FOUR PIANO PIECES (KLAVIERSTÜCKE), OP. 119
Recording: Martin Jones, pianist [NI 1788]

Published 1893

These last four pieces, like Op. 118, are labeled “Klavierstücke,” but only the final piece is not an intermezzo.  Although the second piece is quite extended, the weight of the group is on the final rhapsody, the only piece in the four late sets to be given that title.  The unity of Op. 119 as a group is less obvious than in Op. 118, although the keys, between B and E, cover an even narrower range.  The first intermezzo, characterized by Clara Schumann as a “grey pearl,” is as close to the “impressionistic” sound of Debussy as Brahms ever got.  The second intermezzo, whose main sections are skittish and agitated, contains a central waltz that almost sounds as if it were lifted out of Op. 39.  The waltz tune, however, is a variation of the main agitated material.  In the third piece, which relies on internal melody, the ternary form and contrast are more nebulous.  It has an almost comical character.  The final rhapsody (“Rhapsodie”), which represents the end of Brahms’s work for solo piano, is not as extended as the two of Op. 79, but still displays a large arch-like form that makes it the biggest of the twenty late miniatures.  The piece is largely heroic and even joyous, so the ending in E-flat minor is surprisingly dark.  Incidentally, E-flat minor is also the key in which Op. 118 ends as well as the key of Brahms’s earliest composed (but not earliest published) piano work, the Scherzo, Op. 4.  This key thus, in a way, frames the composer’s entire solo piano output.

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke):
Complete, with original German heading
Individually, with English headings (lower scan quality):
No. 1: Intermezzo in B minor
No. 2: Intermezzo in E minor
No. 3: Intermezzo in C major (the key is mistakenly identified as A minor)
No. 4: Rhapsodie in E-flat major


1. INTERMEZZO.  Adagio (Ternary form).  B MINOR, 3/8 time.
A Section--B minor
0:00 [m. 1]--The wistful melody, with extreme long-short rhythm, soars above descending arpeggios.  These arpeggios begin with the first note of the melody, and the notation carefully indicates that each pitch is to be held throughout the descent.  After three bars of arpeggios, the accompaniment switches to off-beat punctuations in the fourth bar as the melody itself becomes more assertive and the left hand subtly imitates the melody.
0:14 [m. 5]--The “wistful” original melodic gesture, now accompanied by a line of double notes in thirds, alternates once with the more “assertive” melody and off-beat punctuations.  Two more of the original gestures, the second of which has a new, freer line in double notes, lead to the second phrase.
0:27 [m. 9]--The melody begins again, but the harmony of the third bar arpeggio is altered to include the “leading tone,” indicating an impending arrival point or cadence.
0:35 [m. 12]--The fourth bar, rather than rounding off a half-phrase as before, introduces a new five-bar unit based on the more assertive melodic line, the left hand imitation, and the off-beat punctuations.  A more insistent upbeat is added to the pattern.  The last bar slows, changes the off-beat internal punctuations to a smoother line, and reaches a cadence on the “dominant” key, F-sharp.
B Section--D major
0:54 [m. 17]--The music effortlessly moves to the related major key of D.  The main argument is a gently leaping back-and-forth melody that begins off the beat.  The left hand quietly rocks in octaves and other wide-ranging motion.  The melody is richly harmonized.  After three bars, more syncopation is added to the melody, with chords held across bar lines, and there is a sudden swell in volume, a striking change in this mostly very subdued piece.  The harmony and bass become more chromatic approaching the climax.
1:13 [m. 24]--At the climax, the left hand becomes more active, and there is a strong hint at D minor.  A second seven-bar phrase follows the previous one.  The climax is followed by a large descent.  The activity gradually diminishes, as does the volume.  The entire passage is highly chromatic, with many half-steps, some in contrary motion between the hands.  These half-steps lead smoothly to a return of the melody.
1:35 [m. 31]--The melody of the B section begins again with a new chromatic internal line, but after the opening, the syncopation is minimized, there is no hint at the minor key, and the climax arrives after only six bars instead of seven.  The left hand becomes active even earlier here.
