VIOLIN SONATA NO. 1 in G MAJOR, OP. 78
Recording: Itzhak Perlman, violin and Daniel Barenboim, piano (live
performance) [Sony SK 45819]
Brahms’s first published
sonata for piano and violin is a product of the high maturity, while
the other two are late works. It was composed in the wake of the
Violin Concerto, one of his largest projects, and indeed was presented
complete to Joseph Joachim while his violinist friend was still helping
him work out the bowings in the concerto. The chamber work can be
seen as a complementary offering to the concerto, but it has no formal
dedication. It is a sunny, radiant work that has a relaxed
character throughout. The first movement has a broad 6/4 meter
with much potential for rhythmic games such as cross groupings.
The third movement, whose minor key is unexpected in such a bright
piece, explicitly uses material from the two paired songs Regenlied and Nachklang from Op. 59, particularly
their accompaniment. It turns out that the material of the songs,
especially the opening rhythm, is the inspiration for the other two
movements as well. The finale also uses the beautiful main theme
of the slow second movement for one of its contrasting episodes.
Brahms did use such cyclic references to previous movements in other
works, such as the Third Symphony (Op. 90) and the last string quartet
(Op. 67), but this is the most extensive example. The finale’s
turn to the major key at the end has a magical effect and mitigates the
agitated minor-key character of its main portion. The
three-movement structure (instead of four) was less common for Brahms
in chamber works, and may also reflect the influence of the
concerto. It is nonetheless the longest of the three violin
sonatas in terms of performance time, even though the third, Op. 108,
has four movements. There were several earlier attempts at a
violin sonata that were destroyed. We know of at least one in A
minor from the 1850s that he considered for his earliest publications
along with the piano sonatas and the early songs, but then rejected.
The recording used in this guide was made from a 1989 live performance
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut
SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf &
Härtel Sämtliche Werke--includes
violin part; title given in Russian)
Movement: Vivace ma non troppo (Sonata-Allegro form). G MAJOR,
0:16 [m. 1]--(After 15 seconds
of applause). Theme 1. The piano plays long chords lasting
half a bar. Against this, the violin spins out a mezza voce melody, initially in
brief fragments, based on the long-short (dotted) rhythm of the Regenlied songs. This
develops into a twofold sequence of downward arching leaps followed by
rising scales with many chromatic notes and half-steps. The piano
chords also move to more colorful harmonies. At the end of the
phrase, the violin scale descends and the piano begins to join it.
0:42 [m. 11]--The piano and
violin begin to play in cross rhythm grouping fostered by the long 6/4
bars. The piano plays arpeggios in contrary motion between the
hands. They are organized in two groups per bar (with an added
layer of complexity within each group--two subgroups of three notes
each). The violin plays an arching dotted rhythm arranged in
three groups per bar. This line begins with a strong suggestion
of key of B major, but it eventually moves through B minor and back to
G major. This builds from a very tranquil beginning to a climax
where the violin begins to hold long descending notes while diminishing.
1:05 [m. 21]--Transition.
The violin plays the dotted-rhythm opening gesture of Theme 1 against
the continuing piano arpeggios. It then arches down and up while
the piano left hand moves in the opposite direction. The piano
then takes over the Theme 1 gesture and downward arch. The violin
continues with the music of Theme 1 while the piano plays with the
characteristic descending figures heard at the theme’s opening.
This builds to another climax.
1:15 [m. 25]--The “downward
arching” leaps from Theme 1 are used at the climax in both
instruments. They are then spun out toward a descending violin
arpeggio. The piano then quiets, taking over the Theme 1
gestures, echoed by left hand rhythms reminiscent of the accompaniment
from the Regenlied
songs. The violin now plays long double-stops reminiscent of the
piano’s opening long chords. This passage moves to the “dominant”
key of D major. Syncopated octaves in the piano right hand lead
to the second theme.
1:42 [m. 36]--Theme 2.
While it still uses the dotted rhythm, it is more lyrical and less
hesitant, with all beats filled out with notes. The violin
presents it, with downward-winding arpeggios in the piano. The
violin plays the four-bar melody twice, the second time an octave
higher and doubled by the piano’s top voice. In the last bar of
each statement, the piano has a 3x2 cross-rhythm grouping or hemiola (D major).
2:01 [m. 44]--The second part
of Theme 2 is more striving and aggressive, with strong syncopations
and sweeping piano arpeggios. It builds in two waves to the
climactic phrase, which is itself organized into two more waves
separated by a piano punctuation. The second of these soars
upward and descends. Under a longer violin note, punctuating
piano chords rapidly diminish in volume after this climax.
