VARIATIONS AND FUGUE ON A THEME OF G. F. HANDEL FOR
PIANO, OP. 24
Recording: Martin Jones, pianist [NI 1788]
With due respect to the F-minor piano sonata,
this monumental work is the most important masterpiece of Brahms’s
large-scale solo piano compositions (all of which were written and
published before 1866). Reaching beyond the composer’s own
output, it stands firmly alongside Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations
and Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations--three huge sets of keyboard
variations by each of the “three B’s.” The Brahms work does
owe much to its predecessors, although it is slightly more modest
than either, with 25 variations as opposed to Bach’s 30 or
Beethoven’s 33. The closing fugue is also based on an idea
used by Beethoven. The theme used is an Air from one of
Handel’s harpsichord suites (Suite in B-flat major, HWV 434), to
which Handel himself had attached five variations. Brahms
proceeds to filter the methods of Bach and Beethoven through his
late romantic lens. The theme’s simple structure and harmony
allowed him much freedom, although he stuck firmly to the
original’s structure (with one exception, Variation 15), key
(again with one exception, Variation 21), and meter (replacing 4/4
with 12/8--the triple-division version of quadruple meter--in
three instances). Brahms also largely retains the pattern of
“contrasting” and “returning” bars in the second parts of each
variation. He does engage in a certain level of
harmonic freedom, and in several instances writes varied repeats
within individual variations. Certain variations are quite
singular, such as the siciliana
in No. 19 or the “music box” effect in No. 22. Others, such
as the weighty minor-key “Hungarian” No. 13 and its sequel, the
breathtaking No. 14, are clear points of demarcation. Some
variations are grouped in obvious pairs (Nos. 5-6, 7-8, 11-12,
15-16, 17-18, and 23-24) with some of these having the effect of
“variations on variations.” A highly successful adaptation
of the baroque keyboard fugue to the modern piano and its
capabilities, Brahms’s concluding fugue sticks to its four-voice
texture for long stretches and then gloriously breaks free of it
at the most effective points. He manages all of this while
adhering somewhat more closely (at least in character) to a
Bach-like structural model than did Beethoven in his fugues for
both the “Diabellis” and the “Hammerklavier” Sonata. The
final buildup over the massive “pedal point” bell tones provides
an appropriately exciting conclusion, and it is apparent that
something as large as the fugue was necessary to give the
variations a capstone that did them justice. Despite their
great difficulty, the “Handel” Variations are never an overt
display of virtuoso pianism such as that seen in the last solo
piano variations, the “Paganini” sets of Op.
35. Instead, they triumphantly show (as even Wagner
noted) what can be done with old and strict forms in capable
In keeping with the baroque model, Brahms avoids tempo headings
throughout the score (although there are many markings of
expression and character, most of which are noted).
Since all the variations except Variation 21 are in B-flat, only
changes of mode from major to minor will be noted. Only
Variations 19, 23, and 24 are not in common time (4/4), and they
are all in 12/8 time (the “compound” version of 4/4).
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition [monochrome] from Russian
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf
& Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
SCORE FROM IMSLP of Handel’s Suite in B-flat major, HWV 434, the source of the
variation theme (G. F. Händels
Werke, edited by Friedrich Chrysander)
SCORE FROM IMSLP of Handel's Suite in B-flat major, HWV 434
(from a later Russian source)
NOTE: In this
recording, Variations 16-25 are on a new CD track/file. The
fugue, which also has its own track/file, will be treated as a
(partially) separate unit with its own measure numbers.
0:00 [m. 1]--ARIA.
B-FLAT MAJOR, 4/4 time. Part 1. The theme is
symmetrical and balanced. The first part is decorated with
trills on the second beat of each bar. The left hand chords
are subordinate to the florid right hand line. The phrase
reaches a half-cadence, punctuated by another trill. A rapid
scale flourish with an internal repeated note leads to the
repetition. There are no dynamic or tempo markings.
0:17 [m. 1]--Part 1
repeated. The scale flourish leads to the second part.
0:31 [m. 5]--Part 2.
The first two bars are the “contrasting” material, but they retain
the same basic rhythmic pattern as the rest of the theme.
The first bar of Part 2 is the only measure in the theme that does
not contain a trill on the second beat. The remaining two
bars make a return to the material from the first two bars of Part
1. They come to a full, closed cadence. A
downward-arching flourish that contains a trill helps move the
harmony back to the “dominant” for the repeat.
0:46 [m. 5]--Part 2
repeated. The flourish is replaced by a sweeping lead-in to
1:00 [m. 9]--VARIATION
1. Part 1. Brahms now indicates volume level with poco forte. The
variation is sturdy and rhythmic, with faster notes passed from
the right hand on the strong parts of beats to the left hand on
the weaker parts. This pattern is only really broken on the
last beats of each bar. The leaping, jaunty left hand notes
coincide with syncopated and accented right-hand chords. A
scale rapidly sweeps up and back down after the half-cadence to
lead to the repetition.
1:15 [m. 9]--Part 1
repeated. The sweeping scale is shortened by one note as it
leads into Part 2.
1:28 [m. 13]--Part
2. The basic pattern continues, but the “contrasting” bars
contain a very close right-hand counterpoint that sounds like a
series of chords. It is interrupted by a rapid descending
scale. Again, the ending returns to the pattern used at the
beginning, but is also broken by a descending scale. Another
variant of the sweeping scale (without its previously highest
note) leads to the repetition.
1:42 [m. 13]--Part 2
repeated, coming to a solid, complete cadence. There is no
transition to Variation 2.
1:57 [m. 17]--VARIATION
2. Part 1. Although Brahms adds the marking animato, the variation is
quieter than Variation 1, with gentle rising and falling.
One notable feature is the three-against-two rhythm, with the
right hand triplets going against the straight rhythm in the left
hand. The left hand does include three triplets (two on the
last beats of the first and third bars, one on the second beat of
the second) in its upper voice. Both hands are harmonized
with a lower voice. Both hands are extremely
chromatic, with many half-steps and “color” notes from outside the
scale of B-flat.
2:08 [m. 17]--Part 1
repeated. The lead-in to Part 2 is essentially identical to
the one before the repeat.
2:19 [m. 21]--Part
2. The “contrasting” bars begin with a punctuating short
trill and make a slight turn to minor. In these bars, the
left hand loses its second voice. It is regained in the
“returning” bars. The left hand has no triplets in Part 2,
and it has wider, more far-ranging leaps. The music is still
very chromatic, which is particularly seen in the left hand line
in the “returning“ bars. In the “returning” bars, the right
hand continues up higher than expected, ending with a graceful
downward turn that flows into the repetition.
