CLARINET (OR VIOLA) SONATA NO. 2 in
E-FLAT MAJOR, OP. 120, NO. 2
Recordings: Richard Stolzman, clarinet and Richard Goode,
piano [RCA Victor Gold Seal 60036-2-RG]; Pinchas Zuckerman,
viola and Daniel Barenboim, piano [DG 437 248-2]
Published 1895 (with
Op. 120, No. 1)
information about the history and publication of the two
sonatas, see the guide to Op. 120, No. 1.
The second sonata in E-flat returns to the three-movement
structure used in the first two violin sonatas and the first
cello sonata, but contains no true slow movement. The
first movement is perhaps Brahms’s most subtle and fluid
sonata form. The development section is extraordinarily rich
in content, especially its latter portion, which is used as
the material for the magical coda. The main theme is
highly ingratiating and amiable (the movement is in fact
marked “Allegro amabile”), as if Brahms wished to give a
final repudiation to the serious and severe first movements
of not only the first sonata, but also the quintet and trio
with clarinet. The middle movement is the last scherzo
Brahms ever wrote. It is passionate and virile, but
has a sort of seething restraint. Its E-flat-minor key
is the same as his earliest published scherzo (and earliest
published work), the Op. 4 piece for piano. Like that
piece, it has a trio section in B major, which has a
confident, noble, glowing warmth. Brahms follows his
last scherzo movement with his last theme and
variations. Previous works to end with this form
include the Third String Quartet (Op. 67) and the Clarinet
Quintet (Op. 115). The theme has a certain
relationship with the main theme of the first movement from
Op. 120, No. 1, sort of bringing the pair of sonatas full
circle. A four-bar first section with an always varied
repetition is followed by a six-bar second part. The
variations increase in activity until the fourth, which
comes to a near standstill before the “Allegro” outburst of
Variation 5, which is in a new 2/4 meter and the minor
key. The coda is joyous and brilliant. After
meditating on the distinctive closing gesture and main
melody for a while, it erupts into a jovial, even comical
final flourish to close Brahms’s chamber music oeuvre.
In the guide, the clarinet version is used for the full
analysis. An abbreviated, more rudimentary guide is
provided for a recording with viola, with detailed
descriptions of the viola part’s deviations from the
clarinet. The most distinctive of these are the double
stops and extensions at the end of the trio section of the
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut
Lübeck--includes piano score [with clarinet], clarinet
part, and viola part for both Op. 120, No.
1 and Op. 120, No. 2)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke--piano score with
clarinet--Op. 120, No. 2 only)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (Piano score [with clarinet] and viola
part, from a Russian edition, for both Op. 120, No. 1 and
Op. 120, No. 2)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First edition
from Sibley Music Library--violin
arrangement of both Op. 120, No. 1 and Op. 120, No. 2--piano score with violin. NOTE: The violin version
is not considered in this guide.)
Allegro amabile (Sonata-Allegro form). E-FLAT MAJOR,
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1. The clarinet begins
immediately with the highly ingratiating, memorable theme,
which has a distinct vocal character. It winds down
and back up, making heavy use of a long-breathed dotted
(long-short) rhythm. The piano accompaniment is
comprised mostly of graceful arpeggios, with block chords
against the more chromatic, downward-swinging line at the
beginning of the second four-bar phrase. After a
half-close, the opening statement is extended by two bars
with a gentle figure in triplet rhythm and then a sweetly
soaring arpeggio that reaches up from the clarinet’s lowest
0:27 [m. 11]--Transition. It begins like a
restatement of Theme 1, with the opening melody notes
transferred to the piano bass below gentle high arpeggios in
the right hand. The clarinet reverses these, making
reference to the theme. After two bars, the piano
arpeggios are changed to a triplet rhythm and the clarinet
references to the theme reach higher and become syncopated,
0:37 [m. 15]--Before reaching a cadence, the clarinet
suddenly drops out, leaving the piano to play an aggressive
sequence of full chords and octaves that move toward the
“dominant” key of B-flat. This solo piano passage
utilizes the dotted rhythm, along with a rapid turning
figure in octaves.
0:45 [m. 18]--The expected arrival at B-flat is
averted with a “deceptive” cadence onto the chord of E-flat
minor. Piano arpeggios that move inward in contrary
motion between the hands underlie a forceful statement of
the theme in the clarinet. This dissolves into a
descending sequence in triplets and faster sixteenth notes
as the piano moves to the low bass and tenor
registers. The volume rapidly diminishes, and the
harmony touches on D-flat and G-flat major. The
clarinet line slows, becomes syncopated, and breaks off over
a dissonant harmony (a so-called “augmented sixth” chord) in
anticipation of Theme 2 in B-flat.
0:56 [m. 22]--Theme 2 (B-flat major). The
clarinet plays a halting melody with a recognizable rhythm
and with two distinct pauses. The bass of the piano
imitates the clarinet in canon a beat later and
consistently an octave plus a fifth below. The
harmonies to the piano canon, especially in the right hand,
often move in the opposite direction, but their rhythm
follows the piano bass. Both instruments are marked sotto
voce. The expected four-bar phrase is extended
by two quiet “echoes” that maintain the clarinet/piano bass
canon while touching on the minor key.
1:14 [m. 28]--The clarinet begins a more lyrical and
expansive version of the melody, removing the halting
pauses. The piano abandons the canon, changing to
accompanying after-beat and off-beat chords. These
chords are underpinned by low octaves which quickly settle
on a “pedal point” on the “dominant” note, F. In the
third bar, the clarinet introduces dynamic triplet rhythms
into the melody, which is still marked dolce.
1:31 [m. 34]--After another six-bar phrase, the
clarinet trails and drops out as the piano takes over, still
maintaining the accompanying rhythm with its right hand
chords, but with a more solid left hand, now stubbornly
maintaining the pedal point F on the off-beats. The
harmony of the piano mirrors the clarinet in the previous
phrase as it had moved to the triplet rhythm. After
two bars, the clarinet itself enters with the original notes
of that measure. After that single-bar restatement,
the clarinet flares up into a grand expansion that
culminates in a dramatic upward arpeggio in faster
sixteenth-notes over a rapid crescendo. The
piano immediately imitates this arpeggio, reaching upward
even more strongly as its bass moves away from the pedal
point. At the climax, the clarinet suddenly drops out
and the piano is left with a powerful cadence gesture in
chords and leaping bass octaves.
1:47 [m. 40]--Closing section. The expected
B-flat of the cadence arrives in the piano bass. The
piano then begins a series of sweeping arpeggios in triplet
rhythm against a steady bass. The clarinet introduces
a new and strongly lyrical theme with a broad reach.
Its eighth notes and sixteenth notes are played straight
against the piano triplets. The theme makes another
turn to a rapid arpeggio over chromatic harmony, after which
the clarinet leaps to its low register as the piano bass
moves away from B-flat and the right hand plunges downward.
1:58 [m. 44]--Another statement of the theme begins,
now taken by the piano right hand. The triplet
arpeggios are passed between the clarinet and the left
hand. At the third bar of the theme, the clarinet
drops out and the piano breaks away from the tune at the
point where the clarinet had the rapid arpeggio. It
introduces leaping, detached figures in the left hand and
manipulates the theme into a rhythm reminiscent of the
beginning of Theme 2, while briefly shifting to D
major. Rapidly diminishing in volume, the accompanying
rhythm from the second statement of that theme now also
returns. The piano bass and the clarinet use broad
leaping octaves to lead to lead gradually back to B-flat
major and another cadence. This quieter cadence
settles into the variant of the main theme that closes the
2:21 [m. 52]--To round out the exposition, the
clarinet note from the last rising octave is held over into
the beginning of a new version of Theme 1 in B-flat.