1:54 [m. 37]--At the second and final climax of the piece, the left hand speeds up to triplet groups, with a countermelody embedded in the higher notes.  The D-major key is radiant here.  The left hand slows back to straight, but still active rhythm, and the music gently settles down in another six bar phrase balancing the previous one.  The motion back to B minor at the end, with the melody in the tenor range and played in a drawn-out syncopation, quickly dispels the rapture of the climax.
2:12 [m. 43]--Re-transition.  The arpeggios of the opening return, but Brahms groups the notes in a “hemiola” or cross-rhythm.  For two bars, instead of three beats divided into two parts, there are two beats divided into three parts.  Brahms returns to the careful notation of the arpeggios indicating the length each note is to be held throughout the descents.  The hands cross as the arpeggios work upward.  There are then two bars with the normal metrical grouping restored.  They strongly resemble the main melody and its descending arpeggios, and the top line slides upward by half-steps, slowing and leading to the melody itself.
A’ Section--B minor
2:23 [m. 47]--The main “wistful” melody returns.  The descending arpeggios that accompany it are now in a more flowing triplet grouping with half-step embellishments, still with the careful notation indicating the holding of certain notes through the descents.  The fourth bar, with the off-beat punctuations and left hand imitation, is as before.
2:35 [m. 51]--A virtually exact restatement of the half-phrase from 0:14 [m. 5], with double notes in thirds and off-beat punctuations.
2:48 [m. 55]--The melody begins again, and the arpeggios are again in the triplet rhythm.  As in the first A section at 0:27 [m. 9], there is an alteration to the harmony of the arpeggios, but this time it already begins in the first of the three.  In the third bar, even the melody note is changed, being lowered a half-step.  The triplet rhythm creeps into the melody by the third bar as well.
2:58 [m. 58]--The fourth bar now highly varies the previous five-bar unit from 0:35 [m. 12].  The upbeat gestures are similar, but the off-beat punctuations are now reduced to low bass notes.  The music is also set lower and avoids the motion to the “dominant” key, instead strongly suggesting the D major of the middle section.  The slowing and smoother internal line arrive a bar earlier than before.  More of the upbeat gestures follow, confirming B minor and extending the phrase to seven bars instead of five (perhaps a connection to the seven-bar phrases in the first part of the B section).
3:29 [m. 65]--A final reference to the opening descending arpeggios is made before the last chords and B-minor cadence.  This closing slows even more, creating a very stilled and hushed ending.
3:56--END OF PIECE [67 mm.]


2. INTERMEZZO.  Andantino un poco agitato - Andantino grazioso (Ternary form).  E MINOR, 3/4 time.
A Section--Andantino un poco agitato, E minor
0:00 [m. 1]
--The main rhythm is persistent and obsessive, but hushed.  Beginning on an upbeat, it is best described as “anapestic” (short-short-long).  Throughout the first twelve bars, the left hand consistently plays short repetitions (usually double notes) on each beat, alternating with the short notes (also repetitions) in the right hand upbeats.  At the end of two bars, a top voice is added with a strong syncopated accent.
0:06 [m. 3]--The anapestic main theme seems to restart, but the top voice with strong syncopation enters again, this time a little later, after three bars.  It develops into a series of four syncopated accents on rolled chords, all above the persistent rhythm.  The top voice then settles down, completing the eight-bar phrase (including the first two bars).
0:21 [m. 9]--With the upbeat held over, the main theme again restarts as at the beginning, with the syncopated top voice added at the end of the second bar.  The third bar is also as at 0:06 [m. 3], but the fourth bar deviates, expanding upward, including two syncopated rolled chords (earlier than their previous appearance), and modulating to A minor.
0:31 [m. 13]--The persistent anapestic rhythm finally breaks in both hands.  A variation of the main theme is now heard in A minor.  It is in triplet rhythm.  The left hand plays on the first two notes of each three-note group, the right hand (in two voices) on the second and third notes, holding over on the first.  This pattern briefly breaks on the last beat of m. 14, but is restored.  A transitional fifth bar is added with the right hand returning to straight duple rhythm on a descending line in the inner voice.
