EIGHT PIANO PIECES (KLAVIERSTÜCKE), OP. 76
Recording: Martin Jones, pianist [NI 1788]
After a long hiatus that included the German Requiem, the first two
symphonies, and other major works, Brahms finally returned to
composition for solo piano in the late 1870s. The Nineteenth
Century saw the rise of the short piano piece, sometimes called a
“character piece,” as a quintessential genre, exemplified by composers
such as Schumann, Chopin, and Liszt. All of Brahms’s remaining
solo piano output would be devoted to such pieces: the two sets from
this period, Opp. 76 and 79, and then the very late outpouring in Opp.
116-119. In these pieces, Brahms was as generic as possible with
his titles, wishing to avoid programmatic associations. Op. 76
contains four each of pieces labeled “Capriccio” and
“Intermezzo.” The Capriccios are faster and more dramatic,
generally looser in form, while the Intermezzi are more introspective
and clear-cut. In contrast to the straightforward ternary forms
seen in the late pieces, Op. 76 exhibits more developmental passages
and variations on binary and sonata forms. No. 2, though in a
minor key, is the most lighthearted of the Capriccios. It seems
more indebted to Schubert than to Schumann and Chopin, whose spirits
are palpable in the other pieces. Brahms experiments with rhythm
and meter throughout the set, nowhere more so than in the thrilling
metric virtuosity of No. 5. The framing Capriccios Nos. 1 and 8
have similar forms, but opposite characters. The ominous, dark
No. 1 contrasts effectively with the breathless, perpetual syncopated
motion of No. 8. Of the Intermezzi, the wistful No. 4 is notable
for firmly establishing its home key at a very late point. No. 3
creates ethereal sounds with bell-like chords over a high, static left
hand. No. 7 subtly connects the solemnity of its framing chorale
with its leisurely main melody. No. 6, the Intermezzo in A major,
contains some similarities to the later, more familiar Intermezzo in
that key (Op. 118, No. 2). The ordering makes dramatic, musical,
and tonal sense when the set is played in its entirety, but the pieces
are also effective when performed individually.
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut
SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf &
Härtel Sämtliche Werke):
1: Capriccio in F-sharp minor
2: Capriccio in B minor
3: Intermezzo in A-flat major
4: Intermezzo in B-flat major
5: Capriccio in C-sharp minor
6: Intermezzo in A major
7: Intermezzo in A minor
8: Capriccio in C major
1. CAPRICCIO. Un poco
agitato. Unruhig bewegt [With restless motion]. (Ternary
form with developmental middle section). F-SHARP MINOR, 6/8 time.
First Section (“Exposition”)
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1 (A).
The opening section is a series of winding arpeggios that retain the
same contour. The left hand arrival on the second half of each
bar coincides with the entry of the right hand, which always crosses
under below. A descending set of three notes, repeated up an
octave, remains constant in the left-hand portions. These are on
the same F-sharp minor pitches for four bars, then move downward by
half-step. After beginning sotto
voce, the arpeggios build gradually but powerfully, the climax
coming at the arrival of the “dominant” key of C-sharp major (which
brightens from C-sharp minor).
0:24 [m. 9]--At the climax,
there are four rising statements of the
descending three-note group, the right hand taking the last two with
the left hand doubling below. At the top, the hands descend
together in a cascading arpeggio that incorporates the three-note
group. The left hand drops out at the bottom. There follow
three slower descending groups from the right hand, the first note of
which is harmonized. The first of these is very dissonant.
These slower figures lead into the second theme.
0:36 [m. 14]--Theme 2 (B).
Because this second idea is actually the “main” theme of the piece and
because it is heard in the home key, the form of the piece is not a
“sonata” design. The theme itself is based on its initial
four-note group, which rises, then turns down a half-step on the fourth
note. This is spun out into a true melody with flowing descents,
accompanied by descending lines that begin off the beat and are
initially based on the three-note descending groups. Like Theme
1, the passage moves to C-sharp minor/major.
Second Section (“Development”)--based on Theme 2 (B).
1:04 [m. 26]--Development of
Theme 2 with the four opening melodic
notes entering off the beat with their descending accompaniment
figures. The passage begins in the home key of F-sharp minor,
moving to the distant keys of A, C, and G minor. A large buildup
in speed and volume is arrested by a suddenly slower passage with notes
twice as long. Four bar-length harmonized notes turn the first
four-note group of Theme 2’s melody upside down. This passage is
in D minor/major.