This new version has the familiar accompaniment, but quickly
introduces new syncopation and trailing triplet
rhythms. These rather abruptly shift to the movement’s
home key, E-flat, where the development section begins.
2:32 [m. 56]--The boundary between exposition and
development is very nebulous. Its placement here is
based on material included in the recapitulation and the
movement away from B-flat, where the exposition would be
expected to end. The piano begins a statement of Theme
1 in E-flat, with brief clarinet arpeggios, but the harmony
and melody quickly deviate from the theme and the key.
A sudden forte outburst of piano chords with
pounding bass octaves shifts back to the realm of B-flat and
its related minor key, G minor. After three bars,
these break off into a cascading triplet arpeggio as the
clarinet begins yet another unstable version of the
theme. This also breaks into a plunging arpeggio,
moving to the areas of G and D minor.
2:57 [m. 65]--The clarinet, suddenly hushed, arrives
at the low D, the instrument’s deepest pitch. It plays
a tolling pedal point on that note seven times. Above
it, the piano plays a spectral version of Theme 2, complete
with the halting pauses, fluctuating between G minor and D
minor. The D pedal in the clarinet seems to pull more,
as a “dominant” note, to G minor, despite the vacillation
between the two keys in the harmony.
3:08 [m. 69]--Now the clarinet, sotto voce,
plays the transformed Theme 2. The piano, also very
quiet, maintains a hint of the imitation associated with the
theme. The harmony is now a mixture of G minor and G
major. Suddenly, the clarinet breaks away, soaring
into a beautiful cadence gesture. The piano plays
chromatic chords underneath it until both instruments
strongly confirm the key of G major. The music
will remain in that key at length during the following
3:20 [m. 73]--Prolonging the cadence, the piano plays
Theme 1 in G major with warm, aching triplet arpeggios
accompanying. The clarinet enters to complete the
melodic phrase. Another, slightly syncopated statement
begins a fourth higher, on C major. The triplet
arpeggios continue in the piano bass. Both instruments
gradually settle down, with a colorful E-flat borrowed from
the minor key, to a delayed cadence in G.
3:35 [m. 78]--A remarkable passage of lilting,
bouncing triplet figures, mostly outlining the G-major
chord, begins with the cadence. Marked dolce,
it seems almost like a parenthesis within the development
section, since this material was not present in the
exposition. It is passed from the clarinet to the
piano, then back to the clarinet. After moving to the
clarinet a second time, the triplets stay there and the
piano moves to slightly more forceful chords in clashing
“straight” rhythm. These chords curiously and
consistently omit the note F-sharp, which is important for
the identity of G major, despite the consistent outlining of
that key’s chord. It is unclear whether G major is
still the key center or whether it is functioning as a
“dominant” of C major.
3:49 [m. 83]--Now the piano introduces chromatic
harmony, including the note F-sharp, but ironically, the
clarinet moves to the chord of F-sharp major with the
bouncing triplets, temporarily establishing that key,
although it also lacks its crucial leading note.
Almost immediately, things shift down another half-step, to
F. Then, in a magical outburst, the piano takes over
the bouncing triplets, blossoming back into B-flat, for
which F serves as a “dominant.” The arrival back at
the key of Theme 2, where the development section also
began, greatly increases anticipation for the arrival back
home to E-flat and the recapitulation, but this remarkably
long development section is not over yet. The clarinet
enters at the top of the piano’s arrival on B-flat, its
two-note descents also establishing the key.
4:06 [m. 89]--The clarinet joyously begins Theme 1 in
B-flat, with the exuberant bounding triplets continuing in
the piano. Shortly, the left hand moves to downward
leaps in straight rhythm. The two-against-three
rhythmic juxtaposition has now become quite
characteristic. The clarinet statement of Theme 1
unexpectedly strives upward, becoming very exuberant, and
emerging into the bouncing triplets. A greatly
anticipated cadence in B-flat is now almost cruelly averted.
4:17 [m. 93]--A “deceptive” chromatic motion to
G-flat, almost immediately re-notated as F-sharp, prolongs
the development section even more. The piano begins an
extremely chromatic meditation on fragments of the main
theme in full harmony. A “pedal point” is established
on F-sharp, which serves as the “dominant” of B, but the
extreme chromaticism makes it impossible to distinguish
major and minor. The clarinet adds melodic fragments
to this unstable passage, in which Brahms seems to take
great pleasure in extending anticipation as long as
possible. Bass motion then seems to confirm arrival at
4:30 [m. 98]--Another abrupt chromatic shift leads
through A-flat in a chordal descent on the piano.
Finally, the bass slides from A-flat up to B-flat, where the
chord is quickly and firmly established as the “dominant” of
E-flat, the home key that has been anticipated for such a
long time. The harmony settles down with a sense of
great relief, as does the general tension. After the
incredible extensions and harmonic journeys of the
development section, this re-transition is brief, with piano
chords and mildly syncopated clarinet notes moving
inevitably to the arrival of Theme 1 in E-flat. There
is an echo of the “false” arrival of the theme in the home
key at 2:32 [m. 56] which only heightens the accomplished
sense of relief here.
4:47 [m. 103]--Theme 1. The clarinet line is as
in the exposition. The piano arpeggios in the first
phrase are now played in a triplet rhythm, intensifying the
two-against-three motion that has become increasingly
prominent in the movement. In the second phrase
and the two-bar extension, the accompaniment is as in the
exposition. To begin the new transition, the piano
will imitate the soaring clarinet arpeggio that closes the
statement of Theme 1. Its first note is anticipated in
the last beat of the bar and held over.
5:16 [m. 113]--Transition. It is four bars
shorter than in the exposition, and has a different tonal
destination. The bass restatement of the theme and the
aggressive piano chords are omitted. Instead, the
arpeggio at the end of Theme 1 is imitated a fourth higher
by the piano, leading to a clarinet statement of the Theme 1
opening in A-flat major over piano arpeggios in
triplets. The clarinet line also inserts a single
gentle triplet rhythm. The piano then states the
theme, shifting it abruptly down to G-flat major, continuing
with the contrasting triplet rhythm in the left hand.
A final clarinet entry on the theme dissolves into a
descending, diminishing line in triplets as the piano drops
out. It is distinctly similar to the clarinet descent
that preceded the entry of Theme 2 at 0:56 [m. 22].
This clarinet descent changes key once again, shifting from
G-flat to C-flat as the triplets move to a slower “straight”
rhythm for the last descending notes.
5:37 [m. 120]--Theme 2. The first statement of
Theme 2 is given in the unexpected key of C-flat
major. The piano canon and sotto voce markings
are analogous to 0:56 [m. 22]. The first of the two
“echoes” has a subtle alteration in melody and harmony, and
the second is shifted up a third from the exposition, an
octave lower than the first echo, moving the key center back
home to E-flat, the expected key of Theme 2 in the
recapitulation. This is a wonderful effect after the
somewhat darker colors of the C-flat diversion.