2:29 [m. 21]--Part 2
repeated. The “graceful” downward turn also serves to lead
into Variation 3.
2:40 [m. 25]--VARIATION
3. Part 1. This variation, marked dolce, continues the
gracefulness of the lead-in. “Sighing” gestures are passed
between the right and left hands. These usually consist of
an upbeat, then a motion from a single note to a chord, usually
descending, but not always. Some of the upbeats in the right
hand are rolled chords. The left hand leaps up from its
upbeats to its “sighing” motions.
2:50 [m. 25]--Part 1
repeated. The final upbeat now leads into Part 2.
3:00 [m. 29]--Part
2. The pattern continues in the “contrasting” bars, although
they are more chromatic, making another slight turn to
minor. It also continues as a bridge to the repeat without
coming to a stop.
3:11 [m. 29]--Part 2
repeated. This time, the final upward left-hand leap
suddenly stops as the freely flowing, metrically ambiguous
Variation 3 comes to a close.
3:24 [m. 33]--VARIATION
4. Part 1. In a great contrast to the preceding
variation, this one comes in with force on an upbeat. It is
The right hand plays powerful octaves, many of them filled in with
harmonies to make full chords. The left hand plays more
isolated, punctuating chords and octaves. There are powerful
accents on some (but not all) of the weakest upbeats, creating a
strong sense of metrical displacement. The right hand
reaches quite high before a precipitous descent to the
3:36 [m. 33]--Part 1
3:47 [m. 37]--Part
2. Now the pattern changes a bit, with the right and left
hands alternating on strong octave ascents on another minor
turn. Both hands come to brief pauses as they pass ascents
between each other. This breaks after one bar, after which
the left hand takes the continuous octaves and the right hand
plays leaping descents. The powerful accents on weak upbeats
continue, and they increase in frequency as the “returning“ bars
approach, as well as during the final descent. The last
cadence is quite emphatic.
3:59 [m. 37]--Part 2
4:14 [m. 41]--VARIATION
5. B-FLAT MINOR. Part 1. The first minor-key
variation is expressive and flowing. It begins with an
upbeat. The left hand begins after the first downbeat.
A long-short-short figure begins to take over the rhythm.
Harmonies are strategically placed in the right hand. The
left hand has a faster-moving line that includes some syncopations
at the tops of arpeggios. The left hand rounds off the
half-cadence with a wide upward arpeggio.
4:29 [m. 41]--Part 1
4:44 [m. 45]--Part
2. The “contrasting” bars are again more chromatic, which is
quite striking in the minor key. The opening is similar to
that of Part 1, but the left hand is more disjointed and both
hands reach much higher. The first syncopation in the right
hand happens at the approach to the “returning” bars, and it is
quite effective. The familiar syncopations in the left hand
begin shortly thereafter. The right hand has two more
syncopations in the melody during the approach to the melancholy
cadence, which remains in minor.
4:58 [m. 45]--Part 2
5:14 [m. 49]--VARIATION
6. B-FLAT MINOR. Part 1. This variation should
be seen as forming a pair with Variation 5. Ideally, there
will be no break between them. Variation 6 is a pure canon,
with the left hand strictly imitating the right hand one beat
later. Both hands play in bare octaves. The bottom
note in the left hand is three octaves below the higher note in
the right. The material itself is clearly based on the
opening gesture of Variation 5. The octaves are smooth and
quiet. At the half-cadence ending Part 1, the canon does not
break, and is completed by lengthening and reiterating the final
octave in the right hand.
5:29 [m. 49]--Part 1
repeated. The reiterated right hand octave becomes the
upbeat of the repetition.
5:43 [m. 53]--Part
2. Now the last note of the trailing left hand becomes the
upbeat for the new canon in Part 2. With the left hand now
leading and the right hand following, Brahms throws in another
twist and makes the “contrasting” bars of Part 2 a canon by inversion, where the trailing
voice in the right hand turns the leading left-hand voice upside
down. Because of the opposite directions, the top note in
the right hand is now four
(rather than three) octaves above the bottom note of the
left. It reaches to quite a high level.
5:50 [m. 55]--At the
“returning” bars, the inversion ends. The right hand rests
for one beat. The left hand notes that immediately precede
this are not imitated, and are used so that the bass can slide
down to the first note of m. 55, which begins another “normal”
canon as heard in Part 1. The right hand makes a large leap
from the high last notes of the inversion canon to the first, much
lower notes of this one. This time, the canon is not
completed. The last three notes of the left hand and the
last note of the right are independent of the imitation. The
last two notes (in both hands) even add full chords to the octaves
at the final cadence.
5:58 [m. 53]--Part 2
repeated, beginning with the canon by inversion.
6:05 [m. 55]--The
repetition continues with the final canon and harmonized cadence
in the “returning” bars.
6:15 [m. 57]--VARIATION
7. B-FLAT MAJOR. Part 1. In a sudden departure
from the light melancholy mood of the previous two variations,
this one rushes in with secretive haste. Brahms marks it con vivacità. It is
extremely rhythmic (long-short-short), with three parallel
voices. The melodic interest is in the middle voice.
The top voice remains static, remaining on a single note (F twice,
then A) for all but the last half-beat of the first three
bars. The last bar suddenly increases in volume, and the top
voice works upward, only to plunge down in an arpeggio before the
repeat. The active bottom voice provides solid bass support.
6:24 [m. 57]--Part 1
6:32 [m. 61]--Part
2. In the “contrasting” bars, which are again quiet, the top
voice only becomes slightly more active, moving halfway through
the bar. The final off-beats of these first two measures are
given strong accents, stronger than was the case in Part 1.
The “returning” bars increase greatly in volume, and a fourth
voice is added to the harmonies. The voices, including the
top voice, diverge apart after moving up together. The top
voices reach quite high, the bottom voice very low. The
climax is followed by another plunging arpeggio, with the bottom
voice rocketing upward at the same time (as it also had done in
6:41 [m. 61]--Part 2
repeated, running directly into Variation 8.