2:25 [m. 55]--A reminiscence of
Theme 1, with shorter repeated chords in the piano, dies down and
reaches a cadence in D major.
2:41 [m. 60]--Closing
material. The violin plays an isolated note right after the
cadence and then the piano unexpectedly takes up a new theme in chords
in the key of B major (heard briefly in Theme 1), played in the middle
range. The violin imitates this tune a fifth higher. Then
the piano takes it to the higher range, with the bass trailing.
Both instruments become very quiet.
2:52 [m. 64]--The piano bass
isolates a rhythmic fragment of the tune, and the right hand imitates
it in octaves, accompanied by rapid octave oscillations in the
violin. This happens twice. The piano bass begins a third
statement, but in the imitation, the piano right hand and violin are
reversed so that the piano right hand is playing the oscillation.
There are two more statements of this pattern, but the left hand
fragment moves up to a higher range and the right hand oscillations
move down by a half-step in the last one. Finally, things slow
down, the thematic fragment moves to the piano right hand, and the left
hand takes the oscillations down low under two long violin notes.
This passage has moved the music to A major.
3:09 [m. 70]--It turns out that
A major is a “dominant” leading back to D major, the key of Theme 2,
where the exposition should end. The violin plays a light,
graceful line based on the closing melody. The piano bass
harmonizes this while the right hand plays close harmonies after the
beat. Then the piano right hand takes over the graceful melody,
the violin moving to the off-beat syncopation.
3:19 [m. 74]--The violin again
takes the graceful tune, expanding it with a downward sweeping
line. The right hand off-beat chords are now active, with the
notes in parallel motion over an oscillating bass. There is a
mid-range piano line against the violin’s sweeping line. Finally,
the piano takes the melody again, and now both instruments participate
in the off-beat chords. An ascent in chords from the piano is
followed by a similar one from the violin, the instruments again
exchanging the off-beat chords. The violin line is expanded
farther upward, reaching very high as the piano’s off-beat chords move
steadily downward and the bass settles on a repeated D. At the
very end, the key is wrenched back to the home key of G major with two
low piano chords resembling the opening
3:38 [m. 82]--The first six
bars of Theme 1 are reprised in the home key with slightly different
scoring. The long chords are now plucked by the violin, supported by
the piano bass. The piano plays the actual theme, largely in
3:53 [m. 88]--There is now a
divergence from the original Theme 1. The scales are extended,
adding some arpeggios. The violin abandons the plucked chords and
plays in harmony with the piano, sometimes moving in the same
direction, sometimes the opposite direction. The piano bass
retains the dotted rhythm.
4:10 [m. 95]--After the violin
breaks a bit, it plays two four-note descents that go against the main
rhythm. The piano closely imitates these one beat later.
The violin abandons these descents, but the piano plays a third
one. The violin line is now freer, but matches the groupings of
the piano descents, whose top notes shift up a half-step for three more
statements. Finally, the violin has three four-note
descents (the last of which shifts downward) against a free piano line
over a low bass note. A syncopated violin descent ends the
passage, which has shifted the music up to A-flat major.
4:19 [m. 99]--A statement of
Theme 1 begins in A-flat. The piano plays bass octaves with the
chords coming after them on weak beats. After the first four
bars, the piano imitates the two preceding violin bars and sequences
them upwards twice against mildly dissonant violin chords, suggesting F
minor. The violin then takes the figures again and moves them
upward again twice, now reaching quite high and suggesting D-flat major
(both keys closely related to A-flat major). The music slows and
4:40 [m. 107]--The downward
leaping figure from Theme 1 and the following scales provide the
material for a highly dynamic and powerful passage. After a loud
bass chord in A-flat minor, the piano right hand begins to play scales
and arpeggios in rapid triplet rhythm. The violin plays scales
against this in straight rhythm, as does the piano right hand in
octaves when the triplet arpeggios move to the left hand. At this
point, the piano right hand and violin emerge into the imitative
four-note descents from 4:10 [m. 95].
4:47 [m. 110]--Similar passages
follow, first in B minor, than in A minor, and finally in G
minor. All begin with the downward-leaping figure and a scale in
triplet rhythm. In the B-minor and G-minor passages, the violin
takes the triplet rhythm (along with the piano bass in the
B-minor). In the intervening A-minor passage, the piano right
hand begins the triplet rhythm. When the violin has the triplets,
the piano right hand has straight rhythm, and vice versa. The
B-minor and A-minor passages are short, only two bars, while the
G-minor one is extended to four bars and emerges into the imitative
four-note descents (expanded from three to four statements). The
last piano descent devolves into a string of half-steps at the end.
