PIANO SONATA NO. 1 in C MAJOR,
Recording: Martin Jones, pianist [NI 1788]
Dedicated to Joseph Joachim.
Brahms only wrote three piano sonatas, and they are right at the
beginning of his career. The C-major sonata was one of a
group of pieces (also including the Sonata Op.
2) the 20-year-old showed to Robert and Clara Schumann at
their famous first meeting in 1853. Robert Schumann was
particularly impressed with this bold, virtuosic sonata.
Incredibly difficult and romantic, the sonata was an obvious
choice for the composer to present to the world as his Opus
1. The F-sharp minor sonata, published as Op. 2, was probably actually written
earlier than this one. The opening of the first movement
strives for the grandeur of Beethoven and is indeed highly
suggestive of that composer’s “Hammerklavier” sontata (Op.
106). The movement continues through a long, diverse
development section and an almost overly exuberant coda. The
slow movement is a small Theme and Variations on an “old
Minnelied” or courtly love song (which turned out to be
inauthentic). He even included the text of the song under
the score of the theme’s presentation. Brahms’s great skill
at variation form is already evident in this short example.
There are three variations, the last of which is in a warm major
key. The scherzo movement heralds a line of magnificent
compositions in that form, which he would curiously somewhat
abandon later in his career (about the time of the
symphonies). It is played without a break after the
variations, and its main theme is even anticipated in their coda’s
last bars. The finale is the most wild movement, but its
thematic connection to the opening of the first movement is very
impressive, as is the indecision between the initially prevailing
9/8 meter and the final 6/8. The sonata is as fine an Op. 1
as could possibly be expected, and although Brahms later tended to
be somewhat embarrassed by the overt romanticism and exuberance of
his younger works, we can still enjoy them as products of a
composer whose style was rapidly approaching maturity as he took
up the mantle as Beethoven‘s successor.
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut
Lübeck)--The second page of notation (p. 4) inexplicably displays
at a smaller “single-page view” size.
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf
& Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf
& Härtel Sämtliche Werke,
lower resolution with handwritten measure numbers)--Note measure
numbering error in second movement: subtract one bar from the
fourth line/system (which should be m. 20) until the end.
Allegro (Sonata-Allegro form). C MAJOR, 4/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme
1. The opening gesture, with its thick chords and decisive
rhythm, has been compared to the opening of Beethoven’s huge
“Hammerklavier” Sonata (Op. 106). Already on the second
statement of the gesture, Brahms veers to one side of C major with
a B-flat. In the following answer, he moves to the other
side with a strong ascent and trill leading to a
half-cadence. This is reiterated three times, moving down
two octaves. A scale speeding from triplets to groups of
four then rushes upward, moving to G minor.
0:17 [m. 9]--A new
statement of the Theme begins a step lower, on B-flat major.
The preceding G-minor run leads smoothly into its related major
key on B-flat. The two opening gestures are essentially
analogous to the first statement, but the answer to these is
altered to veer back to C major. Instead of emerging into a
trill, this ascent breaks into syncopated chords leading to a full
cadence in the home key. This comes after the chords lead
into a descending arpeggio in octaves.
0:30 [m. 17]--Transition.
opening gesture of Theme 1 is fragmented and treated in imitation,
at a much quieter level. The left hand leads, and at the top
of the following right hand line, the harmony has moved to D
minor. A second statement of this pattern begins a step
higher, on the D-minor harmony. Following the pattern
exactly, it ends yet another step higher, on E minor.
0:42 [m. 26]--Another
statement of the pattern seems to begin on E, but the gestures are
further fragmented and increase in intensity. The statement
tries again to start, this time on B, the “dominant” of E, but
this is also arrested by a dramatic buildup and a series of
“sighing” syncopated figures that fluctuate between E minor and E
major. These are marked by sharp accents, and they are
highly chromatic and unstable. They emerge into two cadence
gestures with broken octaves in both hands that end on a sharp
half-cadence in E.
1:00 [m. 37]--The opening
rising third that will begin Theme 2 is anticipated twice with two
gestures that pivot from E to A minor, where Theme 2 will be
heard. The second gesture is much quieter than the first,
and slows slightly as well.
1:06 [m. 39]--Theme
2. A melancholy and expressive melody with folk-like
characteristics. It is played by the right hand with an
undulating broken chord accompaniment in the left. The
left-hand patterns begin off-the beat in each measure, breaking at
the bar lines. The melody slightly and gradually
builds. In its second phrase, it gains right-hand harmonies,
the left hand moves to arching arpeggios, and it reaches a high
point on a rolled chord. From there, it settles down and
seems to move to E minor. As the theme winds down, the left
hand moves back to its off-beat patterns, now on rising broken
chords (A minor).
1:27 [m. 51]--Closing
Theme. Brahms directs that there should be a slight slowing
(“Poco ritenuto”), and that the soft pedal should be
depressed. The new melody is played over a “pedal point” on
E that is persistent in both hands. The gently wistful
melody itself is played with harmony in thirds by both
hands. The left hand is rhythmically regular, and some of
its notes come before the right-hand counterparts, which use some
long-short dotted rhythms. The left-hand pedal point is
reiterated on half-beats after the melodic notes. The one in
the right hand consists of longer bell-like notes on the downbeats
under the melody.
1:42 [m. 59]--After two
phrases of the melody, a new pattern emerges with the hands
playing arpeggios in opposite directions. Brahms marks it sospirando (sighing).
The descending left hand is regular, but the right hand plays
three-note groups off the beat, with the second note of each group
indicated as melodic, creating a mild syncopation. In the
last two groups, the “melody” shifts to the first right-hand
note. It becomes apparent that the melody is in fact Theme
1:49 [m. 63]--Two new
gestures that are nearly identical arise out of the “sighing”
melody. These begin with a left-hand arpeggio leading to a
held chord, trailed by a right-hand chord that emerges into a
rapid scale run and a “sigh” figure. The second gesture adds some
mild dissonance and strongly reiterates the closing “sigh” figure
a fourth higher, with a strong supporting chord.