6:50 [m. 65]--VARIATION
8. Part 1. This louder variation follows directly upon
Variation 7, with which it has similarities. This time, the
static voice is the bottom one, which thumps out the keynote
B-flat on the long-short-short rhythm steadily until the
half-cadence, where it briefly moves to F. Above this, the
right hand has two voices, the middle one in steady running notes
and the top one in shorter two-note gestures broken by
rests. It joins the rapid running of the middle voice at the
end of the second bar. In the third and fourth bars, these
right hand voices are reversed, so that the “running” notes are on
the top of the texture. The shorter gestures remain in the
same range, so the “running” notes are now in a very high
6:58 [m. 65]--Part 1
7:07 [m. 69]--Part
2. In the “contrasting” bars, the steady “thumping” bass
note is on F. The “running” notes are again in the middle
voice. The top voice, with shorter gestures, remains in the
same range. This layout is maintained in the “returning”
bars, but the “thumping” bass note moves back to the keynote
B-flat (more a “tenor” than a bass note). The contrasting
bars are suddenly and unexpectedly soft, again turning briefly to
minor (a turn notably avoided in Variation 7) while the
“returning” bars are again intensified.
7:16 [m. 73]--Part 2,
varied repeat. In the first varied repeat of the work, the
musical material is the same as in the first statement of Part 2,
but the voicing is reversed. In the “contrasting” bars, for
the first time, the voice with the shorter gestures moves while
the “running” notes remain where they were. This places the
shorter gestures below the “running” notes, as at the end of Part
1. This time, however, the “running” notes are actually
lower. In the “returning” bars, the short gestures are
placed back where they were in the first statement, and the
“running” notes are moved above them in a high register--so the
layout is the same, but the register is higher. The varied
repeat of Part 2 begins quietly and, unlike the first statement,
remains soft and even becomes quieter at the very end, where the
“running” notes have reached quite high indeed. Even the
“thumping” B-flat steadily moves up first one octave, then a
second before rapidly plunging back down.
7:28 [m. 77]--VARIATION
9. Part 1. Variation 9 is based on the restatement of
a simple idea at various pitch levels. It is slower and
heavier than variations 7-8, and marked poco sostenuto. The idea is a
downward half-step motion (a chromatic scale) in right-hand
octaves that is decorated twice by triplets whose middle notes
break the chromatic scale with leaps up a third. The descent
is heralded by a fanfare-like upbeat. Against this, the
left-hand octaves, anchored by a low note, move slowly up four
scale steps, then more quickly down five half-steps. This is
all followed by a final quiet chord. The first two bars
state the pattern beginning on the keynote, B-flat, and end by
rising a step to a dissonant “diminished” chord.
7:36 [m. 79]--The third
and fourth bars state the idea a third higher, starting on D, then
end by sliding down to the expected half-cadence on F. This
time, all of the right-hand octaves except for those in the first
triplet (and the leaping second note of the second triplet) are
filled in with full chords.
7:45 [m. 77]--Part 1
repeated. Restatement of the descending chromatic idea on
7:53 [m. 79]--Restatement
of the descending chromatic idea with full chords starting on D.
8:02 [m. 81]--Part
2. Continuing the pattern, the first two bars (corresponding
to the “contrasting” bars) begin up another third, on F. The
idea is given completely in octaves until the last chord, which is
now approached from below by a leap and is a full cadence on
F. The leap is in a short-long (triplet) rhythm. The
left hand completes the cadence with downward-leaping
octaves. This pattern of approaching the last chord (which
is still quiet) will be used throughout Part 2.
8:11 [m. 83]--As expected,
the “returning” bars again begin the idea on B-flat, but the
upward motion continues, and it is an octave higher than it was at
the beginning of Part 1. It is here also in octaves until
the last chord, which of course leaps to a full cadence on B-flat.
8:20 [m. 85]--Part 2,
varied repeat. The repetition is varied in the most
unexpected way. The “contrasting” bars are shifted up
wholesale by a half-step, and begin on F-sharp. This is in
the spirit of this variation, which presents the same idea at
various pitch levels. This statement of the “contrasting”
bars also adds full chords on the first and third notes of the
second triplet and on the notes leaping to the cadence on F-sharp.
8:29 [m. 87]--The
“returning” bars are stated on the high B-flat, as in the first
statement, but the left hand is varied. Instead of sliding
down by half-steps on its faster notes, the octaves continue to
rise up, creating a full B-flat scale with two chromatic
half-steps inserted. The final cadence is surprisingly
8:40 [m. 89]--VARIATION
10. Part 1. Beginning with a preliminary flourish, the
variation is based on repeated notes in triplet rhythm that
rapidly plunge down the keyboard. In the first two bars,
they traverse a great range. The first four triplet groups
are punctuated by rolled chords below them, and the first three
triplet groups are themselves double notes. The remaining
three groups are low single notes with non-rolled chords above
them. Another flourish leads to the next two bars, which are
generally a third (or a step) higher than the first two except for
the final bass triplet, which reaches down low. Each of the
two descents begins loudly (energico),
during the plunge down the keyboard, ending very softly.
Also, each descent begins in major and has made a clear move to
the home minor key at the bottom.
8:49 [m. 89]--Part 1
8:57 [m. 93]--Part
2. All of Part 2 is in B-flat minor. The “contrasting”
bars appear to begin another descent midway between the first two,
with rolled chord punctuations. However, the second bar
remains loud and breaks into four alternating single-note triplets
that dovetail between the hands and reverse the descent.
They are decorated by rising flourishes. The “returning”
bars also use these initial flourishes, and work from the bass
upward, with single, double, and triple-note triplets before the
top one, which is a full chord. The last three triplets then
diminish and descend. They are in octaves punctuated by
rolled chords, as in Part 1. The final triplet octave group
is thus low and soft, and the “returning” bars have created an
arch with the climax on top.
9:05 [m. 93]--Part 2
9:15 [m. 97]--VARIATION
11. Part 1. After the previous two forceful
variations, this one is serene and melodic (and completely
in the major key). The right hand plays a lovely,
wide-ranging melody with many alternating leaps and some light
lower-voice harmonization. It begins with a descending
arpeggio. The second phrase starts a third higher, touching
on D minor before reaching the half-cadence on F. The left
hand plays a standard Alberti
bass, with high-low alternations as a method of breaking
harmonies, although straight ascending arpeggios are heard at the
end of each phrase.
9:26 [m. 97]--Part 1
9:37 [m. 101]--Part
2. In the “contrasting” bars, the Alberti accompaniment with the high-low
alternations moves to the middle voice. The melody, which
now climbs upward, shares some notes with this
accompaniment. The left hand now has slower notes in
patterns similar to the main melody of Part 1. The music
swells slightly here. The “returning” bars are again quiet
and serene. In them, the Alberti
figures manage to climb to the top of the texture and alternate
with the bass line. The entire structure moves back down
from this top level as the cadence is approached. A left
hand arpeggio bridges to the repeat.