1:37 [m. 42]--The inversion of
Theme 2 just introduced is now
incorporated in the original rhythm with faster notes. The
inverted theme itself is heard in an inner voice, with the familiar
three-note groups (also turned upside down and now ascending) above
them. The left hand plays descending arpeggios. Beginning
in the home key, it moves to another slowing climax that suggests the
related A major before settling onto the anticipatory “dominant” chord
in preparation for the return of Theme 1 in F-sharp minor.
Third Section (“Recapitulation”)
2:03 [m. 52]--Theme 1 (A).
Essentially, the voicing is inverted. The right hand plays on the
first half of each bar on the original pitches, but the left hand now
responds at an even lower level and, unlike the opening, the responding
portions not only begin below, but remain there. After three
bars, the right hand becomes decorative, abandoning the descending
three-note groups. There are isolated high notes. The
responding left hand arpeggios retain the harmony and contour of the
right hand groups from the opening.
2:21 [m. 60]--The climax, this
time of the entire piece, arrives with
long held chords in the left hand against the continuing decorations of
the right. The first left hand chord is in the middle range, the
second in the bass and rolled. The climax recedes and descends
quickly, slowing down for the entry of Theme 2.
2:31 [m. 64]--Theme 2 (B).
The opening four notes are isolated, harmonized, and played three times
in a descending sequence. The left hand plays the familiar
three-note descents from Theme 1 in octaves, their length augmented to
twice their normal note values. Suggestions of the major key
enhance the respite provided by the slower motion. After the
third statement of the harmonized four-note opening, the chords
continue in a brief bridge suggesting the continuation of Theme
2. The entire passage is quiet and smooth.
2:54 [m. 72]--The four opening
notes from Theme 2 are again heard in a
sequence of three descending statements, this time played and
harmonized by the left hand in a middle voice. The right hand has
arching decorations above each statement. These begin with the
descending three-note figure, twice passed up an octave, and end with
cascading arpeggios. The harmony wavers between major and minor,
but now leans toward major. The quiet, smooth motion, though
3:08 [m. 78]--The last
statement of the preceding sequence dissolves
into a gentle coda. The right hand decorations become regular
three-note descending arpeggios that move lower and lower down the
keyboard until settling somewhat in the lower middle range. The
left hand abandons the four-note melody and plays low chords. The
first two (beginning with m. 79) are rolled, and the next two have a
resolving inner voice. The major-minor mixture continues until
the last three descending chords, which are major, not minor.
3:42--END OF PIECE [85 mm.]
Allegretto non troppo (Arch-like Rondo form). B MINOR, 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1 (A).
A skittish tune with detached staccato notes. Bass notes leap up
to higher chords in the left hand, a continuing pattern. There
are accented, longer chords on the second beats of the second and
fourth bars. The fifth bar introduces a harmonization in thirds
that will become more prominent. This phrase is extended to
double length by a reiteration of a long-short-short pattern that
oscillates, then gradually descends, mixing major and minor. It
moves to the “dominant” key, F-sharp, before a single-line transition
to the repeat.
0:18 [m. 1]--Theme 1 (A)
repeated. The single-line transition in the last two bars is
altered to move to D major for Theme 2.
0:35 [m. 13]--Theme 2 (B).
This new tune uses the harmonization in thirds heard earlier. It
is in D major, the relative major key to B minor. It descends to
some mid-range figures in the long-short-short rhythm. These lead
to another single-line transition similar to those at the end of each
repetition of Theme 1.
0:47 [m. 21]--Theme 2 (B)
repeated, with the closing transition altered, then extended. The
extension, five bars in length, adds a second voice in the left
hand. It is a steady ascent heard twice. The second statement is
initially shifted up a half-step, then continues past the mark of the
first. Motion back to B minor.
1:05 [m. 34]--Theme 1 (A).
Theme 1 returns in slightly varied form. The right hand contours
in the first two bars are changed, and add syncopated accents.
The left hand patterns reverse direction, and are now descending leaps
in the first four bars. The bass notes leaping to chords return
at the fifth bar with the harmonization in thirds. The arrival at
the long-short-short pattern is different, and is now more
unambiguously in major. The transition is very different, a
static murmuring that gradually calms.
1:22 [m. 46]--Theme 3 (C).
Brahms marks this central section più
tranquillo and espressivo.
A rhapsodic melody in C major--a key whose arrival is surprising--it
has several striking chromatic notes. Ingeniously, the skittering
staccato of the main themes is transferred to a middle voice that moves
down to the bass as the melody descends. It begins with the
murmuring from the preceding transition.