5:55 [m. 126]--Lyrical and expansive version of the
melody with after-beat and off-beat chords, analogous to
1:14 [m. 28], in the home key of E-flat. The low pedal
point is now on B-flat, the “dominant” note of the home key.
6:12 [m. 132]--Clarinet drops out as piano maintains
off-beat rhythm and pedal point. Then clarinet entry
and grand expansion, with dramatic upward arpeggio imitated
by the piano, followed by powerful cadence gesture.
Analogous to 1:31 [m. 34].
6:29 [m. 138]--Closing section. Cadence in
E-flat, then sweeping piano arpeggios in triplet rhythm
under broadly lyrical clarinet theme in straight
rhythm. Rapid arpeggio, then leap to low register in
the clarinet over chromatic harmony and plunging piano right
hand. Analogous to 1:47 [m. 40].
6:40 [m. 142]--Analogous to 1:58 [m. 44].
Second statement of closing theme by piano right hand in
octaves, with triplet arpeggios split between the clarinet
and the piano left hand (where their initial direction is
reversed from the exposition and moves downward).
Clarinet drops out as leaping, detached figures begin in the
piano. Brief shift to G major. Then accompanying
rhythm of second phrase from Theme 2. Leaping octaves
lead to E-flat cadence. This settles into the variant
of the main theme that ended the exposition and launched
into the development, which is now used analogously to lead
into the coda.
7:04 [m. 150]--New version of Theme 1 in E-flat with
syncopation and trailing triplet rhythms, analogous to
2:21 [m. 52]. The trailing clarinet line appears to
move to A-flat, which would match the harmonic motion of the
“false” arrival at E-flat that began the development
section. But this expected arrival is diverted at the
beginning of the coda.
7:16 [m. 154]--The expected arrival at A-flat is
magically diverted to the distant key of E major. This
is accomplished by re-interpreting A-flat as G-sharp.
In this key, Brahms uses material from an unexpected passage
of the movement: the transition from the exposition at 0:27
[m. 11] that was not used in the recapitulation, now shifted
up a half-step from its original presentation. All the
elements are here: the bass statement of the theme, the high
arpeggios in the right hand, the reversals in the clarinet,
the shift to triplet rhythm in the piano arpeggios, and the
move to a more syncopated rhythm in the clarinet. But
at the clarinet syncopation, Brahms continues the triplet
motion in the piano right hand, which he did not do before
and which creates a three-against-two contrast with the left
hand. In the fourth bar, the clarinet lines are also
extended higher, and the two-against-three motion in the
7:28 [m. 158]--Still in E major, the clarinet
syncopation leads to material from Theme 2. In the
clarinet, the triplet motion from the expansive version at
1:14 [m. 28] and 5:55 [m. 126] is heard. The piano
uses the familiar halting rhythms from the beginning of
Theme 2, but they are now passed between a low bass line in
the left hand and chords in the right hand. Groups of
three notes or chords in each hand are dovetailed with a new
group in the other hand, creating a continuous flow despite
the pauses between groups. The music is very tranquil,
and it is marked molto dolce sempre. The
clarinet breaks off, and the piano trails, also breaking
off. Both instruments cut off a strongly anticipated
cadence in E major.
7:41 [m. 162]--On the upbeat, the piano bass slips
from B to B-flat, supporting an E-flat chord and a shift
back home to that key, thwarting the E-major cadence.
The music is now headed “Tranquillo.” The right hand
plays the groups of three chords derived from Theme 2, while
the left hand moves to a slower rhythm and an alternation
between low bass notes and higher mid-range chords.
The clarinet turns to another unexpected element, the
lilting, bouncing triplet figures from the latter part of
the development section beginning at 3:35 [m. 78].
This creates a three-against-two contrast with the piano
right hand. The piano and clarinet descend together to
a cadence as the clarinet moves away from the bouncing
8:00 [m. 166]--The lilting triplets move to the
piano, and the music now more closely resembles the latter
portion of the development. The last beat of each bar
moves to chords in straight rhythm supported by a brief
clarinet entry. There are two ascents, each an octave
higher, and then two descents back to where the ascents
began. The passage is exceedingly gentle and serene,
and it reaches a full cadence.
8:16 [m. 170]--As the piano triplets settle to their
destination, the clarinet enters one last time with the
bouncing triplets. Reaching a top high note, it then
descends down an arpeggio in straight rhythm. At the
same time as this clarinet descent, the triplets are played
for a final time on the piano, ascending as before, but with
both ascents condensed to one measure. This is the
last measure of two-against-three rhythm in the
movement. The music has risen and fallen in dynamics
while slowing down. There remain only the last three
chords, with the clarinet ending on its lowest E-flat, a
half-step above its lower limit.
8:43--END OF MOVEMENT [173 mm.]
2nd Movement: Allegro
appassionato (Scherzo with Trio). E-FLAT MINOR, 3/4
While the piano score is marked “Allegro appassionato,” the
clarinet part is marked “Appassionato, ma non troppo Allegro.”
MAIN SECTION (SCHERZO) - Allegro appassionato
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1. The clarinet begins alone on
an upbeat, leading into an extremely passionate theme whose
rapid triple-time motion suggests a waltz, but one of heroic,
almost tragic character. It is characterized
by leaps up to longer notes on the downbeats. The piano
part is demanding throughout the scherzo section. Here
at the outset, the theme is accompanied by sweeping arpeggios
and, at the end of the phrase, by thick supporting chords.
0:10 [m. 9]--Part 1, varied repeat. Immediately
after the clarinet’s presentation of the melody, the
instrument drops out, leaving the piano to present its own
solo version of the theme. This it does with octaves and
chords in the right hand. The sweeping arpeggios are
thus transferred entirely to the left hand. They had
been divided between hands under the clarinet.
0:19 [m. 17]--Part 2. The clarinet enters again
with a second theme, a restless swaying figure. The
piano supports it with dissonant chords whose bass lines move
narrowly in two-note groups around the note A-flat, the
harmony vaguely suggesting D-flat major. The clarinet
then drops out again, and the piano adds the swaying figure to
its chords. The bass has moved a third lower, circling
around F. The piano passage is extended by three bars,
becomes more agitated, and reaches an emphatic E-flat-minor
0:32 [m. 28]--The clarinet makes a leap as if it were
going to begin the main theme again, but holds the note while
the piano plays a mysterious rising arpeggio on the “dominant”
chord of a new implied key, B minor, notated as C-flat
(relating it more closely to E-flat minor, which contains that
note). The clarinet trails down, after which the piano
forcefully confirms the motion to B minor, now notated as
such. The same pattern begins again (notated in B minor
in the piano), but the clarinet line moves lower. The
piano arpeggio leads to an expectant held chord.
Suddenly, the piano uses the chord of F-sharp/G-flat to wrench
the key back to E-flat minor with a distinctive and highly
agitated version of the principal gesture from the main theme.
0:43 [m. 37]--The passionate main theme starts again,
with the clarinet playing as at the beginning, but the piano
has a new, more agitated accompaniment with broken octaves in
the left hand on the upbeats and downbeats, and harmonized
chord figures in the right. The right hand begins by
playing on the second beat, but after two bars, it also plays
on the third beat (the upbeat)
0:50 [m. 43]--The clarinet suddenly deviates from the
theme, breaking into a series of falling gestures derived from
it. The piano also gradually breaks away from its
pattern. After a couple of bars, the clarinet drops out,
leaving the piano to play a plunging, treacherous measure of
octaves in both hands followed by two thick and unstable
“dominant seventh” chords.
