beats. Already in the
fourth measure, there is a strong tendency toward the
“relative” F major. In the next four measures, an upward
surge with building intensity briefly asserts D minor, but a
harmonized downward motion in the violins, along with leaping
cellos, again suggests F.
0:12 [m. 9]--The melody seems to start up again, but in
fact these four measures complete a full twelve-measure
phrase. Now the melody and harmony remain more closely
anchored to D minor. The viola appears to be reaching
full closure, but the expected cadence instead merges into the
full varied restatement of the melodic phrase.
0:18 [m. 13]--The theme is restated in full, but now
the leading melodic instrument is the first violin, which is
still muted. The theme retains its rhythmic and melodic
character, but the first violin places a rest on each
downbeat, breaking up the melodic line and lending it a
syncopated character. The viola, still prominent because
it lacks a mute, plays what appears to be a decorative line
with two-note slurs and leaps, but it is in fact an
embellished version of the theme itself, played against the
first violin’s more straightforward, but fragmented
statement. The cello moves to plucked arpeggios, leaving
the second violin as the only instrument playing the original
type of accompanying figures, mostly in double stops.
0:29 [m. 21]--For the concluding four measures, the
first violin continues its halting presentation, but then the
viola takes over with its original line in the last two
measures. The harmony in the other instruments is
changed. An arrival in D minor is again avoided, but
this time the apparent cadence is shifted back a beat. A
harmony on D is placed on the weak third beat, but it is D
major, functioning as a “dominant” lead-in to the next
section, which begins in G major.
0:34 [m. 25]--The D-major chord serves as an upbeat to
a new and more forceful idea beginning in G major, again
presented by the unmuted viola. It plays two measures of
downward plunging arpeggios in three two-beat groupings,
obscuring the bar line. The muted instruments all play
their off-beat interjections pizzicato, with full
plucked chords. The viola then moves back to the main
melody, and the other instruments, still plucked, return to
the original “leaning” off-beat figures. This return to
the main melody moves another key level along the circle of
fifths, to C major, with minor-key inflection.
0:40 [m. 29]--The viola pauses on a held G while the
other instruments, taking up their bows again, play quietly
pulsating C-major chords. The viola plays an upward
arpeggio on an upbeat, leading to another held note, E.
The chords played against this are the “dominant” harmony on
A, suggesting a motion back to the home key of D minor.
But once again, the harmony that arrives is D major, with
another upward viola arpeggio, and this leads back to G.
0:45 [m. 33]--The viola again plays the forceful
descending arpeggios in two-note groupings, now doubled an
octave above by the first violin, leaving only the second
violin and cello to play plucked interjections with
chords. The arpeggio is changed at the very end so that
the figures from the main melody (still doubled by the first
violin) remain in G instead of moving to C.
0:51 [m. 37]--The first violin takes over with the held
note, now on D. The other instruments, including the
viola, play the pulsating chords, now on G major. The
first violin plays the expected upward arpeggio to the note B,
and the chords, following the pattern from 0:40 [m. 29] are on
E major, suggesting a motion to A. The second upbeat
arpeggio in the first violin now descends. The pattern
is extended another full four measures, with chords in A minor
and F major against a held C, then chords in D major against a
held A. The first violin again follows these held notes
with upward and downward arpeggios. The extension slows
and quiets down.
1:04 [m. 45]--The first violin lands on the note B-flat
and holds it for two full measures. Underneath it, the
other instruments make yet another harmonic detour, to the
unexpected E-flat major (a half-step above the home key of D
minor). While the cello plays two-note bass harmonies on
the second and third beats, the second violin and viola play
three-note upbeat arpeggios confirming E-flat. After the
held note, the first violin begins to play a continuous E-flat
arpeggio that dips back down once. The second violin and
viola imitate it, and the cello harmonies become
continuous. This builds strongly in volume.
Finally, at the top of the buildup, the three upper
instruments descend in rich harmonies with the cello playing
1:12 [m. 51]--The motion is arrested on a dissonant
“diminished seventh” harmony, which leads the harmony up
another level, to A-flat. The instruments quickly settle
down on three long chords, with the middle one held over the
bar line, disrupting the flow. The first violin then
slides down, moving the harmony down a step with it, to G, the
cello moving up. A slower arpeggio in the second violin
and viola confirms that this new arrival is on G minor, and
after the first violin dips down and back up, another slow
arpeggio on the “dominant” further establishes the key.
This point of inactivity marks the end of the second section
which, for all its harmonic adventures has both begun and
ended in G (major, then minor).
1:21 [m. 57]--This is essentially the “middle section,”
since it contains new material without reference to the main
melody. The cello drops out for the first phrase.
