PIANO TRIO NO. 1 in B MAJOR, OP. 8
(ORIGINAL 1854 VERSION)
Recording: Trio Opus 8 (Michael Hauber, piano; Eckhard
Fischer, violin; Mario de Secondi, cello) [Arte Nova 74321
We know from
correspondence and written statements that among the early
works Brahms considered for publication were several pieces of
chamber music, most of which he withdrew and apparently
destroyed. There was a violin sonata in A minor which he
had performed with his touring partner, Hungarian violinist
Eduard Reményi. Mention is made of other works,
including piano trios and string quartets. But the first
piece of chamber music he saw fit to publish was the Piano
Trio in B major. It was composed in the wake of Robert
Schumann’s mental breakdown. A composition on an epic
scale and full of youthful ambition, it became one of his most
popular pieces. One of the first performances was in
Boston, which is quite extraordinary. It is therefore at
least somewhat strange that today, this work is one of the
least-known of all his compositions. Of course, the Trio
in B Major, retaining the early opus number, is still popular
and beloved, but the piece as generally known is the revised version from 1889, 35 years
later. The “revision” is really an entirely new
composition that uses the main themes of the youthful
work. Brahms apparently became aware of the early trio’s
flaws, both thematically and structurally, long before the
revision. He is known to have allowed a cut in the first
movement’s exceedingly long development section at a
performance in the 1870s, and Brahms almost never sanctioned
cuts in his music. When the publisher Simrock offered
the mature composer an opportunity to revise his out-of-print
early works in preparation for a reissue, he considered making
changes to the F-minor piano sonata,
but in the end, the trio was the only early publication
subjected to such a rethinking. It is impossible to know
what we would think about the original version had the revised
one never been produced. It certainly would not be
neglected and unknown, and it would be regularly
performed. But it clearly has more issues than another
early piece like the piano sonata,
which is an undisputed masterpiece precisely because of its
unrestrained exuberance and broad scope. Brahms
recognized that he could not simply suppress a published and
much-performed work, so he gladly sanctioned the continued
circulation of the original version, but the revision created
a late masterpiece with an early opus number, and the actual
early work eventually fell nearly into oblivion. More
recently, there have been some recordings and performances,
and the score has always been easy to obtain. One
notable aspect of the trio in both versions is that the same
tonal center, B, is used for all four movements. B major
was already a rather unusual key for a multi-movement
work. It was a bold choice to cast his final movement in
the home minor key and even bolder to end it there. That
aspect was also retained in the revision. The main theme
of the first movement is grand and glorious, and one of the
young composer’s finest inspirations. Unfortunately, the
movement’s overall structure is both diffuse and uneven.
The transition and second theme group show a great decline in
inspiration from the main theme, despite the Bach-like
character of the latter. The development section is
truly enormous, and the insertion of a full fugue in the
recapitulation is disruptive. The scherzo in B minor,
placed in second position, is a brilliant and inspired
movement, with echoes of Mendelssohn’s beloved scherzo from
his Midsummer Night’s Dream music. This movement
was spared major revisions except for its weird ending.
The slow movement begins with a beautiful chorale-like main
theme, and its second theme seems to quote from a Schubert
song. That movement also has a disruptive insertion, a
Schumann-like “Allegro” passage. The finale, with its
obsessive main rhythm, quotes another song in its second
theme, this time from Beethoven’s cycle An die ferne
Geliebte, a melody Schumann had also quoted at the end
of his Fantasie in C major (Op. 17). Brahms would
dispense with the second themes of all movements except the
scherzo and its contrasting trio section, including both song
quotations. They obviously had some personal meaning,
likely connected to Schumann. Because of this, he had to
completely recompose the development sections of the first and
last movements, greatly reducing the length of both. The
“Allegro” is simply excised from the slow movement after the
new second theme, but the reprise of the main theme is largely
retained intact. The original Trio is worth hearing and
studying, not just for the fascinating insights into the
composer’s mind and process gained by comparison with the revision. While it is
difficult to consider it on its own terms, it has its virtues
even within its flaws.
FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition [monochrome] from the Royal
Danish Library--includes violin and cello parts)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
Movement: Allegro con moto (Sonata-Allegro form with varied
recapitulation). B MAJOR, 4/4 time, with 8 nonconsecutive
measures of 3/2.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1. The piano begins on an
upbeat, playing the first four measures of the full-hearted,
broadly lyrical melody in the tenor range. A middle
voice is established with up-down alternating notes on narrow
intervals of a second, third, or fourth while the left hand
establishes a “pedal point” on the low keynote B and the
“dominant” note F-sharp above it, stressing the second beat of
the measure. After four measures, the cello enters a
third above the melody. The violin interjects with a
0:15 [m. 9]--In the last four measures of the
twelve-measure melody, the piano moves above the cello and the
direction of the middle voice is reversed. The left hand
allows one intrusion of the “subdominant” note E amid the
constantly reiterated B and F-sharp. The violin entry
against this soars up, then leaps down to a held note.
These violin figures were dispensed with in the revised
version. The phrase reaches full closure.
0:23 [m. 13]--In a contrasting phrase, the cello takes
the lead and moves above the piano. The middle voice of
the piano begins to introduce mild syncopation. The
violin plays another descending arpeggio. After three
measures, the left hand reluctantly abandons its “pedal point”
and becomes slightly more active. There is a slight
buildup in intensity, with another violin figure, then the
cello soars up to a half-cadence as the piano’s middle voice
becomes more strongly syncopated.
0:38 [m. 21]--The violin now takes over the leading
role (its first entry in the later revised version), playing
the slightly varied main melody above cello harmonies.
The piano gives up its melodic role and concentrates more on
its syncopation, which now also becomes strong in the
left-hand bass. In the fourth measure, the syncopation
is emphasized with strong octaves in both hands moving down a
half-step. The next four measures are varied from the
beginning, moving earlier to a full B-major cadence with
thicker piano harmonies and increasing excitement. The
four measure extension from 0:15 [m. 9] is dropped.
0:53 [m. 29]--The piano takes over the lead, finally
reaching out of the middle range, and begins the contrasting
phrase. The cello moves to leaping syncopation,
supporting the piano bass, then joining the piano
harmony. After two measures, the violin harmonizes the
piano a third below and the cello moves to broken
octaves. The buildup in volume has become pronounced,
and the contrasting phrase stalls on its fifth measure.
The piano reiterates the fourth measure, the cello taking over
the harmony from the violin, and then all three instruments
play strong, powerful chords in half notes leading to a highly
dramatic and anticipatory half-close. The phrase is
shortened to seven total measures.
1:06 [m. 36]--All three instruments sing forth the
beginning of the theme in a grand manner, beginning in the
version heard at 0:38 [m. 21]. Both the cello and violin
lines are covered in the piano’s high right-hand chords.
The left hand plays upward leaps between B and F-sharp in
strong syncopation. After the first four-measure unit,
the right hand joins these syncopations, with both hands
soaring up in octaves, then quickly back down. The next
unit returns to the original pitch level, but it is reduced to
three measures, stalling on the second and repeating it as the
third. This isolates a strong three-note descending
motion that has always been present in the theme.
1:18 [m. 43]--The phrase is broken off by another grand
rhetorical gesture. The three-note descent that has been
newly emphasized is now stated in long half notes over full
chords, still in all three instruments. The piano then
plays a strong sequel to this, using a long-short dotted
rhythm to move to a dissonant chord. This “suspended”
chord then resolves to an F-sharp-major chord, where another
statement of the pattern with long chords and the
dotted-rhythm sequel seems to suggest D-sharp minor
(“relative” to the “dominant” key of F-sharp).
1:32 [m. 51]--A third statement of the three-note
descent in long chords moves back to F-sharp. There
follows the first of four inserted 3/2 measures. These
insertions invariably contain the same basic material: a
shortened version of the three-note descent, here played by
the strings in thirds, followed by the same faster descent
from the piano. This pattern is given a second time (a
fourth statement of the long chords), with the harmony now
moving a step lower, to the “dominant” chord suggesting A
major. The second 3/2 measure follows with the same
pattern of shorter descents, colored by the new harmony.
1:41 [m. 55]--Suddenly much quieter, the cello plays a
more mysterious version of the theme that wavers between B
minor and D minor. The piano plays an accompaniment like
its patterns at the beginning, but over a “diminished seventh”
harmony with an E-sharp “pedal point” in the bass. The
violin adds a descending arpeggio like the ones at the
beginning, also outlining the “diminished seventh.”
After two measures, the pattern is varied with the cello and
piano moving higher and the bass moving off its “pedal
point. The violin also decorates its arpeggio.
Everything is still on the “diminished seventh” harmony.