0:58 [m. 49]--Closing Theme (Codetta). The
clarinet introduces the last theme, which is characterized by
quiet, quick-breathed descending scale fragments accompanied
by rising piano arpeggios. After it is stated once, the
piano takes it up without the clarinet, but quickly diverges
harmonically, again touching on the realm of C-flat (B)
minor. Now marked più dolce, the piano
right hand begins to circle around the first three notes of
that key’s scale, but the left hand persistently plays a
clashing arpeggio on E (F-flat) major. The clarinet
imitates the right hand a bar later in canon.
This breaks after three bars.
1:10 [m. 59]--After the canon breaks, the harmony seems
to veer back home. The clarinet begins a series of
three-note descents. The piano now plays in every other
bar, resting on alternate measures. When it plays, the
right hand is in contrary motion with the clarinet and the
left hand plays a rising arpeggio. After the first
alternation, the key center veers away again, this time to
A-flat minor (a key earlier implied by the persistent left
hand arpeggios on F-flat), and the volume builds.
Finally, both instruments break off over an arpeggio on an
extremely unstable “diminished seventh” chord. There is
a one-bar general pause.
1:20 [m. 66]--After the pause, the clarinet plays a
smooth rising leap in full-measure notes. This blossoms
into a highly expressive version of the closing theme in
doubled note values. The piano accompanies with isolated
rolled chords, and the home key of E-flat minor is gently
re-established. The clarinet descends lower and lower,
becoming quieter and quieter, and the piano moves to
alternating left hand low notes and right hand chords that
create a cross-rhythm. Finally, the clarinet descends to
its last cadence, leaping down from the sustained “dominant”
note, B-flat, to its lowest E-flat. Against this
cadence, the piano plays a long rising arpeggio that leads to
a confirming high chord and low bass E-flat.
CONTRASTING SECTION (TRIO) - B Major, Sostenuto
1:40 [m. 81]--Part 1. The key, character, and
tempo of this trio section greatly contrast with the main
section, although the triple meter is retained. The use
of B as a key center was hinted in the main scherzo with the
several turns toward B minor there. The piano alone
presents the first statement of the noble theme, beginning in
the tenor register and marked ma dolce e ben cantando.
The clarinet is absent for a full fourteen measures. The
theme is richly harmonized, its steady motion supported by
walking low bass octaves in the left hand. The first
eight-bar phrase, clearly divided into two four-bar units,
1:54 [m. 89]--The theme continues, making a darker turn
to the key of D-sharp minor after an upbeat. While
closely related to B major, D-sharp is a re-spelling of
E-flat, an oblique reference to the main scherzo
section. After working downward, the piano chords and
left hand octaves begin to oscillate, moving in contrary
motion to each other. The D-sharp-minor phrase is cut
off after six bars without quite reaching a full cadence.
2:06 [m. 95]--Part 1, varied repeat. An expected
cadence in D-sharp minor is diverted with a “deceptive” motion
back to B major. The notes F-sharp and D-sharp, common
to the chords of both keys, are used, a particularly deft
deployment of the deceptive cadence. The clarinet
finally enters after its long absence, playing the top notes
of the theme an octave higher. Transferring the melody
to the clarinet in the upper octave allows the piano to play
richer chords with higher top notes while its bass and main
harmonies remain at their original levels. The first
eight-bar phrase is played with the clarinet on the melody.
2:20 [m. 103]--At the turn to D-sharp minor, the piano
returns to its original version from 1:54 [m. 89]. The
clarinet moves from the melody to add a new counterpoint that
was not present before, beginning with descending arpeggios
that precede the piano’s chordal descents. Then it is
placed in contrary motion against the piano’s prevailing
directionality. The six-bar phrase ends in anticipation
of a cadence, as before.
2:32 [m. 109]--Part 2. This time the motion is to
D-sharp, but it is a double octave in both hands (the clarinet
briefly dropping out), not the chord, so again, a full cadence
is avoided. The bass motion and the harmonies suggest
that D-sharp now serves as a “dominant” for the unusual key of
G-sharp major (notated with F-double sharp). The
material is similar to Part 1, but the new harmonies are even
warmer and richer. The bass octaves thrust upward
insistently, as do the right hand chords. At first, they
alternate with each other. The clarinet enters after
three bars, soaring with a melody above the piano, which is
again in the tenor range. At this point, the key shifts
to C-sharp major. The phrase, extended to twelve bars,
settles to a cadence on C-sharp. The piano then slides
to the top note D-sharp and the B-major chord.
2:54 [m. 121]--The main theme of the trio section
begins again, but the piano’s top notes are an octave
higher. The clarinet plays in its low register, doubling
notes in the piano chords that are in harmony with the
melody. It breaks away from this, creating a new
line. After four bars, the piano itself diverges from
the original theme, becoming more intense dynamically and
harmonically. As the harmony touches on A major, the
clarinet plays a syncopated dotted (long-short) rhythm, gently
leaping upward. The harmonic divergence is brief, as
high harmonized piano octaves, garnished by the clarinet,
triumphantly proclaim another B-major cadence.
3:08 [m. 129]--In the last phrase, the clarinet and
piano settle down, repeating cadence figures with gentle
syncopation while becoming slower and quieter. The
clarinet drops out in the fifth bar. After a final full,
but quiet cadence in B major, the bass slides down to B-flat,
doubled with a right hand octave. The motion from B
major to E-flat major by sliding down to B-flat and using it
as a “dominant” recalls the bridge between the last two
movements of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. The held
B-flat extends the phrase to ten bars.
MAIN SECTION (SCHERZO) REPRISE
3:31 [m. 139]--Part 1. The distinctive, highly
agitated version of the principal gesture from the main theme
as heard before 0:43 [m. 37], where it was also used to move
from B to E-flat, leads into the reprise of the scherzo.
Then the first phrase of the main theme is heard as at the
beginning. At the very end of the phrase, the clarinet
part is changed and extended to reach into the first bar of
the next phrase. It also does not reach quite as high as
3:42 [m. 149]--Part 1, varied repeat. The piano
plays its solo version of the phrase, as at 0:10 [m. 9], but
at the beginning, the clarinet is completing its brief
3:52 [m. 157]--Part 2. Second theme, as at 0:19
4:05 [m. 168]--Mysterious passage moving to C-flat/B
minor, as at 0:32 [m. 28]. The “distinctive, highly
agitated” gesture is heard for the third time in the movement,
the only segment to be thrice presented.
4:16 [m. 177]--Main theme with more agitated
accompaniment, as at 0:43 [m. 37].
4:23 [m. 183]--Falling gestures in the clarinet leading
to plunging octaves and seventh chords, as at 0:50 [m. 43].
4:31 [m. 189]--Closing theme (Codetta), as at 0:58 [m.
4:43 [m. 199]--Alternating clarinet and piano, move to
A-flat minor, and pause after “diminished seventh” chord, as
at 1:10 [m. 59].
4:53 [m. 206]--Theme in doubled note values, piano
cross rhythm, and descent to final cadence, as at 1:20 [m.
