Recording: Melos Quartet (Wilhelm Melcher, 1st Violin; Gerhard Voss, 2nd violin; Hermann Voss, viola; Peter Buck, cello) [DG 423 670-2]
Published 1873.  Dedicated to “his friend” Dr. Theodor Billroth in Vienna.

For general information about the background and composition of the two Op. 51 string quartets, see the guide for Op. 51, No. 1

The A-minor quartet largely follows the same lines as its C-minor companion, but its proportions vary somewhat.  The slow movement is larger, but the minuet/scherzo substitute is shorter.  Overall, the mood, while still intense and passionate, is more lyrical.  The piece is also notable for its “homotonality,” meaning that all four movements share the same key center of A minor or major.  It follows the Piano Trio in B major, op. 8, the First Piano Concerto in D minor, Op. 15, and the Horn Trio in E-flat major, Op. 40.  Two later multi-movement instrumental works, the Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 101, and the Clarinet/Viola Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 120, No. 2, would share this aspect.  The first movement, although certainly not a relaxed or leisurely piece, is far more melodic than its driving, relentless counterpart in the C-minor work.  This is evident in both the expressive main theme and the sumptuous second theme.  There is also much excitement, as in the acceleration toward the end in the coda.  The second movement has great beauty, and is fully worked out, a marked contrast to the concise “Romanze” in Op. 51, No. 1.  The economy with which Brahms constructed the main theme is cause for amazement, and the movement was particularly admired by Arnold Schoenberg, who analyzed it extensively in his famous essay “Brahms the Progressive.”  The third movement is headed “Quasi Minuetto,” a title previously used in the A-major orchestral serenade.  It is really another “scherzo substitute.”  The central trio section provides an especially strong contrast in mode (major), meter (duple), and tempo (fast).  Unusually, the Minuet music briefly returns to round off each of the trio section’s two parts.  The finale, a true sonata-rondo hybrid, derives its energy from metrical conflicts between the main melody and its accompaniment.  The Hungarian czárdás is the generic model, providing the “gypsy” flavor seen in other finale movements such as that of the Op. 25 Piano Quartet in G minor.  The movement ends with a culminating two-part coda.

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)

1st Movement: 
Allegro non troppo (Sonata-Allegro form). A MINOR, Cut time [2/2] with four 3/2 measures.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1.  The first violin takes the lead with an expressive, broadly arching line.  The viola begins a pattern of arpeggios in leisurely triplet rhythm.  These always begin with an upward reach, then leap down again and back up.  The second violin and cello play measure-long notes.  After its initial arch, the first violin melody takes up an anxious gesture that rises once in sequence.  The second violin joins it in harmony and counterpoint.  After another arching line that includes a syncopated note held across the bar line, the melody becomes anxious again.  A pattern reaching up and falling down is played twice, the second time decorated with a “turn” figure.  The second statement builds rapidly in volume.
0:21 [m. 13]--The two violins reach high and play a descending line in octaves.  The viola takes over for the second violin halfway through.  This descent begins forcefully, but rapidly diminishes.  The cello enters and all four instruments, in harmony and strong syncopation, settle toward a cadence.  At first the arrival is interrupted by a rest, but then, in longer notes, it is fully completed.
0:36 [m. 20]--Transition.  Immediately after the cadence, all instruments except first violin play another agitated, but dolce gesture.  It begins with two syncopated chords, which are followed by faster notes that seem to whisper and sigh.  A second statement overlaps with it, the first violin entering to take the lead.  The harmony and direction are changed slightly.  A second overlapping alternation begins a fifth lower, again with the first violin following the others.  The motion away from A minor begins with a brief turn to E minor.  Now the overlapping entries (primarily between first and second violin; the others accompany both) follow at a closer distance, becoming intense and building rapidly.
0:52 [m. 30]--A climax is reached as the cello begins a long held “pedal point” on its low C.  The first violin plays wailing downward arpeggios as the middle two instruments continue the agitated motion.  The key appears to have shifted to F minor, with the low C as a “dominant” pedal point.  Two wailing arpeggios, the second a step lower, are heard.  The first violin then departs from the pattern as the cello moves away from its low C and itself plays arpeggios in the opposite direction from the first violin.  There are three such motions, all with the middle instruments continuing to violently churn.
1:04 [m. 38]--In the previous passage, the key had touched on the related keys of F minor and A-flat major.  Now, the true destination is revealed.  The motion is suddenly arrested in a descent that is not quite finished.  But the key has now clearly moved to C minor.  The inner two instruments play syncopated pulsations while the first violin again reaches up and down against the plunging cello.  Suddenly hushed, the last first violin leap down is repeated, but now with harmonies that suggest a change to major.  This is then confirmed in the harmonies that briefly accompany a long, winding solo first violin line.  It is quickly left exposed, slowing slightly before sweetly leading into Theme 2 with a slow triplet rhythm.
1:20 [m. 46]--Theme 2 (C major).  In the “relative” major key, the ingratiating second theme begins, played largely in a distinctive parallel harmony between the two violins.  Brahms includes a very detailed Italian expression marking: molto piano e sempre mezza voce, grazioso ed animato.  This indicates that the theme is graceful, but still full of energy.  The violins begin in thirds.  The melody swings with an almost constant long-short (dotted) rhythm, and many of the longer notes are colorful chromatic “lower neighbor” notes.  The viola again plays in broad triplets, mainly leaping down and back up, and the cello adds a plucked straight-rhythm bass line that leaps widely, largely in octaves.
1:33 [m. 54]--The violins have reached a high point, and their harmony has widened from thirds to sixths.  The center has also shifted to the “dominant” of C major, G.  Although there was some syncopation in the first phrase in the form of notes held across bar lines, it becomes more pronounced here, including within measures.  This begins in the second violin, joined later by the first.  Even the triplets in the viola add some syncopation.  The viola line is now focused on an initial downward leap, which is then isolated in a broader long-short swing.  The plucked cello line settles on the note D, first in octave leaps, then isolated notes.  At the end of the phrase, the first violin finally separates from the second, adopts the gently swinging triplet rhythm, and moves, over chromatic cello notes, toward a cadence on G.
1:45 [m. 62]--The viola inserts a rising line onto the upbeat, interrupting the arrival and moving back strongly to C.  The theme is played again, but now an octave lower, with parallel harmonies in second violin and viola.  The viola actually plays the higher notes in the parallel line, above the second violin.  The cello is still plucked, but is less continuous, not playing on several beats, including some downbeats.  Most interestingly, the first violin, marked lusingando, plays a very graceful new counterpoint in decorative downward arching arpeggios.  At the end of the phrase, the melody is altered with strategic upward shifts and leaps that allow it to remain in C rather than moving to G.
1:58 [m. 70]--This phrase is parallel to 1:33 [m. 54], but is now set at home instead of on the “dominant.”  The second violin, as before, begins the strong syncopation first, but at the point where the viola joins it, the parts are exchanged and the second violin moves back above the viola, taking the top line.  The decorative arpeggios continue in the first violin, and they also start to incorporate the syncopation.  In a change from the previous parallel phrase, the triplet rhythm does not take over the melody where expected, and instead the syncopation prevails for four more measures, first in the viola, then in the violins (the first violin finally ending its arpeggios).  In these last two measures, the broad triplets sneak into the viola.
2:11 [m. 78]--Now the triplets that led to the previous G-major cadence are heard, if delayed.  It is now the second violin that leads with the melodic continuation in these triplets.  The first violin again begins its decorative downward-arching arpeggios.  The cadence (in C) is reached as before in this new distribution. 
2:18 [m. 82]--The cadence is immediately extended.  The first violin takes over for the second and repeats the measure approaching the cadence an octave higher.  The volume strongly builds here.  Suddenly, and with increasing agitation, the second violin and viola play arpeggios as the cello finally takes the bow for the bass line.  These arpeggios are passed to the first violin, which has just completed its cadence, and it turns them strongly to minor before leaping downward.  The viola and cell then take the now strongly agitated minor arpeggios.