1:36 [m. 54]--The C-major
melody is repeated and extended. It
begins in a similar manner, but cuts off the downbeats and adds grace
notes. The melody diverges after the fourth bar, propelled by
light syncopation. Moving first to B-flat major, it is again
diverted, this time back home to B. It is, however, unambiguously
the major-mode version of that key. Highly decorated lines with
turning figures mark a gentle, tranquil transition back to the main
themes. The staccato notes slow down over a huge arching arpeggio
at the end.
2:01 [m. 67]--Theme 2 (B), in
the main tempo. It is heard in its entirety, now in B
major. The left-hand accompaniment is different. The steady
pattern is abandoned in favor of short, detached rising
arpeggios. The transition is again varied, essentially changing
direction. It remains in the low register and contains large
2:12 [m. 75]--A large extension
to the transition from Theme 2.
It gains intensity and reaches the only real climax in the piece.
The culmination is a large chromatic scale (skipping no notes),
suggested earlier in the transition and extension, split between the
hands. Every second note of this scale is punctuated by upper
harmonies of narrowing, increasingly dissonant intervals. A the
end, the scale is arrested. The notes, with narrow, dissonant
harmonies still on every second one, oscillate for one bar as they
quiet down from the climax. Then the chromatic scale resumes, now
interrupted by the dissonant intervals, for a final four notes.
2:23 [m. 83]--Theme 1 (A).
The arrival from the chromatic scale is very fulfilling. The
music is still in B, but now again in minor. In a very ingenious
variation, Brahms places the melody in an inner voice, under sets of
repeated notes, then sets of repeated chords. The melody itself
shifts down an octave in the third bar. The passage must be
played with “wrist staccato.” There are accented syncopations
held between the second and third, then the fourth and fifth
bars. The left hand now leaps up not to a chord, but to the top
of a descending arpeggio, filling each beat with four notes.
2:28 [m. 87]--The continuation
of Theme 1 from the fifth bar is also
varied. All is still an octave lower than before. The upper
voice continues for two bars with syncopations. The last note of
the left hand figures is cut off, leaving only three. In the next
bar, the previous long-short-short pattern is replaced by three equal
short notes following a downbeat rest. The left hand figures now
widely ascend. The transition has the right hand crossing
over into the bass and alternating with punctuating mid-range left hand
2:39 [m. 95]--Theme 1 (A) in
another very creative variation. The first four bars are
recognizable as the theme, but they follow the pattern of the previous
transition, alternating right hand leaps with left hand chords in two
large ascents up the keyboard from bass to treble.
2:44 [m. 99]--Continuation of
Theme 1. It is similar to what was
heard from the fifth bar of 1:05 [m. 34], but the longer note at the
beginning of the first two figures is cut in half, leaving rests at the
beginnings of the first two bars. The leaping long-short-short
figure returns in major, with a more active chromatic middle
voice. The passage itself is extended three bars, forgoing the
transition and reaching down the keyboard, growing steadily quieter.
2:57 [m. 108]--Coda. Two
statements of the opening bar of Theme
2, interrupted by the leaping long-short-short figure from Theme
1. The second statement of the Theme 2 opening is an octave lower
than the first.
3:02 [m. 111]--The parallel
response to the second reference to Theme 2
is also the leaping long-short-short figure from Theme 1. This
response, however, launches an extended meditation on that figure with
a highly chromatic middle voice. The figures remain in the same
range, slowing and softening until the very end, where two isolated
descending leaps are placed higher. The third and final isolated
leap is slower and firmly establishes the major key (B major) that has
essentially been in force since the beginning of the coda. It is,
however, a somewhat inconclusive and questioning gesture.
3:30--END OF PIECE [119 mm.]
Grazioso. Anmutig [Gracefully]. Ausdrucksvoll [With
expression]. (Binary form). A-FLAT MAJOR, 4/4 time with
four 3/2 bars at the end.
0:00 [m. 1]--The piece’s
character is immediately established.
The left hand is in the high middle range, using the treble clef.
It plays a continuous arching pattern, twice in each bar. The
first and fourth notes of each left hand pattern are a rolled two-note
harmony. The right hand plays very high chords after the beat,
creating a continuous, floating syncopation. The chords move down
chromatically in groups for the first three bars. The patterns
are regular, but the phrase is asymmetrical, lasting five bars.