66]. The note values of the long, rising piano arpeggio
at the end are doubled, extending the arpeggio by two
bars. The notes are played with more deliberation and
detachment. The final piano chord is also extended by a
bar, creating a total extension of three bars, all of which
are occupied by the clarinet’s low E-flat. This low
E-flat is re-articulated twice, once halfway through the
arpeggio and again at the final chord. The piano chords
are also slightly thicker here. These extensions,
re-articulations, and longer note values create a sense of
finality that was not as acute before the contrasting “trio”
5:22--END OF MOVEMENT [223 mm.]
3rd Movement: Andante con
moto - Allegro (Theme and Variations with coda).
E-FLAT MAJOR, 6/8 and 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--THEME. Part 1. The clarinet
presents the first statement of the melody, beginning with an
upbeat. The theme, in 6/8 time, is characterized by a
dotted (long-short) rhythm on the 3rd and 6th beats (upbeats)
of each measure. The first part is four bars long, and
the melody leisurely strolls along, making a colorful harmonic
turn to A-flat halfway through and quickly turning back.
The closing gesture, which leaps up and then moves down a step
to the “dominant,” has a questioning feel. The piano
accompaniment has full, rich chords and solid bass octaves.
0:20 [m. 5]--Part 1, varied repeat. The piano
takes over the melody for the first two bars, playing without
the clarinet above its own rich harmony, and at a softer level
than the first clarinet statement. The clarinet
forcefully joins again on the upbeat to the last two bars and
again plays the closing “questioning” gesture.
0:40 [m. 9]--Part 2. The closing phrase is six
bars long and is not repeated. The piano plays two bars
alone, retaining the dotted rhythm, but not placing it
consistently on the upbeats. These two bars make a brief
turn to G minor. The clarinet enters again for the last
four bars, returning to the material of Part 1 and slightly
elaborating its second half. It reaches a climax, again
touching on A-flat, then plays the “questioning” gesture,
ending a third higher but still over the “dominant”
harmony. In a masterful touch, to end the theme, Brahms
repeats the “questioning” gesture at its original level, but
ending over the home E-flat chord. This last questioning
gesture settles down from the climax and fades away.
1:13 [m. 15]--VARIATION 1. Part 1. The
clarinet plays without the dotted rhythm, providing the basic
outline of the theme. The piano, however, plays a new
and highly syncopated, unharmonized line. This piano
line gradually moves down, then back up, then down
again. The “questioning” gesture now has a downward
motion, but still ends on the “dominant.”
1:31 [m. 19]--Part 1, varied repeat. The piano
plays alone now, abandoning the syncopated line and taking up
the simplified version just played by the clarinet. Full
harmony is now added to the melody. The “questioning”
gesture is altered, moving down, then leaping up to the
1:49 [m. 23]--Part 2. For the first two bars that
turn to G minor, the piano returns to the syncopated line, but
now with an added bass. The clarinet plays the
simplified outline of the melody. The clarinet then
drops out for two bars, and the piano plays very colorful
chords with notes borrowed from the minor key. These
colorful harmonies continue when the clarinet enters with the
first questioning gesture. In a reversal from the
pattern in the theme, this first gesture uses the same pitches
as the one in Part 1, but an octave higher. The second
closing gesture still has the downward motion but, unlike the
close of the theme, ends with a full cadence, the melody
ending on E-flat instead of the “dominant” note, B-flat.
2:19 [m. 29]--VARIATION 2. Part 1. The
clarinet returns to the dotted rhythms on the upbeats, but now
holds the downbeat notes for two counts. The instrument
is also in a lower register, using its very lowest
pitches. The piano turns to arpeggios in triplets
beginning off the beat, moving down, then up, with a staccato
bass. The closing gesture expands into a six-note arch,
leaping up and moving back down, again settling on the
“dominant.” Against the closing gesture, the piano right
hand moves to off-beat chords.
2:35 [m. 33]--Part 1, varied repeat. The roles
are reversed, and the clarinet takes the triplet arpeggios
while the piano plays the new version of the theme. The
piano plays its melody a full two octaves higher than the
clarinet did, retaining its low staccato bass.
The last couple of figures have notes added that were not in
the clarinet presentation. The closing gesture is
reversed in direction, leaping down and then also settling
downward. The clarinet ends up playing its original
pitches, an octave lower, at the end of the phrase.
2:52 [m. 37]--Part 2. At the opening turn to G
minor, the clarinet returns to the dotted rhythm, holding
sustained notes as it plunges from a high pitch down to the
depths again. Against this, the piano plays triplet
arpeggios in contrary motion between the hands, again
beginning off the beat. In the second bar, the clarinet
takes the arpeggios while the piano plays more static
chords. In the last four bars, the clarinet turns back
to the original figures in its lowest register while the piano
plays triplet arpeggios. The clarinet plays the first
six-note closing gesture in a low register, leaping up against
off-beat piano chords. It then drops out as the piano
takes the second closing figure, reversing the direction,
falling downward to a full cadence.
3:18 [m. 43]--VARIATION 3. Part 1. In this
variation, marked grazioso, the note values are
shortened throughout, and the 32nd note—the short side of the
pervasive dotted rhythms—is present all through the
variation. In Part 1, the rapid figures, outlining the
contour of the theme, are passed between the clarinet, which
begins, and the piano right hand. Each begins on an
upbeat. The left hand plays isolated supporting
chords. At the point where the closing “questioning”
gesture would be expected, the instruments come together, the
right hand moves to a dotted rhythm, and the left hand plays a
couple of rapid upward arpeggios. The close on the
dominant arrives, as expected. A clarinet arpeggio leads
up to the repeat.
3:33 [m. 47]--Part 1, varied repeat. The opening
clarinet line begins an octave higher, as does the piano line
that follows it. But Brahms manipulates the directions
of the intervals to move from low to high octaves in both
instruments. In the second alternation, the clarinet
begins an octave lower than in the first statement,
and the piano ends an octave higher. The left
hand also adds rolled chords at this point. In the third
bar, the alternation is changed so that the clarinet plays
shorter figures that are completed by the piano. The
closing gesture also has subtle changes, and the “bridge” is
now a descending arpeggio in the piano left hand rather than
an ascending one in the clarinet.
3:48 [m. 51]--Part 2. At the turn to G minor, the
clarinet and both hands of the piano move to arching arpeggios
in the fast 32nd-note rhythm. The resulting three voices
are in counterpoint, often in parallel, often in contrary
motion. The right hand introduces the dotted rhythm, but
the 32nd-note motion is constant in at least one voice at all
3:55 [m. 53]--The last four bars, which turn back to
the opening music, again set up an alternation between the
clarinet and the piano right hand in the faster motion, with
the piano interjecting rolled chords when the clarinet
plays. But after one bar, the piano right hand takes
over the fast motion completely, the left hand takes over the
rolled chords, and the clarinet gradually re-enters with brief
figures in contrary motion to the piano. Repeated dotted
rhythms in the clarinet herald the first closing
gesture. The 32nd-note motion finally breaks as this
closes, hinting at the minor key. The second closing
gesture is carried by the piano. Its dotted rhythms lead
to another full cadence as the clarinet again reaches to its
4:18 [m. 57]--VARIATION 4. Part 1. This
variation is quiet, subdued, and static. The piano, with
both hands in the upper register, plays a skeleton of the
theme in syncopated chords. The clarinet, in a role
reversal, plays a bass line with its lowest notes below the
piano chords. The clarinet bass is less syncopated than
the piano, being played mostly on the beats while the piano
chords are mostly off the beats. The distinctive closing
gesture is now a simple half-close.