5:05 [m. 118]--The dynamic
music continues, now using the arching dotted-rhythm figure from 0:42
[m. 11]. The piano imitates the violin on this figure while the
bass plays another sweeping line derived from it. The strength
builds even more and the music arrives on E minor (relative minor to
the home key of G).
5:15 [m. 123]-- The violin, in
a forceful downward motion, alternates dotted rhythms with an
upward-leaping piano right hand and an arching left hand. The
piano then takes over the “forceful downward motion” in B minor, and
the upward leaps move to the left hand, the violin soaring up to
5:24 [m. 127]--Suddenly, the
ascending line that ended the exposition is heard in the piano bass
octaves against an active, highly syncopated right hand. The
violin then enters on the same highly syncopated music, and the
ascending line is transferred to the right hand, now in chords.
Finally, the ascending line moves to the violin, where it is given two
statements. The right hand has the strongly syncopated music
again and the left hand has long descents. The music shifts to
5:33 [m. 131]--The violin has
two more ascents that are more halting, including repeated notes.
Under these, the syncopated lines break up and become more
regular. Finally, the violin itself has a hemiola on repeated notes implying
a 3/2 bar superimposed on the 6/4 meter, which is also supported by the
interjecting piano figures. The music arrives in the home minor
key, G minor.
5:40 [m. 135]--The music
suddenly recedes at the G-minor cadence. The tune fragment from
2:52 [m. 64], the downward-turning dotted rhythm, is the substance of a
meditative passage. The fragment is passed between the piano bass
and the violin four times, with detached chord and single-note
alternations from the right hand played against the violin
statements. Finally, the piano bass has two more isolated
statements that are not answered by the violin, which plays longer
notes. There are short right-hand interjections on strong beats.
5:56 [m. 140]--The piano plays
the familiar long chords and the violin plays the opening fragment of
Theme 1 in G minor. There is then another series of alternations
on the downward-turning dotted rhythm, this time led by the violin and
passed to the piano bass. The right hand again plays the skittish
detached figures. After three alternations, a violin statement of
the downward turn reverses and moves upward, holding long notes over
two final low statements of the rhythm from the piano bass similar to
those heard before m. 140 with the short right-hand interjections.
6:18 [m. 148]--Re-transition.
G minor has now been in force for some time, which means that the
emergence of major, rather than the typical “dominant-tonic” motion,
will herald the recapitulation. The opening fragment of Theme 1
is heard again in that key, but this time it is repeated and extended
with a dreamy downward-arching motion over the familiar Regenlied dotted rhythm in the
piano bass. This arching motion is repeated in a warm shift to an
A-major chord. Two more descending fragments are heard as the
piano bass moves down to a low D (the “dominant” note). Finally,
six violin statements of the earlier four-note descents from 4:10 [m.
95] over a slowly oscillating mid-range piano motion and a syncopated
top piano line slow down and lead directly into the recapitulation.
6:43 [m. 156]--Theme 1 begins
without the opening dotted rhythm and chords. The piano chords
under this first bar are mildly dissonant, continuing the dreamy mood
of the end of the development. In the second bar, the original
chords are restored and the theme proceeds as at the beginning of the
sonata., differing only with a slightly higher-reaching right hand at
the very end of the nine-bar unit.
7:05 [m. 165]--The cross-rhythm
passage with the arching dotted rhythm in the violin and the
contrary-motion arpeggios in the piano from 0:42 [m. 11] is repeated
exactly up until the climax with the high violin notes in m. 172
(corresponding to m. 18). The climax is abbreviated by one bar
and does not diminish. A scalar descent in the violin leads
directly to Theme 2, skipping the entire long transition passage.
7:28 [m. 174]--Theme 2, in the
home key of G major. There are two statements, as at 1:42 [m.
36], but the piano accompaniment is entirely different. The left
hand has upward arpeggios and the right hand has smooth descending
lines. The 3x2 hemiola
is preserved with four-note descents at the end of the first
statement. In the second statement, the violin does not move an
octave higher, and the piano does not double it until halfway
through. The left hand arpeggios become wider. The piano
gradually resumes the original accompaniment so that the hemiola at the end of the second
statement is as it was in the exposition.
7:46 [m. 182]--The “striving,
aggressive” portion of Theme 2 is nearly exactly analogous to 2:01 [m.
44]. Because the setting in G major is at a higher pitch, the
climax seams to soar even more brilliantly.
8:10 [m. 193]--Reminiscence of
Theme 1 and G-major cadence, analogous to 2:25 [m. 55].
8:26 [m. 198]--Closing
material. Piano and violin alternations of the new oscillating
theme heard as at 2:41 [m. 60], now in the analogous key of E major.