In the last two bars, the right hand chords are rolled, leaping upward
instead of sliding down, and dovetailing with the left hand. The lowest
left hand note, A-flat, remains constant before moving down three notes
in the last two bars.
0:24 [m. 6]--The second
five-bar phrase begins like the first one, and
the first two bars are identical. From the third bar, it
digresses. There are no upward leaps. Instead, the right
hand chords leap down beautifully to a static fourth bar. It
diminishes in volume, slows down, and moves to a darker C minor.
The left hand makes a wide descent in the last two bars, moving rapidly
to the bass range. In the last bar, the right hand chords also
move down to the middle range.
0:50 [m. 11]--A contrasting
phrase serves as a closing “theme.”
It shifts immediately back to A-flat major at the beginning. The
right hand plays winding triplets (groups of three in the normal space
of two), while the left hand leaps up, then descends in syncopated
rhythm. This phrase is also five bars. The last three
introduce embellished right hand chords and reach higher for a subdued
“climax” with chromatic tinges.
1:12 [m. 16]--Phrase identical
to the opening, arriving seamlessly from
the preceding “closing.”
1:35 [m. 21]--Phrase very
similar to 0:24 [m. 6], but it digresses
already in the second bar instead of the third, reaching very high and
becoming almost ecstatic before again moving to C minor. The left
hand is not changed much. The last bar is similar in character,
but changed to move back to A-flat major before the closing “theme” so
that the shift is not as abrupt.
2:02 [m. 26]--The contrasting
closing phrase is greatly varied from
0:50 [m. 11]. The first bar is the same, but in the second bar,
the meter is suddenly broadened to 3/2, creating a more profound
slowing effect. The syncopated left hand and right hand triplets
are still there, but the latter are somewhat delayed in each bar and
the former now leap down, then move up, reversing the pattern from
before. The phrase moves down quite low, without the dramatic
rising “climax” heard in Part 1. The third bar unexpectedly
shifts keys strongly, to D-flat, before the last two bars wrench the
music back home to A-flat for an extremely beautiful cadence with
delayed resolutions. The final chord moves back to the high
2:49--END OF PIECE [30 mm.]
Allegretto grazioso (Ternary form with sonata aspects). B-FLAT
MAJOR, 2/4 time.
First Section (“Exposition”)
0:00 [m. 1]--The main material
is based on descending arpeggios split
between the hands, above which the melody floats. The melody
itself is based on a leaping dotted (long-short) rhythm beginning on an
upbeat. The left hand has syncopations in the middle of each of
the first four bars. The bass line then becomes active. The
key of B-flat is never explicit, suggested only by harmonies such as
the defining “dominant,” with which the piece begins. It never
resolves, and the melody moves to a cadence in the relative G minor.
0:22 [m. 13]--This eight-bar
G-minor passage is more like a concluding
phrase than a second “theme.” It is based on repeated two-note
harmonies (thirds, fourths, and sixths) in the middle range. The
left hand leaps up and down in long-short-short rhythm. The very
quiet passage becomes slightly faster until the end. There are
many chromatic notes, and a downward slide in the bass at the very end
helps lead into the repeat.
First Section (“Exposition”) repeated
0:34 [m. 1]--Repetition of main
0:54 [m. 13]--Repetition of
G-minor concluding phrase. The
downward slide now leads to C-flat major.
Second Section (“Development”)
1:06 [m. 21]--Development of
the main material in the remote key of
C-flat major. There are left hand syncopations in the middle of
each bar. There is a very gentle crescendo after four bars.
1:16 [m. 27]--The small climax,
still in C-flat major, incorporates
elements of the concluding phrase in a middle voice. The harmony
slides down and settles into the (implied) home key of B-flat.
Third Section (“Recapitulation”)
1:25 [m. 33]--The opening
material in its original form emerges
seamlessly from the preceding development. After it emerges, it
follows the first section closely until the last three bars, which are
artfully manipulated to arrive (finally) at the actual, not implied,
harmony of B-flat instead of G minor.
1:45 [m. 45]--The concluding
phrase is highly varied. It is in
B-flat, but the many chromatic notes obscure whether or not it is major
or minor (in the “exposition,” the G minor was quite clear). The
contour of the right hand is altered in subtle ways. It again
becomes slightly faster. The closing is expanded by three bars to
create an eleven-bar phrase. The expansion is a light rising
arpeggio on chords of E-flat minor (which suggests a B-flat minor key), speeding up
slightly. Only the last two punctuating high chords and the final
low octave definitively confirm B-flat major. Brahms has obscured
the home key until the end of the piece.