2:24 [m. 86]--The first violin leads in a very forceful statement of the main thematic material in C minor.  The second violin and viola provide strong harmonies.  The arpeggios continue, largely led by the cello, although the viola leaves its harmonization of the melody to take over when the arpeggios reach higher.  The four-measure statement is closed by strong punctuating chords.  The cello then takes over the theme, and the first violin plays two octave leaps in the long-short rhythm of the theme.  The second violin and viola play arpeggios, then pass them to first violin as they harmonize the cello.  Again, the forceful chords round off this statement, but the first violin is an octave higher and the chords strikingly turn back to major.
2:37 [m. 94]--The familiar broad triplet rhythm from the cadences returns and eases the tension.  The first violin twice passes the triplets to the viola, which trails downward.  The other two instruments provide bass and harmonic support.  Then the triplets are passed from first violin to viola two more times, but these statements each compress two regular measures into one 3/2 measure.  The insertion of these two 3/2 measures (mm. 98-99) coincides with the onset of a ritardando as the music settles down. 
2:50 [m. 100]--Following the 3/2 bars, the regular meter returns.  The first violin takes back over the triplets and makes a huge leap down, leading to a full cadence.  This cadence overlaps with a restatement by the second violin an octave lower.  The first violin soars above it with an octave leap, and the bass line in the cello has chromatic half-step motion.  The second violin’s downward leap is much smaller, reaching the same note the first violin did.  Its cadence is full, arriving on the downbeat and making a cutoff.
3:00 [m. 104]--Closing material.  The strong cadence introduces the closing theme, which is a forceful surge in full harmony, with the violins rising, the viola and cello falling.  The intensity quickly subsides after the surge, and the violins continue upward in a more gentle manner, sighing toward a half-close.  The forceful surge is then repeated.  The quiet continuation reaches higher, but again reaches a half-close, this one slightly more expectant.
3:23 [m. 116]--More chromatic harmony and half-step motion takes hold as the violins hold a long harmonic third and the lower instruments, in contrary motion, quietly echo the last gentle reach.  More sustained and colorful harmonies beautifully lead to a satisfying cadence on C major.  Trailing after it, the second violin, viola, and cello, in that order, play overlapping reminiscences of the long-absent Theme 1.  The second violin holds notes across bar lines, and the trailing harmonies naturally move toward the home key of A minor.  In the first ending (m. 127a), this is further diverted to D minor, which is actually the first harmony heard under the theme.  The arrival there marks the beginning of the exposition repeat.
3:47 [m. 128a (m. 1)]--Theme 1.  The first measure is notated as part of the first ending because, due to the preceding voice leading, the first two notes in the viola are different.  Initial arching lines and their anxious sequels, as at the beginning.
4:08 [m. 13]--Large descent and extended cadence, as at 0:21.
4:22 [m. 20]--Transition.  Agitated, syncopated gestures with overlapping entries and buildup, as at 0:36.
4:40 [m. 30]--Climax with cello pedal point and wailing arpeggios, as at 0:52.
4:52 [m. 38]--Arrival at C minor and major, sudden quiet, and long solo first violin line, as at 1:04.
5:09 [m. 46]--Theme 2 in C major.  First phrase with violins playing in thirds, as at 1:20.
5:22 [m. 54]--Strong syncopation and triplet rhythms leading to cadence in G major, as at 1:33.
5:34 [m. 62]--Viola upbeat, then statement of theme with viola leading, as at 1:45.
5:48 [m. 70]--Parallel passage to 5:22 [m. 54] with extended syncopation, as at 1:58.
6:01 [m. 78]--Motion to cadence in C major led by second violin, as at 2:11.
6:08 [m. 82]--Extension of cadence by first violin, buildup, and turn to C minor, as at 2:18.
6:14 [m. 86]--Forceful statements of theme in minor from first violin and cello, as at 2:24.
6:27 [m. 94]--Return of triplet rhythms in major key and insertion of 3/2 measures, as at 2:37.
6:40 [m. 100]--Full cadences with large downward leaps in first and second violin, as at 2:50.
6:50 [m. 104]--Closing material.  Forceful surges, then quiet continuations, as at 3:00.
7:13 [m. 116]--Chromatic motion to extended cadence and reminiscences of Theme 1, as at 3:23.  The motion back to A minor leads into the second ending, which, in only two measures, deftly avoids the D minor arrival and shifts the harmony, quite mysteriously, to the remote C-sharp minor, a half-step lower.
7:41 [m. 129]--The first violin states the opening arch of Theme 1, and is imitated by the cello a bar later.  The viola then enters with the same opening arch, but in halved note values.  The key seems centered on C-sharp minor, but G-sharp minor is heavily implied as well.  Following these hushed and timid thematic entries, the music suddenly becomes extremely agitated, almost violent.  The cello, playing short ascending figures, is followed directly by the other three instruments in harmony.  They reverse the direction of the cello and forcefully thrust downward.  The motif is derived from the “anxious gesture” that originally followed the opening arch.  There are five of these alternations, in which C-sharp minor is confirmed.
7:54 [m. 137]--The leading cello suddenly becomes quiet, and the responses of the other instruments broaden to a more leisurely and smooth triplet rhythm.  After four of these, which steadily move downward, the direction of the upper instruments changes, matching that of the cello for four more statements.  These remain centered around the same range.  A strong arrival on C-sharp minor is continuously implied, but avoided.  Finally, the upper instruments depart from this pattern and reach upward longingly, changing from triplet to straight rhythm.  The cello remains in triplets and now trails them.  They reach a strong half-close.
8:09 [m. 147]--In an impressive and dramatic combination, the forceful upward gesture from the closing material is combined with the “anxious gesture” from Theme 1.  The second violin leads the former, followed by the viola.  The first violin and cello take the latter.  Then all instruments join in a dramatic presentation of the previously quiet continuation of the closing material, with its sighing upward motion.  The key shifts up a half-step from C-sharp minor to D minor, where the entire sequence is presented a second time.  The very end of this second statement is subtly shifted to lead into the following unstable passage.
8:22 [m. 155]--The continuation of the closing material, now fully transformed into an active, aggressive force, propels an extremely rapid and unstable sequence of harmonies.  It appears to begin in G minor, but rapidly presses upward, largely by half-step, as the volume builds even more.  The first violin takes the lead, with the others providing support.  The climax comes as all four instruments come together and oscillate on half- and whole-step motion.  Both the home key of A minor and the minor version of its related “dominant,” E minor, are suggested here. 
8:31 [m. 161]--All four instruments present a grand unison statement spread over three octaves.  It begins with the gesture from the closing material, then isolates a three-note upward ascent that is repeated in a descending sequence.  At first, the top note of each ascent is repeated, which keeps the meter undisturbed, but then the repetition is dispensed with, momentarily disrupting the sense of meter and greatly increasing the agitation.  The statement vacillates between A and E minor, and is cut off at a point suggesting the latter.
8:37 [m. 165]--In another impressive climax, the first five measures of Theme 1 are stated by the cello in E minor.  Against it, the forceful upward gesture from the closing material returns in the upper three instruments.  As the cello continues, they dissolve into supporting harmonies.  At the end of the five measures, the cello subtly inflects its statement toward the major (and a clearer “dominant” preparation for A minor).  The cello then isolates this last figure, lengthening the upbeat notes so that they take up a full measure.  This happens twice, the second time again fully in minor.  The harmonies and lines in the upper instruments actually move toward a strong half-close in E minor.  Then the longer upbeat notes are given one more time as the upper instruments drop out.  The first violin echoes these notes two octaves higher.