4:38 [m. 61]--Part 1, varied repeat. The
instruments reverse their positions. The piano moves to
the lower range, with the left hand playing a solid low bass
in octaves, roughly equivalent to the preceding clarinet
line. The clarinet moves above the piano, playing a line
that is nearly equivalent to the top voice of the preceding
piano chords, but an octave lower. The right hand chords
move in syncopation, together with the clarinet.
5:00 [m. 65]--Part 2. At the turn to G minor, the
piano chords move back to the high register, in syncopation
against a clarinet bass line. The roles again reverse at
the beginning of the last four bars, with the clarinet and the
piano right hand gradually changing positions and the piano
left hand moving to the low bass again. The chords
before and at the first closing gesture are highly chromatic,
taking notes from the minor key. The clarinet descends
to the cadence in the second closing gesture, which dies away
to nothing. Brahms indicates a pause before the sudden
onslaught of Variation 5, with its new tempo, meter, and mode.
Allegro, E-flat minor, 2/4 time.
5:40 [m. 71]--VARIATION 5. Even though the 6/8
meter changes to 2/4, with two measures taking the place of
one 6/8 bar, the structure of the theme is clearly
recognizable. The “upbeat” is one half of a 2/4 bar,
assigned as the equivalent of the last beat of the preceding
6/8 bar (m. 70). The piano dominates the whole
variation. Although highly agitated, with constant
motion, and in the minor key, the outline of the original
theme, including the dotted rhythm, is clearer here than in
the other variations. The clarinet only enters with two
broken octaves on the leading note D-natural, the first
leaping up, the second down, with both then resolving up to
E-flat. This happens right before the closing gesture,
which is also very distinct.
5:49 [m. 79]--Part 1, varied repeat. The clarinet
enters again to take the top melodic line as just heard,
freeing the piano to play skittering figuration with both
hands. The left hand eventually moves back to a solid
bass at the closing gesture, which the clarinet, like the
piano before it, plays very distinctly.
5:59 [m. 87]--Part 2. The clarinet drops out for
most of Part 2. Since E-flat minor uses G-flat instead
of G, the harmonic turn here is to G-flat major (which
is in fact the “relative” major key). In a break from
previous variations, the piano here elaborates on the closing
gesture, continuing the agitation with a syncopated inner
line. The turn to G-flat major is more subdued than the
6:03 [m. 91]--The brief meditation in G-flat major is
broken by an abrupt transition back to E-flat minor, in which,
on the upbeat, the piano leaps up, then plunges down in a
cross-rhythm, grouping its descents in four groups of three
sixteenth notes instead of three groups of four. The
bass octaves also move with the three-note groups. This
surprising, almost violent cross-rhythm leads back a more
expected completion of the variation in the character of Part
1. Both closing gestures are distinct, the first ending
on the “dominant,” as expected. In the second closing
gesture, the clarinet finally re-enters with low descending
lines. The cadence of the second closing gesture
dovetails with the arrival of the “Più tranquillo”
CODA--E-flat major, Più tranquillo (2/4 time)
6:13 [m. 98]--The last bar of Variation 5 and its final
cadence coincide with the motion back to major and the arrival
of the coda. Despite the marking “Più
tranquillo,” the music is basically still moving in the
“Allegro” tempo. After the cadence, the piano elaborates
expressively on the closing gesture, accompanied by triplet
arpeggios in the clarinet. After two rising statements
of the closing gesture, Brahms moves to the main melody of the
theme, upon which the clarinet meditates while the piano moves
to the triplet rhythm, playing broad arpeggios that include
octave leaps. Two long clarinet notes, supported by
descending bass octaves, slide up and extend the phrase.
6:29 [m. 108]--In a reversal of the previous pattern,
the clarinet now plays the meditative statements of the
closing gesture. The piano moves to more solid, yearning
gestures in straight rhythm with forceful descending bass
octaves. After the two statements, the piano takes up
the main melody of the theme, supported by low, rising
clarinet arpeggios. The fragments of the melody reach
upward, becoming stronger and somewhat passionate. After
reaching a high point, the piano briefly pauses, subduing
itself. The left hand holds a low B-flat while the right
hand begins a long descent in triplet rhythm on a scale that
gradually begins to include all notes (a chromatic
scale). The clarinet harmonizes this descent a full
octave plus a third below the piano right hand.
6:47 [m. 119]--In a transitional passage, the piano
plays rising chromatic figures followed by brief
descents. The bass octaves move down by
half-steps. The clarinet accompanies in low arching
arpeggios. These figures become more and more agitated
in both instruments. After briefly adding harmonies, the
piano bass moves back to octaves. After a sudden
crescendo and a rising triplet arpeggio in the clarinet over a
dissonant “diminished seventh” chord, the piano plays a rapid,
virtually unmeasured sweeping arpeggio up the piano, landing
on a the same chord. While the piano is holding this,
the clarinet repeats its triplet arpeggio an octave higher,
then the piano repeats its rapid sweeping arpeggio an octave
lower. The dissonant chord is held over into the next
bar in anticipation of the joyous, exuberant final peroration.
7:11 [m. 136]--The piano breaks into a new, jovial
version of the main melody, stripping it of its languid dotted
rhythms. After two beats, the clarinet briefly imitates
the right hand in canon, then recedes. Breaking away,
the piano gradually moves to three-note descents and some
syncopation before erupting into a full cross-rhythm, leaping
up the keyboard with five groups of three that are reminiscent
of the abrupt transition in Variation 5 at 6:03 [m. 91].
7:20 [m. 143]--The remainder of the coda is given to
the distinctive closing gesture, which reaches a sort of
jovial apotheosis. The clarinet, which has briefly been
in the background, erupts into two statements of the gesture,
the second two octaves below the first. The piano breaks
into an excited accompaniment with bass octaves on the beat,
the right hand following with octaves and chords off the
beat. After the two statements of the closing gesture,
the clarinet plays two rapid arpeggios over another
“diminished seventh” chord, then a more slowly rising, leaping
line that is derived from the closing gesture. Here, the
excited piano accompaniment breaks for a beat, then resumes,
the left hand on broken octaves, the right on full
chords. After pausing briefly, the piano and clarinet
play three last chords, the latter leaping to a final low
7:38--END OF MOVEMENT [153 mm.]
END OF SONATA
NOTE: This outline includes all timings from the
recording with viola that correspond to the measure numbers as
given in the guide above for the clarinet recording. It
is abbreviated, mainly pointing out the discrepancies between
the viola and clarinet parts. The piano part is
identical to the clarinet version.
1st Movement: Allegro amabile
(Sonata-Allegro form). E-FLAT MAJOR, 4/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1. The viola plays the first
statement in the same register as the clarinet.
0:30 [m. 11]--Transition based on Theme 1 with
syncopation and triplet rhythm. The viola remains in the
original clarinet register.
0:42 [m. 15]--Aggressive piano chords and octaves
moving toward B-flat.
0:49 [m. 18]--“Deceptive” cadence and forceful
statement of the theme from the viola. Here, the viola
is provided with a rolled chord to add strength to the initial
entry, a typical string gesture impossible on a wind
instrument. It is also moved to the lower octave, taking
advantage of its low C (a note unavailable on the clarinet) at
the end of the descending triplet sequence.
Unfortunately, the clarinet’s last two notes are two low for
the viola’s range in the lower octave, so an unusual leap up
(inverting the distance and direction) must be made before
these two notes.