9:49 [m. 101]--Part 2
repeated. The bridging arpeggio is shifted to a lower level
leading into Variation 12.
10:01 [m. 105]--VARIATION
12. Part 1. It follows directly upon Variation 11
without a break, and forms a pair with it. Like Variation
11, it is smooth and gentle (Brahms marks it soave). The left hand
presents a version of the theme that is stripped down to its most
basic elements in slower double notes. The right hand
decorates this, first with sighing off-beat notes, then with a
more flowing, wide-ranging line similar to the melody in Variation
11. The pattern is repeated at a higher level for the second
phrase, and the last descent of the left hand (now in the middle
range) speeds up as the half-cadence is approached.
10:14 [m. 105]--Part 1
10:27 [m. 109]--Part
2. The pattern is basically retained for the “contrasting”
bars, which include their usual hints at the minor key. The
second bar groups the flowing right hand into two-note units,
which reach quite high. This continues in the first
“returning” bar, with two successive two-note groups repeated four
times each as they reach their highest level before easily
descending toward the cadence with a chromatic scale
(half-steps). The let hand moves to full chords, including a
rolled upbeat chord, in the “returning” bars. After the
cadence, the last right-hand arpeggio quickly turns upward to lead
into the repeat.
10:40 [m. 109]--Part 2
repeated. The last right-hand arpeggio does not turn back
upward, stopping on a quiet but firm cadence. There is thus
no direct connection to the highly dramatic entry of Variation 13.
10:55 [m. 113]--VARIATION
13. Largamente, ma non più. B-FLAT MINOR. Part
1. The only inclusion of a tempo heading marks this
variation as especially weighty. After Variations 5 and 6
(and Variation 10, which is more minor than major), this is the
last one in the home minor key. It is slow, and contains
hallmarks of the “Hungarian” style. Chief among these would
be the low and thick rolled off-beat chords in the left
hand. The heavy, expressive right hand, harmonized in double
notes, begins in the tenor range and is highly decorated,
including a distinctive five-note group. The second phrase
is a third higher. It includes a slower descending triplet
leading into the last bar. A five-note flourish leads into
the varied repetition.
11:17 [m. 117]--Part 1,
varied repeat. Here, the “variation” in the repeat consists
of shifting both hands up an octave. Approaching the second
phrase, the right hand remains in the higher octave, but the left
hand returns to its lower level, and even adds some thickness,
creating full rolled chords out of some rolled punctuations that
had been simple broken octaves. The right hand remains at
the higher level in the second phrase. The closing flourish
(now six notes) jumps back down, however, an octave below its
11:39 [m. 121]--Part
2. The lower “flourish” helps return the right hand to the
tenor range for Part 2. Here, in the “contrasting” bars, the
right hand becomes thicker and includes rapid, dramatically
leaping octaves following three of the off-beat left-hand
chords. The “returning” bars return to the material from
Part 1. Here, most of the left-hand punctuations are thinned
to broken octaves. The cadence includes a five-note
decoration. The closing flourish (again six-notes, as after
the repeat of Part 1), is an octave higher.
12:02 [m. 125]--Part 2,
varied repeat. As with Part 1, the varied repeat moves both
hands up an octave. Here, the left hand remains in the
higher octave throughout the first phrase (the “contrasting”
bars), but moves back to the lower level in the “returning” bars,
thickening the previous broken octaves to full chords. The
right hand stays in the higher octave throughout. The
cadence is firm and solid, and remains in minor.
12:29 [m. 129]--VARIATION
14. B-FLAT MAJOR. Part 1. Here, near the
midpoint of the variations, Brahms introduces maximum contrast,
following the slow, weighty, and melancholy Variation 13 with the
most scintillating, exuberant, and fiendishly difficult
variation. Brahms even marks it sciolto. The right hand, after an initial
trill, descends rapidly in double sixths (with two full chords
bridging the two bars of the descent). The left hand,
playing in broken octaves and arching arpeggios, has many wide,
treacherous, and rapid leaps. The second phrase is a third
higher, as expected, and follows the same pattern in the descent
to the half-cadence, touching on D minor (as in Variation 11)
along the way.
12:29 [m. 129]--Part 1
12:49 [m. 133]--Part
2. The “contrasting” bars (with no turn to minor) begin like
another descent with a starting level midway between the first
two, but the second bar suddenly breaks, inserting four trills on
steadily ascending notes. Under this, the left hand includes
more stepwise motion. The “returning” bars enter at the top
of this series of trills. They return to the broken sixths,
but include stronger punctuating (and syncopated) chords as the
full cadence is approached. A “bridge” chord follows
12:59 [m. 133]--Part 2
repeated. The “bridge” chord is replaced by the octave
upbeat to Variation 15.
13:09 [m. 137]--VARIATION
15. Part 1. The variation follows directly upon
Variation 14, but does not really make a “pair” with it. It
is equally exuberant and joyous, however. Its main idea is a
series of upbeat-downbeat “bell” chords (or octaves) followed by a
faster series of generally downward-arching chords. Both
hands are in parallel motion throughout. The pattern is used
in each of the four bars, but the “bell” chords are expanded
before the second and fourth bars. The third and fourth bars
begin a third higher than do the first two. The half-cadence
artfully leaps outward by octaves to the upbeat of the repeat.
13:18 [m. 137]--Part 1
13:28 [m. 141]--Part
2. The “contrasting” bars make the turn to the minor
key. The upbeat-downbeat “bell” figures are thinned to
rising chromatic octaves, and the faster downward-arching figures
to thirds and sixths. Unexpectedly, there is an added
“contrasting” bar with a longer series of rapid downward-arching
figures. The “returning” bars are again in the pattern of
Part 1, but the last bar expands the “bell” figures, omitting the
faster figures and moving to an emphatic cadence. This is
the only time that any part of any variation varies from the
four-bar units. The extra “contrasting” bar has created a
five-bar Part 2.
13:40 [m. 141]--Part 2
repeated. There is a small pause before Variation 16.
13:55--END OF TRACK.
Variation 16 begins with a new track. 0:00 on this track would be
13:55 in the overall time structure. Add 13:55 to the times
below to integrate them into the variations as a whole.
16. Part 1. Like Variation 15, it begins with an
upbeat, and the material is similar. Unlike Variation 15, it
is quiet and secretive, though distinctly articulated. It is
in an “imperfect” canon, which means that the imitation is at
times inexact. The left hand and right hand are in single
voices, the left hand leading. Large leaps resembling the
“bell” figures of Variation 15 are followed by running figures
similar to the “arching chords.” On the leaps, the left hand
moves down and the right hand moves up, but the running figures
move in the same direction. The imitation is clearly
audible, if inexact. In the last bar, faster leaps, a
“combination” of the two elements, completely break the imitation
and propel the music into the repetition.