8:58 [m. 177]--Re-transition.  E minor remains in force, and is again subtly transformed to E major as a “dominant” preparation for the decisive return of A minor for the recapitulation.  The first violin takes over and presents the opening arch of Theme 1 at a higher level (on B, though the harmony does not move there).  The second violin, then the cello, introduce the broad triplet motion typical of the theme’s accompaniment and formerly associated with the viola.  They pass it back and forth.  The viola itself inverts the motion of the opening arch.  The first violin plays the opening arch twice more on E, the second time beginning off the beat.  The cello adds two plucked A’s an octave apart as it breaks from the triplets.
9:08 [m. 183]--Theme 1.  Its entry sneaks in and avoids drawing attention to itself.  At first, it seems like a continuation from the preceding statements of the opening arch.  Like the last one, it begins off the beat, one of several alterations from its first presentation.  The rhythmic displacement continues into the second measure, which smooths out the first anxious gesture.  Also notable are the significant and colorful changes to the harmony.  The triplet rhythm, now with more undulation than arpeggios, is passed between the second violin and cello, the viola playing wide leaps typical of the theme.  The theme gradually achieves its original identity, initially in the violins.
9:22 [m. 191]--From this point, the theme has achieved its original identity in all four instruments, matching the exposition from the ninth measure on, where the pattern reaching up and falling down is given twice, the second time with an added turn figure and a rapid buildup of volume and intensity.
9:29 [m. 195]--Large descent and extended cadence, as at 0:21 and 4:08 [m. 13].
9:43 [m. 202]--Transition.  It is greatly abridged from the exposition.  The agitated, syncopated gestures from 0:36 and 4:22 [m. 20] begin, now in the two violins.  They are followed by the viola and cello, but with a much closer overlap than before, after only two measures.  The alternation between these pairs of instruments on these patterns continues, rapidly deviating from the harmonies of the exposition.  After six measures and three exchanges, the patterns are shortened, focusing on the faster notes.  As in the exposition, the volume rapidly builds with these shortened patterns.
9:56 [m. 210]--The short patterns unexpectedly merge directly into the long solo first violin line preceding Theme 2.  The climactic passage with pedal points and wailing arpeggios is completely omitted, along with the suddenly quiet echoes.  The solo first violin line is strongly played in A major instead of C major.  Its opening is displaced by half a measure, and it is extended by a half-measure to compensate.  The contour is also subtly altered leading into the rising triplets that introduce Theme 2. 
10:05 [m. 214]--Theme 2 in the home major key (A major, with key signature change here), analogous to 1:20 and 5:09 [m. 46].  Other than the new key, the first phrase closely matches the earlier C-major presentation, except for a couple of necessary and insignificant octave shifts in the plucked cello notes.
10:18 [m. 222]--Strong syncopation and triplet rhythms leading to cadence, analogous to 1:33 and 5:22 [m. 54].  The cadence is now in E major.  The patterns of the exposition continue to be closely followed.
10:30 [m. 230]--Viola upbeat, then statement of theme with viola leading, analogous to 1:45 and 5:34 [m. 62].  The setting in A major is lower than in the exposition, but the viola remains above the second violin, which now reaches quite low in its range.  The first violin counterpoint is again marked lusingando.
10:44 [m. 238]--Parallel passage to 10:18 [m. 222], analogous to 1:58 and 5:48 [m. 70].  In the exposition, the first violin reaches to its lowest note in the first two measures.  This makes it necessary to replace these leaps down an octave with syncopated notes in the lower setting.
10:57 [m. 246]--Motion to cadence in A major led by second violin, analogous to 2:11 and 6:01 [m. 78].
11:04 [m. 250]--Extension of cadence by first violin, buildup, and turn to A minor, analogous to 2:18 and 6:08 [m. 82].
11:09 [m. 254]--Forceful statements of theme in minor from first violin and cello, analogous to 2:24 and 6:14 [m. 86].  The first violin statement is moved up an octave, which is an effective change given the lower overall setting here.  The other parts also make some range adjustments, including a brief exchange of previous parts between second violin and viola.  The cello statement is at the expected level.
11:22 [m. 262]--Return of triplet rhythms in major key and insertion of 3/2 measures, analogous to 2:37 and 6:27 [m. 94].
11:35 [m. 268]--Full cadences with downward leaps, analogous to 2:50 and 6:40 [m. 100].  The leap in the first violin is much smaller here because an analogous leap would take it below its range.  That instrument also makes other range adjustments.  The passage with the leap in the second violin is here transferred to the viola.
11:45 [m. 272]--Closing material.  Only the first forceful surge and quiet continuation are retained.  Range adjustments are made in viola and cello.  After the first statement, the key signature of A major is changed back to A minor, and the material deviates, marking the beginning of the coda.
11:57 [m. 278]--The second violin and viola begin the surge from the closing theme, but now the first violin follows with its inversion, descending from two octaves above.  The cello trails, moving up but changing the harmony.  A second surge (or third, counting the original one) makes a striking motion suggesting B-flat major or D minor.  Here, the second violin and viola leap up with the first violin, then move down with it.  Only the cello has the upward motion. 
12:04 [m. 283]--The distinctive “continuation” from the closing theme, which formed the climax of the development, is heard in unison in the viola and cello.  The violins follow in thirds, apparently moving from D minor back to A minor.  When the lower instruments enter a second time, now lower and in harmony, things quickly settle down.  All four instruments join in a quiet pizzicato.  Two chords appear to lead toward a cadence, but this is interrupted.
12:15 [m. 289]--After a pause interrupting the cadence, the agitated and syncopated figure from the transition appears in second violin and viola, joined by cello.  It is lengthened slightly.  But the first violin interrupts this with a high statement of the opening arch from the main theme.  This dissolves into a descending line in triplet rhythm while the second violin soars above with the Theme 1 material.  The transition gesture is then heard again, and is again interrupted by the first violin, but it now reaches dramatically higher for the first theme material.  Now the first violin launches into a passionate, agitated melodic line that plunges down and soars back up with much syncopation, steadily building.
12:45 [m. 305]--With the marking “più animato sempre,” the excitement rapidly builds.    The first violin continues with its feverish line, interrupted by dramatic rests.  The second violin and viola play syncopated harmonies with gestures beginning off the beat.  The cello provides a wide ranging bass line in longer notes.  Beginning from a note tied over the previous bar line, the first violin line here is presented in two “waves,” the second an octave higher than the first.  The second “wave” is extended and reaches up yet another octave.
13:01 [m. 315]--The first violin now erupts into the heavily syncopated figures, which form an even more passionate melody.  The second violin and viola, in unison, take the material previously played by the first violin and add heavy syncopation with notes held over bar lines.  The cello, meanwhile, forcefully begins a series of rising arpeggios in triplet rhythm.  These provide the music with even more forward propulsion. 
13:10 [m. 321]--The rising triplet arpeggios introduced by the cello now take over, being passed between the cello and first violin.  Meanwhile, the opening arch is passed from viola to second violin to first violin.  When the first violin takes it, the triplets migrate to the viola and second violin.  The arching line finally moves to the cello as the first violin plunges down, and the other two instruments continue with the triplet motion, now adding descending arpeggios.
13:21 [m. 329]--The intensity of the faster tempo notwithstanding, the first violin now settles into its final cadence in two “waves.”  The second violin and viola continue with the triplet rhythm, which now oscillates in an almost angry  murmur.  All four instruments reach a strong cadence, with the cello leaping up from the “dominant” note.  The cadence is then emphatically punctuated with two final “dominant-tonic” chords.
13:36--END OF MOVEMENT [335 mm.]

2nd Movement:
Andante moderato (Modified Ternary Form--AB(c)A’(c’).  A MAJOR, 4/4 time.