The first violin plays a series of slurred two-note groups,
dolce, reaching up in the middle and tripping down. The
harmony underneath in the second violin and viola is
unstable. The key is G minor, but the instruments hover
on a “diminished” chord. The viola marches down in a
winding line while the second violin plays dissonant off-beat
harmonies. After the first violin completes its line,
the viola plays a bridging arpeggio.
1:26 [m. 61]--The first violin, with a decorated
upbeat, begins the pattern again, doubled by the viola.
The cello enters to play the previous viola marching
line. Just before completing the second statement of the
two-note slurs, the first violin and viola deviate and extend
the passage, adding another downward-tripping motion and
moving the key briefly but decisively to C minor.
1:32 [m. 65]--The first violin emerges into a series of
yearning figures beginning with notes held over the bar line
and leaning upward. The second violin supports these
with downward leaps. The viola and cello now join in
parallel harmony (tenths and then closer thirds), playing
three sequences of the downward-tripping figures. The
upward leaning first violin, which subtly changes from the
notes held over bar lines to shorter, more direct upward
motion as the volume builds, moves the harmony from C minor
through B-flat major and G minor and finally, refreshingly,
back to the home key of D minor. All four instruments
join on a massive unison repetition of the last two upward
gestures, leading to a forceful arrival on a unison D.
1:37 [m. 69]--All four instruments now play slower
chords on two-beat harmonies that obscure the bar line.
The chords use the upward leaning motion heard in the previous
passage, reiterating the harmonic motion toward D. The
first violin’s leaning motion is offset from the other
instruments, and after one such motion, it holds a D while the
others continue with two more. It then rejoins for a
fourth and final motion, again slightly ahead of and offset
from the other instruments, the cello now holding a D.
The first violin once again pauses and holds the “dominant”
note A as the others slide downward, still in two-beat chords
that completely disrupt the sense of the downbeat. The
chords settle down to a hushed level.
1:50 [m. 77]--Re-transition. Despite disrupting
the bar lines, the previous chords have formed a full
eight-measure phrase. Having settled on the “dominant”
chord on A, the first violin suddenly emerges into a familiar
gesture, the long-short rhythm of the main melody, cutting off
the other instruments. The viola, still prominent
because of its lack of mute, plays an arpeggio on the
“dominant” chord. The first violin again plays the
rising fragment of the main melody, and the viola responds
with the arpeggio.
1:55 [m. 81]--Now, over the course of eight measures,
the first violin and viola play in alternation, the other two
instruments remaining silent. They both play rising
figures landing on the beat. The viola remains anchored
to a rising octave on the “dominant” note A. The first
violin, however, slowly descends with its figures, adding
double stop harmonies by holding the lower off-beat
note. These become increasingly colorful and chromatic
until, having extended its descent, the first violin arrives
on the “dominant” chord in preparation for the next section,
the varied return of the main melody.
Part 4 (Varied return of Part 1 and conclusion)
2:08 [m. 89]--With a sense of relief, the viola emerges
into the main melody. The major difference from the
opening is that the first violin now plays a highly decorative
figuration in triplet rhythm against it, alternating between
trills and undulating motion. The second violin and
cello play figures closer to the original accompanying
gestures, the second violin beginning in double stops.
In the seventh measure, the second violin and cello become
more active, and the melody suddenly cuts off, leaving the
first violin to trail down in the next measure with its
arch-like undulations in the triplet rhythm.
2:20 [m. 97]--The viola restates the last three
measures (the fifth through seventh of the original melody) a
third lower. The first violin triplets continue, working
downward, as the second violin and viola re-enter with their
figures. This statement a third lower further
establishes D minor. Again, the viola cuts off and the
first violin trails down with its undulations.
2:25 [m. 101]--The two violins now play an agitated new
“closing” melody, lent an air of resignation through its
harmonization in thirds. The viola plays an
accompaniment in syncopated repeated notes, the cello
providing a solid bass. The harmonized violin melody
continues, gradually reaching higher. The second violin
does briefly break from the thirds. After four measures,
the first violin leaps up an octave to repeat its last notes,
obscuring the bar line. The other instruments join it
with full chords. Another upward octave leap leads to a
sharp cutoff on a forceful “dominant” chord.
2:33 [m. 106]--The viola, the most prominent instrument
in the movement, is left alone to play a rhapsodic solo, an
upward arpeggio followed by two downward ones. It then
slows down to play a strong cadence gesture, once again
forcefully asserting the home key of D minor.
2:40 [m. 110]--This closing passage is powerful and
dramatic. The viola begins to state the main melody
again, with strong interjections from the violins and a solid
D in the cello bass. After two measures, the first
violin and cello take over from the viola, playing in
alternation and moving outward, the first violin shooting up
and the cello plunging down. The patterns are in
two-beat groupings, again disrupting the meter.