0:42 [m. 18]--A further variant of the main theme begins in yet another new key, F minor.  This time, the left hand plays on the main beats and the right hand responds with rich chords after the beat.  The syncopated top voice enters in the second and fourth bars.  The main key of E minor returns in the third bar.  The volume swells dramatically in the fifth bar, reaching the main climax of the A section on a rolled chord.
0:52 [m. 23]--The main rhythm returns, with short repetitions alternating between the hands as before.  The top voice of the right hand has lines such as that heard before 0:21 [m. 9], but rather than settling down, it maintains the intensity of the climax. There are two similar gestures, each two bars long, both including the heavy syncopation.  The main rhythm then breaks off in two transitional bars that both arrest the activity and quiet down dramatically.
1:07 [m. 29]--In the smoothest variation of the main theme yet, the right hand plays flowing lines in two voices, still maintaining the upbeats.  The left hand has wide arpeggios in three-note groups beginning off the beat.  This phrase swells to yet another, smaller climax before a descent, with the left hand briefly adding a third voice to the flowing lines. 
1:18 [m. 33]--Three transitional bars restore calm and move to the major key with long-held chords, a slow-moving inner voice, and more regular left-hand arpeggios.  These transitional bars introduce a “hemiola,” with four 2/4 bars implied against the three notated 3/4 bars.  This does not include the last beat of the final bar, which will function as an upbeat beginning the B section.
B Section--Andantino grazioso, E major (Displays its own “rounded binary” form)
1:26 [m. 36]--Part 1.  The entire B section is a waltz that seems lifted out of the Op. 39 set (it is particularly similar to Op. 39, No. 2).  The first eight-bar period is regular, with a consistent left-hand arpeggio pattern and a gently rocking right-hand rhythm.  What is more subtle is the fact that the waltz tune is directly derived from the agitated main theme of the A section.
1:40 [m. 44]--Part 1, Varied repetition.  The left hand is the same until the last bar, but the right hand melody adds a high doubled octave, still retaining all of the previous harmonies.  The very end is slightly altered, adding a mild syncopation.
1:54 [m. 52]--Part 2.  The first phrase of the second part shifts abruptly to A minor, then to G major.  It is characterized by light syncopation in the right hand, carrying over from the end of the varied repetition.  The left hand arpeggios are more flowing and played in two bar units.  The second half of the phrase becomes quite agitated as the music moves to B minor.  The left hand pattern breaks at this point, and gradually converges with the right hand in the last bar.
2:06 [m. 60]--The last phrase returns to the character of Part 1, but only gradually arrives back at E major, passing first through F-sharp minor.  The left-hand patterns are far less regular, first consisting of descending lines, then moving to the original arpeggios in the second half of the phrase.  Unlike Part 1, the music arrives at a full cadence.
2:19 [m. 52]--Part 2 repeated.  As at 1:54 [m. 52].
2:32 [m. 60]--As at 2:06 [m. 60].  The last bar is written as a second ending to eliminate the transition to the repeat and to move to the brief “coda.”
2:47 [m. 68]--A small “coda” is added that consists of gentle echoes of the waltz melody that become ever slower, softer, and less active.  The return of A emerges on the upbeat of the last bar with a seamless shift back to minor.
A’ Section--Tempo primo, E minor
2:56 [m. 72]--The A section material returns, not with the phrase from the beginning, but the one from 0:21 [m. 9].  This effectively abbreviates the A’ section.  The phrase is extended by a bar through reiteration of the fourth bar, and introduces a new flowing left hand accompaniment that breaks its persistent repetitions.
3:08 [m. 77]--A similar presentation in A minor to that at 0:31 [m. 13], but the triplets are replaced by a four-note division in straight rhythm.  The actual notes are the same, but the new division means that the left hand figures alternate with, rather than overlap, the right hand notes.  The transitional fifth bar is the same in the right hand, but the left hand adds subtle syncopation derived from the new rhythm.
3:18 [m. 82]--Variant beginning in F minor with right hand after-beat chords, as at 0:42 [m. 18].