2:09--END OF PIECE [55 mm.]
Agitato, ma non troppo presto. Sehr aufgeregt, doch nicht zu
schnell [Very agitated, but not too fast]. (Alternating
rondo-like form [ABA’B’A”-Coda]). C-SHARP MINOR, 6/8 and 2/4 time.
Most of the piece is an
extreme illustration of the “hemiola” principle, where the six beats in
each measure are either divided into two groups of three (6/8) or three
groups of two (3/4), and these divisions clash with each other.
Although 6/8 is indicated as the meter, most of the piece is a mixture
of 6/8 and 3/4. In the B’
and A” sections, the meter
shifts to 2/4, a sort of “compromise” that removes the metrical
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1 (A).
The passionate melody in the right hand, beginning with an upbeat and
moving steadily up the scale, is in a 3/4 subdivision despite the meter
indication. After the initial rise, it leaps up and down, then
moves steadily downward. The low bass notes indicate a 6/8
subdivision. The active, running middle voice, played mostly
under the melody by the right hand, can be grouped either way for the
first four bars, but then settles (mostly) with the bass on 6/8.
It is highly chromatic and dynamic.
0:12 [m. 9]--The second,
parallel phrase of Theme 1 begins as had the
first, but reaches higher and adds two syncopations in the top 3/4
melody. It moves in the direction of the related major key, E
major. It is also extended by two bars in a slight relaxation
before Theme 2 begins.
0:25 [m. 19]--Theme 2 (B).
Return to C-sharp minor. The mixture of 6/8 and 3/4 among
clashing voices is abandoned for the second theme. Instead, the
two “meters” alternate. The first two measures are a sustained
syncopation suggesting 3/4 in both hands. The next two bars, with
a faster running middle voice, are unambiguously in the 6/8
grouping. This pattern is repeated at a higher level in G-sharp
0:38 [m. 27]--A third pattern
at a higher level (D-sharp minor)
begins. After the first unambiguous 6/8 bar, the pattern is
broken with a measure of hammering chords in the 3/4 grouping.
Yet another running 6/8 bar is followed by two more bars of hammering
chords, but the first one remains grouped in 6/8 while the second
begins to create a clash between the hands, the right in 3/4, the left
in 6/8. The next three bars are a transition, with
cascading octaves on G-sharp in the right hand and dramatically rising
octave scales in the left. There is a highly anticipatory pause
before Theme 1 begins again.
0:52 [m. 37]--Theme 1 (A’).
Other than an initial bass note on the upbeat, the first phrase is as
1:02 [m. 45]--The second phrase
begins as at 0:12 [m. 9], but the leaps
up and down are replaced by another scale ascent that leaps up at the
end. The following downward motion is similar to what has been
heard before, but it settles onto another related key, G-sharp minor,
instead of the brighter E major. The cadence becomes more quiet
and relaxed than it did before 0:25 [m. 19].
1:13 [m. 53]--Theme 1 is
extended by two more tranquil phrases in a
sort of respite from the storminess of the rest of the piece. In
the first phrase, the metrical conflict continues, but the descending
line in G-sharp minor is very smooth, despite some hesitant off-beat
notes at the end. The left hand has continuous rising groups of
three. These are quite wide-ranging.
1:24 [m. 61]--The second
extending phrase removes the metrical conflict
for its first half. The right hand emerges into an extremely
gentle melody in clear 6/8, matching the left hand. It is in B
major, providing a break from the dark minor mode. The right hand
moves back to 3/4 groupings in the second half of the phrase, which
slows down and moves back to G-sharp minor, coming to a half-close on a
1:39 [m. 69]--Theme 2 (B’). The
harmonies, key, and character follow the theme’s first appearance, but
there is a radical change in the metric alternation. The
sustained syncopation begins things as before, but the responding bars
are in a new (notated) 2/4 meter. Although these responses are
syncopated, they have no metric conflict. The 2/4 is a sort of
“bridge” between the previous clashing groups. The responses are
now breathless chords rather than a running flow. The first two
alternations follow the harmonic pattern that was heard at 0:25 [m.
19]. The metric alternation is actually indicated with time
1:52 [m. 77]--The harmonies and
character are analogous to 0:38 [m.
27]. The pattern at the higher level (D-sharp minor) begins, but
after the first bar with the syncopation in implied 3/4, the 6/8 time
signature and the clashing meters themselves are abandoned from here
until the coda. The remainder of the passage, with the hammering
chords and dramatic rise to the anticipatory pause, are in unambiguous
2/4, although there is much syncopation. The buildup to the pause
has a more active right hand replacing the octaves.