2:45 [m. 114]--The entire sequence is now repeated with
the first violin taking the lead three octaves higher than the
viola was. The viola takes the interjections with the
second violin. At the two-beat groupings, the first
violin now plunges down in alternation with the rising viola
as the cello holds the low bass D. The alternation in
the two-beat units is extended for a second statement with the
first violin an octave lower.
2:53 [m. 120]--The first violin settles on a held D,
rapidly becoming quiet. The other instruments play two
D-major chords and one D-minor one, alternating with rests in
two-beat groupings. The first violin reiterates its D,
whereupon the second violin and viola play one statement of
the main melodic figure in harmony. The first violin
dips down to C-sharp to participate in a cadence as the second
violin and cello move down. The cadence is in D minor,
but after another rest, the instruments play a D-major
chord. It is at this point that the music will move to
the separate coda in the later reprise of the full intermezzo.
3:01 [m. 125]--These last five very hushed measures are
not included in the later reprise. Here, the first
violin holds its D and, incorporating the last measure before
the “coda” indication (m. 124), the pattern from 2:53 [m. 120]
is repeated with the viola an octave lower than it was
before. The two D-major chords are again followed by a
D-minor chord, and the main melodic figure is followed by the
same cadence. For the third time, the two major and one
minor chord are stated in the two-beat groupings with rests,
now including the first violin and trailing off in preparation
for the Trio.
TRIO (A minor)
3:11 [m. 130]--The trio section is a series of similar
eight-bar phrases. In the first one, all the “muted”
instruments participate without the viola. Beginning on
the second beat, the violins and cello play an A-minor
arpeggio in contrary motion. This is followed by a
figure in the long-short rhythm of the main intermezzo
melody. This pattern happens three times, with some
chromatic notes in the halting long-short responses. The
second response is higher than the first, and the third
A-minor arpeggio has higher violins. After this third
arpeggio, the volume builds and the long-short figures are
extended down to a half-close.
3:23 [m. 138]--The viola enters on an upbeat, and the
previous phrase without it is now revealed as a skeleton
structure without a melody. The muted instruments repeat
the previous eight measures almost exactly, and the unmuted
viola spins out the missing melody. Like the main melody
of the intermezzo, it is melancholy and waltz-like, the main
difference being that the long-short rhythm is placed on the
second and third beats instead of the first and second.
After two similar gestures, it rises and descends on the
third. The harmony in the muted instruments is subtly
changed at the end to lead into the next phrase.
3:35 [m. 146]--The viola moves to its high register and
the key changes to F major. The muted instruments, still
in contrary motion, now play only arpeggios on the C
“dominant” harmony in F, with one followed by another in the
opposite direction. The viola melody, though higher and
in major, retains its character, dolce. After
the first four measures, the violin arpeggios are all
descending, and the cello moves two of its ascending figures
to the downbeat, creating a dovetailing effect. The
viola melody, having reached a climax, slows on downward leaps
with rests between them. The harmony moves back to the
“dominant” in A minor.
3:46 [m. 154]--The viola melody and its established
background resume as at 3:23 [m. 138], with the viola an
octave higher than before. At the climax halfway
through, the viola stays on the same basic notes, though
adding a new syncopation, but the muted instruments change
their harmony, allowing the first full arrival and cadence in
3:59 [m. 162]--The contrasting phrase from 3:35 [m.
146] is now given a varied restatement. The first violin
plays the higher melody in F major, an octave higher than the
viola was before. The second violin and viola now play
the arpeggios, with the cello providing a pizzicato
bass with plucked upward octaves. In the second half of
the phrase, the arpeggios in the second violin and viola are
dovetailed, creating continuous motion.
4:10 [m. 170]--The main phrase is presented with the
full cadence in A minor, as at 3:46 [m. 154], with significant
variation. The first violin takes the lead, but it is
partially doubled an octave lower by the second violin.
The viola now takes the original “skeleton” accompaniment
mostly by itself, a reversal of its original role. The
cello adds new downbeat figures and arpeggios played against
the viola’s long-short rhythms. In the last three
measures the second violin changes from its partial doubling
of the melody to join the viola in harmony on the
accompaniment, and the cello “fills in” their long-short
rhythms, playing against their rests. The cadence
measure is repeated.
4:22 [m. 179]--Transition to intermezzo reprise.
Immediately following the cadence, the upper three instruments
erupt into three loud chords, each of two beats, creating
another bar line obscuring cross-meter. These chords,
with a plunging first violin, rapidly move from the A minor of
the trio section to the D minor of the main intermezzo,
supported by a rising arpeggio in the cello that avoids the
cross-meter. Then the first violin, with intensity,
plays the first four measures of the main intermezzo
itself. The second violin and viola play the typical
off-beat accompaniment figures, and the cello drops out.