This passage was varied in several details in the revised
1:49 [m. 59]--Suddenly the troubled harmony emerges
back home in the warm, comforting B major. The violin
and cello harmonize on the first three notes of the
theme. This is interrupted by the third 3/2
measure. It contains the same twofold statement of the
shorter three-note descent, but the right hand of the piano
plays both, the second an octave higher than the first, while
the strings continue to draw out the theme. The same
two-measure pattern begins an octave higher, but at the fourth
and last 3/2 measure (of the exposition) the piano moves back
down to its original octaves.
1:56 [m. 63]--Transition. This is the point where
the original and revised versions deviate, and they are
basically two entirely different movements going forward from
here. In the original transition, the shorter three-note
descent is transformed into an upbeat figure, passed down from
the violin to the alternating hands of the piano. After
two measures of these descents, the piano emerges into a
series of quieter short-long chords, alternating with the
cello and its own left hand, both of which play a stepwise,
partially chromatic ascent. The piano and cello slow
down and arrive on the “dominant” chord in D-sharp minor.
2:06 [m. 68]--The piano again passes down the
three-note upbeat figure for two measures, beginning loudly,
with a plucked string chord, in the key of D-sharp
minor. The same pattern follows, with the quieter
short-long chords alternating with the cello and left hand on
a stepwise, mostly chromatic ascent. At the end, the
closing chords are extended by a measure. D-sharp minor
is briefly inflected to major, seeming to act as the
preparatory “dominant” for G-sharp minor, where Theme 2 will
2:18 [m. 74]--The violin enters with an upward gesture
doubling the top of two piano chords. The violin then
proceeds to play an expressive descending scale line
suggesting G-sharp minor. The piano right-hand breaks
into a series of ascending notes in doubled thirds while its
left hand, along with the cello, plays a punctuating bass
line. The violin line breaks up into isolated notes,
along with the right-hand piano harmonies. They again
arrive on D-sharp, functioning as the “dominant” in G-sharp
2:27 [m. 79]--The piano establishes a sustained “pedal
point” on D-sharp, with the right hand playing continuous
syncopated octaves in the tenor range. Meanwhile, the
cello plays the opening of Theme 1 in D-sharp major. The
violin joins in harmony above. The cello soon drops out,
and it is echoed by the low piano bass. The violin adds
a suspended sequel as things slow down, “sostenuto,” preparing
for Theme 2.
2:38 [m. 84]--Theme 2 (G-sharp minor). The
repeated syncopated octaves on D-sharp finally lead to the
arrival on G-sharp minor, the “relative” minor key of B major,
for the rather austere second theme. The piano initially
presents it in bare octaves split between the hands. It
consists of a sighing descent followed by a rise to another
one. It continues with a descending arpeggio also
leading to the sighing gesture, and finally a similar descent
leading to a more questioning reversal upward.
2:52 [m. 91]--Still in the bare piano octaves, the
pattern appears to begin again a third higher, but the first
upward rise arrives at the “questioning” gesture instead of
the “sighing” one. The cello enters with a low
double-stop third, and the piano octaves of the theme break
into more rising patterns against continuing cello
double-stops. These settle back onto the “dominant”
harmony on D-sharp, punctuated by sliding grace notes.
3:06 [m. 98]--Overlapping the arrival, the piano bass
plays a bare rising scale in the rhythm of Theme 1. This
then devolves into a highly disjunct line, leaping down and
back up twice before finally reaching down again. The
leaping line is also very chromatic. It ends with a
trill leading again to the “dominant” D-sharp.
3:17 [m. 104]--The violin and cello present Theme 2 in
canon, with the cello imitating the violin at the
distance of a measure. The piano accompanies the canon
with thin harmonies in the right hand, including mild
syncopation emphasizing the second beat of the measure.
The theme’s descending line is decorated by short-long
embellishments in both instruments. The phrase as heard
at 2:38 [m. 84], even in canon, is only really changed with a
surprising major chord and inflection at the end.
3:29 [m. 111]--The second phrase is changed
substantially from 2:52 [m. 91]. The canon continues,
but it breaks after one measure, and then the cello inverts
the violin’s downward line, moving up and harmonizing with
it. The piano continues its thin, mostly two-note mildly
syncopated harmonies in the right hand. The violin then
leads to a full cadence and arrival in G-sharp minor, complete
with the sliding grace notes. The cello’s motion from a
held D-sharp up to G-sharp helps confirm this arrival.
3:41 [m. 118]--The bare piano bass line from 3:06 [m.
98] is now taken by the cello, beginning on G-sharp instead of
D-sharp. The closing trill also leads back to
G-sharp. The piano, still only the right hand in
two-note harmonies, timidly suggests the rhythm of Theme
1. The cello then plays another trill leading to B, the
home keynote, but it ends up functioning as a preparatory
“dominant” for a new key, E major.