2:07 [m. 87]--Theme 1 (A”).
Theme 1 is very recognizable, but it is now in 2/4 in both hands.
The right hand melody is in octaves, beginning off the beat in each bar
for a very breathless effect. The left hand is very active, with
wide leaps as well as narrow chromatic motion.
2:19 [m. 95]--The second phrase
of Theme 1 in its 2/4 version reaches
higher than ever with its octaves. As in its first appearance, it
moves to a major key, but this time it is the home major key based on
C-sharp. The actual thematic material is developed here, and the
music reaches a nearly ecstatic pitch. The entries off the beat
in each bar continue from the previous phrase.
2:32 [m. 103]--In an extending
phrase, the off-beat entries are
abandoned for jubilant rolled chords in the right hand The left
hand also adds low rolled octaves. A slow dotted rhythm is used
for the first four bars. In the second half of the phrase, the
joyous climax recedes, and the music thins out. Gentle right hand
syncopations and slow triplets in the left hand (in the last two bars),
slow down and lead to a brief pause.
2:48 [m. 111]--Coda. The
minor mode returns, as does (finally) the
6/8 meter, but the latter is almost meaningless. The coda is a tour de force that completely
obscures any meter. Three repeated bass octave descents in groups
of five (the third in a higher register) are played against syncopated
right hand figuration (based on Theme 1) that is grouped with these
bass fives. A fourth left hand descent that is yet another octave
higher adds a note to create a six-note group and temporarily restore
some sense of meter. After this, however, the right hand plays
three feverish patterns in duple grouping. The right hand moves
steadily and dramatically upward. The entire passage rises in
volume and speed. The last right hand group is in a triple
grouping, bringing the hands together metrically for the final,
powerful bass octaves and responding chords.
3:14--END OF PIECE [117 mm.]
Andante con moto. Sanft bewegt [Gently moving]. (Ternary
form, with an enclosed rounded binary structure in the outer
sections). A MAJOR, 2/4 time.
A Section--A major
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1. The
melody is concealed within flowing
triplet groups that go against the main 2/4 meter. It begins with
an upbeat and arches up and down, both within the triplet groups and
the larger melody itself. The fifth bar converts the triplets
into three groups of two for an implied 3/4. Against all of this,
the left hand plays descending groups of two octaves or thirds that
enter in syncopation against the triplets and hold notes over bar
lines. In the last three bars of the phrase, the right hand moves
to straight 2/4, and the triplets are transferred to the left, with
bass octaves entering in the seventh bar. Despite the extreme
metric conflicts, the phrase is gentle and flowing, coming to a cadence
on the “dominant,” E major.
0:20 [m. 1]--Part 1 repeated.
0:38 [m. 9]--Part 2. The
first phrase of Part 2 (which is twice
the length of Part 1) abruptly shifts to C-sharp major. It
re-establishes the opening pattern for two bars. The next four
bars, however, which build in intensity, use the 3-beat grouping from
the fifth bar of Part 1 in the right hand. The first note of each
group is harmonized below. The left hand plays straight bass
octaves in a descending chromatic line against this. There follow
two bars of slowing, leading to a pause and a half close in
C-sharp. These also use the 3-beat grouping, with syncopated
rising notes in the left hand.
0:58 [m. 17]-- The second
phrase of Part 2 is similar to Part 1.
It begins with another abrupt shift in key, back home to A major.
The first two bars are identical to Part 1, but the harmony is changed
thereafter so that the phrase can end in the home key. The final
bars, with the straight 2/4 in the right hand, are more rich and
expressive than they are in Part 1.
1:17 [m. 9]--Part 2
repeated. Repetition of the first phrase.
1:37 [m. 17]--Repetition of the
B Section--F-sharp minor
1:57 [m. 25]--The B section
uses consistent groupings of two against three. The right hand is
in straight 2/4. The left hand is in triplet groups, each one
going against two right hand notes. The melody in the right hand
is melancholy and flowing, with several embellishing grace notes.
The left hand has wide, smooth arpeggios. The phrase is grouped
into two sequential halves, the second built on the “dominant” key of
C-sharp and extended by one bar leading into the next phrase.
2:13 [m. 34]--Exact repetition
of the previous nine-bar phrase after an
initial rolled chord.
2:27 [m. 43]--Contrasting
ten-bar phrase of rising intensity, based on
the same material. At the climax, a middle voice is added.