The last note, supported by an unstable “diminished” chord, is
held for two beats of another measure to prepare for the viola
ALLEGRETTO [INTERMEZZO] REPRISE
4:33 [m. 1, upbeat from m. 185]--First eight measures
of viola melody, as at the beginning.
4:45 [m. 9]--Four measures completing twelve-measure
phrase, as at 0:12.
4:50 [m. 13]--Varied, decorated statement led by first
violin, as at 0:18.
5:01 [m. 21]--Concluding four measures leading to G
major and Part 2, as at 0:29.
5:06 [m. 25]--Plunging arpeggio in G with pizzicato
accompaniment, moving to main melody in C major, as at 0:34.
5:11 [m. 29]--Held notes and arpeggios in viola against
pulsating bowed chords, as at 0:40.
5:17 [m. 33]--Plunging arpeggios doubled by first
violin remaining in G, as at 0:45.
5:23 [m. 37]--Arpeggios and held notes in first violin,
with pulsating chords in G and E, then extension of pattern
with chords in A minor, F major, and D major, as at 0:51.
5:35 [m. 45]--Detour to E-flat major with building
arpeggios, as at 1:04.
5:43 [m. 51]--“Diminished seventh,” chords obscuring
bar line, with motion to A-flat and then G minor, as at 1:12.
5:52 [m. 57]--Slurred two-note groups over “diminished”
harmony, as at 1:21.
5:58 [m. 61]--First violin doubled by viola on previous
material with motion to C minor, as at 1:26.
6:03 [m. 65]--Yearning figures with notes held over bar
lines above downward-tripping figures, moving strongly back to
D minor, as at 1:32.
6:09 [m. 69]--Series of two-beat chords obscuring bar
line, as at 1:37.
6:22 [m. 77]--Re-transition. Return to main
melody over “dominant” harmony, as at 1:50.
6:26 [m. 81]--First violin and viola in alternation,
with viola holding on “dominant” note and first violin working
down using double stops, as at 1:55.
Part 4 (Varied return of Part 1 and conclusion)
6:40 [m. 89]--Main melody with triplet figuration in
first violin, cut off with trailing triplets, as at 2:08.
6:52 [m. 97]--Lower statement of material from
preceding measures, cut off with trailing triplets, as at
6:57 [m. 101]--Agitated “closing” melody harmonized in
thirds, then forceful arrival on “dominant,” as at 2:25.
7:05 [m. 106]--Rhapsodic viola solo with forceful
cadence, as at 2:33.
7:11 [m. 110]--Powerful and dramatic closing passage
with main melody and excited figures that disrupt bar line, as
7:17 [m. 114]--Repetition of sequence with first violin
leading, then meter-obscuring figures, extended and reversed
in direction, as at 2:45.
7:25 [m. 120]--D-major and D-minor chords with main
melodic figure and cadence, as at 2:53. After the first
D-major chord, the remaining original five measures from 3:01
[m. 125] are skipped, and the new coda (notated after the
7:33 [m. 186]--The key signature of the coda is D
major, not D minor. The second D-major chord follows as
expected, but instead of the D-minor chord from before, the
instruments below the first violin play a third D-major chord,
which is held over the bar line, then dissolve into a
murmuring and gentle meditation in major. After two
measures of this, the first violin leaps up, holds a D over
the bar line, then makes a stepwise descent.
7:42 [m. 191]--The first violin holds another note, an
A, and the murmuring instruments continue with mildly
chromatic harmonies. The first violin arrives on a low
D, holds it, then emerges with the now very familiar rhythm
from the main melody, now in soothing major. The cello
plays a rising arpeggio as the second violin and viola briefly
drop out. The viola now enters on a held D, and the
other three instruments echo the main melodic figure, dolce,
whereupon the viola plays the rising arpeggio.
7:53 [m. 198]--The violin now plays another higher held
D. The second violin and viola, in contrary motion, echo
the main melodic figure again. Then the first violin
plays an arpeggio to arrive at a high D, an octave above its
previous one. The cello has one last low and warm echo
of the melodic figure, then it lands on a low D. Against
these held first violin and cello notes, which are four
octaves apart, the “inner” instruments, the second violin and
viola, play a final cadence in long chords. This cadence
is unusual. It resembles a “plagal” cadence, but with a
dissonant “diminished” harmony that causes all notes of the
final arrival in these instruments to be approached by
half-step. The last D-major chord is held.
8:09--END OF MOVEMENT [203 (+124) mm.]
4th Movement: Poco Allegretto con Variazioni
(Theme and Variations with coda). B-FLAT MAJOR, 2/4 time;
the last two variations before the coda are in 6/8.
0:00 [m. 1]--THEME. Part
1. It begins with a rising upbeat from the harmonized
violins on a half-beat. From there, they play two
identical, gentle gestures separated by a cadence. These
are accompanied by distinctive triplet arpeggios in the viola
and steady bass notes in the cello. In the remaining two
measures, the first violin melody reaches up and winds
down. The harmony in the other instruments becomes
active, touching first on the “subdominant” E-flat before
moving to the “relative” G minor and then settling on that
key’s “dominant” (D major). The viola has syncopated
descending arpeggios, and the cello plays pizzicato.