3:57 [m. 126]--Closing Theme (E major/G-sharp
minor). The theme is simply a variant of Theme 1,
transposed to E major and transformed into a type of country
dance, albeit a very quiet one. The piano (still only
the right hand) plays a simple up and down motion, supported
by a drone on the cello. As the piano right hand moves
down, the violin enters with the upward motion, in canon with
the piano melody. The piano begins an answering phrase
as the violin completes the canon on the first phrase, but the
violin then breaks the canon, moving back to G-sharp minor,
which the piano also does in its descent. The cello
drone moves there as well.
4:11 [m. 134]--The piano left hand finally re-enters
after a long break. It echoes the last descent of the
right hand. Meanwhile, the violin continues its arpeggio
upward. The piano harmony subtly changes to move back to
E major. The cello confirms this by playing a lead-in
that moves back to that key for a restatement of the Closing
4:17 [m. 137]--The cello now takes the lead on a new
presentation of the “country dance” variant. This time,
it leads a canon in three full parts. The drone is
established in the piano left hand. The right hand,
after harmonizing the first measure, follows the cello in a
strict canon a measure later, albeit still using the two-note
harmony. A measure after that, the violin enters, also
in canon. This strict canon continues all the way
through the second ascent. The cello plays the second
descent, but the piano and violin do not imitate this.
The piano continues with another upward gesture in the same
rhythm as the violin completes its ascent, giving the harmony
a mildly chromatic inflection toward A.
4:30 [m. 145]--With a slowing (marked “rit.”) the
violin now moves up by step as the cello continues its
downward motion to a lower register. Against both
instruments, the piano plays another upward gesture. All
of this is on A major, the “subdominant” in E major. But
then all instruments move to a whole-measure chord on A minor.
Despite this, a full arrival and closure on E follows, with
the cello punctuating this in an upward motion.
4:39 [m. 148]--Moving back directly to G-sharp minor,
the cello plays a double-stop third and holds it for three
measures like a drone as the violin plays a rather mournful
line in broad quarter-note triplets that winds its way
downward. The piano breaks for two measures, then its
left hand joins the cello for a measure on the held third
“drone.” The violin continues its downward triplet
motion another measure, then passes it to the cello for two
measures, the piano again playing the held third against it.
4:49 [m. 154]--The cello plays a slow downward motion
toward a cadence in half notes. The piano takes over
after a measure, slowing to whole notes and moving to full
closure. As it does, the violin and cello play a
mournful echo of the opening downward gesture from Theme
2. The piano echoes this. In the first ending [mm.
161a-162a], the final G-sharp is directly followed by the
“dominant” chord in the home key (and its “relative” key) of B
major, leading rather simply back to the exposition repeat,
which the piano begins on the upbeat of m. 162a.
However, the change of mood is somewhat jarring.
5:09 [m. 1]--Theme 1 as at the beginning. Initial
presentation of the first four measures by the piano, then the
next four with the cello entry and violin arpeggio.
5:25 [m. 9]--Four-measure closure with cello moving
above the piano, as at 0:15.
5:33 [m. 13]--Contrasting phrase with syncopation and
buildup in intensity, as at 0:23.
5:47 [m. 21]--Violin takes over the lead with piano
syncopation and increasing excitement, as at 0:38.
6:02 [m. 29]--Contrasting phrase led by piano, moving
to half-close with powerful chords, as at 0:53.
6:15 [m. 36]--Grand statement of thematic opening with
syncopated piano leaps, then isolation of three-note
descending motion, as at 1:06.
6:28 [m. 43]--Statements of three-note descent in long,
full chords and dotted-rhythm sequel, as at 1:18.
6:41 [m. 51]--Third and fourth statements of long
chords, each followed by 3/2 measures, as at 1:32.
6:51 [m. 55]--Mysterious cello statement of theme over
“diminished seventh” harmony, as at 1:41.
6:59 [m. 59]--Re-emergence of B major, then music
including two more 3/2 measures, as at 1:49.
7:07 [m. 63]--Transition. Three-note upbeat
figures, then quieter short-long chords leading to D-sharp
minor, as at 1:56.
7:16 [m. 68]--Three-note upbeat figure and ascent on
short-long chords in D-sharp minor, as at 2:06.
7:27 [m. 74]--Expressive descending violin line against
rising piano double thirds, as at 2:18.
7:36 [m. 79]--Cello statement of Theme 1 opening in
D-sharp major against bass pedal point, as at 2:27.