1:02 [m. 22]--Theme 2. The viola has leaped back
up to the higher octave and the original clarinet notes at the
end of the transition. The sotto voce halting
theme with piano bass canon is presented, concluding with its
1:20 [m. 28]--Lyrical and expansive version of the
melody in the viola. Off-beat and after-beat chords in
the piano, along with low bass octaves which create a pedal
point. The viola plays triplet rhythms as the theme
1:39 [m. 34]--Continuation of piano chords with more
forceful left hand and pedal point. The viola entry is
in the same octave as the clarinet, but at the “grand
expansion,” it leaps down to the lower octave in the middle of
the upward arpeggio, again to take advantage of the low C, but
obscuring the higher piano imitation before the powerful
1:57 [m. 40]--Closing section. The viola remains
in the lower octave with its broad tune, which places it below
the accompanying triplet arpeggios. The leap to the low
notes (which match the clarinet) is subsequently not as large.
2:09 [m. 44]--New statement of the theme with triplet
arpeggios passed between the two instruments and then rhythms
reminiscent of Theme 2 that briefly shift to D major.
The viola notes in the passage match the clarinet, which is
already in its low register.
2:31 [m. 52]--Statement of Theme 1 in B-flat, closing
the exposition and leading into the development.
2:42 [m. 56]--Statement of Theme 1 in E-flat. The
first two viola notes in the third bar (m. 58) are brought
down an octave from the clarinet. After the forte
piano outburst, the unstable onset of the theme in the viola,
which breaks into the plunging arpeggio, is given force by
another added rolled string chord.
3:08 [m. 65]--Spectral version of Theme 2, with tolling
low D pedal point in the viola.
3:19 [m. 69]--Transformed Theme 2, sotto voce.
Soaring viola cadence confirms G major.
3:32 [m. 73]--Theme 1 in G major and C major with
triplet arpeggio accompaniment.
3:48 [m. 78]--Lilting, bouncing triplets, dolce,
passed between viola and piano, mostly outlining the G-major
chord. In the viola part, the notes of the triplets are
marked tenuto to guard against staccato
4:05 [m. 83]--Motion of bouncing triplets to F-sharp,
then, via F, to B-flat, a magical moment. In the third
bar of the F-sharp-major arpeggios (m. 85), the viola begins a
third lower than the clarinet did (still outlining the same
chord). This allows the viola to use a low C-sharp
unavailable on the clarinet. The following measure (m. 86) follows the clarinet line. The
viola entry with the two-note descents is placed in the lower
octave, where it remains through the next passage (m. 92).
4:20 [m. 89]--Theme 1 in B-flat with exuberant triplets
that create two-against-three rhythms. The
viola line remains in the lower octave until it emerges into
the triplets (m. 92), where the second half of the measure
simply remains in the same register rather than leaping down
an octave, as the clarinet does, before the averted
cadence. This places the viola back in the original
4:31 [m. 93]--“Deceptive” motion to
G-flat/F-sharp. Chromatic meditation on the main theme
over pedal point F-sharp.
4:47 [m. 98]--Abrupt motion to A-flat in descending
piano chords. Then arrival at B-flat (as “dominant” of
E-flat) and re-transition. Tension settles down for the
arrival of the theme in E-flat.
5:05 [m. 103]--Theme 1. Triplet rhythm in
accompaniment to first phrase.
5:36 [m. 113]--New transition beginning with piano
imitation of viola arpeggio, moving from A-flat to G-flat to
C-flat and including two-against-three rhythms. The
viola line throughout is placed in the lower octave, as it is
in the exposition transition at 0:49 [m. 18]. Like the
earlier transition, the lower octave places the last notes of
the final descent (this time three of them) outside of the
viola’s range, so another unusual leap up must be made,
inverting distance and direction, to bring these three notes
into the original clarinet octave.
6:00 [m. 120]--Theme 2 in C-flat, moving to E-flat
major. The viola is back in the original octave register
of the clarinet.
6:18 [m. 126]--Lyrical and expansive version of the
melody with off-beat and after-beat chords and B-flat pedal
6:38 [m. 132]--Viola drops out, then enters with grand
expansion and arpeggio imitated by the piano with the
powerful cadence gesture. Unlike in the exposition at
1:39 [m. 34], the viola does not this time leap down to the
lower octave in the middle of the rising arpeggio in m. 136
(analogous to m. 38), even though it would have provided an
opportunity to use the low C and the resulting top note is
only a third lower than it would have been without the jump in
the earlier exposition statement.
6:57 [m. 138]--Closing section in E-flat. Because
the viola is in the original octave now, in contrast to the
exposition, the leap to the low notes is much larger (matching
the clarinet) than it was there.
7:08 [m. 142]--Second statement of closing theme with
brief shift to G major. The octave leaps in the viola in
the lead-up to the final statement of Theme 1 in E-flat
(beginning with m. 146) are altered. The first and third
of them remain in the original register, but the second and
fourth are moved down to the lower octave. The fourth
leads into the final statement of Theme 1, which is is also
placed in the low octave.
7:30 [m. 150]--New version of Theme 1 to close the
recapitulation, with implied motion to A-flat. The
placement in the lower octave here somewhat obscures the
presentation of the theme, but it is done to avoid the
uncomfortable upper range of the viola, since it would be
higher here than at the end of the exposition. Also
because of the lower octave, the final note in the descent, at
the diversion to E major that begins the coda (m. 154), is
omitted in the viola part because it is a B-natural, just
below the viola’s lowest pitch.
7:43 [m. 154]--Diversion to E major and presentation of
material from the transition passage of the exposition.
The viola moves back to the original clarinet register for the
rest of the movement.
7:56 [m. 158]--Material from Theme 2 in E major, molto
dolce sempre. Anticipated cadence in E is cut off.
8:13 [m. 162]--Shift back to E-flat major.
“Tranquillo” combination of Theme 2 material in piano with the
lilting, bouncing triplets from the latter part of the
development section in the viola. Descent to cadence.
8:34 [m. 166]--Lilting triplets in the piano. Two
ascents and two descents leading to extremely serene full
8:53 [m. 170]--Last viola entry with triplets, then
descending arpeggio against last triplet entry in the
piano. Slowing and quieting before the last
9:25--END OF MOVEMENT [173 mm.]
2nd Movement: Allegro appassionato (Scherzo with
Trio). E-FLAT MINOR, 3/4 time.
Like the clarinet part, the viola part is marked
“Appassionato, ma non troppo Allegro.”
MAIN SECTION (SCHERZO) - Allegro appassionato
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1. Viola presentation of main
0:10 [m. 9]--Part 1, varied repeat by piano alone.
0:19 [m. 17]--Part 2. Second theme with restless
swaying figures. Cadence on E-flat minor.
0:31 [m. 28]--Motion to C-flat/B minor, then back to
E-flat minor with distinctive, agitated version of gesture
from main theme.
0:41 [m. 37]--Main theme with new, more agitated
0:47 [m. 43]--Deviation from main theme, including
treacherous octaves and expectant chords.
0:54 [m. 49]--Closing theme (Codetta). Descending
scale fragments and rising arpeggios, then harmonic motion and
1:06 [m. 59]--Canon breaks, then motion to A-flat
minor. Instruments break off over “diminished seventh,”
then one-bar general pause.