8:36 [m. 202]--Isolation of the
tune fragment with alternation and rapid octave oscillations. The
entire passage is analogous to 2:52 [m. 64], and arrives on D major as
the “dominant” of the home key, G major.
8:54 [m. 208]--Light, graceful
violin line with piano harmonies after the beat, as at 3:09 [m.
70]. The piano right hand takes over, as expected.
9:04 [m. 212]--Expansion of the
graceful tune and final ascents, as at 3:19 [m. 74]. Here, there
are some register shifts from the exposition. The violin begins
its first statement of the graceful tune down an octave so that its
reach to the “downward sweeping line” is wider. Also, in the
final violin ascents, the instrument drops down to begin at a lower
level so that its final arrival (analogously on C major) is actually
(and unexpectedly) lower than in the exposition.
9:21 [m. 219]--The final
arrival on C-major is averted by four pairs of dissonant “diminished”
chords in the piano’s low and middle range, quite unlike the pure
G-major chords at the end of the exposition. Over the second,
third and fourth pairs, the violin leaps up, then widely down and then
back up again to a pitch a half-step lower than the first “arrival”
9:33 [m. 223]--The entire coda
builds very slowly to the brilliant ending. The opening fragment
of Theme 1 is given over short piano chords. There then follow
ascents similar to those at the end of the exposition and
recapitulation. The piano plays “oscillating” motion under
these. The theme fragment and ascents are given again, with new
harmonies that briefly move to A minor and back. The ascents soar
quite high. Four long violin notes leap down, up, and back down
as the piano moves to arpeggios in groups of three reminiscent of 0:42
[m. 11]. These ascend under the first three long notes, then turn
and descend with a strongly ascending bass as the violin becomes more
active and descends to the highly fulfilling arrival point.
10:02 [m. 235]--This satisfying
arrival point uses the music from 0:42 [m. 11], now combining the piano
arpeggios in groups of three with a joyous version of the arching
dotted rhythm. Two strong motions to a cadence are followed by a
long ascent to the top note. The piano left hand first plays
longer, solid bass notes, then joins in the piano arpeggios in its
original contrary motion.
10:12 [m. 240]--The final
flourish first has the violin descending in two-note groups against
sharp piano chords alternating between the left and right hands.
Then the violin breaks into a descending arpeggio in triplet
rhythm. The piano takes up the triplets and reverses direction as
the violin moves to straight rhythm. The two instruments play the
final cadence together with three powerful chords, the first two
detached and the last one held.
10:28--END OF MOVEMENT [243 mm.]
Movement: Adagio--Più andante--Adagio come prima (Ternary form
with large coda). E-FLAT MAJOR, 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Beginning with a
long upbeat, the piano alone presents the main theme in harmonies
dominated by sonorous sixths, occasionally filled in to complete full
chords. It is a melody set off by its initial gentle descending
gesture. The left hand, after an opening long low octave, plays
wide-ranging arpeggios. The syncopations in the third bar help to
stretch the first phrase out to five bars instead of four.
0:23 [m. 6]--The second phrase
of the theme shifts the harmony to the “dominant” key of B-flat.
It ends with the opening gesture in that key, and is a regular four
bars, creating a larger period of nine bars.
0:43 [m. 10]--At a much quieter
level, the violin makes its first entrance with hesitant syncopated
figures. The piano figuration moves to a higher register and low
octaves emerge in the bass. The music shifts back to E-flat, but
it is the minor version of that key, and full cadences are
avoided. The violin figures emerge into a confident melody moving
to a half-cadence.
1:02 [m. 14]--The half-cadence
is repeated in the piano. The violin melody gains in confidence
and is spun out more, reaching high and descending on more forceful
syncopated notes. The low bass piano octaves emerge in full as
the upper figuration remains in the middle range. The music
remains in E-flat minor.
1:19 [m. 18]--After a pause,
the violin now plays the opening gesture of the main theme and shifts
to the major key. It then works out this gesture as both it and
the piano gradually build. The top of the piano line emerges as a
countermelody for the first time. Brahms builds tension by
delaying the full cadence on E-flat, which does eventually arrive.
B Section--Più andante
1:50 [m. 25]--As the piano bass
reaches its cadence, the violin drops out, and without warning, the
piano emerges into quiet full chords that are again in E-flat minor, not major. The new
tempo marking indicates a somewhat faster speed, but the marking mezza voce implies that it should
still be subdued. The rhythm is the long-short dotted rhythm
(this time with rests before the short chords) associated with the Regenlied. The chords make a
progression in E-flat minor and then repeat it with minimal variation
in the upper harmonies, but none in the lower bass octaves. The
repetition begins to rapidly build.