3:29 [m. 87]--Return of main rhythm and two syncopated gestures, as at 0:52 [m. 23].
3:44 [m. 93]--Smooth final variation with flowing lines and wide arpeggios, as at 1:07 [m. 29].
3:53 [m. 97]--Transitional bars with motion to major key and hemiola, as at 1:18 [m. 33].  The last bar has a slightly delayed resolution.
4:02 [m. 100]--An echo of the “coda” from the central waltz (B section), gently and quietly closes the piece in major and in an almost transfigured manner.
4:30--END OF PIECE [104 mm.]


3. INTERMEZZO.  Grazioso e giocoso (Continuous variation with ternary aspects).  C MAJOR, 6/8 time.
“A Section”
0:00 [m. 1]--The piece begins lightly but buoyantly.  The main “theme” is in an inner voice, a cell of four notes that moves up by a skip and a step, then turns back down to the second note.  Above this “cell” is a repeated third, and below it is a wide arching arpeggio.  The “cell” is repeated three times, the second time without the pause on the last note.  The inner voice then diverges from the “cell,” but stays close to its character under new chords.  The left hand arpeggios are now in three ascending notes without the “arch.”
0:09 [m. 7]--A second four-note “cell,” similar to the first, is now heard in the inner voice.  It is two upward steps followed by a downward leap of a fifth.  It is first heard in G major, but the next bar wrenches the key up to A, vacillating between minor and major.  The new “cell” is heard three times in A, adding an upward leap between the statements.  Heavily syncopated chords lead to a reprise of the opening.
0:18 [m. 13]--Reprise of the opening, approached from an accented syncopated chord on the previous beat whose top notes are held over to form the initial upper third above the inner melody (the four-note “cell”).
0:25 [m. 19]--New cell, as at 0:09 [m. 7].  At the end, the syncopated chords are shoved forward by a beat (the first is deleted), to avoid the motion back to the home key.  These chords are even more heavily accented than before.  The tempo is rather flexible throughout the opening section.
“B Section”
0:33 [m. 25]--The first “cell” is now isolated and played in three octaves.  It is in F-sharp minor, closely related to the previous A major.  It is played two more times in the inner voice in a higher octave, without the pause on the fourth note.  The music then intensifies and breaks into the syncopated chord idea, the left hand adding more double notes and three-note chords.
0:38 [m. 29]--The previous pattern begins at a higher level, in B-flat minor.  As before, it is stated twice more in an inner voice, but the last statement expands the inner motion by two more bars, with the top thirds shifting upward in the second “expansion” bar.  The expansion breaks into loud descending chords that are then followed by a similar series of descending octaves, the left hand slightly anticipating the right.  The passage passes through two major keys on the way to F minor, where the descending scales are set.
0:48 [m. 37]--Re-transition.  The opening rhythm is suggested with a repeated note and a rising half-step, doubled in octaves.  It is suddenly quiet.  This is followed by a descending left-hand line.  The rhythm is then heard again with the inner voice and thirds above it, hinting at the opening cell.  This is in A-flat major (related to F minor).  That key will lead back to C major and the highly varied opening material, also with a descending left-hand line.
“A’ Section”
0:54 [m. 41]--The opening material returns, but it is in “augmentation,” or doubly long note values.  The first four-note “cell” attempts to restart in the same straight notes, but it is suddenly interrupted by a louder, faster motion, still with the inner voice and upper thirds.  A rapid descending arpeggio breaks things off.
0:59 [m. 45]--The opening “cell” is heard in its original faster rhythm and three successive repetitions, but under the second of these, the piano bass shifts down, which it had not done before, and the music reaches A major/minor much earlier than it had before.  As in the previous “attempt,” the pattern is interrupted by the loud, fast motion, then another rapid descending arpeggio that shifts back to the home key of C.
1:04 [m. 49]--The second four-note “cell” is heard in an inner voice, now for the first time in the home key.  After a transitional bar such as those heard with this cell before, the cell itself moves to the top of the texture.  The “transitional” bar is repeated, then shifted upward twice in a rapid buildup of intensity.  This culminates in a breathless “hemiola,” where the rhythm for one bar suggests 3/4 instead of 6/8 (three beats instead of two in the bar).  Here, three two-note descents rise upward in rapid succession.