0:07 [m. 146]--Part 1
repeated. The right hand has a downbeat note at the
beginning (led into by the “propelling” leaps) that was not there
in the first statement.
0:15 [m. 150]--Part
2. In Part 2, the imitation becomes more regular, with both
hands moving downward on the punctuating leaps. In the
second bar, the distance of imitation is changed. The right
hand now imitates the left at only a fourth (rather than an
octave) higher on the running figures. The music makes the
usual turn to minor in these bars. In the last bar, the
faster “combination” leaps remain imitative rather than breaking
the canon, and they catapult directly into the repeat (or
0:22 [m. 150]--Part 2
0:29 [m. 154]--VARIATION
17. Part 1. Brahms marks più mosso here, and although the following
variations are slightly faster, the notes are longer in Variation
17, so there is no effect of a large acceleration. The left
hand is a skeleton version of the theme similar to that in
Variation 12, but the double notes are interrupted by low bass
punctuations on the upbeats and downbeats to each bar, mostly
descending leaps. Meanwhile, the right hand lightly skips
downward from high levels with wide leaps and repeated
notes. These descents begin right after the downbeat of each
bar. They are quiet, but distinct.
0:36 [m. 158]--Part 1
repeated. The repetition is given new notation instead of a
repeat sign, but there is no real variation. The only
difference is that the right hand does not play on the first
downbeat, as it did in the first statement. Also, the final
upbeat, now leading into Part 2, is an octave lower than the first
0:43 [m. 162]--Part
2. The “contrasting” bars continue the pattern, and the
usual hint at the minor key is made. The low bass
punctuations now leap upward. The “returning” bars connect
the right-hand descents, and the last two bars are also smoothly
connected in the left hand, the harmony expanding to full chords.
0:50 [m. 162]--Part 2
repeated. The final upbeat is omitted, and there is a slight
pause before Variation 18.
0:59 [m. 166]--VARIATION
18. Part 1. Marked grazioso,
this variation is a development of the material heard in Variation
17. The descents are somewhat “filled” in with faster
notes. The double notes presenting the skeleton version of
the theme are now syncopated. Also, the hands reverse their
patterns every bar, so in the second and fourth bars, the right
hand plays the slow syncopations and the left hand the faster
descents. The descents begin with an octave leap and end by
turning around and briefly ascending. These turns are longer
when in the left hand. The second half is, as usual, a third
higher than the first.
1:11 [m. 166]--Part 1
1:23 [m. 170]--Part
2. The pattern continues in the second part, with the usual
turn to minor in the “contrasting” bars. As in Part 1, the
patterns in the hands are reversed every bar. The left hand
has the faster descents in the second and fourth bars, as in Part
1:35 [m. 170]--Part 2
repeated. There is a pause before Variation 19.
1:51 [m. 174]--VARIATION
19. 12/8 time. Part 1. This is the first
variation to change meter, although the meter change simply
affects the division of the beat into three (instead of two)
parts. It is in the siciliana
rhythm, an Italian dance in 6/8 or 12/8 with distinctive dotted
rhythms. In the first statement of Part 1, these dotted
rhythms are in the lower voice of the right hand, punctuated by
short trills. The top voice, as well as the left hand,
therefore seem quite static. Brahms marks the variation leggiero e vivace, lightly
and quickly. As usual, the second phrase begins a third
higher. The harmony is quite full throughout.
2:03 [m. 178]--Part 1,
varied repeat. Both hands are moved up an octave for the
entirety of the repeat. Also, the dotted rhythms and
punctuating trills are moved from the lower right-hand voice to
the top voice.
2:15 [m. 182]--Part
2. Both hands move back down to the lower octave. The
vestiges of the theme are clearly audible in the “contrasting”
bars, which do not make the brief move to minor here. The
left hand is reduced to a single note, however. The harmony
is again more full in the “returning” bars leading to the final
cadence, and they are in the higher octave. Again, the
dotted rhythms and punctuating trills are in the lower right-hand
2:26 [m. 186]--Part 2,
varied repeat. Because Part 2 itself is split between the
lower and the upper octave, the same levels are kept for the
repeat, unlike the repetition of Part 1. The dotted rhythms
and punctuating trills, however, do move from the lower to the
upper voice throughout.
2:41 [m. 190]--VARIATION
20. 4/4 time. Part 1. The variation begins with
an upbeat. The right hand plays rich chords in the piano’s
tenor range. They contain many chromatic notes, and they
move largely by half-step. The left hand plays low octaves,
twice as slow as the right hand chords. They also move
largely by half-step, with some leaps for changes of range.
The upward and downward surging of the highly chromatic chords is
marked by a surge and receding of volume. The second half is
smoothly connected to the first, and, as usual, begins a third
2:55 [m. 194]--Part 1,
varied repeat. The left hand is unaltered, but the right
hand chords are moved up an octave so that they reach into the
3:10 [m. 198]--Part
2. Back in the lower (tenor) octave, the “contrasting” bars
steadily move upward, with an up-down motion in the second
bar. In the second bar, the left-hand octaves also speed up,
moving as fast as the right hand. In the “returning” bars,
the left hand continues its faster motion and is no longer in
octaves, but in close harmonies like the right hand, which here
leaps back down and reaches the cadence.
3:26 [m. 202]--Part 2,
varied repeat. As with the repeat of Part 1, the right hand
is moved up an octave in its entirety, including the internal
downward leap before the “returning” bars. Some fuller
harmonies and octave doublings are added in the “returning”
bars. The left hand remains at the same level, but upper
octave doubling is added in the “returning” bars. The
cadence is more solid, as there is no need for the upbeat, and
Variation 21 begins on a downbeat.
3:46 [m. 206]--VARIATION
21. G MINOR. Part 1. Having already used the
home minor key earlier, Brahms now adds variety by turning to the
relative minor key based
on G. The shift in tonal center is striking to the
ear. The variation is a rhythmic game, with descending
arpeggios in both hands. The right hand plays triplet groups
(approached by a grace-note leap), while the left hand plays
groups of four in straight rhythm. This three-against-four
conflict, while quiet, is quite unsettling. On the first
beat of each phrase, the right hand plays a held double note
against an ascending left-hand arpeggio. There is a held
note and trill before the second phrase, which, as expected, is
set higher, first by a wide distance and then gradually closer.