1:58 [m. 67]--After a
pause, the left hand plays the rapid run, which now begins with a
chromatic half-step turn figure and emerges into a rising
arpeggio. This is imitated by the right hand. Over the
right-hand imitation, the sigh figure is heard. The rapid
run and its imitation are repeated an octave higher, and two more
“sigh” figures, also an octave higher, follow above them.
The “sigh” figure then ascends yet another octave as the left hand
collapses downward. This last “sigh” is held over and turns
down to a long descending chromatic scale over long-held left hand
notes. Two “sighing” cadence gestures suggest a firm arrival
on A minor.
2:12 [m. 75]--The closing
theme from 1:27 [m. 51] begins again, this time with the “pedal
points” on A, which suggests that the key has moved to D
minor. The final gesture of the first phrase develops into a
transition back to the repeat or into the development. It is
repeated an octave higher, then stated again back below.
This then expands upward as the volume and speed rapidly
increase. The “pedal point” slips down to G, the preparatory
“dominant” note in C major, and the left-hand notes above it work
down by half-step.
2:29 [m. 86, first ending]--The
of the buildup is a brilliant group of descending arpeggios in the
right hand over two-note rising gestures in the left hand.
The arpeggios then turn around and become even more rapid,
expanding to groupings of six to a beat. These emerge
directly into the exposition repeat.
2:32 [m. 1]--Theme 1, as
at the beginning.
2:45 [m. 9]--Statement of
Theme 1 beginning on B-flat, as at 0:17.
2:57 [m. 17]--Transition.
and imitation leading to D minor and E minor, as at 0:30.
3:10 [m. 26]--Further
fragmentation, dramatic buildup, and half-cadence, as at 0:42.
3:28 [m. 37]--Anticipation
of Theme 2, as at 1:00.
3:33 [m. 39]--Theme
2. Expressive folk-like melody, as at 1:06.
3:55 [m. 51]--Closing
Theme. Melody in thirds with pedal points, as at 1:27.
4:09 [m. 59]--Sighing
arpeggios with reminiscence of Theme 2, as at 1:42.
4:17 [m. 63]--Two gestures
with rapid scale runs and “sigh” figures, as at 1:49.
4:26 [m. 67]--Rapid runs
and sigh figures in imitation, chromatic scale, and cadence
gestures, as at 1:58.
4:40 [m. 75]--Closing
theme in D minor, expansion and transition, as at 2:12.
4:57 [m. 86, second ending]--This
ending, but the arpeggios work farther down the keyboard, the
volume rapidly diminishes, and the left hand becomes thinner, in
contrast to the turnaround and buildup leading into the exposition
5:01 [m. 88]--The
development begins with an expressive canon on the closing
theme. It begins in the middle range, harmonized in thirds,
and its top line is followed closely by the right hand an octave
higher. The left hand plays the off-beat pedal point and
some neighbor figures under the middle-range line. As the
canon progresses, the top voice begins to play in thirds when the
lower voice temporarily drops them, and at least one voice plays
these harmonies throughout. The canon is in the home minor
key, C minor.
5:15 [m. 96]--The canon
breaks off, and an expressive three-note descent is played
twice. The second time, the accompanying figures become
slower (triplet rhythm), and the music diminishes further.
5:22 [m. 100]--In a sudden
outburst, a large harmonic motion begins. The main material
is still the closing theme, played in octaves by the left hand,
and the right hand begins to play powerful syncopated chords
against it. The music begins to build feverishly.
5:29 [m. 104]--Theme 1
makes an appearance in the left hand while the right hand takes
over the closing theme material. Brief motions are made to
A-flat minor and D-flat major as the excitement grows. A
huge arrival on a dissonant “diminished” seventh chord and a
strong descending arpeggio doubled in three octaves returns to C
5:40 [m. 111]--Theme 2 now
makes its developmental appearance in the left hand, played in
ominous octaves. It is accompanied by sweeping arpeggios
passed between the hands and loud interjections of Theme 1
fragments. As this material continues to build and work
higher, with the Theme 2 material becoming more fragmented, the
music begins to waver between minor and major.
5:49 [m. 118]--The
fragments from Theme 1 become even more feverish as the Theme 2
material drops out. Now the harmony finally moves away from
C, and there is a huge arrival on B minor, a half-step lower, with
large left-hand jumps and thick chords, some of which are rolled.
5:58 [m. 124]--Theme 2
again appears in thick left-hand octaves. Its arrival
coincides with the huge B-minor cadence. The right hand
arpeggios now include triplet rhythms, and develop into a
distinctive decorative line in the high register. This
decorative line is in the triplet rhythm. Theme 1 material
is heard under the decorative line in a middle voice.
6:04 [m. 128]--The hands
reverse roles, the right hand taking the Theme 2 material and the
left hand playing the arpeggios, triplet rhythm, and distinctive
decorative line. The entire passage is a third higher than
the previous one, and is now on D major.
6:09 [m. 132]--The hands
again reverse roles, and the music’s harmony moves up another
third, to F-sharp minor. There, the left hand again plays
Theme 2 material while the right hand takes the arpeggios, triplet
rhythm, and decorative line. This time, the decorative line
and the Theme 1 material under it build greatly and obtain new
6:14 [m. 136]--A bass
trill with seven notes breaks up the previous
intensification. It alternates with rising short fragments
from Theme 1. The trill suggests A minor, and the Theme 1
fragments C minor, so the music has built up by thirds from B
minor to arrive back home. The seven-note trill is heard
twice, and then the bass breaks into a longer, more regular trill.