7:48 [m. 84]--Theme 2 in G-sharp minor. Initial
presentation by piano in octaves, as at 2:38.
8:01 [m. 91]--Phrase in piano octaves beginning higher,
then arrival with sliding grace notes, as at 2:52.
8:15 [m. 98]--Disjunct and chromatic line in low piano
bass, derived from Theme 1, as at 3:06.
8:26 [m. 104]--Theme 2 played in canon by strings
against harmonies in piano right hand, as at 3:17.
8:38 [m. 111]--Cello inversion of violin line, then
full arrival on G-sharp minor, as at 3:29.
8:51 [m. 118]--Cello statement of disjunct, chromatic
bass line, then timid piano entry moving toward E major, as at
9:06 [m. 126]--Closing Theme beginning in E
major. Theme 1 transformed into country dance with
up-down motion and canon between piano and violin over cello
drone, as at 3:57.
9:20 [m. 134]--Extension of violin arpeggio and cello
lead-in to restatement of closing theme, as at 4:11.
9:26 [m. 137]--Cello leading canon in three parts on
the closing theme, as at 4:17.
9:40 [m. 145]--Slowing and continuation over A-major
and A-minor harmony, as at 4:30.
9:48 [m. 148]--Mournful descending line in G-sharp
minor, passed from violin to cello in quarter-note triplets,
as at 4:39.
9:58 [m. 154]--Slow downward arpeggio and mournful
echoes of Theme 2, as at 4:49. In the second ending, the
piano bass G-sharp in m. 161b slides up a half-step in m. 162b
to lead into the development.
10:14 [m. 163]--The piano bass slides up another
half-step, and the violin and cello play yet another echo of
the Theme 2 gesture, now suggesting D-sharp minor, a key
heavily used in the exposition’s transition passage. The
piano echoes this, with its right hand in a high
register. One more upward slide in the piano bass leads
it to B, which is of course the home keynote.
10:25 [m. 169]--The bass B is reiterated, but it turns
out to be the “dominant” note in the key of E minor, where the
descending Theme 2 gesture is heard a third time in the
strings (not counting the one before the exposition
repeat). Again, the piano echoes it in the high
register. The strings then move higher with it but build
in volume and continue the downward motion in faster notes as
the piano reiterates the last chord twice, then breaks.
The fast string descent is phrased in groups of three,
crossing over the bar lines.
10:38 [m. 177]--The groups of three in the continuing
string descent are sped up to an actual triplet rhythm in
quarter notes, which the piano joins with rising chords.
The volume builds dramatically. Two highly rhetorical
chords confirm the key of E minor.
10:44 [m. 181]--With great passion, the piano erupts
into a series of descending octaves in fast notes. The
shape and rhythm of the first gesture followed by the octaves
is clearly suggestive of Theme 1. After a precipitous
descent, the piano octaves settle into a rather static pattern
with groups of three descending notes followed by an upward
leap. These figures do change, but they remain in the
same basic range in both hands, which are two octaves
apart. Against them, the strings enter with the first
phrase of Theme 2, played in canon with the violin leading the
cello. This is cut off with two more rhetorical chords
and a motion to the key of B minor (which is suggested by the
two-sharp key signature).
10:54 [m. 188]--Coinciding with the second chord, the
previous passage with the descending piano octaves based on
Theme 1 and the string canon on Theme 2 is repeated in B
minor. This time the pattern, with an apparent motion to
F-sharp minor, is cut off without the rhetorical chords.
11:03 [m. 195]--The piano now isolates the octave
gesture based on Theme 1. It is passed to the strings
(playing in octaves) then back to the piano. The strings
take it again, but then the piano dovetails with them before
they finish it. Three more exchanges, strings, piano,
then strings again, reduce the gesture from six notes to four
notes. The exchanges are then cut off by the following
11:12 [m. 201]--Still in B minor, Theme 1 is radically
transformed into a frenetic march. The cello begins
playing an insistent fast triplet on the note B (after one
statement of it from the violin). The piano, harmonized
in sixths, plays the march version of Theme 1, which includes
clipped long-short (dotted) rhythms. The violin
contributes leaping interjections of a ninth falling to an
octave as the cello continues its incessant fast triplet on B.
11:18 [m. 205]--The march continues with a second
phrase, the violin and piano moving up with their figures as
the cello continues to play the triplet on B. In the
second measure of this phrase, the dotted rhythms in the piano
begin to move down, supported by long notes in the
violin. The cello’s reiterated B’s slow down from their
triplets to “straight” rhythm.