A Section
0:00 [m. 1]--Verse 1.  The main section is proportionally large for a ternary movement, and falls into two “verses.”  The main melody is a beautiful, expressive singing line, but it is constructed economically.  Its initial presentation is in the first violin, accompanied by a steady and wide-ranging, but suavely sumptuous and chromatic bass line from viola and cello in octaves.  The melody is almost entirely built upon a two-note one-step descent.  The descending step is usually placed off the beat or on a weak beat.  The end of the phrase becomes quieter and moves toward the “dominant,” E major.  A triplet rhythm is introduced, the second violin makes its first entry, the melody reaches high, and the viola separates from the cello.
0:35 [m. 9]--The upper three instruments introduce a three-note harmonized figure beginning off the beat.  The cello remains on the downbeat.  A pair of these figures begins a melodic line that briefly descends to F-sharp minor.   A second pair of off-beat figures, with a high reach between them in the first violin, builds in volume and turns back to E.  Here, the opening gesture of the main theme returns in the first violin.
0:51 [m. 13]--A series of arching arpeggios begins in the viola and second violin.  These overlap and dovetail between the two instruments.  Meanwhile, the cello twice plays the opening gesture of the main theme, and is twice answered by a sighing variation of that gesture in the first violin.  The second time, the instruments move inward, the cello up an octave, the first violin down one.  Each of the two cycles begins on E, and each time the harmony moves toward D minor.  The phrase begins strongly, but by the second cycle is much quieter.  In a one-bar extension, the first violin slides up by half-step, punctuated by a chord in the lower instruments, leading back to A major and the second verse of the A section.
1:11 [m. 18]--Verse 2.  The melody of the first four measures closely follows that of Verse 1, but is moved up an octave.  A new accompaniment, based on the off-beat figures from 0:35 [m. 9], is added.  All parts are marked dolce.  From the fifth measure, where the music had moved toward E major before, the melody deviates, but remains reasonably analogous.  The off-beat accompaniment ends and is replaced by more steady rocking motion.  The triplet rhythm is expanded and intensified, creating more of a yearning character.  Most significantly, the music remains rooted in A major here, including the cadence, which is similar in construction.  Now it leads directly into a new extension.
1:44 [m. 26]--The extension begins rather mysteriously, with chromatic notes and hushed descents.  The viola part is heavily syncopated.  After two bars, the first violin emerges with a soaring, bright upward scale on B major.  This then resolves into cadence patterns that quickly move through E major and back to A as they descend to another, even more convincing cadence.  The second violin has joined the viola in the syncopated accompaniment, and the cello follows the melodic cadence with an off-beat arpeggio.
2:04 [m. 31]--The three-note off-beat figure originally heard at 0:35 [m. 9], is now used for a new postlude to both the second verse and the entire A section.  At first, the three upper instruments play it in harmony, leading into figures that resolve unstable downbeat harmonies on the second beat.  These alternate with arpeggios in the cello.  At first gentle, the postlude builds up over four measures until the first violin erupts into a passionate line that descends, reaches up again, and finally settles down to a full cadence.  The lower instruments at first have syncopated harmonies, then gradually join the motion of the first violin.  The cello hangs onto its arpeggios and starts playing them continuously before before it breaks and finally joins the cadence.
2:32 [m. 38]--Transition.  Coinciding with the cadence, the main melody is used for a very subdued transition into the middle section.  It is first heard in the second violin, and then passed to the first violin.  The viola and cello provide the familiar accompaniment patterns, also passing them back and forth.  The ubiquitous two-note descents become isolated against the melodic fragments.  Chromatic notes such as B-flat and F-natural create a twinge of modal flavor.  After two alternations of the main melodic gesture and one last A-major cadence, the viola and cello suddenly and powerfully move to the “relative” F-sharp minor, where the turbulent B section is set.
B Section--F-sharp minor
2:53 [m. 43]--After the powerful viola/cello arrival on F-sharp, the viola begins a passionate tremolo, largely on double-stop harmonies.  When the violins enter, the second violin joins the viola on the tremolo, but the first violin begins a feverish dialogue in canon with the cello, which follows its motion precisely.  The cello is two octaves plus a fifth below the first violin.  In order for the canon to be strict, Brahms skillfully uses the “subdominant” B minor and the “dominant” C-sharp major harmonies, almost mixing them.  The canon itself uses forceful upward and downward leaps, jagged short-long rhythms, and finally triplet motion, all against the continuing tremolo.  The canon settles down to an arrival on the “dominant.”
3:11 [m. 48]--A gentle dolce interlude in C-sharp major stands in stark contrast to the forceful canon.  The first violin hesitantly leads it with syncopated notes.  The viola and cello provide accompanying counterpoint with some chromatic motion.  After the first gesture, the second violin enters and takes over the leading role, and the first joins the counterpoint, inverting  the viola’s first chromatic line.  Still in C-sharp, the harmony is inflected to minor and reaches a cadence.
3:30 [m. 52]--After the cadence, the viola and cello make a forceful descent back to F-sharp.  This happens on the upbeat to the second half of the measure (m. 52).  There, the first violin and cello once again begin a passionate canon, this one even stormier and more intense than the first one.  The second violin and viola begin their accompaniment by reiterating the forceful upbeat descent, but after a measure, they revert to the familiar tremolo from the first canon.  Because the canon now begins on the second half of a measure, at first it appears that only a slight adjustment with an extra leap will reorient the meter, but in fact this is only part of a larger expansion including new very wide leaps and more dotted rhythms.  The triplet portion with the diminishing volume has the same pattern, but now points to an arrival at home on F-sharp.
3:59 [m. 60]--There now follows an extremely tender passage which, while technically still part of the B section, also merits its own subsection (c) because it returns almost in full as the coda to the movement.  It bears some similarity to the interlude from 3:11 [m. 48], but is far more developed.  It begins in F-sharp major, but both the first violin melody and the lines of counterpoint from the other instruments are highly chromatic.  The cello punctuates with rocking figures.  The triplet rhythm is heavily used, first in the accompaniment, then in the melody, which uses a descending triplet motion after its initial gesture.  This already inflects back to minor, but the tender major-key opening gesture is heard twice more.
4:17 [m. 64]--Now the harmony becomes adventurous, with a large-scale—but still highly chromatic—diversion to G major, a half-step above the home key (the so-called “Neapolitan” harmony).  One statement of the opening gesture is followed by two measures of the descending triplets, and the rocking figure now appears in both the cello and the viola, being passed between them.  The second violin counterpoint is very syncopated.  After a soaring leap and descent, there is an abrupt motion back to F-sharp minor above plucked chords.  This is reiterated in the viola, but instead of a full cadence, there is a “deceptive” motion to D-major harmony, confirmed by a solid cello bass.
4:44 [m. 70]--Re-transition.  The main melody from the A section, now in D major, is heard in the viola, echoed by an inversion in the second violin.  The first violin provides the familiar steady accompaniment, then takes over the next statement of the melodic opening, passing the accompaniment to the second violin.  This overlaps with another viola entry and an inversion in the cello.  At this point, there appears to be the expected move back to the home key of A major for the reprise.  The first violin leaps up an octave, then slowly descends as the cello moves to A.  The chromatic note B-flat has been a constant presence, and at the last moment, it is used for a surprising diversion to F major, where the A’ section remarkably begins.
A’ Section--F major and A major
5:15 [m. 77]--Verse 1.  Both verses are presented in their entirety, but Brahms takes an unusual approach to the expected variation by setting most of the first verse in the “wrong” key, F major.  The first phrase largely follows the pattern from the beginning, but the steady accompaniment, originally in the viola and cello, is now played by the viola and the second violin (which had been silent in the opening measures).  The cello holds a solid F, as if to reiterate that yes, we are in fact in that key.  After three measures, the cello does move up to the “dominant” note C.  The instruments return to their original orientation in the last three measures with the motion to the “dominant,” now C major.