1:13 [m. 56]--In the exuberant climax, the second four-note “cell” is heard twice in the inner voice, but it is now surrounded by long-held octaves.  The left hand is smoother, with stepwise motion instead of arpeggios.  The first three rising notes of the cell are then stated four times in quick succession, each time shifting down by a step.  The surrounding octaves are syncopated, being struck on the third notes of the three-note groups (except the first one).  The left hand again plays arpeggios, but sustains the note G (the “dominant” note) in the bass.  The music then slows and quiets, with two more syncopated chords in the right hand.
1:20 [m. 62]--The last syncopated chord collapses into a descending left-hand line.  This is immediately followed by a much faster descent that begins quite high and reaches low.  It is split between the hands.  At the bottom, this line reverses itself and climbs upward in a wide arpeggio.  It is cut off by two rolled chords, one high, the other lower and both of the preparatory “dominant” harmony.  The effect is almost like that of a bubble bursting.
1:24 [m. 66]--The piece ends with a metrical game.  Three bars of “hemiola,” which are grouped to sound like 3/4 measures instead of 6/8 bars, skittishly climb upward, an octave higher in each bar.  The “buoyancy” so characteristic of the piece is at its lightest here.  Following these three bars, a high quiet rolled chord is followed by a louder one an octave lower.  Finally the last chord, which is an octave lower still, is played without a roll and held more solidly.
1:40--END OF PIECE [70 mm.]


4.  RHAPSODIE.  Allegro risoluto (Five-part arch-like form, ABCB’A’ with coda).  E-FLAT MAJOR, 2/4 time.
A Section (Displays its own “aba” form)--E-flat major
0:00 [m. 1]--First part (a).  The main material is an extremely assertive, fully harmonized melody in dactylic rhythm (long-short-short), until the cadence bar, which is short-short-long.  The left hand is mostly in octaves.  Brahms makes the melody irregular by adding a fifth bar to each phrase.  This fifth bar is a sort of “tag” to the cadence with descending internal harmony.  The main melody has four phrases.  The first is in E-flat major.  The second moves to G minor.  The third is also in E-flat, but the “tag” turns toward minor. 
0:19 [m. 16]--The fourth phrase is in fact in E-flat minor, but it has a slightly different, more steadily descending shape.  It is also played with greater intensity.  Its “tag” is broken into descending arpeggios, which already begin with the cadence bar, itself dispensing with the short-short-long rhythm.
0:25 [m. 21]--Second part (b).  Four more five-bar phrases follow.  They are all extremely similar, consisting of six straight chords, then a longer one in the fourth bar.  The end of the fourth bar and the fifth bar have descending arpeggios similar to those in the fourth phrase of a from 0:19 [m. 16], with thumping bass notes.  The first phrase is in B-flat major and is quiet.  The second is in C minor and becomes louder.  The third moves back to B-flat and is again quiet. 
0:42 [m. 36]--The last phrase moves to E-flat minor/major, preparing for the return of the opening material.  It increases greatly in intensity.  The arpeggios are moved from the right hand to the low bass, and reverse direction, moving upward.  Against this, the right hand plays chords with internal harmonic motion, similar to those in the fifth bars from the phrases of a.  This aids in the transition back to the opening.
0:47 [m. 41]--Third part (a’).  The first three phrases are exactly as at the opening, except that the “tag” of the last one does not make the turn toward the minor key.
1:05 [m. 56]--The last phrase begins higher than the phrase from 0:19 [m. 16].  It is of similar shape and intensity, and turns to a minor key, but it is now the “relative” minor key, C minor, rather than the home minor key.  There is only one descending arpeggio, in the fourth bar, and the fifth bar has two sharp chords anticipating a cadence in C minor.  There is then a four-bar bridge that finally breaks the five-bar phrases.  Two chords, bridged by a rising top voice between them, lead to the next section.  They become suddenly quiet and still avoid a clear arrival on C minor, which is delayed until the opening of the B section itself.