It plays first in the straight rhythm, then in the triplets. The
phrase delays any sort of resolution, with many chromatic notes
increasing the harmonic as well as the dramatic tension.
2:43 [m. 53]--A six-bar
extension finally brings resolution onto a
delayed, but strong cadence in F-sharp minor. The intensity
settles down for a full, self-contained close to the B section.
A Section--A major
2:56 [m. 59]--Part 1, as at
0:00 [m. 1]. There is a rest before
the upbeat, so that entire bar is counted here, extending the identical
phrase to nine bars instead of eight. It is not repeated.
3:14 [m. 68]--Part 2, first
phrase, as at 0:38 [m. 9].
3:34 [m. 76]--Part 2, second
phrase, as at 0:58 [m. 17]. No
repetition of Part 2.
3:53 [m. 84]--Coda, based on
section. The melody is transformed into a bright major-key
version. The two-against three pattern is preserved. A
middle voice is added. It settles down onto a repeated murmuring,
with syncopated triplets in the bass and straight-rhythm syncopation
with biting dissonances in the middle voice. The lowest bass note
is reiterated six times. There is a steady decrease in
volume. The final gesture makes reference to the opening triplet
of the main A section melody.
4:22--END OF PIECE [92 mm.]
Moderato semplice (Rounded binary form with framing introduction and
coda). A MINOR, Cut time (2/2) with one 3/2 bar.
0:00 [m. 1]--Introduction.
A solemn, chorale-like melody in
rich chords begins on an upbeat. The initial chord gesture is
connected to the next by an active middle voice that oscillates on a
half-step. The second gesture echoes the first an octave
lower. Again, the middle voice connects it to the third chord
entry, which begins like the first, but is twice as long and contains
syncopation. The connecting idea is then transferred to bass
octaves, which lead to the fourth and final chord entry and a complete
close to the introduction.
0:23 [m. 9]--Part 1. It
begins with an upbeat on a syncopated,
oscillating gesture. We hear that it is derived from the
connecting half-step motion from the introduction, especially its last
appearance in the bass. The idea is developed into a leisurely,
strangely melancholy melody that continues to incorporate the initial
oscillating gesture with its syncopations. The left hand
accompanies with rising arpeggios. Motion at the end to the
relative major key of C.
0:38 [m. 9]--Part 1 repeated.
0:53 [m. 17]--Part 2. The
beginning is transitional.
Isolated two-note gestures from the main melody are isolated. The
melody itself is briefly transferred to the left hand. The
accompanying arpeggios begin to reach into the right hand range.
The culmination is on a long, winding arpeggio in the left hand against
highly syncopated chords (derived from the main melody) in the
right. The last transitional bar is extended by a beat in
preparation for the re-entry of the melody. It is notated as a
3/2 measure (m. 23). The next bar, m. 24, completes the
transition and contains the upbeat to the main melody.
1:09 [m. 25]--Return of the
main melody. After the first two
bars, it is altered so that it will remain on A minor rather than
moving to C. The altered portion contains an increase of
intensity. It then settles down to the cadence. There is a
four-bar extension (three of which are notated as a first ending) that
serves to emphasize the ending and then to transition back to the
C-major beginning of Part 2 for the repeat.
1:30 [m. 17 (36-37)]--Part 2
repeated. The first ending leads to
the transitional passage from 0:53.
1:46 [m. 25]--Return of the
main melody. The four-bar extension
at the end is altered (notated as a second ending) and extended to five
bars. The last two of these hover as the middle voice
oscillates. The music trails off to a very weak A-minor cadence
before a pause.
2:13 [m. 38]--Coda.
Identical to the introductory chorale.
The first part of the upbeat bar contains a rest, so it is included in
the measure numbering here.
2:43--END OF PIECE [46 mm.]
CAPRICCIO. Grazioso ed un poco vivace. Anmutig lebhaft
[Graceful and lively]. (Mixture of ternary and sonata
form). C MAJOR, 6/4 time.