5:49 [m. 85]--The three-note harmonized off-beat figures follow as at 0:35 [m. 9], and as expected, the first pair turns to the related minor, here D minor.  The second pair, however, begins in a higher octave and is very subtly altered, especially the first violin descent after its high reach.  The subtle change causes the return of the opening gesture to move not toward C, as would be expected based on the previous pattern, but toward A.  This is the first sign of the home key’s delayed return.
6:04 [m. 89]--The pattern from 0:51 [m. 13] is followed for two measures, with the first violin answering the cello, but the first violin response is not placed analogously; rather it is at the same pitch level as it was in the earlier statement, bringing things even closer to their original orientation and further emphasizing the home key harmony on A. The second statement and answer are given to the viola and the cello, the latter switching roles.  The accompanying arpeggios, already somewhat altered, are played by the two violins in this last exchange.  The one-bar extension is replaced by two bars that solidify the final transition home to A major.  The cello has a wide arch.  The other instruments play rising harmonies, then two off-beat chords.
6:28 [m. 95]--Verse 2.  Although A major has finally been achieved, there is still variation, at least for the first five measures.  The melody from 1:11 [m. 18] is transferred without alteration to the cello, an octave lower than the previous first violin presentation.  Naturally, the first violin joins in the off-beat harmonies.  From the sixth measure of the phrase, the first violin takes over the melody and finally, the music corresponds exactly with its counterpart in the first A section.
7:00 [m. 103]--Extension beginning mysteriously, then emerging into bright B-major scale and descent toward a strong cadence, as at 1:44 [m. 26].
7:21 [m. 108]--The exact correspondence does not last long and ends here.  The postlude from 2:04 [m. 31] is changed.  Already in the cello, the arpeggios are replaced by a syncopated pedal point on A, twice moving up an octave.  The three-note off-beat gestures are reversed in direction and reach higher.  There are three of these gestures, and the third slows down the resolution.  A fourth, much lower and without the first violin, doubles the note values and leads directly into the coda, a variant of subsection c from the B section.  The previous descending line and strong cadence are dispensed with in favor of this arrival.
Coda (c’)
7:42 [m. 112]--The tender passage from the end of the B section is used to create the movement’s coda.  The first four measures are almost exactly analogous to 3:59 [m. 60], now in the home key of A instead of F-sharp major.  The triplets occur where expected.  The major difference is in the last measure, where the first violin leaps up an octave, which splits a previously held note and adds another layer of syncopation.  The cello also moves up an octave, and the second violin part is significantly altered with more emphasis on the triplet rhythm.
8:00 [m. 116]--The “Neapolitan” diversion is dispensed with simply by omitting the statement of the opening gesture where the shift was made and moving to the descending triplets a measure early.  These, then, remain in the home key, and the first violin plays them analogously, albeit in a higher octave.  The accompaniment, however, is significantly changed.  All three lower instruments reiterate a cadence motion from the “dominant” note E to the keynote A.  This is passed from second violin to viola to cello, with the first two plucked.  The pattern is then repeated on the notes D-A under the second measure of triplets.
8:10 [m. 118]--After the two measures of first violin triplets, the pattern from the previous c passage is abandoned.  The first violin descends by half-step in long notes, and its descending triplet arpeggios are passed down to the other instruments, dovetailing between them.  At first only the second violin and viola play them as the cello holds a long high A, but then they are passed down to the cello as well.  The gradually descending patterns are still quite chromatic.  After three measures, a cadence is reached
8:24 [m. 121]--At the cadence, the cello, viola, and second violin immediately begin a gentle echo of the main theme as the first violin reiterates the cadence.  The cello holds a low A under its upper thematic motion.  After two gestures recalling the opening of the theme, the violins leaping up an octave on the second one, the final three chords are heard.  The viola and cello follow the violins on the first two before all arrive on the last held chord.
8:57--END OF MOVEMENT [124 mm.]

3rd Movement: Quasi Minuetto, moderato; Allegretto vivace ; Tempo di Minuetto (Minuet and Trio).  A MINOR, 3/4 and 2/4 time.

MINUET (Quasi Minuetto, moderato, A minor, 3/4 time)
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1.  The cello plays a distinctive upbeat with a turn, then lands on a held “drone” fifth.  The other instruments enter, mezza voce, with the very melancholy minuet melody, a descending line in rich harmony.  Grouped in three-bar phrases, it is punctuated by upbeat triplets, echoed by the cello in double stops, joined in the second phrase by the viola.  In the third phrase, a heavily accented upbeat held over a bar line leads to two more strongly accented upbeats leaning into downbeats.  These mark the fourth phrase.  Finally, the unit is closed off by a lighter, almost skipping descent beginning in the first violin and echoed by the viola, coming to a close on the “dominant” minor, E.
0:26 [m. 1]--Part 1 repeated.  The cello upbeat emerges from the E-minor arrival.
0:51 [m. 16]--Part 2.  The first passage is a unit of three three-bar phrases that venture away from the home key.  The first two phrases resemble the first two from part 1.  The harmony moves steadily upward, beginning with the related major, C, then moving up through D minor to E-flat major, where it lingers for the beginning of the third phrase.  This isolates the triplet upbeat and steadily builds.  The harmony quickly moves back through D minor and back to the “dominant” harmony in the home key.
1:05 [m. 25]--Once again, the original cello upbeat seamlessly emerges.  What follows is a variant of Part 1 that rounds off the minuet.  The first two phrases of that unit are presented.  The outline of the theme is clearly recognizable, but it is highly embellished.  With shorter note values, the melody is decorated, and all instruments except the cello (which plays its original drone) are marked staccato for an especially light and delicate presentation.
1:15 [m. 31]--The remainder of the Part 1 material is further varied.  The heavily accented upbeats are still used, but the triplet rhythm is more heavily emphasized.  The harmonies are higher in the third phrase, but suddenly plunge lower than the original for the fourth.  The closing descent is also recognizable, but instead of becoming lighter, it slows down, using longer notes, and omits the viola echo.  The minuet section ends unresolved, with a long sustained “dominant” chord (although unlike Part 1, there is no actual motion to E minor or major).  The suspense is dispelled by the extreme contrast of the “trio” section.
TRIO (Allegretto vivace, A major, 2/4 time)
Part 1
1:34 [m. 40]--While not labeled explicitly as a “Trio” section, the function is clear.  The minuet rhythms are replaced by a rapid, light major-key diversion in duple meter.  It is characterized by a held first note followed by scurrying staccato figuration.  The second violin enters late, about halfway through the first phrase, at about the point where there is a strong motion toward the “dominant” key of E.  At the same time, wide leaps in a dotted (long-short) rhythm encroach upon the steady staccato motion, and there is a brief buildup.
1:44 [m. 48]--The high point marks the beginning of a second phrase, which starts with another held note an octave higher than the opening.  Here, Brahms wrenches the harmony up another level, to B major, which is primarily used to help confirm the first motion to E (as that key’s own “dominant”).  The volume quickly recedes again.  The cello briefly drops out and is reduced to short interjections.  Syncopation is also introduced.  The upper instruments largely move in nearly parallel harmonies.  After a descent, there is another rapid ascent and buildup.  This culminates in a plunging arpeggio passed from first violin to viola to cello, extending the phrase by a bar and quickly receding again.
1:55 [m. 57]--The first violin begins the next phrase with a new version of the figuration that works steadily and decisively upward.  The decisive character is enhanced by slower motion in the other instruments, which seems almost march-like.  Following the upward motion, the first violin reaches another cadence in E major, but this is quickly diverted by more of the marching variant.  The fast scurrying motion is now given to the viola, and the other instruments suddenly break the steady accompaniment to provide short and isolated chords.