6:22 [m. 139]--The last,
longer bass trill, which is now in more regular groups of six
notes, emerges here into an extremely subdued passage marked dolcissimo. The
material and rhythm are clearly derived from Theme 1. The
hands both play a series of pleasing chords moving up and down the
scale, and entirely in contrary motion. In addition, the top
voice of the left hand follows the top voice of the right in a
canon. There are hints at A minor and E minor, but the
passage is mostly in G major.
6:31 [m. 145]--Suddenly,
the ominous seven-note bass trills interrupt again. They are
now heard a total of four times as the pleasing chords on Theme 1
fragments begin to work downward.
6:39 [m. 149]--The
left-hand trill becomes regular again, with six-note groups, and
the right hand works steadily downward with the full, pleasing
chords. The clear arrival on G major after a long-held chord
and cadence is even more satisfying because it has been teased and
delayed for such a long time.
6:49 [m. 153]--The
re-transition begins with a very sweet transformation of Theme 2
beginning in G major. The right hand plays it, with some
counterpoint, while the left hand plays wide, gentle
arpeggios. The second phrase of this Theme 2 presentation
moves to B minor.
7:04 [m. 161]--There is
now a smooth motion to D major, where Theme 2 is again
presented. This time, the left hand plays it in the middle
range with rich two-note “horn fifth” harmonies. The right
hand accompanies with an unexpected element: the decorative line
in triplets that was heard when Theme 2 was presented at 5:58 [m.
124]. After two bars, this decorative line is passed to the
left hand, which also has it for two bars before passing it back
7:11 [m. 165]--The D-major
presentation of Theme 2 begins again in an identical manner, but
after two bars, it diverges and “stalls.” The decorative
line remains in the right hand, and the “stalled” left hand is
harmonized in thirds. The music becomes more dissonant and
suddenly builds greatly, culminating in a huge series of arpeggios
in triplet rhythm. The left hand finally erupts into
descending octaves in straight rhythm. These arpeggios are
on a preparatory “dominant” chord, This chord, however,
anticipates not C major, but F
major! The arrival of the recapitulation is thus
given an unexpected harmonic coloring.
7:25 [m. 173]--Theme
1. Although the opening chords are now changed by the
addition of the note B-flat, which is consistent with the
preceding anticipation of F major, the theme itself is on the same
level, and is revealed to be in the home key of C major. The
presence of B-flat from the outset, however, makes its appearance
in the second statement less jarring than in the exposition.
From this point, the music precedes as at the beginning, with the
trill and reiterated half-cadence. The rushing upward scale
is changed, now in four-note groups from the outset and reaching
7:37 [m. 181]--Transition.
statement of the theme at 0:17 and 2:45 [m. 9], but this is now in
C minor, on the home keynote. The opening gesture is now
reiterated two more times, moving up a half-step each time. The
music then suddenly emerges into the cadence gestures in broken
octaves heard just before 1:00 and 3:28 [m. 37]. These are
greatly expanded, intensified, and finally fragmented. They
reach a strong cadence on a D-major chord, anticipating the
arrival of Theme 2 in C minor. The entire passage from 0:30
and 2:57 [m. 17] and most of the passage from 0:42 and 3:10 [m.
26] are omitted.
7:58 [m. 196]--Anticipation
of Theme 2 moving from G to C minor, analogous to 1:00 and 3:28
[m. 37]. The previous D-major chord is not a clear
half-cadence in G, as was the case with the one in E from the
exposition, because the chord lacks the colorful “seventh” note
typical of a half-cadence. The pivot to C minor, however, is
accomplished in the same manner as the one to A minor was there.
8:04 [m. 198]--Theme 2,
presented in C minor. Other than key, it is analogous to
1:06 and 3:33 [m. 39].
8:26 [m. 210]--Closing
theme, analogous to 1:27 and 3:55 [m. 51]. The pedal points
are now on G. Brahms again marks “Poco ritenuto” and directs
use of the soft pedal.
8:41 [m. 218]--Sighing
arpeggios with reference to Theme 2, analogous to 1:42 and 4:09
8:48 [m. 222]--Gestures
with rapid scale runs and sigh figures, analogous to 1:49 and 4:17
8:57 [m. 226]--Rapid runs
and sigh figures in imitation, chromatic scale, and cadence
gestures, analogous to 1:58 and 4:26 [m. 67].
9:11 [m. 234]--Closing
theme with pedal point on C, suggesting F minor. This is
analogous to 2:12 and 4:40 [m. 75], but it breaks off and diverges
after four bars, which is the point where the coda begins.
9:18 [m. 238]--Brahms
introduces a faster version of the closing theme to start the
coda. It is played in quicker notes (“diminution”) by the
left hand while the right continues to play the version in longer
notes. It begins a half-step higher than the
presentation at the end of the exposition. Two sequences of
this counterpoint, with the faster version in the left hand, move
up by a fourth.
9:23 [m. 242]--For a third
sequence up another fourth, the hands reverse. In the
reversal, the right hand plays the faster version in octaves while
the left hand takes the slower notes, also in octaves. This
statement begins in E minor. It is extended to double
length, slows down, and builds to a grand climax with left-hand
octaves and off-beat right-hand chords.
9:29 [m. 246]--Two
descending gestures with extremely powerful chords are followed by
four more long chords that work upward. These gestures move
the music to C major for the final flourishes.
9:37 [m. 250]--Theme 1
returns in a grand, heroic manner, with high, thick chords in the
right hand and a counterpoint in the left hand derived from the
theme’s main material. This left-hand line is above a series
of rolled chords. Maintaining the line’s continuity over
these chords is so difficult that Brahms included an easier
version of the left hand here. The music suddenly pauses on
9:50 [m. 257]--For
continued intensification, the right hand now moves to triplet
rhythm in sweeping lines that somewhat resemble the decorative
triplet figures from the development section. The left hand
now introduces a galloping dotted (long-short) rhythm against the
9:57 [m. 261]--The hands
reverse, the triplets moving to the left and the dotted rhythm
moving to the right. The final right hand chords are
syncopated, and lead to a very satisfying cadence in C major.