0:10 [m. 1]--Part 1 repeated. Repeat signs are
used here, but this repeat is written out (and sometimes
varied) in all of the variations.
0:20 [m. 5]--Part 2. It is in six measures, the
last two a “return.” The cello is bowed
throughout. After another upbeat, the instruments slowly
undulate in harmony, establishing D major. The first
violin reaches up, descends, and introduces the note B-flat
(giving a minor tinge to the prevalent D major). The
other instruments respond with a two-note leaping
gesture. The last violin descent is given a step lower,
and the other instruments again respond. Then, rather
abruptly, the opening material of Part 1 returns, complete
with the viola’s triplet arpeggios, and the key is wrenched
back to B-flat major. This time the concluding cadence
separating the gestures is of the “plagal” type.
0:34 [m. 5]--Part 2 repeated.
0:48 [m. 11]--VARIATION 1. Part 1. The
viola leads this variation, decorating the melody of the theme
with continuous sixteenth notes, including repeated notes and
two-note slurs. The other instruments are all pizzicato,
plucking their accompanying figures, which begin off the beat
in each measure. As in the theme, the second half
includes an upward reach and descent (now with two-note slurs
and repeated notes), and a harmonic motion to G minor and D
0:57 [m. 15]--Part 1 repeated. The repeat is
written out, but the only real change is that Brahms lowers
the volume to pianissimo. The viola upbeat is
now against a plucked chord.
1:06 [m. 19]--Part 2. The viola continues to
lead, replacing the meandering motion with rising and falling
waves that build strongly in volume. The other
instruments play a continuous plucked accompaniment, with
leaps in the first violin. The note B-flat is again
introduced in the D-major material. At the end of these
first four measures, the accompanying instruments briefly
break, the viola descends, recedes, and settles on a
syncopated D, and the violins take up their bows. At the
abrupt, suddenly dolce return of the Part 1 material
and motion back to B-flat, the first violin continues with the
bow, assisting the viola’s presentation with descending
two-note slurs. The second violin goes back to plucking
for the cadences.
1:19 [m. 19]--Part 2 repeated.
1:34 [m. 25]--VARIATION 2. Part 1. The
viola leads in the first part of this variation as well, with
the upbeats leading to held notes. The other instruments
respond with dolce figures beginning off the
beat. These generally flow in arching lines, usually
with contrary motion in the cello or, at the beginning, in the
second violin as well. They are mildly chromatic.
The pattern continues through the motion to D major.
1:44 [m. 29]--Part 1, varied repeat. The changes
are artful here. The first violin takes over the lead
role from the viola, but the latter instrument does note give
it up completely. The first violin upbeats and held
notes are two octaves higher than the viola. The viola
doubles the upbeats, but immediately takes over the former
second violin part in the flowing responses. The second
violin itself takes the former first violin part, and the
cello is unchanged.
1:53 [m. 33]--Part 2. The violins take over for
at the beginning. They play continuous undulating motion
in harmony while the cello and the viola play longer
descending lines that are passed to and dovetailed with each
other. This builds strongly in volume, with the first
violin reaching high. After the climax, an undulating
figure is passed down from first violin to second violin to
cello as the volume recedes. This pattern is given again
a step lower, but without the cello, whose entry is cut off by
the always abrupt motion back to B-flat and the Part 1
material. The first violin leads here again, but the
viola doubles its upbeats. A rising line from the
“dominant” in the bass disrupts the “plagal” character of the
2:07 [m. 33]--Part 2 repeated.
2:21 [m. 39]--VARIATION 3. Part 1. The
first violin breaks into a continuous triplet rhythm, sliding
up on the upbeat and then emerging into decorative figures,
which are lent a mild cross-rhythm by slurring two-note
descents, including across the triplet units. The
upbeats restore the balance. The other instruments join
in a sparse, but distinctive accompaniment in a pattern of
chords with the rhythm long-long-rest-short-long. The
triplets briefly become more regular with a descent during the
harmonic motion, but they return to the two-note slurs in the
last measure. The chord pattern of the other instruments
only breaks at the end.
2:31 [m. 43]--Part 1 repeated. It is written out
without repeat signs, but the only change is reduction of the
dynamic level in the accompanying instruments to pianissimo.
2:41 [m. 47]--Part 2. In D major, the first
violin triplets now cross strong beats in arching figures that
rise upward to a climax, and the accompanying instruments also
surge upward in figures moving from upbeats to
downbeats. At the climax, the first violin triplets
tumble down. The accompaniment breaks, and the triplets
are passed down to the second violin and then the cello.