2:05 [m. 65]--The final phrase of the first part has the opening gesture played twice, the second time an octave lower, in the first violin.  The viola overlaps with its scurrying motion from the previous phrase.  Then all the instruments become heavily syncopated in a forceful downward plunge as a cadence gesture is repeatedly stated.  After they reach the bottom, with the first violin briefly dropping out, they quickly shoot back upward with octave leaps on the cadence gesture before a sudden motion to the related C-sharp minor on the last upward leap.  There is a strong buildup during these leaps, but the volume quickly recedes again as the second violin and viola trail after the climax.
2:15 [m. 73]--Interruption/Transition.  Suddenly and unexpectedly, the minuet tempo and the 3/4 meter return.  In a six-bar interruption that acts as a transition to Part 2 of the “Trio,” the first violin, then the viola, play a winding, almost mournful line in the key of C-sharp minor.  The viola imitates the first violin in a strict canon.  This is reminiscent of, but not clearly related to the main minuet.  The second violin and cello provide harmonic accompaniment, also in canon, but with the cello adding a “pedal point” low E. The first violin and viola add a delicate decoration as the music slows to a suspended chord.
Part 2
2:29 [m. 79]--Back in 2/4, the first phrase begins as at 1:34 [m. 40], but after four measures, instead of moving toward the “dominant,” the upper three instruments suddenly pause on an unstable “diminished seventh” chord.  Under this held chord, the cello keeps the pulse moving with an ominous figure whose repeated first note completes the harmony of the chord.  After two measures of this unstable harmony, all four instruments resume the rapid motion, moving toward the realm of D minor, but this is also interrupted by another “diminished seventh” chord, this time with the viola providing the ominous pulsation.
2:41 [m. 89]--Having moved to G minor, the rapid motion takes on a “hammering” character for two bars, with the viola trailing after on the “ominous” figure.  Then there is a plunging arpeggio passed down through each instrument.  It is heard twice, first in G minor, then, reversing the harmonic direction, in D minor.
2:48 [m. 95]--Now the scurrying figuration begins again as the harmony slowly re-establishes the Trio’s home key of A major.  The two violins lead, harmonized in thirds.  The viola and cello follow, also harmonized in thirds, and moving in the opposite direction.  This breaks after two measures, and the first violin again takes the full lead on the opening gesture.  The other three instruments alternate between upward arpeggios and variants of the opening figure.  The first violin steadily moves downward.
2:58 [m. 103]--A major now having fully arrived, the first violin finally stops on a murmuring dotted rhythm.  The other instruments also adopt this rhythm, the cello moving with the first violin, the second violin and viola offset by a beat (with notes held across bar lines).  After two measures of this holding pattern, a descending arpeggio on the “dominant” chord is passed from first violin to cello.
3:03 [m. 107]--From this point, the music is largely parallel to the first part, but set in A major instead of E major.  The phrase from 1:55 [m. 57], with the first violin moving steadily upward, is almost exactly analogous except for a substitution of viola for second violin in the first two measures.
3:13 [m. 115]--Analogous to 2:05 [m. 65].  In the syncopated passage, the two violins reverse roles, and neither drops out at the bottom.  In the upward surge with octave leaps, the motion to minor at the end is subtly changed.  Instead of a shift to the “relative” key (which would be F-sharp minor), the final leap remains in A, with a simple change to minor.  The trailing motion afterward is preserved.
3:23 [m. 123]--Interruption/Transition, Tempo di Minuetto in 3/4, as at 2:15 [m. 73].  The six-bar passage is almost exactly analogous to the previous statement, now in A minor, complete with the imitations in canon.  The second violin and cello, however, reverse roles, with the second violin following.  The cello pedal point is now on C.  The passage now serves as a true transition to the “Minuetto” reprise.  To the six bars are added five more.  These extend the “suspended” chords, holding them over bar lines.  Colorful, but physically close chords exploit half-step motion and briefly touch back on major.  Finally, there is a clear lead-in back to the Minuet theme with its upbeat.
3:47 [m. 134]--Part 1, as at the beginning and 0:26.  It is not repeated.
4:12 [m. 149]--Part 2.  Three three-bar phrases, as at 0:51 [m. 16].
4:27 [m. 158]--Variant of Part 1, first two phrases, as at 1:05 [m. 25].
4:37 [m. 164]--Continuation of variant.  The first five measures are as at 1:15 [m. 31].  At that point, the previous slowing is replaced by four measures of lighter skipping motion similar to that heard at the end of Part 1.  The first violin takes the lead with leaps up and back down, the other instruments punctuating with chords on downbeats and upbeats.  There is a hint of motion toward the “dominant.”
4:54 [m. 173]--The first violin becomes smoother and merges into the new closing phrase.  It holds notes over bar lines, sliding up and back down.  The cello now plucks wide leaps centered on A and E, including downward octaves.  The second violin and viola play an echo of the main minuet theme harmonized in sixths and thirds.  At the very end, the first violin briefly alternates with the other instruments on chords (the cello again taking the bow).  They join together on the last A-minor chord.
5:08--END OF MOVEMENT [178 mm.]

4th Movement: Finale – Allegro non assai (Sonata-Rondo form). A MINOR, 3/4 time.

0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1 (Rondo Theme).  The first violin launches into the passionate gypsy-inspired theme with an ascending three-note upbeat.  It is set quite high.  The theme has several distinctive characteristics, most notably its consistent division into three-bar phrases.  Also, while the other three instruments steadily mark the 3/4 meter in solid chords on the first two beats, the first violin melody begins each phrase by undermining it.  Its first two measures are really grouped into three sets of two beats, prominently holding a note over the bar line.  The first three phrases are all similar, each beginning with the three-note upbeat and ending with a three-note descent.  The second one shifts down a step.  The third moves up again, replacing the jagged motion of the first two phrases with a new arching contour.
0:10 [m. 10]--The fourth and final phrase of the theme isolates the three-note descent and is completely built upon it.  The accompanying chords move to an upbeat-downbeat pattern.  There is then a plunge down toward the cadence, with the lower instruments joining at the end in unison.
0:13 [m. 13]--The theme is now presented in full by the viola.  The cello drops out, and the violins provide a pulsating accompaniment.  The initial three-note upbeat overlaps with the cadence of the opening statement.  The third phrase is subtly altered to change the harmonic direction and move more strongly toward the “subdominant” area of D.  The fourth phrase is similar, but the first violin takes over in a high octave and avoids the precipitous downward plunge.  The intensity builds in this last phrase, and the cello rejoins.
0:26 [m. 25]--The instruments come together in block harmonies for a powerful new idea that serves as both an emphatic close to the presentation of the main rondo theme and the beginning of a transition to the secondary theme.  As with the theme itself, there are four three-bar phrases, each beginning with a longer note leading into a series of zigzagging chords.  These chords are harmonically unstable.  There is much motion through the “circle of fifths,” along with “leading tone” half-step motion in the top voice.  The third phrase “stalls,” heavily accenting the second beat of the bar.  Finally, the last phrase adds the typical syncopation over the bar line before descending to a powerful cadence asserting the home key of A minor.
0:39 [m. 37]--Overlapping with the cadence, the volume suddenly recedes into a brief transitional passage.  There are two phrases, now four bars, anticipating the more regular structure of the secondary theme.  The violins reiterate the keynote A in octaves while the two lower instruments march downward.  At the end of the first phrase, the violins slide down.  In the second phrase, the viola and cello lead, the former playing syncopated harmonies and the latter playing a flowing line that emerges into an ascending arpeggio.  The cello slides upward.  The second violin joins the viola on syncopated interjections.  The key shifts to the “relative” C major for the secondary theme.
0:48 [m. 45]--Theme 2 (C major).  It is much smoother than the rondo theme.  The first violin presents it, beginning with a leap after an upbeat.  A swaying character pervades the melody, which is largely organized in two-bar units, each beginning with a longer note.  The second violin and viola alternate on undulating figures, and the long cello notes remain quite high.  At the fifth bar, there is strong dissonance.  After eight bars, all instruments pause except the viola, which continues its turn on the undulation.  Then everything is suspended on the “dominant” harmony in two quiet pulses.  After a four-beat pause, the pulses are repeated, inflected to minor and without the cello.  Another four-beat pause follows.