B Section--C minor
1:17 [m. 65]--Quiet and ominous triplet rhythm contrasts with the assertive main rhythms.  The oscillating figures are played in both hands, beginning in octaves, but moving to harmony.  There is a solid bass “pedal point” on C until the end of the first phrase, which moves strongly to the “dominant” harmony of G major.  Four-bar phrases replace the five-bar units of the A section.
1:27 [m. 73]--The second phrase is in C major, not minor, and its top voice is an octave higher.  Halfway through, the left hand becomes thicker and more active, and the volume swells dramatically.  The motion of this second half, including grouping of the triplet rhythms into implied 3/4 bars, is used to extend the phrase by four bars and prolong the climax.  The top chords ring out joyously against the active left hand.
1:41 [m. 85]--Transition.  The bass suddenly descends to the same chord that began the four-bar bridge right before the B section.  In fact, that bridge is repeated exactly.  It is then extended by four more bars to confirm and arrival on A-flat major, which was always the implied harmonic goal of the bridge when it first appeared.
C Section--A-flat major
1:52 [m. 93]--While the music here is more closely related to B than to A, it contrasts sharply with both.  Light, delicate, and graceful, it contains fast rolled chords in  both hands that are difficult to play this softly and this rapidly.  The main melody moves from the top voice to an inner voice in the rolled chords.  The phrase groupings are essentially eight bars, divided into three bars with ascending rolled chords and five bars where the right hand rolls downward.
2:01 [m. 101]--This phrase begins as a varied repetition, with the main melody moving down an octave and the left hand moving to mainly octaves, some rolled, but reaching lower.  It then changes harmony, becoming darker and moving back to C minor, the B section’s key.  The phrase structure is the same, with the descending rolled chords starting in the fourth bar.  The last bar of the phrase slows the motion slightly
2:11 [m. 109]--In a transitional phrase very similar to those before and after the B section, the motion slows somewhat, and the volume rises somewhat.  The left hand has detached downward arching octave motion alternating with chords.  The transition moves the music back to A-flat
2:21 [m. 117]--Repetition of the first phrase from 1:52 [m. 93].
2:30 [m. 125]--This phrase begins like the second phrase from 2:01 [m. 101], but after two bars it diverges.  The last four bars resemble the transitional phrase.  Instead of moving to C minor, the phrase increases the anticipation of that key, ending on an expectant “augmented sixth” chord.
B’ Section--C minor
2:42 [m. 133]--The first phrase is very similar to the one at 1:17 [m. 65], but the right hand begins with block chords against the left hand triplets, moving to the triplets only in the third bar.  It is also an octave higher than the earlier phrase.  The left hand is also slightly modified, with added upward arpeggios.  The melodic and harmonic goals are as before, to the “dominant” G-major harmony.
2:53 [m. 141]--As at 1:27 [m. 73], the phrase is in C major, and is an octave higher still than it was presented before, resulting in an extremely joyous bell-like sound.  Instead of only arriving halfway through the phrase, the loud volume is already there at the outset and only becomes more full and rich.  Another important variant from the analogous phrase is that the triplet rhythm now alternates between right and left hands for the first six bars, up until the implied 3/4 motion.  There are two very concealed instances of two-against-three motion.  The phrase is extended by four bars as before, but now there is no sudden harmonic divergence, simply a “dominant” chord preparing more C major.
A’ Section--C major/E-flat major
3:07 [m. 153]--First part (a”).  The main material returns in a recognizable, but highly transformed variation.  Instead of loud and assertive, it is quiet, detached, and secretive.  The strong dactylic rhythms have been transformed into chords responding to bass notes after downbeats.  Also, it is not in the home key, but continues in the C major of the previous section.  Some elements are retained, such as the five-bar phrases.  The harmonic motion is also analogous in the first three phrases, with the second moving to E minor.  The first and third phrases are in the middle range of the piano, the second much higher.