10:05 [m. 266]--The
cadence merges into the final triumphant statement of Theme 1’s
opening gesture. It is followed by a reiteration in a lower
range that is in longer notes, with low bass octaves. Brahms
marks it largamente, and
the closing cadence has an almost hymn-like quality.
10:29--END OF MOVEMENT [270 mm.]
Andante (Small Theme and Variations). C MINOR, 2/4 time,
with two 4/16 and six 3/16 bars.
translation of the “old German
Minnelied” whose first stanza was printed under the variation
theme in the score
0:00 [m. 1]--THEME.
that the theme is “after an old German folk/love song,” and the
score includes the text under the first presentation. The
song’s origins are spurious, but it is an effective call-and
response structure. The left hand plays the two bare “calls”
(indicated as the “lead singer”), which are set to a simple
arching line. The harmonized (“choral”) responses feature an
initial slow leap and a distinctive cadence with a long-short
dotted rhythm. There is a pause after each call and each
0:39 [m. 9]--Part 2.
The closing phrase, which is typical of this type of
call-and-response structure, has two short turning patterns of
long-short-short-long, harmonized in two voices in each
hand. These are followed by a final and more richly
harmonized statement of the “response” from Part 1 to close the
theme. Here ends the text underlay in the score.
0:57 [m. 13]--VARIATION
1. Part 1. The “call” is now played by the left
hand. The right hand essentially doubles its music, but
decorates it with a triplet-rhythm upbeat and then with off-beat
echoes. The first response is varied by the addition of a
triplet rhythm in an inner voice and a sharp dissonance (which
quickly resolves upward) on the cadence, which is extended a
1:15 [m. 18]--The second
“call” now deviates from the first. It adds an upper octave
and a triplet rhythm to the right-hand echoes, then makes a
surprising upward turn and suddenly swells in intensity. The
second response has new and unexpectedly colorful harmony that
suggests a shift upward to D-flat major. It is set an octave
higher than the first response. The cadence pulls back in
volume, abruptly restores C minor, and does not include the
1:33 [m. 22]--Part
2. The turning patterns have a rhythmic shift so that the
right hand begins after the left hand and off the beat. The
right hand also adds a new and higher accented off-beat note that
is held into the next bar. The second pattern adds an upper octave
and uses the triplet rhythm for the right hand, as in the second
“call.” The final response has another colorful harmonic
motion that includes a striking “diminished seventh”
chord. It also swells greatly in volume. The
suddenly receding cadence is as in the first response, with the
triplet and the dissonance, and it is extended a bar as the first
1:52 [m. 27]--VARIATION
2. Part 1. The first “call” moves the original melody
to the left hand in bass octaves. The right hand adds a
highly decorative line in fast triplet rhythm. It includes
ornaments such as short trills, and it sweeps down the
keyboard. Unexpectedly, the call shifts to G minor, then
adds an extra bar that again shifts, now to D minor. The
first “response” moves the decorative triplet line to an inner
voice and places the original melody above it. It begins in
a bright B-flat major, but ends in G minor. The entire
response is then restated, shifting the second bar down in both
pitch and mood to end in the home key of C minor. The
cadence is sustained for an extra bar, so the entire
call-and-response is doubled in length.
2:21 [m. 35]--The pattern
of the first “call” is followed for the second, with the shifts to
G minor and the extension moving to D minor. The hands are
reversed, though, and the decorative triplet line is now in the
left. The melody of the call, now high in the right hand, is
given full harmony for the first time. In the second
response and its repetition, which follow the harmonic pattern of
the first responses, the decorative line remains in the left hand,
and the right hand melody now adds harmonies that were previously
in the left. The second bar adds a lower harmony to the
decorative line, moving the original line to a right-hand inner
voice. The last cadence is not sustained, so this second
call-and-response sequence is seven bars.
2:50 [m. 42]--Part
2. The two turning patterns are given in almost the same
form as in the original theme, but with the harmony altered,
suggesting A-flat major. The second one even moves its last
note up a step. This new harmony continues into the last
response, but at the long-short rhythm and the cadence, it is
moved back to a clear C minor.
3:05 [m. 46]--The entire
second part is repeated and varied. The first turning
pattern is heard as before, with the A-flat harmony, but it is
notated in 4/16 instead of 2/4. This is because it is
followed by a very unexpected interruption in high, fast, light,
and quiet chords. This interruption is notated in three bars
of 3/16 with cross rhythms. The pattern is repeated for the
second turning pattern, which is heard as before, but written in
4/16. It is followed by another interruption of the light,
quiet chords that is parallel to the first one, also notated in
3/16. This “interruption” ends with a preparation of another
key, B-flat (not C minor).
3:19 [m. 54]--For the
final response of this highly diverse variation, Brahms returns to
the one that ended Part 1, with the decorative phrase in the left
hand and the motion from B-flat major to C minor. It is
still not completely identical, however, as it is extended a bar,
as was the repetition of the first response with inner right-hand
decoration immediately before 2:21 [m. 35].
3:28 [m. 57]--VARIATION
3. Part 1. While it is the climax of the movement and
makes a dramatic shift to C major (where the movement will end),
this variation returns more to the structure of the original
theme. The “call” is marked “con grand’espressione,” and
opens in a full-hearted manner. The triplet rhythm is
carried over from the end of the previous variation with internal
arpeggios under the right-hand melody, which descends. The
major-key transformation of the original “call” is in left-hand
octaves. The first “response” continues the character of the
call, and is not highly differentiated, but it slows to a pause.