1:06 [m. 59]--With sudden force, all four instruments break into a powerful arpeggio on G minor.  It arches down in the violins, up in the viola and cello.  It is immediately stated again, this time on a “dominant” chord suggesting F.  But then things settle down, and the next eight bars smoothly lead back into C major, albeit with several colorful chromatic notes.  The viola and cello are briefly grouped in two-beat units, the latter making wide leaps, but they quickly merge into the smoother motion.
1:21 [m. 71]--Closing material.  Merging with the C-major cadence, the violins and viola reach upward in yearning harmonized arpeggios while the more active cello works its way downward in a characteristic zigzag undulation.  The slower yearning arpeggios are briefly played in two-beat notes that cross the meter.
1:25 [m. 75]--The upper three instruments briefly pause.  A pattern begins with upward arpeggios in the cello followed by oscillations, on neighbor notes or octaves, in the other three instruments.  After four measures, the pattern breaks, and the upper instruments melt into the downward zigzag undulation in the next phrase.  At the same time, the cello takes over the yearning arpeggio in meter-crossing longer notes.  There are many chromatic notes throughout the passage.
1:35 [m. 83]--The previous pattern returns, now with the first violin leading on the upward arpeggios, the viola and cello following on the oscillations.  The second violin drops out for nearly five measures.  When the pattern breaks as expected, all four instruments (led by the cello) now merge into the downward undulation, but this now turns around and works back upward.
1:44 [m. 91]--Over a steady buildup, the top three instruments begin a strongly syncopated peroration to close off the exposition.  The first violin reaches very high.  The cello alone keeps the regular pulse with a heavily chromatic marching motion.  After seven bars, the syncopation breaks, the volume recedes, and the first violin emerges into a descending arpeggio supported by interjecting chords.  Although this arpeggio has one inflection to the note C-sharp, it reaches a full and satisfying cadence in C major.
1:56 [m. 100]--Re-transition.  This passage emphasizes the “rondo” character rather than the “sonata” one.  The exposition is not repeated, and there is no direct motion to a “development” section.  Instead, there is a transition back to a new presentation of the main rondo theme.  Right after the cadence, the second violin and viola play strong upward octave leaps on E, almost immediately heralding a move back to A minor.  The cello and first violin dovetail  on repeated statements of the three-note figure.  The cello plays the descending version, the first violin the ascending one.  These are very dynamic and highly chromatic.  The octaves move, and the second violin separates from the viola, its octaves becoming syncopated over bar lines.  The first violin breaks into breathless two-note gestures, the cello into descending octaves.
2:05 [m. 108]--In unison, the upper three instruments isolate the descending gesture and begin to plunge downward.  The passage is reminiscent of the fourth phrase from the main rondo theme, but it is much longer (eight measures), and the descending gesture is now four notes instead of three.  The meter is thus totally obscured.  After four measures, the gesture is reduced to the more familiar three-note version, and the cello joins.  Still, the placement of the three-note figures crosses bar lines, continuing to obscure the meter.  The first violin drops out long enough to restore order with the three-note upbeat to the rondo theme.  The other instruments, in a final five-note descent, arrive strongly on A minor with the downbeat.
2:14 [m. 116]--Theme 1 (Rondo Theme).  Although very similar to the first presentation, there are important alterations.  Most notably, the first two phrases add trailing lines passing down from second violin to viola to cello.  These expand the phrases from three to a more regular four measures.  The third phrase is as it was before, in three measures.  So are the first two measures of the fourth phrase (from 0:10 [m. 10]), but the last plunging descent is cut off, as it was in the viola statement at 0:13 [m. 13].  The phrase is reduced to two measures, shorter than either exposition presentation.
2:28 [m. 129]--The block harmonies arrive, similar to 0:26 [m. 25].  Because the statement of the rondo theme remained at the same level in the third phrase (which the viola statement in the exposition did not), the chords begin a fourth lower.  Now only one three-bar phrase is followed by two shorter two-bar units.  These latter decrease in volume.  A harmonic motion through the
“circle of fifths” is followed by a direct juxtaposition of E minor and F major, two harmonies a half-step apart.
2:35 [m. 136]--A smooth transitional phrase emerges from the block harmonies.  This places a chromatic first violin line against a more active second violin counterpoint, with support from the lower two instruments.  More emphasis on F and E (now major) is followed by another progression through the
“circle of fifths” that lingers on G minor.  The first violin comes to a rest, as do the viola and cello as the second violin plays a “diminished” arpeggio.  This leads to a suspended half-close in F major.
2:45 [m. 144]--Theme 2 (F major).  The presentation in an unexpected new key closely follows the C-major version from 0:48 [m. 45].  The cello and second violin reverse roles.  The cello alternates with the viola on the undulating figures.  The second violin plays longer notes.  The viola/cello alternation is disrupted a bit at the end, so that the last four measures are all played by the cello.  The closing pulses on the “dominant” and their repetition with minor inflection are retained, but two more statements of the pulses are added as an extension.  These are more dissonant and move to the “dominant” in D minor (“relative” to F major).
3:08 [m. 162]--The forceful arpeggios from 1:06 [m. 59] are used as the gateway to a developmental passage of great intensity and instability.  Instead of all four instruments playing together in harmony, they now each begin the descending arpeggio in close succession a measure apart, then continue with similar (but not identical) material.  The cello begins alone, and is quickly followed by viola, first violin, and second violin.  The cellist begins on the original level of the arpeggios, G minor.  But the subsequent entries move rapidly through minor and major harmonies, both via the “circle of fifths” and by ascending steps.  The cello immediately begins a second round of imitation closely following the second violin.  This round is a step higher in all instruments.  The pattern is broken, but the counterpoint is extended in a brief buildup to a “dominant” chord in the remote key of C-sharp major.
3:21 [m. 174]--The climax arrives as the instruments come together on a series of chords derived from the third phrase of the transition passage heard at 0:26 [m. 25].  This third phrase had heavily accented the second beat of the bar, as does this passage, and it was omitted in the transition from 2:28 [m. 129], making its “delayed” appearance here striking.  The original three-bar phrase is extended to four.  It is in C-sharp major.  A second phrase (also four measures) keeps the same basic level, especially in the high first violin notes, but altered harmonies suggest a shift to D minor (though there is no firm arrival there).  Finally, a third four-bar phrase introduces a cello bass line moving up by half-step and a shift toward the downbeat.
3:34 [m. 186]--Re-transition.  The last chord in the previous passage is an unstable “diminished” chord on D-sharp, which slides up to E in the first violin.  The cello also leaps down to a low E to begin a pulsating bass.  This low E serves as a long “pedal point dominant” in preparation for the strong arrival of the home key, A minor, and the return of the main rondo theme.  The volume suddenly drops, but the intensity does not.  Over the cello pulsation, the other instruments play material from that main theme, emphasizing its metric conflict, superimposing three sets of two beats onto two 3/4 measures. The viola leads the patterns, with the violins following a beat later in harmony, the second often adding more active motion.  All three hold beats over bar lines.  The volume rapidly builds and the violins reach higher over four two-bar units.
3:43 [m. 194]--The cello ceases its pulsations and begins to churn in octaves with the viola.  The violins stall on two chords.  Then they join the lower instruments an octave above the viola, creating a massive unison over three octaves.  In this unison, the instruments strongly zigzag upward.  In the second measure of this, the second violin and viola shift their register down, placing the viola in pure unison with the cello, but there is no departure from the three-octave unison spread.  The last three notes of the upward “zigzag” stand in for the upbeat to the rondo theme.