2:03 [m. 29]--Suddenly,
at a louder level, there are two large leaps in octaves that suggest a
move to C-flat major. The second one brings the octaves between
the hands closer together, but the notes (G-flat and C-flat) are the
same. A third leap, with the bass again lower, changes C-flat to
its equivalent note B, and Brahms changes the key signature from three
flats to two sharps. The violin enters after its long rest,
playing a passionate fragment above the piano, whose leaps have emerged
into full chords in B major.
2:12 [m. 32]--Suddnly quiet,
low chords in the dotted rhythm introduce an expressive, winding melody
with many half-steps. The violin plays the melody, but the piano
accompaniment also shadows some of its outlines in the right hand,
playing leaping figures in the dotted rhythm with the left. The
volume rapidly increases and the piano speeds up, playing broken
octaves in triplets and then plunging downward in a rapid arpeggio.
2:25 [m. 37]--The violin, at
full volume and now in B minor, plays the formerly secretive dotted
rhythm heard at the beginning of the B
section from the piano alone. It now sounds martial and
defiant. The piano accompanies the violin with chords, while its
left hand loosely imitates the rising dotted-rhythm.
2:35 [m. 41]--As at 2:03 [m.
29], the three large leaps follow. The scoring and octave
placement is similar. It seems at first that there will be an
analogous motion to G major from B minor, but the expected G major on
the third leap is thwarted harmonically and diverted instead toward D
minor. The “passionate fragment” soars further upward to
emphasize this darker intensification.
2:43 [m. 44]--In a darker
version of the expressive, winding melody from 2:12 [m. 32], the piano
right hand has the main melody while the piano bass combines figures from the
melody with the dotted rhythm. The violin, in a low register,
also combines these elements in alternation with the piano bass.
At the intensification, the violin speeds up even more rapidly than the
piano had done and emerges into the plunging arpeggio formerly taken by
2:56 [m. 49]--The key signature
changes back to three flats. The piano seems to begin the martial
version of the dotted rhythm again in D minor, and the violin begins to
imitate the piano bass (in a reversal of 2:25 [m. 37]. This time,
however, the imitation remains strict and the dotted rhythm begins to
move upward in sequences. At its peak, the imitation breaks and
the violin begins to play leaping octaves. The piano has thick
chords over plunging bass octaves. The music moves to a huge
arrival on an A-major chord.
3:16 [m. 57]--At the A-major
chord, the violin and piano right hand break off and the left hand,
suddenly quiet, plays slowly rising arpeggios in the dotted rhythm (the
right hand takes over as they move upward). The A-major chord is
followed by similar arpeggios on a B-flat major harmony. Against
these, in double-stops, the violin begins to hesitantly hint at the
main theme of the A section.
3:26 [m. 61]--In a continuation
of the motion upward by half-steps in the arpeggios, the next one is on
C-flat major. It is repeated three times, but the second one adds
a foreign note in the middle, and the third one changes C-flat to C,
resulting in a dissonant and tension-filled “diminished-seventh” chord
that includes the new “foreign” note (A-natural). The fragments
of the main theme continue in the violin double stops, but they are
then shortened. There is a slowing and a diminishing of volume
over the last dissonant arpeggio. The violin simply holds its
last double stop without moving, and there is an extremely intense
A’ Section--Adagio come prima
3:46 [m. 68]--The dissonant
violin double-stop at the pause slides into an E-flat major chord,
where the main theme seems filled with consolation upon its return
after the tense and dark B
section. The violin now plays the main theme in warmly harmonious
double stops while the piano provides a new undulating accompaniment in
triplet rhythm. The piano bass still plays the wide arpeggios,
clashing with the triplets in a two-against-three conflict.
4:06 [m. 73]--Second phrase of
the theme from 0:23 [m. 6]. As before, it moves to B-flat.
The violin continues its double stops, the piano its decorative
accompaniment and clashing two-against-three rhythm. The phrase
ends with a descending B-flat piano arpeggio in the triplet rhythm.
4:23 [m. 77]--The violin plays
the quiet hesitant syncopated figures, as it had at 0:43 [m. 10].
The difference is in the piano accompaniment, which is still playing
the florid triplet motion. The same low octaves emerge in the
bass. As before, the music moves to E-flat minor and to a
4:41 [m. 81]--The half-cadence
is repeated in the piano in a brief break from the constant triplets of
the right hand. The violin melody gains confidence and builds, as
at 1:02 [m. 14]. New syncopation is introduced in the flowing
piano triplet rhythm. The bass octaves are as before.