3:23 [m. 168]--The fourth phrase departs from the detached figuration and becomes more ominous at the expected motion to C minor.  The bass rises slowly while the responses are now more connected, with an oscillating downward-upward motion.  They are in the high register.  An unexpected fifth phrase follows in the same vein.  The five-bar structure is still retained, including the expected internal motion in the fifth bar of each phrase.
3:34 [m. 178]--What begins as a third “ominous” phrase (the sixth of a”) expands into a nine-bar segment that blurs the line between this subsection and the following one (b’).  The five-bar phrase is completed as expected, but it is followed by two more similar bars with internal motion.  These in turn lead to two bars of arpeggios with rolled chords that will characterize b’.  But the phrases of b’ will usually begin with three “internal motion” bars, not two, followed by the arpeggios.  The “missing” bar is where the line is blurred.  It is quite clear that m. 182 (heard at 3:38) is part of a”, not b’, but it flows directly into m. 183.
3:43 [m. 187]--Second part (b’).  A sudden increase in volume, followed by an equally sudden diminishing, makes it reasonably clear that b’ begins here.  There are four five-bar phrases, as in the first b subsection from 0:25 [m. 21].  All consist of three bars of chords with internal motion, played in the middle and low range in the first three phrases.  They are followed by two bars of light descending arpeggios with thumping bass notes.  The first phrase moves from C minor to B-flat major.  The second moves to an unexpected C-flat major (a key closer to E-flat minor).  The third phrase shifts up a step to D-flat.  The motion to E-flat, which should be quite easy from C minor and B-flat major, is delayed by these unexpected harmonic shifts.
4:00 [m. 202]--The fourth phrase moves the right hand of the initial chords to a higher range.  They increase in volume and spread outward.  The arrival of the arpeggios brings an extended climax and a prolonged arrival on the home key of E-flat, at first in its minor-key form, as suggested by the previous C-flat major. 
4:05 [m. 207]--The previous phrase is followed by a new ten-bar transition.  Instead of a division into two five-bar phrases, there are four bars of strong cadences with arpeggios that ascend in the left hand, then descend in the right.  The remaining six bars are heavily syncopated, with the arpeggios completely in the left hand.  After two chords held across bar lines, seven shorter chords mark the main climax.  The left hand arpeggios, which have been steadily ascending, begin to descend under the last three of these chords.  The entire transition seems to confirm E-flat minor (or G-flat major or C-flat major) rather than E-flat major.
4:16 [m. 217]--Third part (a’”).  The main material triumphantly arrives in its original form.  E-flat major brilliantly emerges.  Except for the point of arrival, which is at a higher level, the first three phrases are largely as at the opening of the piece, with some intensification of the left hand harmonies and octaves.
4:34 [m. 232]--The fourth phrase makes the move to E-flat minor, as it had at the opening at 0:19 [m. 16].  It is greatly intensified from that point, however, and instead of breaking into the arpeggios of b (which we have already heard in the A’ section), the last two bars intensify even further and confirm a rather unexpectedly grim arrival on E-flat minor, where, surprisingly, the piece will remain during the coda.
Coda--E-flat minor
4:40 [m. 237]--The five-bar phrases of the main material are preserved.  The music breaks into a series of treacherous leaps in dotted (long-short) rhythm, the right hand jumping up to octaves.  The left hand plays ascending arpeggios and chords.  The fifth bar of the phrase consists of two dramatic downward-leaping cadence chords.  There are two of these phrases, the second extended to six bars with a lower extension of the cadence chords.  The key remains firmly in minor, thwarting expectations for a triumphant ending.
4:52 [m. 248]--The final passage abandons the five-bar phrases for two-bar units.  It is a highly dramatic series of figures in triplet rhythm, initially punctuated by rolled chords at the beginning of each group.  Three two-bar units move steadily upward.  Two more of these units abandon the rolled chords in favor of a heavy, leaping, straight-rhythm left hand that clashes with the continuing climactic triplet chords of the right hand.  These five two-bar units are followed by the last chords, which emphatically confirm the minor-key ending.  Perhaps tellingly, these final chords are played over five bars.
5:22--END OF PIECE [262 mm.]
END OF SET


BRAHMS LISTENING GUIDES HOME