3:43 [m. 61]--The second
“call” is identical to the first. The response now makes
more of a contrast. The outline, on different notes, is in
both the bass and in the top voice. It also makes a clear
shift to a key heard in Variation 2, A-flat major. The
flowing triplets maintain energy even as the response slows and
quiets down, and at the end, they propel it forward into Part 2 of
the variation and quickly turn back to C major.
3:59 [m. 65]--Part
2. The triplet arpeggios continue with cross rhythms under
the turning patterns, the second of which is an octave
higher. The music gains momentum during these patterns, and
the final response of the variations builds even more, reaching a
rapturous level with the melody soaring above.
4:11 [m. 69]--Transition
to Coda. The momentum from the end of Variation 3 carries
into a series of undulating chords in triplet rhythm that respond
to heavier left-hand chords on the beats. Four of these
series continue to build in volume until at the top, another
series of chords plunges downward, creating a harmonized
arpeggio. The left hand trails the chords, bringing the
arpeggio down to the bass level.
4:24 [m. 72]--CODA.
The low bass starts to steadily punctuate a low C “pedal point”
that will continue until the end. The level has quieted down
considerably. The opening “call” of the melody is passed in
imitation between a left-hand “tenor” voice and right-hand
chords. This happens four times, each one a step
lower. The right hand itself moves down to the tenor range
for its fourth quasi-imitation, and the bass “pedal point” slips
down to a low octave. The right hand figures are extended
for two more bars, and these last bars include two prominent
descending half-steps in long notes.
4:55 [m. 83]--The music
has slowed to “Adagio” for the last three bars. The top
voice, in the tenor range, simply reiterates the note C, and the
left-hand pedal point drone continues. The interest lies in
the harmonic motion in between these, which includes a chromatic
note (B-flat) and anticipates the contour of the main gesture from
the Scherzo movement, which Brahms indicates should follow
directly with no significant pause. The final C-major chord,
however, should be somewhat sustained before launching forward.
5:13--END OF MOVEMENT [85 mm.]
Scherzo - Allegro molto e con fuoco; Trio - Più mosso (Scherzo
with Trio). E MINOR, 6/8 time, with trio in 3/4.
0:00 [m. 1]--First strain
of scherzo, presenting the powerful main material. There are
three elements to the main idea: a thumping low bass octave, three
descending chords, then a faster series of chords that zigzags
downward, culminating in two long-short repeated chords and a
large downward leap to an octave. This main idea is followed
by two rising scale figures in octaves, each followed by large
leaps up and down. The first remains in E minor, while the
second suggests, at the end, a motion to the related G major.
0:07 [m. 9]--The main idea
is given again, beginning on G major, but moving quickly to C
major (the sonata’s main key). The two rising scale figures
are suddenly much quieter and lighter. The top long-short
figure is now a downward step instead of an upward leap, and the
top chord is rolled. The second rising scale figure builds
again and leads back to the “dominant” chord of the home E-minor
0:14 [m. 1]--Repetition of
first strain. First presentation of main material.
0:21 [m. 9]--Second
statement of the main material in C major.
0:28 [m. 17]--Development
of scherzo idea. Two statements of the main idea that move
to D minor and then to F minor. Both are of moderate volume.
0:35 [m. 25]--The middle
element of the main idea with the three descending chords is
isolated. The initial bass note slides upward, and the three
chords are powerfully stated in B major (the “dominant”
key). There is then a quiet, lower echo in B minor.
The vacillating between B major and B minor continues as the three
chords are given a quicker, swinging rhythm and expanded to two
pairs of statements. The previous pattern is followed, with
a loud, higher pair in major and a lower, quiet pair in minor.
0:43 [m. 33]--Despite the
last quiet echoes in B minor, the major key wins out. The
bass begins to lightly drum out a broken fifth. The right
hand responds with a series of upbeat four-chord gestures that are
clearly in B major. There are eight of these, all at a
subdued volume until a sudden buildup under the last one.
The broken fifth is isolated on the downbeats of each bar.
The chords are dynamic, but their harmony is static.
0:52 [m. 43]--A climax
suddenly erupts. The drumming broken fifths in the left hand
are now played with octave doubling. The high point is a
repeated chord leading into a powerful descending arpeggio in
octaves with long-short rhythm. This arpeggio is heard three
times, with punctuations from the high, loud chords in between
them. The first two arpeggios already have color notes
borrowed from the minor. The third one makes a full motion
not to B minor, but back to the home key of E minor. It
quiets greatly, then isolates its last three notes to successive
1:01 [m. 52]--In a type of
return or counterstatement, the main idea is played again in the
home key. This time, it is extremely hushed and
smooth. The right hand harmonizes the scherzo melody in
pleasing thirds while the left plays a “walking” bass. The
initial idea and the first rising scale figure follow the melodic
and harmonic outlines of the opening. The second rising
scale figure is adjusted at the very end to move not to D major,
but to an ethereal F-sharp major. The final rising figure is
twice reiterated in an extremely delicate manner in full
harmony. After lingering a bit on a chord, the music
suddenly awakens by powerfully repeating the rising scale in
octaves, still in F-sharp.
1:14 [m. 65]--In a
reversal, a statement analogous to that at 0:07 and 0:21 [m. 9] is
heard at a strong and powerful level. The pattern of the
rising scale figures, with the descending notes from the top and
the rolled chords, is retained. The entire passage pivots
back home to E, but it is in E major, not E minor, and does not
make the expected harmonic shift at the end.
1:21 [m. 73]--Building
toward a major climax, Brahms marks the next passage feroce. It is
essentially analogous to 0:28 [m. 17], and moves back to E
minor. The swinging rhythm is in full force for these three
adaptations of the main idea. The left hand, in the tenor
range, introduces some imitation to the strong right-hand
chords. The third statement is extended by two bars with
rich chords that zigzag downward.