4:57 [m. 85]--Return of the
opening gesture of the main theme, as at 1:19 [m. 18]. The piano
is still playing the triplets in the right hand, at first with
irregular groupings that cross bar lines, continuing the syncopated
effect from the previous passage. The countermelody is embedded
in the flowing triplets. There is a building, with a delay of the
cadence in E-flat, as in the first A
Coda (B’ Section)
5:27 [m. 92]--The coda uses
elements of the B
section. The ominous dotted rhythm in the piano that began that
section emerges out of A’ in
the same way as it had before at 1:50 [m. 25], with the major
difference that it does not shift instantly to the minor key. The
low bass octaves remain in pure E-flat major, but the supporting chords
introduce the chromatic note D-flat, which creates the necessary
tension. The entire passage is very soft, even softer than the
beginning of the B section.
5:42 [m. 96]--The piano now
begins a long bass pedal point on E-flat. It continues constantly
in the dotted rhythm, with notes held across bar lines. Above
this, the right hand plays middle-range chords that do change, but
quite slowly. The right-hand chords introduce more notes in
addition to the D-flat that give the music an inflection toward the
minor key. Above all of this, the violin surreptitiously enters
after its long rest and plays the expressive, winding melody from 2:12
[m. 32]. The violin departs from the melody after two sequential
phrases, breaking into arching arpeggios over the piano pedal point and
6:30 [m. 111]--The E-flat minor
at the end of the pedal point pivots to its related major key,
G-flat. The violin, in double stops, begins a statement of the
main theme (from the A
section) in that key. The piano bass moves down and up by
half-steps. The right hand begins to respond to the violin, and
there is a sudden buildup. The main theme in G-flat breaks and
reaches higher. As the buildup reaches its climax, E-flat major
brilliantly emerges again on the opening figure of the theme.
6:51 [m. 117]--The violin
continues with the main theme in double stops, but it pauses on a
third, diminishes and quiets, and the piano breaks into sonorous
arpeggios. These are played in contrary motion, and the right
hand is harmonized in a “horn fifth” style. The violin moves down
an octave, and both hands of the piano move up an octave. Here,
the “horn fifth” arpeggios are repeated with the instruments closer
together. The arpeggios continue a bit farther than before and
reach a quiet, warm cadence. Two sighing reiterations of this
cadence, the second with the piano rising, end the movement in a very
7:27--END OF MOVEMENT [122 mm.]
Movement: Allegro molto moderato--Più moderato (Rondo
form). G MINOR/MAJOR, 4/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--First statement of
RONDO theme (A). The
first two bars are directly derived from the minor-key Regenlied melody. The violin
plays the melody itself, beginning with the distinctive dotted-rhythm
upbeat. The piano plays an accompaniment derived from the song,
the skittish upward motion and the winding downward motion. The
piano bass has isolated dotted-rhythm upbeats, and the left hand once
leaps above the steady accompaniment to play them higher. After
the second bar, the melody deviates from the song, but retains the same
quiet, agitated character.
0:10 [m. 5]--The second phrase
is more static at first. It is
extended to five bars by an insertion of a bar with triplets in the
violin. The left hand abandons the dotted upbeats for low
octaves. The phrase moves through A minor to D minor for a
cadence. The piano skips upward in a bridge, moving back to G
0:22 [m. 10]--A contrasting
phrase brings the rising accompaniment
figures in the piano to the violin, and the instruments alternate on
these figures. The left hand is absent here. The last two
violin statements of the figures are delayed, and the final one is
lengthened, leading into a restatement of the opening. Under this
final lengthened violin figure, the piano bass enters with the dotted
0:33 [m. 14]--The opening of
the theme returns. The first phrase
begins as before, but it is altered in its second half, where it
reaches lower at the end. This places the second phrase at a
lower level, and through artful manipulation, it reaches lower still,
allowing it to remain in G minor for its cadence.
0:54 [m. 23]--The contrasting
phrase from 0:22 [m. 10] is used as a
transition to the first new contrasting theme. It begins higher
than before and is interrupted by a smooth violin descent with the
piano moving to a downward winding line. The rising figures
return, and are again broken by the smooth line. The downward
winding piano line moves to the left hand as the key moves to D minor.
1:04 [m. 27]--FIRST CONTRASTING
The theme begins with a sort of anticipation emerging from the previous
passage. The longer dotted rhythms and languid line in the violin
will become characteristic of the theme. The right hand enters
against the continuing left hand figuration. There is a small
swelling and receding (D minor).
1:09 [m. 29]--The actual
contrasting theme is first stated here.
The long dotted rhythms heard in the “anticipation” now become
genuinely melodic. The piano has short interjections with low
bass notes as an accompaniment, but it does have one trailing imitation
of a turning violin figure in the melody.