3:57 [m. 206]--Part 1
repeated. Note the slight change of right-hand direction on
the half-cadence at the end (also present in the first statement).
4:10 [m. 210]--Part
2. The three-against-four conflict is preserved in the
“contrasting” bars , but the left hand now arches up and back
down, alternating on each group of four, while the right hand
alternates its descending triplets with held notes (played while
the left hand ascends). Both the triplets and the held notes
are still approached by the leaping grace notes. The
“returning” bars are in the previous pattern of Part 1. A
short trill is added to the cadence. The returning bars
contain chromatic notes centered around G.
4:18 [m. 210]--Part 2
repeated. The cadence is re-notated with slight alterations
to make it more final.
4:33 [m. 214]--VARIATION
22. B-FLAT MAJOR. Part 1. The change back to the
major key on B-flat is arresting, particularly as it begins the
so-called “music box” variation. The steady left hand , with
its anchored low note and constant oscillating pattern, is almost
a drone. It is set in the middle range of the piano.
The lower voice of the right hand is also very static, only
briefly moving from its repeated note in the middle of each
phrase. The top voice has the melodic interest, primarily
generated by a dotted rhythm. A brief flourish in the right
hand’s lower voice serves to connect the phrases. The
steadily climbing high register of the top voice and the static,
drone-like nature of the other parts create the “music box”
4:47 [m. 214]--Part 1
5:01 [m. 218]--Part
2. The bottom of the left hand remains anchored through the
“contrasting” bars, even while its upper voices are somewhat more
active. The right hand increases slightly in intensity by
reusing the phrase-bridging flourish in an unexpected way, to
punctuate accented syncopations in the top voice. The
high point of the buildup is the highest pitch in the
variation. The “returning” bars are focused on setting up a
strong cadence, also punctuated by the flourish. The “drone”
continues into the repeat.
5:16 [m. 218]--Part 2
repeated. The “music box” finally winds down at the cadence.
5:31 [m. 222]--VARIATION
23. 12/8 time. Part 1. The variation is marked vivace e staccato.
While in major, it consistently uses the lowered sixth (G-flat)
that is borrowed from the minor. It involves restless,
detached three-note arpeggios alternating between the right and
left hands. More isolated detached notes are played by each
hand when not playing the arpeggios. The right hand is in
the middle range of the piano. On the last three beats of
the second and fourth bars, the right hand reverses direction to
descend, and both hands play three straight arpeggios in contrary
motion. The second phrase is, as usual, at a higher level,
but its last arpeggios descend more precipitously.
5:40 [m. 222]--Part 1
5:49 [m. 226]--Part
2. The highly chromatic “contrasting” bars alternate all the
way through, without the right hand reversal and simultaneous
arpeggios in opposite directions. However, the weak
beats--where the left hand is playing arpeggios--are now suddenly
and strongly loud, creating a soft-loud alternation. The
left hand also adds a low bass octave to the first notes of its
arpeggios. The “returning” bars are a full octave higher
than their Part 1 counterparts. In the last bar, the right
hand again reverses, and these descending arpeggios are all
forceful and marked. Here, the left hand arches up and back
down, so that at the very end, both hands are descending.
5:58 [m. 226]--Part 2
6:07 [m. 230]--VARIATION
24. 12/8 time. Part 1. This variation is clearly
paired with the previous one. It essentially replaces the
arpeggios of Variation 23 with scale runs, and closely follows the
pattern otherwise. It also uses the characteristic lowered
sixth. Some of the descending right hand runs in the second
and especially the fourth bars contain skips, and the second
phrase is now a full octave higher than the first. Unlike in
Variation 23, the last three beats of Part 1 (in contrary motion)
are all loud and forceful.
6:16 [m. 230]--Part 1
6:24 [m. 234]--Part
2. The pattern of Variation 23 continues to be followed and
intensified with the scale runs, this time adhering more closely
to the model than did Part 1. Here, the left hand runs in
the “contrasting” bars contain octave leaps and skips. The
loud-soft alternation is heard in the first bar, but then is
replaced with a steady buildup in the second. The
“returning” bars return to a soft level, then steadily build to
the end. The right hand runs in the last bar, including the
first ascending one, are all arpeggios instead of scales.
The left hand goes back to runs, but adds low octaves to their
6:33 [m. 234]--Part 2
6:42 [m. 238]--VARIATION
25. 2/4 time. Part 1. At a grand and joyous
level, the last variation emerges from the powerful final runs of
the previous one. It is back in the main meter.
Repeated sets of full right hand chords in dotted rhythm are
broken by treacherous upward leaps from low octaves to higher
double notes in the left. The pattern is generally
descending. A short run leads to the second phrase, which is
higher as usual. Another short run leads into the repeat.
6:51 [m. 238]--Part 1
repeated. The last lead-in run is altered going into Part 2.
7:00 [m. 242]--Part
2. The rhythmic pattern, as well as the leaping pattern of
the “interrupting” left hand, is preserved in the “contrasting”
bars, but the right hand moves on its shorter chords rather than
simply repeating the longer ones. In the second bar, the
right hand changes to extremely exciting upward octave leaps
(block octaves leaping an octave), still in the dotted rhythm and
interrupted by the left hand. The “returning” bars go back
to the original pattern of repeated chords. A short run
again leads to the repeat.
7:09 [m. 242]--Part 2
repeated, with a firm and solid close on the last left-hand leap.
7:21 (21:16 total)--END OF
VARIATIONS [245 mm.]
FUGA. B-FLAT MAJOR, 4/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--The fugue
should follow Variation 25 after a very brief pause. The
two-bar fugue “subject” is first presented in the lower right-hand
voice (the “alto”). The very recognizable opening consists
of a neighbor-note motion that begins off the beat and is repeated
a third higher. The last of the four notes of the figure is
longer, creating separation. The two gestures are followed
by a somewhat meandering run that also begins off the beat and is
closely related to the gestures themselves. The derivation
from the Handel theme lies in the stepwise ascent of the theme’s
opening, preserved in the subject’s gradual ascent.
0:05 [m. 3]--The second
entry is in the top voice (the “soprano”). It is in the
“dominant” key of F major, as is the expected pattern at the
beginning of a fugue. The alto voice continues with the
“countersubject.” This consists of two short runs paired with the
opening gestures. Shorter two-note figures are played under
the “meandering run.” The first and third are ascending steps and
the second and fourth are descending leaps.