1:29 [m. 81]--The climax
finally arrives, marked molto
pesante. Brahms writes a rare triple forte here. The music
is essentially analogous to 0:35 [m. 25], but the chords are now
heavily syncopated in both hands, and there is no major-minor
alternation. The syncopation is regular enough to create a hemiola, or a series of four
bars that are essentially in 3/4 despite the 6/8 notation.
The climax remains firmly in E minor, despite chromatic half-step
motion between the chords. The chords become broader in the
1:35 [m. 85]--The closing
passage begins with a reminiscence of the dynamic rhythm from 0:43
[m. 33]. It is now heavy and powerful rather than light and
skipping. An octave on the home keynote of E alternates
obsessively with a series of thirds that gradually move
down. These emerge into three statements of a distinctive
short-short-short-long rhythm that build greatly in tension and
still remain anchored to the bass note E. There are then
three isolated, thumping statements of a third supported by a low
1:44 [m. 94]--The final
passage rounds the highly varied counterstatement by bringing back
the descending arpeggios in octaves from 0:52 [m. 43]. They
make an unexpected harmonic shift up a half-step and outline an
F-major chord (the so-called “Neapolitan” harmony). The
hands are also staggered, with the right hand playing its octaves
just after the left. The F-major arpeggio is marked strepitoso, an Italian
adjective denoting an overwhelming, resounding sound. The
arpeggio immediately turns back to the final three punching
E-minor chords to end the Scherzo. A one-bar pause precedes
the transition to the Trio.
TRIO (C Major) - Più mosso, 3/4 time
1:51 [m. 101]--A brief
“lead-in” uses the notes E and G to bridge smoothly to C major for
1:55 [m. 103]--Part
1. The trio is expressive, but restless. The ascending
scale with which it begins is propelled forward by a constantly
undulating middle voice. The left hand is quite static,
holding octaves and fifths at first. The scale melody turns
around and comes down in a slower long-short rhythm.
2:03 [m. 111]--As the
scale melody begins again at a higher level, the left hand adds a
counterpoint, also a rising scale, in its top voice. The
music builds up rapidly and is suddenly arrested on a dissonant
“diminished seventh” chord. It recedes again, but the top
melody begins to turn and hover at this level over foreign and
colorful harmonies in the long-short rhythm. The key center
moves to G minor and major. Brahms marks this melancholy
turn dolente. The
turning, hovering music lingers for a second repetition.
2:13 [m. 123]--The
melancholy turning and hovering appears to begin again, but it
makes a new downward turn at the end, and the left hand then
immediately repeats the last four notes in a lower octave.
The same four-note long-short pattern, now a fourth lower, is
again passed from the right hand to the left. Finally, the
pattern is reduced to two notes, and the left hand breaks its
imitation with a downward leap. The last two-note pattern in
the right hand is stretched out, and another left-hand leap down
leads into the repeat.
2:25 [m. 103]--Part 1
repeated. The previous passage has shifted back to C
major. First scale pattern, as heard at 1:55.
2:33 [m. 111]--Left-hand
counterpoint, rapid buildup, dissonant chord, and melancholy
hovering, as at 2:03.
2:44 [m. 123]--New
downward turn, left-hand imitation, and bridge, as at 2:13, now
leading into the Part 2.
2:57 [m. 137]--Part
2. In a sort of counterstatement, the initial scale pattern
is heard in nearly its original contour, but transformed to C
minor instead of major.
3:05 [m. 145]--The pattern
with the left-hand counterpoint, buildup, and dissonant chord
seems to begin in the minor key, but instead of the “melancholy
hovering,” the music moves steadily down in the long-short rhythm
and makes a harmonic shift to a new key, A-flat major, as it
3:12 [m.153]--In no less
than five statements, a cadence pattern that pulls strongly to
A-flat is reiterated, but the actual arrival on the A-flat chord
is repeatedly thwarted. These cadence pattern statements
become more emphatic, with heavier accents, higher notes, and a
steady buildup in an extended long-short rhythm.
3:19 [m. 161]--The final
statement of the cadence pattern is expanded into a transition
leading back to the main scale melody of the trio section.
This transition builds up rapidly and moves upward by half-steps,
with corresponding and steady motion in the harmony, all leading
back to C major for the climactic arrival.
3:27 [m. 169]--The main
scale melody returns at a high point, with full harmony and with
its motions doubled in the left hand. The long chords are
given huge preparatory rolls. Through all of this, the
undulating middle voice has never paused, and continues to propel
the music forward.
3:34 [m. 177]--The pattern
with the left-hand counterpoint begins, moving toward a huge
climax. The harmony matches the counterstatement in Part 2
rather than the melancholy turning and hovering from Part 1.
There is even a strong suggestion of another motion toward
A-flat. Brahms marks this climax with a large hemiola, grouping the music
in larger units of implied 3/2 on top of the 3/4 meter. The
harmonies are highly chromatic, with much half-step motion in the
high top voice and in the bass chords. The climax is
followed by an extremely full-hearted cadence with a joyous
3:44 [m. 189]--Under the
C-major arrival, the left hand, in its inner harmony, plays notes
that unmistakably refer to the three elements from the Scherzo’s
opening, all as the undulating inner-voice harmonies continue and
move down, receding from the climax. The “zigzag” pattern is
isolated in the bass, repeated, and then moved down twice by
thirds. Under these last motions, both hands are pared down
to single lines, the right hand reaching a steady undulation
on a third, C-E, interpreted by the bass line as C major, then A
3:58 [m. 207]--The
preceding passage has become steadily quieter. Now the music
becomes slower as well, both through an actual slowing and through
longer notes. The undulation, which has been present since
the trio’s opening, now slows to four notes (rather than six) in
one bar, then to two bars with three notes, all over an unstable
low bass note (F) that appears to still suggest A minor. The
last bar of the transition is suddenly marked “Presto,” and is a
loud seven-note descending scale in both hands, leading to the
initial bass octave of the Scherzo. The last bar of the
transition is m. 210.