1:14 [m. 66]--Expressive version of closing theme, then
final descent and cadence.
CONTRASTING SECTION (TRIO) - B Major, Sostenuto
1:37 [m. 81]--Part 1. Piano statement of Trio
theme, first phrase.
1:50 [m. 89]--Turn to D-sharp minor and avoided
2:03 [m. 95]--Part 1, varied repeat. Deceptive
cadence and viola entry on the melody of the first phrase.
2:16 [m. 103]--Turn to D-sharp minor with new viola
counterpoint. Piano as at 1:50 [m. 89].
2:28 [m. 109]--Part 2. Motion from D-sharp
through G-sharp to C-sharp major. At the cadence on
C-sharp, the viola has its first deviation from the clarinet
part. It doubles the top note of the piano on its slide
from C-sharp to D-sharp (as part of the B-major chord).
These are full-measure notes in the last two measures (mm.
119-120). The reason for this doubling will become clear
with the return of the main theme that follows.
2:50 [m. 121]--The added viola notes doubling the piano
land on D-sharp, which is played as a double stop with the
original clarinet note (F-sharp) at the return to B major and
the main theme. After this double stop, the viola plays
the original clarinet line, which was added for this passage,
for four more bars without added notes. Then, at the
point where the clarinet played the syncopated dotted rhythm
as the harmony touched on A major, the viola adds full
triple-stop chords (incorporating the clarinet notes),
retaining the syncopation but not the dotted rhythm.
Brahms thus sacrificed one fine effect for another fine,
string-specific effect. In the following transitional
measure, the leaping clarinet notes are effectively brought
together in double-stops.
3:04 [m. 129]--The viola had no changes from the
clarinet in the main scherzo section but here, at the end of
the trio section, comes the most distinctive change in either
of the sonatas. Throughout this last phrase, the
original clarinet notes are extremely effectively supplemented
with double stops in the viola, deftly incorporating clarinet
motions into the resulting two-voice texture on the string
instrument. Not only that, but the viola part is
actually extended three bars beyond where the clarinet dropped
out, with the instrument playing double stops derived from the
piano part through all of the fifth measure as well as the
sixth and seventh measures, thus taking part in the last
B-major cadence. The viola finally drops out when the
piano bass slides down to the held B-flat in preparation for
the return of the main scherzo section.
MAIN SECTION (SCHERZO) REPRISE
3:27 [m. 139]--Part 1. Agitated version of
principal gesture from main theme as heard before 0:41 [m.
37], then first phrase of main theme. The change and
extension to the clarinet part is retained in the viola part.
3:38 [m. 149]--Part 1, varied repeat. Piano
version of phrase, as at 0:10 [m. 9], with viola completing
3:46 [m. 157]--Part 2. Second theme, as at 0:19
3:59 [m. 168]--Motion to C-flat/B minor, as at 0:31 [m.
4:09 [m. 177]--Main theme with more agitated
accompaniment, as at 0:41 [m. 37].
4:16 [m. 183]--Deviation from main theme, treacherous
octaves and expectant chords, as at 0:47 [m. 43].
4:23 [m. 189]--Closing theme (Codetta),
as at 0:54 [m. 49].
4:35 [m. 199]--Motion to A-flat minor, “diminished
seventh,” and general pause, as at 1:06 [m. 59].
4:44 [m. 206]--Expressive version of closing theme,
final descent and cadence, as at 1:14 [m. 66]. Note
values of last piano arpeggio are doubled and final chord is
extended by a bar. The viola’s low E-flat is
5:14--END OF MOVEMENT [223 mm.]
3rd Movement: Andante con
moto - Allegro (Theme and Variations with coda).
E-FLAT MAJOR, 6/8 and 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--THEME. Part 1.
0:21 [m. 5]--Part 1, varied repeat.
0:42 [m. 9]--Part 2.
1:17 [m. 15]--VARIATION 1, Part 1.
1:36 [m. 19]--Part 1, varied repeat.
1:54 [m. 23]--Part 2.
2:22 [m. 29]--VARIATION 2, Part 1.
2:38 [m. 33]--Part 1, varied repeat.
2:55 [m. 37]--Part 2.
3:24 [m. 43]--VARIATION 3, Part 1.
3:37 [m. 47]--Part 1, varied repeat. For no
apparent reason other than avoidance of the viola’s high
register, the opening upbeat, including the upward arpeggio
that approaches it, and the entire first viola alternation
with the piano, are brought down to the lower octave.
Thus, the figure begins (but not ends!) at the same level that
it does at 3:24 [m. 43]. This disrupts the rather
elegant and symmetrical octave displacement described in the
clarinet version above. In the second alternation, the
viola returns to the original clarinet register, which
eliminates (necessarily) the leap downward for its beginning.
3:51 [m. 51]--Part 2, first four bars.
3:58 [m. 53]--Part 2, last four bars. The viola
is brought down to the lower octave in the first bar (m. 53),
presumably again to avoid very high notes. The last two
notes of the figure, however, are brought back to the original
octave, necessitating a new and somewhat awkward upward leap
that disrupts the line. This is necessary because the
last note is a B-flat, which is below even the viola’s lowest
pitch in this lower octave.
4:19 [m. 57]--VARIATION 4, Part 1.
4:39 [m. 61]--Part 1, varied repeat.
5:00 [m. 65]--Part 2.
Allegro, E-flat minor, 2/4 time.
5:38 [m. 71]--VARIATION 5, Part 1.
5:47 [m. 79]--Part 1, varied repeat. Lower double
stop octaves are added to the first two notes of the closing
gesture to add emphasis and strength at this point, as the
closing gesture is more heavily featured.
5:56 [m. 87]--Part 2. Turn to G-flat major.
6:01 [m. 91]--Abrupt transition with cross rhythm, then
completion of variation.
CODA--E-flat major, Più tranquillo (2/4 time)
6:12 [m. 98]--Closing cadence of Variation 5 and first
part of coda, with piano on the closing gesture, then viola on
the main melody.
6:28 [m. 108]--Reversal, with viola on closing gesture,
then piano on main melody, extended and reaching high
point. Then chromatic descent with viola below piano
6:46 [m. 119]--Transition passage with chromatic
motions, diminished seventh chords, and rapid arpeggios before
7:09 [m. 136]--Jovial version of main melody. The
viola imitation in canon is brought down to the lower
octave. The third group of four notes is brought down
two (!) octaves, taking advantage of the low viola C and
dropping below even the piano bass. At the fourth and
last group of four notes, the viola leaps back to one octave
below the clarinet line. After the imitation, following
the four groups of four notes, the viola notes move back to
the original register. The three-note descents and
cross-rhythms follow in the piano.
7:18 [m. 143]--Final passage based on closing
gesture. Brahms lowered the viola by an octave in two
spots, changing the interesting one- and two-octave
leaps. The first closing gesture is brought down an
octave. The second one remains where it was, so the
original leap down two octaves is now only one octave.
The following arpeggios over a diminished seventh chord are
also altered, the second one being brought down an octave and
utilizing the viola’s low C. This has the opposite
effect, converting a one-octave jump into a two-octave
jump. Following the arpeggios, the slowly rising line
based on the closing gesture moves back to the original
register. The jump from the arpeggio down to the
beginning of this line had been two octaves; now it is only
one. The viola notes in the final chords are as in the
7:40--END OF MOVEMENT [153 mm.]
END OF SONATA
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