0:10 [m. 5]--The third
entry is in the bottom voice of the left hand (the “bass”).
It is back in the home key. Unusually, it is again the alto
that plays the “countersubject” instead of the soprano. The
soprano takes the short two-note figures from the beginning, and
harmonizes with the alto on these short gestures after the alto
plays the two “short runs” of the countersubject.
0:15 [m. 7]--The last
entry is in the top voice of the left hand (the “tenor”). It
is, like the soprano entry, in the “dominant” key of F
major. The soprano and alto play the countersubject in
harmony, but they invert the two runs, playing them in descending
thirds. The bass has the short two-note figures, but follows
them with a connecting third note. As the tenor plays the
“meandering” run, all three other parts are harmonizing on the
short two-note figures. They suddenly become quieter.
0:20 [end of m. 8]--END OF
0:20 [m. 9]--The first
“episode” continues the pattern of the tenor entry, with the tenor
continuing the meandering run while the other three voices still
harmonize on the short two-note figures. They move back to
the home key and build back up in volume.
0:25 [m. 11]--The subject
is heard simultaneously in the soprano and alto, playing in double
sixths. Against them, the tenor plays syncopated repeated
notes and a descending run. Under the second gesture of the
fugue, the bass joins the tenor, and they play in double thirds on
another syncopation and descent. Under the “meandering run,”
they play the short two-note gestures, still in double notes
(thirds and fifths). The alto adds chromatic notes to the
0:30 [m. 13]--There now
follows a very extended “episode” with no complete entries of the
fugue subject. The volume level becomes much quieter, and
all four voices play very lightly. The outer voices (soprano
and bass) play repeated notes in syncopated rhythm. The
inner voices (alto and tenor) continue to play the “meandering
runs” derived from the fugue subject, harmonized freely, largely
in double sixths. Five bars lead to F major and minor, then
0:43 [m. 18]--The
“meandering” runs continue in the alto and tenor in double sixths
at a lower level. The soprano drops out. The bass
plays the short two-note gestures, alternating high and low upward
steps, leaping by octaves within each bar and to a higher level (a
fifth higher) between the two bars. These bars are back in
B-flat, beginning in minor and moving to major.
0:48 [m. 20]--The top two
voices move higher, suggesting that the tenor has been replaced by
the soprano. They begin to play a long series of short
descending runs in double thirds. Against these short runs,
the bass plays the first two gestures of the subject in the new
key of E-flat major, creating the illusion that a full statement
is coming. Instead, the opening gestures simply continue,
moving steadily upward in a stepwise manner with some octave leaps
and then full displacement to the upper octave (the tenor
range). The upper descending runs move down, then back
up. At the end of the series, the bass has moved up more
than an octave, to E. The episode ends with the top voices
moving again to double sixths and the bass to the short two-note
gestures. The entire passage steadily builds, and ends up in
1:02 [m. 25]--A full entry
of the subject finally arrives after the long episode. It is
in the bass. The long notes of each opening gesture are
broken into a descending octave leap. The three-voice
texture is preserved. The top voice (presumably the
soprano), plays the countersubject (now in arpeggios instead of
runs), and the alto plays the short two-note gestures, harmonized
by the soprano over the meandering run. All three parts
vacillate between B-flat minor and B-flat major.
1:07 [m. 27]--Full entry
of the subject in the soprano in the “dominant” key, F, but it is
now F minor. The tenor voice enters here and ends up playing
the countersubject in arpeggios. Between the arpeggios, it
plays harmonized descending thirds with the bass. The alto
mostly drops out, but it briefly joins the soprano, playing the
second gesture of the subject with it in octaves. Under the
“meandering run,” the tenor and bass play the short two-note
gestures in harmony, including octaves.
1:12 [m. 29]--A brief
bridge begins to restore the four-part texture. The soprano
continues with the meandering run beyond the subject statement,
and the lower voices support it with long notes in either three-
or two-note chords or joining on single notes. This bridge
suddenly decreases in volume.
1:17 [m. 31]--The bass
plays a full entry of the subject in the seemingly remote key of
D-flat major. This key, which is the related major key to
B-flat minor, has a striking, almost otherworldly effect.
The full four-voice texture is here. The countersubject is
not heard. Instead, the soprano continues with meandering
runs, moving to short-long syncopations when the bass plays its
subject run. The middle voices provide support in long
notes, the tenor initially playing the first full-bar sustained
note in the fugue. The bass introduces new leaps to the
“meandering” subject run.
1:23 [m. 33]--This is an
important juncture in the fugue. For the first time, the
subject is played upside-down, or in INVERSION. It is in the
soprano, still in D-flat major. The bass plays arching
arpeggios, the middle voices a mildly syncopated support in longer
notes. Under the “meandering” run (now turned upside down),
the inner voices briefly join together. The D-flat music
continues to be at a quiet level.
1:28 [m. 35]--The soprano
again plays the subject in inversion. It is higher than the
one just heard, and in the even more remote key of G-flat
major. The other three voices continue their pattern of the
1:33 [m. 37]--In a bridge
passage, G-flat is now re-notated as F-sharp. The soprano
plays four statements of the inverted opening gesture of the
subject. The pattern of the other three voices continues
from the two previous subject entries. The harmony shifts
upward to another new key, A minor. The volume also
dramatically increases from the quiet level of the D-flat and
1:39 [m. 39]--A full entry
of the inverted subject follows in the soprano in A minor.
It is harmonized in octaves and thirds by the alto.
Underneath it and alternating with the opening gestures, the lower
voices, at a very low level, play the opening gesture of the
subject in its original form. These continue under the
subject’s run. Every other note in these bass gestures is
played as an octave. From the second gesture of the inverted
subject, the soprano is harmonized with two lower voices, the
bottom of which is an octave lower and the top of which is a third
lower. Thus, there is a five-voice texture here.
1:44 [m. 41]--An
alternation begins between the opening gestures of the inverted
subject in the right hand and the original subject in the
left. The right hand doubles in both thirds and octaves, the
left in octaves on the every other note. The harmony shifts
up a half-step back to B-flat. After one bar, the hands are
reversed. The left hand takes the gestures of the inverted
subject (with thirds and octaves), and the right hand has those of
the original (with alternating octaves and single notes).
The harmony is shifted up again, and it turns out that the left
hand has started a full statement of the inverted subject in B
minor, harmonized in thirds, while the right hand continues with
the gestures from the original subject.