4:02 [m. 1] --First
strain. Presentation of main material, as at the opening and
4:10 [m. 9]--Second
statement of the main material in C major, as at 0:07 and
0:21. The first strain is not repeated in the reprise.
4:17 [m. 17]--Development
of the scherzo idea moving to D minor and F minor, as at 0:28.
4:24 [m. 25]--Isolation of
three descending chords with echoes in B major and B minor, as at
4:32 [m. 33]--Four-chord
upbeat gestures over the constantly drumming bass broken fifth, as
4:41 [m. 43]--Climax with
repeated chords and descending arpeggios moving back to E minor,
as at 0:52.
4:50 [m. 52]--Hushed
counterstatement begins with motion to F-sharp, as at 1:01.
5:02 [m. 65]--Powerful
statement moving to E major, as at 1:14.
5:09 [m. 73]--Buildup to
climax, feroce, with
swinging rhythm and left-hand imitation, as at 1:21.
5:17 [m. 81]--Climax with
syncopation, half-step motion, and hemiola, as at 1:29.
5:23 [m. 85]--Closing
passage with obsessive alternation, distinctive rhythm, and
isolated thirds, as at 1:35.
5:33 [m. 94]--Strepitoso F-major descending
arpeggio, then final E-minor chords, as at 1:44.
5:45--END OF MOVEMENT [210 (+100)
Finale - Allegro con fuoco (Rondo form). C MAJOR, 9/8 and
FIRST STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A)
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1 (a). Although the
character is changed, with a galloping left hand and sharp, rolled
punctuating chords (often on the weakest beats), it is immediately
apparent that the melodic outline is the same as that of the first
movement’s main theme. Only at the point where the earlier
theme had veered off with a B-flat does this melody diverge.
It is richly harmonized with thirds and then with lower
octaves. Perhaps making reference to the Scherzo, the melody
moves to E minor at the climax, which is then changed to E
major. Part 1 ends there with heavy syncopations on full
chords in both hands, then treacherous octave jumps. The
first ending settles down in a two-bar extension, creating a
0:20 [m. 1 (15)]--Rondo
Theme, part 1 (a)
repeated. Without the two-bar extension, it is twelve bars
0:36 [m. 13, second ending]--Part
2 (b). It begins
with a cascading motion, initially harmonized in thirds, but then
expanded to fifths and sixths. The left hand adds leaping
upbeat separations between statements of the plunging
motion. These are heard in three new keys, A major, D minor,
and F major. The left-hand bass upbeats now resemble
the opening of the theme. The descending figures are
abbreviated, and the music moves back to C major over another
heavy syncopation and an unexpected “extra” thirteenth bar.
0:53 [m. 26]--Part 3 (a’). It is very similar
in shape and length to Part 1, but there are changes to the
harmony, as well as a two-bar extension before the climax, so that
the music will remain at home in C to reach closure. The
climax is in C major, but in a reversal from Part 1, it changes to
C minor. Another shift back to major occurs at the heavy
syncopations and octave jumps. The two-bar extension for
settling down is retained from the first ending, giving Part 3
sixteen total bars. It shifts to the “dominant” key, G
FIRST CONTRASTING THEME (B),
1:14 [m. 42]--Part 1 (c). The melody is
songlike, and richly harmonized with full chords. The left
hand plays distinctive arching arpeggios separated by bass
notes. The grouping of the rhythm creates a hemiola, where the melody
sounds as if it were in 6/8 despite being notated in 9/8.
Extensions to cadences at the end of the two phrases briefly
restore the 9/8 pulse before the next phrase begins. The
melody arches up and back down. The second phrase makes a
definite turn to D major (the “dominant” key of G major).
1:27 [m. 51]--Part 2 (d). Moving immediately
back to G major and beginning on an upbeat, falling figures in a
long-short rhythm are passed from the right hand to the left in
imitation (canon). These figures arch back upward.
They retain the 9/8 grouping throughout after the implied 6/8 of
Part 1, and are generally more subdued. After two arching
lines of imitation, they are abbreviated to only the opening fall,
but are still passed from the right hand to the left until they
gain lower harmonies, build slightly, break the imitation, and
slow to a pause before the return of the c material.
1:42 [m. 60]--Part 3 (c’). The first phrase is
stated as it was before, but the second phrase, rather than moving
to D major, makes an unexpected buildup, diverges from its
previous presentation, and reaches a somewhat dissonant
pause. There follow four strong interjections that resemble
the cadences used for the phrases of this section. These
interjections are harmonically active, and gradually move toward C
2:01 [m. 73]--Part 4 (c”). The pattern of Part
1 is followed closely, but now the first phrase is in C major and
the second phrase, following the logical harmonic pattern, moves
to the “dominant,” which is now G major, the main key of this
contrasting section. The previous cadence is given a long
extension, being passed from higher to lower statements and
expanding outward, building steadily. It would be expected
that this extension, which reaches quite high and slows down,
would move to C major for the return of the Rondo Theme, but
instead it comes to full completion with a cadence in G major.
SECOND STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A’)
2:24 [m. 87]--The Rondo
Theme quietly begins in the “wrong” key, G major. The
initial statement is interrupted by the familiar accented off-beat
chords, and the abbreviated opening gesture moves downward, with
the same interruptions, as the bass line descends steadily, to F,
E, D, and finally to C. Once the home key is reached, the
melody is not at the same level it was at the opening. With
all of this active motion, a steady buildup in intensity has
occurred, and after C major returns, the high top chords make a
dramatic outburst and a shift to E minor/major, where the last
eight bars of the theme’s first part (without the two-bar
extension) are presented exactly as at the opening. The
second and third parts are not heard here.