Against these descents, the first violin reiterates a
B-flat. The exchange from the second violin to the cello
is repeated a step down, with the first violin moving down to
A, joined by the cello (also on A) and viola (on D). The
return to B-flat is, as usual, like the beginning of Part 1
with the added “plagal” cadence. The first violin closes
with a charming sigh.
2:56 [m. 47]--Part 2 repeated.
3:13 [m. 53]--VARIATION 4. B-FLAT MINOR.
Part 1. The key signature does not change. The
variation is fully in minor, but there are rising cadence
gestures that use the “melodic” minor with notes borrowed from
major. The second violin and viola are absent for three
measures. Very quietly, the first violin and cello, two
octaves apart, spin out an unharmonized deconstruction of the
theme in a flowing motion. A pattern with the rising
cadence figure is stated, then repeated an octave lower.
In the last two measures, two descending arpeggios, the second
one higher, lead not to D major, but to the “relative” D-flat
major. The second violin and viola enter at the end,
breaking the octaves and harmonizing the closing descent.
3:23 [m. 57]--Part 1, varied repeat. The first
violin plays its original line, but the cello no longer
doubles it below. Instead, the second violin and viola
add an accompaniment with repeated-note triplets on the
upbeats. The cello now has upward arpeggios on the
strong beats, also in triplets. The second violin and
viola add another repeated-note triplet in the middle of the
third measure. The closing descent is similar, but now
the cello has an independent bass line that more solidly
confirms the arrival on D-flat major than did its previous
3:32 [m. 61]--Part 2. The first violin, joined
shortly by the second, plays chromatic rising figures that are
imitated directly by the viola and cello. These break
after a measure. The triplet figures from the repeat of
Part 1 return, with repeated notes on the weak beats in second
violin and viola, and strong-beat arpeggios in the
cello. The first violin holds longer notes
after turning upbeats. The harmony, with “diminished
sevenths,” is extremely chromatic, but D-flat major finally
asserts itself. The motion back to B-flat minor
(smoother now because of the “relative” relationship) uses the
same “diminished seventh.” The first violin plays the
same cadence figures from Part 1, but the second is now an
octave higher instead of lower.
3:46 [m. 61]--Part 2 repeated. A first ending is
used for the last measure before the repeat because the upbeat
is different, with the second violin doubling the first an
octave below (which it only did after the upbeat in the first
statement). This requires the upbeat to come before the
repeat sign, which did not happen in earlier variations.
4:00 [m. 67]--VARIATION 5. D-FLAT MAJOR.
Part 1. The key signature now changes for a variation in
the “relative” major to B-flat minor. The upper three
instruments play in sweet dolce harmony, with the
first violin reiterating a high D-flat over descending notes
in alternation, the second violin and viola playing a
straighter descent. The cello plays in triplets,
reiterating a low D-flat, then rising in an arpeggio to a
higher one. The viola has the alternating D-flats and
lower notes in the second measure. In the second half,
the cello takes the lead with a high rising chromatic line,
still in triplets. The other instruments gradually rise
in descending groups that cross over strong beats. The
analogous goal to the other major-key variations would be F
major, but here it is instead F minor, as confirmed by
the trailing viola descent.
4:09 [m. 71]--Part 1 repeated. Here there are no
variants, even in volume, except for minor adjustments at the
upbeats leading into the repeat and then into Part 2.
4:19 [m. 75]--Part 2. The cello resumes its
triplet reiterations, now on F. The descending groups
leading from weak beats into strong beats, emphasizing an
“upbeat” character derived from the theme, become prevalent in
the second violin and viola. The first violin, which
takes the lead, has slower rising figures that also lean from
upbeats or weak beats into stronger ones. For the first
measure, F minor remains in force. In the second measure
the note A-natural appears on a strong syncopation in the
first violin, but it suggests B-flat minor, not F major.
The syncopation continues as the first violin gradually works
down. The second violin and viola smooth out their
downward figures before rising in an F-major arpeggio.
At that point, the music immediately and abruptly returns to
the Part 1 material in D-flat, adding a new closing
4:32 [m. 75]--Part 2 repeated. Brahms indicates a
slowing at the return to D-flat in this second statement.
4:49 [m. 81]--VARIATION 6. G-FLAT MAJOR.
Part 1. This otherworldly variation follows an implied
break. The key seems remote, but it is not far from
D-flat, and the expected analogous harmonic motion at the end
of Part 1 is in fact to the home key of B-flat. The pizzicato
cello plucks out familiar upbeat figures from the theme.