First Section (“Exposition”)
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1. The
piece is ambiguous in both meter and
key. The flow of the 6/4 meter is constant, but the accentuation
at the outset suggests three groups of two rather than the more common
two groups of three beats. Even with this grouping, it is heavily
syncopated, with the strongest emphasis (through accents or large
leaps) on the second, fourth, and sixth beats, especially the last,
where at least one note is always held over the bar into the
downbeat. In fact, the piece begins with an accented upbeat on
the sixth beat. The grouping of the wide left hand arpeggios also
suggests 3x2 rather than 2x3. In addition, while the harmonies
suggest C major, that key is not unambiguously established with clear
0:20 [m. 9]--From this point,
the grouping shifts somewhat to 2x3, and
the motion within each bar is generally downward. After three
bars, in m. 12, there are accents on the third beat (held into the
beginning of the fourth), confirming the shift in grouping. In
addition to C major, the harmonies have also suggested F, and it is on
that key that the section ends, with a quieting and slowing of the
exuberant pace and a cadence after an irregular seven-bar phrase.
The last bar suggests the next section, but leads to the repeat.
First Section (“Exposition”) repeated
0:36 [m. 1]--Seamless
repetition of Theme 1, flowing from the first
ending of the section (m. 15).
0:53 [m. 9]--Repetition of
passage from 0:20, with the last bar (the
second ending, also m. 15) also functioning as the first bar of the
Second Section (“Development”)
1:07 [mm. 15-16]--Theme 2 (F
major). It emerges from the last bar
of the first section, with repeated chords emphasizing the second,
fourth, and sixth beats. The left hand continues the 2x3
grouping, with its arpeggios arching up and then back down. The
quiet, intense sotto voce
chords continue for four bars.
1:17 [m. 19]--A new idea brings
renewed animation. One bar of
rising thirds comes back down in sixths during the next bar. This
idea is then spun out more freely over two more bars with light
syncopation. There is another slowing as an apparent cadence in F
major is interrupted.
1:27 [m. 23]--The chord idea
from 1:07 [m. 15] enters again with an
abrupt shift to the key of A-flat major. The level is extremely
quiet, but the harmonies and rhythms are very tense.
1:37 [m. 27]--The new idea from
1:17 [m. 19] is developed with fuller
chords and an accompaniment incorporating left hand octaves. The
downward descent in the second bar is delayed until the third for
another harmonic shift, this time toward B major. A sudden bright
moment in that key brings back the chord idea, which now slides into
the figuration from the first section and alternates with it
twice. The first section material is heard under the chord idea
in the left hand before becoming more explicit in the right.
1:53 [m. 34]--Re-transition.
The music now begins to move back to
the key area of the first section, a motion already begun at the end of
the previous alternation. Beginning in A minor, four statements
of the chord idea are heard over a re-establishment of the 3x2 pattern
in the left hand. These occur over a quick and powerful
crescendo. The climax happens as two cascading arpeggios are
played against the last two statements of the chord idea. The
second begins two octaves higher and uses triplet rhythms (three notes
on each beat) to incorporate more descending notes.
Third Section (“Recapitulation”)
2:00 [m. 38]--Theme 1. A
varied, but highly recognizable return
of the main theme. The initial accented upbeat is the same as the
last chord in the previous section, creating a very smooth
transition. The primary characteristic, the accented syncopation
on the last (sixth) beat of each bar, returns, but is further
emphasized by huge leaps leading into a joyous descending line in
chords that was not present in the first section. After four
bars, there is a sudden diminishing as the right hand descends.
The 3x2 grouping becomes explicit, both in the left hand arpeggios and
the wide leaps of the right hand.
2:13 [m. 44]--The left hand
plays a new chord idea in the 2x3 grouping
in F major. The chords are in the middle range. The right
hand continues its figuration above. After two bars, the harmony
of the chord idea shifts back toward C major, which has still not been
completely confirmed as the key of the piece.
2:20 [m. 48]--A climactic
moment. Downward cascading music based
on Theme 1 leads to new, more emphatically melodic descending
chords. These are heard twice, the second time somewhat
higher and more unstable as the music once again becomes sustained and
2:35 [m. 54]--The music settles
down even more. The syncopations
and accentuations are still derived from Theme 1. The key is
clearly C major now, but a full cadence there has not yet
arrived. Brahms slows the music still more, and both hands are
reduced to alternating two-note groups (supported by chords in the
right hand) between them. These two-note alternating groups reach
2:57 [m. 61]--Coda. The
rising thirds from Theme 2 are heard in C
major, played quite slowly. Suddenly, they emerge into a dramatic
rising, accelerating barrage of Theme 1 material in the 3x2
grouping. This final flourish is the first time that the piece
reaches a clear arrival on the chord of the home key. The left
hand plays powerful rising octaves under the jubilant ascent of the
right. Two loud chords, a short high one and a longer lower one,
bring the piece to an end.
3:36 (including run-off time)--END OF
PIECE [67 mm.]
END OF SET