1:20 [m. 33]--The instruments
reverse roles in a second statement of
the melody. The piano plays the tune in octaves with isolated
broken octaves in the left hand. These are part of the “short
interjections” in the accompaniment, together with violin double
stops. The violin also takes the previous piano imitation of the
turning figure, still in double stops. The end of the statement
is altered to prepare for the next part of the melody, into which the
violin leads with a trill.
1:31 [m. 37]--A contrasting
phrase led by the violin is more
agitated. It sweeps down in an arpeggio, then back up. This
happens three times, with a descending two-note response. The
two-note responses then come to the foreground, heavily accenting their
upbeats, creating syncopation, and moving both up and down.
Throughout the phrase, the piano has the “short interjections,” but
they also now incorporate syncopation and are lengthened and connected
when the two-note violin figures take over.
1:41 [m. 41]--The last
syncopation hesitantly leads into an altered
statement of the phrase from 1:09 [m. 29], with its second half altered
to lead to a full cadence in D minor. The piano accompaniment and
imitation of the turning phrase are largely the same as before,
following the violin in the alterations and cadence.
1:51 [m. 45]--The instruments
reverse roles again for a restatement of
the contrasting phrase from 1:31 [m. 37]. The piano leads in with
an trill, but unlike the violin statement, the piano statement
increases in volume as well as agitation. The violin
accompaniment is mostly in double stops unless it is joining in the
two-note responses. Unlike the violin statement, this piano
statement incorporates triplet rhythms into the sweeping arpeggios, and
the piano bass also includes rapid triplet arpeggios.
2:02 [m. 49]--For the
restatement of the cadence phrase from 1:41 [m.
41], the instruments are not reversed. The agitated piano passage
settles down, and the violin takes over, making this phrase a virtually
exact repetition of the previous one leading to the D-minor
cadence. After the cadence, a piano arpeggio leads directly into
the dotted-rhythm upbeat heralding a return of the Regenlied rondo theme.
2:12 [m. 53]--A transitional
passage brings back the material of the
rondo theme, but it is fragmented. It steadily quiets down and
moves back to the home key of G minor. At the end, the
anticipation for the actual rondo theme has reached a point of great
tension and expectation.
2:35 [m. 61]--Second full
statement of RONDO theme (A).
The first two phrases are
given in the same form as at the beginning, without variation.
2:58 [m. 70]--The contrasting
phrase and the return of the opening are
restated as at 0:22 [m. 10] and 0:33 [m. 14]. The piano
accompaniment following the G-minor cadence turns around and winds
downward, extending the phrase by a bar to lead to the second
contrasting theme. The transition from 0:54 [m. 23] is dispensed
with, and the new theme (which turns out to be an old theme) follows
3:33 [m. 84]--SECOND
CONTRASTING THEME (C).
Entering over the trailing piano descent and moving smoothly, but
directly to E-flat major, the contrasting theme turns out to be the
primary melody from the second
movement, complete with violin double stops! While the
piano arrests itself at first, giving the violin full exposure in this
important moment, it immediately resumes activity (including a
syncopated leaping figure in the bass) under the violin’s continuation,
which becomes more active and superimposes the pervasive dotted rhythm
of this movement onto the reminiscence of the theme from the previous
movement, culminating in a scale descent that sounds extremely similar
to a moment in the later Fourth Symphony.
3:45 [m. 88]--The violin again
states the new/old melody, now in B-flat
major and without the double stops, over highly syncopated piano
accompaniment. It is now given more extension and spun out in a
dreamy manner before the previous continuation with dotted rhythm and
the scale descent are again heard. Finally, the tune is given yet
again in B-flat major, an octave higher than before.
4:07 [m. 96]--The melody is now
played with shorter notes in the violin
and broken up by rests. It abruptly begins in a seemingly remote
key, D-flat major, but it turns quickly to that key’s related minor,
B-flat minor, connecting it to the previous B-flat major. The
piano right hand undulates in mostly thirds and sixths The piano
bass plays together with the isolated fragments of the violin melody,
mostly in contrary motion.
4:18 [m. 100]--The piano has
its turn at the “broken up” version of the
melody. It begins in G-flat major, which is related to D-flat
major and B-flat minor. It also makes a minor-key turn, but much
sooner, and it stays on the same home keynote (notated as F-sharp, not
G-flat minor). The right hand fragments of the melody are
harmonized, and the left hand now has the undulations. Suddenly,
the violin enters with melodic undulations and the piano plays sharp
syncopated chords with moving bass octaves. This passage is
unstable and becomes loud and agitated.