3:47 [m. 198]--Theme 1 (Rondo Theme).  The structure in three-bar phrases is as in the exposition.  The trailing lines from the development are absent.  The novelty is in the lower instruments, which replace the block chord accompaniment with more active, driving and continuous figuration that includes some pulsations.  The cello line ranges wide, plunging down and rising again.  The cello descents (partly doubled by viola) conceal a “diminution” of the theme itself in smaller note values.  In the first three phrases, only the first violin is the same as the first presentation.  The second violin is rather interesting.  It mostly doubles the first an octave lower, but conceals this with the pulsations.
3:56 [m. 207]--The active accompaniment comes to a sudden halt as the third phrase reaches its final downbeat.  The three-measure fourth phrase follows with no changes from the exposition at 0:10 [m. 10].
3:59 [m. 210]--The viola statement from 0:13 [m. 13] is also presented in a more elaborate version, albeit with less variance than the first statement.  The pulsations were already there.  What is added is a higher flying first violin line (which adds another “diminution” in the third phrase), more supporting harmony in the second violin, and most notably, a new plucked cello punctuation in descending octaves to articulate the end of each phrase.  That instrument had been absent from the statement before.  Again, the fourth phrase subtly returns to the original layout, with the exception of the continuing plucked cello before it takes the bow at the former entry point.
4:11 [m. 222]--The transitional block chords from 0:26 [m. 25] return.  The first three phrases are unaltered, but the fourth, with the syncopation, is changed so subtly that it is almost unnoticeable.  The phrase now points to an strong arrival on the “dominant” chord instead of a full cadence.
4:25 [m. 234]--The two phrases from 0:39 [m. 37] are replaced by a single one.  It resembles the first of the two former ones.  The first violin and viola reiterate the “dominant” note E (instead of the keynote), and the second violin and cello have the “marching” lines, which now move upward.  There is no key change away from A.  The reiterated “dominant” is a preparation for the statement of Theme 2 in A major.
4:29 [m. 238]--Theme 2 (A major).  The upbeat is omitted for this presentation in the home major key.  The main difference from the presentation at 0:48 [m. 45] (and the later one in the development in F major) is that the melody is presented by the cello instead of the first violin.  The undulating figures are passed between the two violins, and the viola takes the longer notes formerly played by the cello.  The transfer is not an exact correspondence, but the pause is reached as expected, with the second violin trailing.  The quiet pulses and their minor-key repetition follow as expected.
4:46 [m. 252]--Forceful arpeggios in all instruments, analogous to 1:06 [m. 59].  They begin on E minor, then move to the “dominant” of D before settling back in A major in the subsequent smoother motion.
5:01 [m. 264]--Closing material, analogous to 1:21 [m. 71].  Yearning arpeggios against downward undulating cello.
5:06 [m. 268]--Cello arpeggios, oscillations, then downward undulations with cello statement of yearning arpeggios, analogous to 1:25 [m. 75].
5:16 [m. 276]--Return to pattern with first violin leading on arpeggios and second violin dropping out, then downward undulation working back up, analogous to 1:35 [m. 83].  The cello and viola briefly reverse roles at the end of the passage, and Brahms begins the crescendo here, earlier than in the exposition.
5:26 [m. 284]--Strongly syncopated peroration, analogous to 1:44 [m. 91].  The second violin and viola have variations in their orientation from the first presentation, but the leading first violin and the marching cello are largely the same.  The sudden receding in volume and downward arpeggios follow.  The full cadence in A major now leads into the tranquil, meditative first part of the coda, rather than a vigorous re-transition.
FIRST PART OF CODA (Poco tranquillo, A major)
5:38 [m. 293]--The cello leads a transformed version of the main rondo theme, now presented as a gentle, rocking melody.  It is grouped in two-bar units with notes held over the bar line.  The first violin imitates this a measure later.  It begins as a true imitation in canon, but subtle differences are introduced in the third measure of the imitation. The other two instruments provide a background of long sustained notes.  In the sixth measure of the imitation (the seventh of the phrase), the pattern breaks in the first violin, and it joins the cello in an upward motion, still in the prevailing rhythm.
5:51 [m. 301]--The first violin emerges into a graceful winding line still based on the main rondo theme.  The other instruments accompany in pairs of chords on the first two beats of the measure.  It begins on F-sharp minor, the “relative” key to A major.  After three measures in which the first violin line is repeated over different harmonies, it works its way downward as the other instruments hold a chord.  The following four measures intricately weave lines in the upper three instruments over held cello notes.  The viola takes over the winding line, the first violin plays rising arpeggios, and the second violin has descending figures.
6:02 [m. 309]--Now all four instruments join in chords played on the first two beats of each measure.  They are detached and marked pianissimo.  The cello remains rooted to the “dominant” note, E.  The top line of the chords creates a melody that seems geared toward an arrival, with its rising half-steps and falling fourths.
6:08 [m. 313]--The four-bar pattern is repeated, but now the first violin largely has the chords and melody to itself, as the second violin and viola pass simple descending lines back and forth.  The viola begins these on an upbeat to the first measure.  The cello becomes more active, moving away from the E, then returning.  After this decorated repetition, the instruments break off for a full measure pause.  The last measure of the pattern is then repeated, but the last note of the first violin melody is wrenched up a half-step, creating a poignant dissonance.  Another full-measure pause follows.
6:19 [m. 320]--In a moment of ethereal suspension that seems out of place in this mostly agitated movement, the instruments play a series of sustained chords, pianissimo.  The pattern is derived from the main rondo theme.  All the chords are two beats long, completely obscuring the triple meter, and they include dissonances and half-step motion.  Twelve of these chords over eight measures produce a reiterated six-bar first violin line as the other instruments move more steadily downward.
6:33 [328]--There now follow six measures of chords that are held for the full three-beat measure.  The harmonies of these subtly shift back toward A minor, and the last, with a highly dissonant F-natural in the cello bass, is held with a fermata, creating an intense expectation.
SECOND PART OF CODA (Più vivace, A minor)
6:47 [m. 334]--In another transformation of the rondo theme, it is presented in equal fast notes (similar to the concealed “diminutions” in the recapitulation), without the initial three-note upbeat.  The phrases are thus condensed to two measures.  The first violin plays this condensed, fast version while the other instruments accompany with pizzicato chords on the first two beats of each measure.  The cello continues on the third beat, forming a rising arpeggio.  In the third phrase, the melody stalls and the cello drops its third-beat notes.  The first violin, winding up and back down on the same notes, wrenches its top and bottom notes up a half-step, building the tension.
6:53 [m. 342]--Now, with the utmost energy, the first violin reaches a high “dominant” note, which it forcefully and rapidly repeats in an octave.  Meanwhile, the viola and cello angrily play a further transformation of the “Poco tranquillo” version from 5:38 [m. 293], which, it is now evident, is derived from the re-transition at 3:34 [m. 186].  They are harmonized mostly in thirds, with the cello above the viola.  The second violin plays slow and wide leaps between the hammering first violin and the feverish viola/cello harmony.  The cello drops below the viola in a wide leap at the end of the phrase, as the repeated first violin octave twice descends at the outset of a measure, first a whole step, then a half-step.
7:00 [m. 350]--The first violin again breaks into the fast equal-note version, but stalls on the first measure over chords from the other instruments.  After that measure is repeated, the second violin joins the first an octave below (later moving up to unison), and the two lower instruments rush up a scale against the violins until they too are drawn into the powerful unison statement.  Once the unison is reached, there is a massive angular descent to the “dominant” note before the two loud closing cadence chords, which incorporate double and triple stops.  The first chord is short, but the second is very briefly held before cutting off.  This closing passage is almost a complete directional inversion of the lead-in to the recapitulation at 3:43 [m. 194].
7:13--END OF MOVEMENT [359 mm.]