The upper three instruments, however, play molto dolce
chords that begin on upbeats and are held over bar lines into
the downbeats and the strong beats. These chords create
an illusion of regular two-beat units, even seeming to shift
the cello figures (whose upbeat character would otherwise be
clear) to the downbeat. After two measures, the first
violin reaches high with descents that retain the metric
5:01 [m. 85]--Part 1 repeated. There are slight
changes to the first upbeat and the distribution of double
stops between the two violins. The first violin adjusts
its final note to complete the motion to B-flat.
5:14 [m. 89]--Part 2. The plucked upbeat figures
move from the cello to the viola, the bowed cello joining the
chords. Other than the new harmonic environment, the
first four measures are remarkably close in character to Part
1, with the first violin reaching high with descents after two
measures. The rising scale lines in the plucked viola,
along with the chromatic rising line in the cello, at first
suggest E-flat and F rather than B-flat. The arrival
there is confirmed with the high descents, the viola changing
to leaps and the cello becoming static. The return to
G-flat retains the leaping plucked viola, which sweetly
completes the variation with a rising arpeggio. The
displaced two-beat units remain in force throughout.
5:32 [m. 89]--Part 2 repeated.
5:52 [m. 95]--VARIATION 7. Doppio Movimento, 6/8
time. Part 1. The double time means that two 6/8
measures equal one 2/4 measure. Thus, the upbeat (the
last beat of m. 94) is the same as the half-measure in 6/8
that opens this variation. That opening upbeat is a loud
rushing downward motion in the first violin against a cello
chord. The sudden return to B-flat is jarring after the
quiet ending of Variation 6. In a stroke of pure genius,
the opening hunt call from the first movement, in the
same instruments (second violin and viola), with the same
accents, is adapted to the theme structure. The horn
calls now include syncopation with tied notes. The first
violin and cello respond to each call with sweeping figures in
contrary motion. After the first two gestures, the calls
are shortened by half, and strong chords mark the arrival in D
6:03 [m. 103]--Part 1, varied repeat. The upbeat
is now in the second violin and cello, in contrary motion with
the second violin sweeping up. The horn call figures are
now in the first violin and viola, with the first violin an
octave higher than the second violin was before. The
contrary motion responses, like the upbeat, are in the second
violin and cello, the directions reversed from the first
statement. At the end, the first violin tumbles down to
lead into Part 2.
6:13 [m. 111]--Part 2. The second violin and
viola take over again with gestures derived from the hunting
call. They are short, with notes tied over bar lines,
beginning with the first upbeat. The first violin and
cello respond in contrary motion, with the cello in longer
eighth notes. After two gestures, the tied notes are
shortened, and the first violin responds with short rising
arpeggios. The first violin then begins a new pattern
with repeated syncopated figures, including doubled thirds,
against rapid descending scales dovetailing through the second
violin, viola, and cello. With a strong arrival on D,
this pattern is briefly prolonged, with dovetailing fragments
in second violin and viola.
6:22 [m. 118]--The return of the material from Part 1
starts with the downward sweeping upbeat gesture in the
violins moving back to B-flat. They also present the
hunting calls. The last response in contrary motion is
played by first violin against viola and cello. All four
instruments join the closing hunt calls. The entirety of
Part 2 seems to be one measure shorter than it should be
because the opening upbeat in m. 110 is almost treated like a
full measure, and the rapid descending scales against the
syncopated first violin figures are shifted to the downbeat.
6:27 [m. 111]--Part 2 repeated. The upbeat is in
the first ending [m. 121a], played against a new punctuating
first violin chord.
6:36 [m. 118]--Return of material from Part 1, as at
6:22. The second ending, with the upbeat to Variation 8,
is m. 121b.
6:41 [m. 122]--VARIATION 8. B-FLAT MINOR, 6/8
time. Part 1. This variation is also based on
material from the first movement, the quiet unison arching
arpeggios from the transition to Theme 2, originally heard
there in F minor at 1:07 [m. 50]. This material,
especially the continuation after the arpeggios, is also
derived from the “hunting call” theme. The viola and
cello begin the arpeggios here, and the violins enter after
two measures. The contrary motion is retained from the
first movement material, with the violins moving in the
opposite direction to the viola and cello. The
zigzagging continuation is extended, and at the end, the
harmonic motion is to D-flat major (as in the other minor-key
6:52 [m. 130]--Part 1 repeated without changes.
7:03 [m. 138]--Part 2. In D-flat, the cello
begins to arch on the upbeat, and the first violin in the
other direction on the downbeat. The second violin and
viola play supporting harmonies. The arching arpeggios
surge upward with some chromatic notes and a buildup. At
the top, the two violins descend in harmony and are imitated
by the viola and cello. There is a brief motion to
E-flat minor, but another descent quickly moves back to D-flat
major and recedes in volume. At the return to B-flat
minor with the Part 1 material and closing cadence, Brahms has
another surprise, as the violins make a clear reference to the
original variation theme, further clarifying the relationship
between the theme and the first movement material.