1:51 [m. 44]--Once again,
the harmony is shifted up a half-step, to C minor. The
inverted figures are passed back to the right hand, the original
ones to the left, with the same doublings as before. These
continue, then are reduced in volume. At that point, the
three-note figures are reduced to two, the right hand playing
descending figures and the left hand ascending ones. The
doubling patterns of thirds and octaves continue. After two
alternations of the two-note figures, the hands come together on
them, increasing in intensity. As a climax is approached,
the figures flow more evenly in four-note groups. The left
hand introduces new doublings of fifths and fourths, the right
also to a lesser extent (it mostly remains in thirds and
octaves). Through all of this, the four-voice texture is
2:04 [m. 49]--The home key
of B-flat is again reached, but it is once again the minor version
of the key. At this point, the climax of the preceding
buildup, a new alteration of the fugue subject is heard, where the
length of each note is doubled (and thus the subject is twice as
long). This is called AUGMENTATION. The inverted
subject is now abandoned. The augmented subject is heard in
the bass, doubled in octaves. The right hand plays
harmonized figures based on the opening gestures. These
chords are as many as three notes, so a five-voice texture again
comes into play. The subject is further punctuated between
its elements by descending scales in octaves or sixths.
2:10 [m. 51]--When the
augmented subject reaches its third element (the “meandering
run”), the right-hand above it plays with syncopated sixths, then
full chords, after the beats in a rising pattern. Once again
there is a sudden retreat followed by a buildup. This
happens twice over the longer “meandering run.” The right
hand chords now have as many as four notes, so for the first time,
six notes are heard at once.
2:15 [m. 53]--The
four-voice texture is restored for a statement of the original
subject (without augmentation) in the tenor. It is in F, a
mixture of minor and major. The upper voices and the bass
play material from the original countersubject, with arpeggios
(not scale runs) and the short two-note figures.
2:20 [m. 55]--The soprano
now begins a statement of the subject at the same level, F
minor/major, but it uses the longer augmented version. The
alto plays the opening gestures at the original speed underneath
this statement. The lower parts play leaping thirds.
Both join on scale runs from the original countersubject in the
breaks between the augmented subject’s elements. When the
augmented subject reaches the third element (the run), it is
doubled in octaves, suddenly quiet, and accompanied by syncopated
after-beat thirds and chords in the left hand. Again, some
of these chords have three notes against the subject’s octaves,
creating a five-voice layout.
2:31 [m. 59]--The pattern
of the augmented subject just heard continues after it is
completed. The right-hand octaves continue to “meander,” and
the left hand continues to accompany with syncopated chords.
The harmony shifts to D-flat major. The volume remains soft.
2:39 [m. 62]--The patterns
of the hands are reversed. The left hand plays the
meandering octaves and the right hand the syncopated chords.
The pattern of 2:31 [m. 59], coupled with the last bar of the
preceding augmented subject [m. 58], is essentially repeated with
this reversal and with different harmonies. This time it
begins in B-flat minor and moves, correspondingly, to G-flat
2:49 [m. 66]--The
left-hand octaves and right-hand chords are extended a half-bar,
reaching an incomplete cadence. Then begins a long series of
alternations between the right and left hands on the opening
figures of the original subject. The right hand plays single
notes, and the left is doubled in thirds. They begin these
alternations in G-flat major and hover in that key, then in
D-flat. The right hand stays anchored to a single position
on its figures.
3:06 [m. 72]--Suddenly,
both hands come closer together and the left hand thirds are
reduced to two-note figures. The right hand finally begins
to move, working its way upward chromatically. After what
has been an exceptionally long stretch of quiet dynamic levels,
this dramatic passage steadily builds with great
expectation. At the end, the key of G-flat again seems to be
3:13 [m. 75]--Suddenly,
with a slight shift of harmony, the home key of B-flat arrives,
and will remain largely in force until the end of the fugue.
The preceding buildup emerges into the first fully harmonized
statement of the fugue subject, where all four voices support the
subject notes (in the soprano) in straight block harmonies with no
internal motion connecting the three elements, something that has
not been seen since the very beginning of the fugue. The
harmonies again suggest a major-minor mixture.
3:19 [m. 77]--Another
fully harmonized statement of the fugue subject, with even more
chromatic notes (specifically the unexpected B-natural) and
further buildup in volume and intensity.
3:25 [m. 79]--The
subject’s run is extended, as are the block harmonies in a highly
dramatic buildup with several chromatic notes. A low bass F
begins to persist underneath. The four-voice texture is
3:32 [m. 82]--The coda
begins. It is heralded by the climactic chord. This is
followed by bell-like octaves that skip up and down by an octave.
Underneath these bell-like octaves, both hands play runs and
figures derived from the subject. The right-hand figures are
deftly interposed with the ringing octaves, also played by that
hand. The octaves are on the “dominant” note of F. The
runs in the left hand begin to be doubled in thirds. At that
point, counting the octaves as two voices, there are five.
Chromatic notes are again heard.
3:46 [m. 87]--The music
continues still to intensify. The bell-like octaves move to
the left hand, and the bottom ones are in the lowest
register. The runs and figures are reversed between the
hands, with the shorter ones in the left hand and the longer runs,
later doubled in thirds, in the right. As in the previous
passage, chromatic notes are heard after three bars.
3:57 [m. 91]--The right
hand begins to play cascading scales in octaves as the left hand
obsessively plays the opening gesture of the fugue subject,
supported by octaves and other double notes above the
still-persistent low bass “dominant” note, F. Finally, both
hands emerge in double thirds, playing scale runs in opposite
directions. The climax of the intensification is finally
reached with three sharp, detached chords.
4:11 [m. 96]--The left
hand now plays the opening fugue subject gesture in strong bass
octaves. The gestures are isolated and work gradually upward
before plunging back down and working up again. There are three
“waves” of these bass figures. Against them, the right hand
plays high, full, ringing chords. These chords descend in
groups of seven, four, four, and ten, rising again between groups.
4:28 [m. 102]--Halfway
into m. 102, the hands are reversed. The right hand takes
over the subject gestures, the left the rich chords. The
right hand stays anchored while the left-hand chords continue to
plunge down, but they remain in the keyboard’s middle range.
4:32 [m. 104]--Suddenly,
the right-hand gestures are harmonized in fourths and
sixths. The left-hand chords leap joyously. The right
hand emerges into a final “meandering run” in fourths and sixths,
supported by fully harmonized short two-note figures in the left
hand, arching up and down to a cadence. An isolated short
chord follows, then the final sustained, partially rolled B-flat
chord, which resonates with nine notes.
5:06--END OF FUGUE [109 mm.]
END OF WORK (26:22 total)
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