SECOND CONTRASTING THEME (C),
2:51 [m. 107]--Part 1 (e). The meter makes its
first change to 6/8, which will gradually take over for the
previously dominant 9/8. This second contrasting theme has
the character of an old folksong and is in fact based on a
Scottish folk melody. It is strongly played, mostly in block
chords, in two regular phrases. The A-minor key is relative
to the home key of C major. The second phrase adds chromatic
color notes that make hints first at A major, then at C-sharp
minor before turning back. The last two bars are quietly
3:11 [m. 125]--Part 2 (f). The meter shifts
back to 9/8, but the material is still that of the “Scottish
folksong.” The left hand begins a pattern with a bass note
on the downbeat leading to higher repeated notes for the rest of
the bar. The right hand chords are exceedingly passionate,
3:19 [m. 130]--The left
hand leaves the repeated-note patterns and plays flowing
arpeggios. The right hand melody and chords become quieter
and more gentle. The key turns to D minor, F major, and
finally E minor. At the point where E minor is reached, the
right hand plays chords in “straight” triple meter (implied 3/2),
going against the prevailing 9/8 rhythm in the left hand.
These chords begin to build in intensity. They reach higher,
arriving at a strong cadence in E minor, with a turning decoration
in the left hand. The left hand then rapidly turns back down
and back to A minor.
3:33 [m. 139]--Part 3 (e’). The 6/8 meter
returns. The original “Scottish” theme is heard. This
time, the left hand plays as before, but an octave lower.
The right hand is much higher, but it plays the theme upside down,
in “inversion.” The harmonies and patterns of both phrases
follow the statement at 2:51 [m. 107]. Halfway through the
second phrase, the right hand turns the theme back in the original
direction, but now an octave higher. The hands have great
separation between them. This second phrase is extended by a
bar, and instead of the original turn back to A minor, it moves to
a strong and unexpected cadence on F major.
3:51 [m. 155]--In a
transitional passage, the left hand leads the right in upward
sweeping gestures that emerge into a similar cadence to the one
just heard, but a step higher, on G major. The same process
seems to begin again, but the chords trail off and slow down,
using straight rhythm and unstable “diminished seventh”
harmonies. With the left hand leading, they reach a pause on
an unstable A-minor half-close.
THIRD STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A”)
4:12 [m. 173]--The
unstable chord makes a “deceptive” resolution onto F major, where
the Rondo Theme again begins quietly in the “wrong” key. Now
begins a dizzying series of alternations between themes and
meters. Two 9/8 bars of the Rondo Theme in F major are
suddenly interrupted by three bars of the “Scottish” contrasting
melody in 6/8, also in F. The left hand keeps a steady,
drumming pattern going through both elements. This
alternation now happens successively in A, D, and finally the home
key of C. In the last two of these, the 6/8 “Scottish”
material is reduced to two bars. There is a very gradual and
steady buildup through all of these changes of keys, themes, and
4:32 [m. 191]--The C major
here is now flavored with the foreign note B-flat and thus comes
closer to the material from which the theme was derived, the main
theme of the first movement. Other than this B-flat, what
happens now is very similar to the end of the second Rondo Theme
statement, with the dramatic shift to E minor/major and the last
eight bars of the theme’s first part. The last six of these
bars, however, while still in E, shift the top melody up first by
a step, then by a third for the syncopated chords. The final
octave jumps are at the original level.
4:46 [m. 201]--Part 2 (b) as heard at 0:36 [m. 13b].
5:03 [m. 214]--Part 3 (a’), as heard at 0:53 [m. 26],
for the first five bars. An ascending scale in octaves is
then altered from its first appearance, with a greater range and
more half-steps, beginning the lead-in to the coda.
5:11 [m. 220]--Transition
to coda. The left hand begins to play the repeated notes
associated with Part 2 (f)
of the second contrasting theme. The right hand, marked molto agitato, plays
fragments from that same material, including some bars of implied
3/2. The intensity increases dramatically. Brahms
briefly shifts the music down a half-step to B major, but quickly
moves back up to C right as the coda is about to begin.
CODA--Presto non troppo ed agitato
5:20 [m. 228]--The meter
makes a final shift to 6/8, where it will remain until the
end. Brahms shifts the tempo up to “Presto” and begins an
exciting series of accented chords and melodies over a left hand
that plays mostly arpeggios and arching runs in three-note
groups. A soaring melody, supported by rich chords, is
marked con grand’espressione.
As this melody reaches an extremely full-hearted cadence in its
second phase, a clashing “straight” rhythm is again employed, this
time implying 2/2 over the 6/8 meter.
5:33 [m. 248]--The music
shifts up a fourth for another statement of the accented chords
and the soaring melody. This places the first phrase of the
soaring melody in F major, making one last emphasis of the
“foreign” B-flat whose influence was felt at the sonata’s
beginning. The accented chords leading into the melody’s
second phrase shift upward and back to C major, where the phrase
and its cadence with “straight” rhythm are heard an octave higher
5:47 [m. 269]--The left
hand and right hand now alternate on the running line. The
hand not playing the running line plays sharp, accented, and
sometimes rolled (in the left hand) chords. This alternation
happens four times, with each hand taking the running line
twice. The last alternation, with the right hand on the
running line, is expanded toward a cadence and “arrival point”
before the last references to the Rondo Theme.
5:56 [m. 282]--The sonata
ends with clear references to the Rondo Theme, but it is changed
to fit the 6/8 meter of the coda. Three references to the
theme, building in pitch, volume, and harmony, lead to the final
chords, the last of which is given an emphasis by a rapid
6:25 (runoff after 6:10)--END OF
MOVEMENT [292 mm.]
END OF SONATA
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