7:19 [m. 138]--Part 2 repeated. As a second
ending, the last chord of the cadence is diverted and held in
a “deceptive” motion to G-flat major (the key of Variation 6),
where the coda will begin.
7:35 [m. 150]--The time signature changes back to 2/4
time, but the “Doppio movimento” is still in effect, so the
note values from the original theme and its variations are
doubled (although they move at the same speed). In
effect, this makes the measures half the length as those in
the theme. Back in the “otherworldly” G-flat major, the
violins and cello emerge into the opening gestures of the
variation theme, dolce. The viola,
however, plays the “hunting call” against them, also dolce,
notated in 2/4 triplets and using the chromatic note F-flat
(the lowered leading tone).
7:41 [m. 155]--The instruments come together on the
chromatic note F-flat, holding it over the bar line, then
slide down to E-flat. From there, the viola emerges as
the lead instrument with a second presentation of the opening
figures from the variation theme. These are now in the
key of E-flat and harmonized by the second violin and
cello. The first violin takes the counterpoint of the
“hunting call” in triplets, again using the lowered leading
tone (here D-flat). The key signature changes to two
flats at the end of this passage.
7:50 [m. 161]--The same pattern begins again, with the
instruments coming together on D-flat, then sliding down to
the note C. At that point, the second violin and viola
hint at the variation theme figures, but the cello and first
violin start something entirely different. Building
slowly, the cello leads the first violin in a long series of
alternating long-short figures. The first violin rises
steadily upward while the cello arches up and down. All
instruments establish harmony on F, which is the “dominant” of
the home key, B-flat. After four measures, the second
violin and viola change to the “horn call” triplets, playing
in alternation. Over the huge “dominant” preparation,
the first violin rises two octaves, to its highest register,
then turns down.
8:03 [m. 172]--The home key of B-flat arrives grandly,
but the “dominant” note F is still persistent in the cello
bass. The first violin joyously erupts into the “horn
call” triplets, then starts to descend in syncopation.
The second violin and viola begin to play steady eighth notes
in mostly arching patterns derived from the first movement
“horn call,” but in straight non-triplet rhythm. The
first violin and cello quickly join them, again building
strongly. All instruments then break off together before
an isolated upbeat eighth-note figure. Another quick
rest prepares the next joyous outburst.
8:15 [m. 182]--The instruments rise in unison for three
notes to the “dominant” note F. The violins quickly
plunge down, but the lower instruments begin the patterns of
the variation theme, now in the exuberant character of the
horn call. The “horn call” itself is then played by the
violins. The variation theme is subsumed within it as
the viola also joins the triplet motion., the cello alone
somewhat retaining the straight motion, hovering on the note
F. Suddenly, the upper instruments emerge in two-note
downward sighs in straight rhythm as the triplets briefly move
to the cello and are then passed to the viola and second
8:25 [m. 191]--Suddenly the instruments break off and
the dolce character of the variation theme
returns. The second violin and viola, the original
presenters of the “horn call,” now play the first two gestures
of the variation theme in the “dominant” key of F, separated
by rests and supported by the cello. The first violin
languidly takes the “horn call” triplets, which are again
marked dolce. After the other instruments cut
off their second variation theme gesture, the first violin’s
triplets trail down for a measure.
8:34 [m. 199]--With an abrupt turn to D major, the
viola and cello unexpectedly turn to material from Part 2 of
the variation theme, which has always been associated with D
major. The violins accompany this with syncopated
reiterations of the note D. This material is further
spun out after four measures as the violins move away from the
reiterated D and take the melodic material, still in
8:44 [m. 207]--The viola holds a harmony while the
distinctive closing descent from the D-major material is
passed down the instruments, with overlapping statements from
the two violins and the cello, each an octave lower.
This is repeated a step lower, echoing that pattern in Part 2
of the original theme.
8:53 [m. 214]--As in the original theme, the Part 1
material suddenly returns in B-flat, now played by the first
violin with plucked cello support. The second violin and
viola play the “horn call” triplets against this, and it
becomes suddenly apparent that the viola triplets in the
original theme were a substitute and preview for these “horn
call” figures from the first movement. The “horn call”
figures, unlike the first violin melody, are not marked dolce,
indicating a return to their original character. The
first violin extends its statement with rising reiterations of
the closing gesture, the last one slowed by rests and moving
to a final preparatory “dominant.”
9:04 [m. 221]--After this last small pause, a very
brief flourish closes this remarkable variation
movement. The cello is bowed again, and a rapidly
falling arpeggio marking an emphatic B-flat cadence is passed
from first violin to second violin, then an octave lower from
first violin to viola. The cadence is reiterated once
more with Brahms’s typical clinching final chords.
9:17--END OF MOVEMENT [224 mm.]
END OF QUARTET
BRAHMS LISTENING GUIDES HOME