4:28 [m. 104]--The climax of
the preceding passage ends up on E-flat
(the home key of the C
section), but it is a mixture of major and minor. Sharp octave
descents in the piano bass occur with short violin interjections
derived from the melody. The right hand’s undulations now have a
fuller harmony. Another climax is reached, with major winning out
over minor and the violin playing a fast, downward arching arpeggio to
lead into the upcoming culminating statement of the second movement
4:37 [m. 107]--In the original
E-flat major, the violin plays a very
fulfilling version of the melody in a syncopated version. The
piano plays sweeping arpeggios and rich low bass octaves. As at
the beginning of the section, the melody then incorporates the dotted
rhythm, including the descending scale. Using some biting
chromatic notes and syncopated piano bass arpeggios, the melody rapidly
diminishes in intensity as it approaches the cadence.
4:56 [m. 113]--Brahms marked
this transition “tranquillo.” The
dotted upbeats typical of the main rondo theme emerge along with their
typical accompaniment and long low bass notes. The key is still
the E-flat major of the C
section, but the violin soon slides upward and the piano follows it
with quickly changing harmonies that move toward a radiant F-sharp
5:10 [m. 118]--Another wave of
the transition material begins in G-flat
major (a re-notation of F-sharp). The violin again slides upward
on the dotted upbeats. A rapid buildup and retreat leads to
A-flat major. As the music again starts to die away, the piano,
then the violin play a syncopated descending line that eases back down
to the home key of the movement, G minor. The end of the violin’s
descent suddenly doubles as a sliding upbeat into the return of the
5:30 [m. 124]--Third statement
of RONDO theme (A’). The
theme begins as
before in the violin, but the dotted rhythm in the low piano bass is
shifted from an upbeat to mid-measure. The left hand does not
cross the right on the second of these, moving only one octave
higher. Then the hand crossing does occur, but the crossing left
hand plays syncopation instead of the dotted rhythm, and the violin
begins to diverge a bit from the original melody. The end of the
phrase reaches downward instead of upward, as it had before.
5:41 [m. 128]--The second
phrase is greatly altered. There are
new melodic turns, and the left hand dotted-rhythm interjections remain
in mid-measure. The right hand does cross here and play the
dotted rhythm. The phrase ends with four four-note descents, each
a half-step lower. These contain several chromatic notes, which
also appear in the piano accompaniment. The piano bass has
heavily syncopated repetitions.
5:51 [m. 132]--Instead of a
contrasting phrase, the opening of the
melody returns here. The left hand dotted rhythms remain in
mid-measure. This phrase diverges even earlier, reaching much
higher. Again, the left hand crosses over to the syncopated
rhythm, as in the first phrase of this section.
6:01 [m. 136]--The last phrase
of the section now has a more distinct
feeling of closure, although the much anticipated cadence is repeatedly
evaded. The piano bass has very low repetitions of the keynote,
G. Finally, a descending triplet figure leads to a satisfying
cadence in G minor as the music slows down slightly. The piano,
whose upward-skipping accompaniment figures have remained remarkably
consistent through the highly varied section, skips upward and
immediately changes G minor to G major in its ascent.
6:13 [m. 140]--CODA (A” + C’). Più moderato, G
major. To emphasize the change here, Brahms writes dolcissimo (extremely
sweetly). The material at the beginning is a major-key
transformation of the “contrasting phrase” from the rondo theme,
specifically the version used as a transition at 0:54 [m. 23].
After two bars of this material, the piano, in its middle range,
unexpectedly inserts a richly harmonized version of the C theme, or
second movement theme. The violin plays wide figuration over
this, and a chord from the C
melody is given a pulsation in slow dotted
6:26 [m. 144]--Another
statement of the “contrasting phrase” begins an
octave lower, but the violin very quickly reaches higher than
before. The violin and piano right hand begin a dialogue on a
turn figure derived from the contrasting phrase. The left hand
takes over the familiar accompaniment figures, and there is a small
crescendo to a minor climax as
the violin reaches a top note.
This quickly recedes.
6:41 [m. 149]--The violin
emerges into the C melody in
with a rippling, undulating piano accompaniment. Pulsations
follow, supported by piano bass octaves and briefly hinting at E
major. This is followed by a new and highly expressive violin
phrase that slowly arches up and back down.
6:58 [m. 154]--The pulsations
begin again. They are followed
again the by the new expressive phrase, which now reaches higher, is
extended a bar, and descends in a dotted rhythm as the tempo slows a
7:18 [m. 159]--A shadow of the
rondo theme, the opening dotted rhythm,
is passed between the piano right hand and the violin, the left hand
taking the accompaniment in one final rise and fall in volume.
The last soaring phrase reaches high in the violin while the piano
right hand hesitantly descends over sweeping left hand arpeggios.
The transfigured final chords are rolled by the piano, with the violin
playing double stops.
7:50--END OF MOVEMENT [164 mm.]
END OF SONATA
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