11:23 [m. 208]--The piano octaves now meander downward,
adding triplet rhythms of their own and slightly
slowing. They begin to murmur in the triplet rhythm,
notated as groups of six. Against this, the cello plays
long notes leading to a key change. A violin trill
punctuates this arrival on C, a half-step above the long
preceding section in B minor. The entire second phrase
is extended to six measures.
11:29 [m. 211]--The entire march section is restated in
a bright and more jubilant C major. The cello plays its
reiterated triplets on C, and the piano again plays in dotted
rhythm, harmonized in sixths. Again, the violin
contributes its leaping interjections of a ninth.
11:35 [m. 215]--Second phrase of the march in C major,
analogous to 11:18 [m. 205], with the dotted rhythms moving
down supported by long violin notes, and the cello slowing to
a “straight” rhythm.
11:40 [m. 218]--The piano octaves again devolve into
their triplets and groups of six. This time, however,
the cello does not enter with long notes. Instead, at
the climax, the piano slows down the triplets to quarter
notes, extending the passage by a measure. The harmony
seems as if it is moving either to A minor or E major. A
violin double stop suggests the former, but then the cello
enters with its trill creating a decisive arrival on E major,
complete with a change of key signature.
11:49 [m. 222]--With the arrival on E major, things
quiet down and attention now turns to the closing theme.
It begins in the piano, dolce, as it had in the
exposition, but the violin adds a new counterpoint derived
from its leaping ninths, marked molto leggiero.
One of these leaps is followed by a jagged and detached, but
light and sunny downward motion. The cello starts out
with the drone but drops out after two measures. The
violin quickly abandons its new counterpoint to take up the
imitation of the theme in canon. The second piano
statement of the upward motion changes the harmony, moving to
G-sharp minor. The imitative violin descent also
deviates toward that key.
11:59 [m. 228]--The piano descent and the now
non-canonic violin ascent divert the key yet again, from
G-sharp minor to B major, its “relative” and the home
key. This does not last long, as the subsequent upward
extension moves to a “dominant” chord on D, suggesting a
change to the distant key of G major. Indeed, the
familiar cello lead-in from 4:11 and 9:20 [m. 134] confirms
12:08 [m. 233]--Statement of closing theme in G
major. The cello, over piano harmony, begins the canon
in three parts. The piano right hand follows (its left
hand establishing the drone), and then the violin. As
the cello begins its second ascent, the violin abandons the
canon and plays the new light, sunny, detached counterpoint
beginning with the leaping ninth it had introduced at 11:49
12:17 [m. 239]--The cello immediately follows with the
detached counterpoint, avoiding its second descent. But
now the violin goes back to the original theme and plays its
second ascent where it would have occurred. The piano
follows the same pattern as the cello, moving to the new
counterpoint theme in place of its second descent, playing in
canon with the cello. At the same time, its left hand,
which had been playing the drone, begins the original theme in
canon with the violin! At this point, the canons and
counterpoint have become very complex, and Brahms breaks them
with a measure marked poco rit. The piano
attempts to complete its statement, but instead a violin
extension helps it divert the key back to B.
12:22 [m. 242]--The key signature changes back to the
five sharps of the home key, and that key signature will
remain in force for the rest of the development. The
piano makes a second, more forceful attempt at the detached
counterpoint, now a full-fledged thematic element, as the
cello plays the original closing theme in B major. With
a quick motion to the “dominant” key of F-sharp major, the
piano adds a new harmony to the detached theme, and the violin
takes over the descent of the original theme.
12:28 [m. 246]--Still in F-sharp major, the cello plays
a mildly chromatic variant of the ascending line while the
piano goes back to an earlier element: the dotted rhythms from
the march section. The cello then descends against the
continuing march rhythms. Both instruments quiet
down. As the cello settles on long low notes, the right
hand of the piano breaks from the dotted rhythm to play
three-note descents suggesting motion to a cadence.
These are punctuated by a leaping octave and leaping fourth,
still in the dotted rhythm, from the left hand. A
skittish upward arpeggio and a descending left-hand octave
complete the full cadence, and there is a brief pause.
12:38 [m. 252]--A passionate and unstable passage
begins, based on the closing theme and its new
counterpoint. This will lead to the climax of the
development section. It is centered on the keys of
D-sharp minor and G-sharp minor. It begins in the former
key, a smooth motion from its “relative” of F-sharp
major. The violin, which has rested for some time, plays
the descending line against the bare counterpoint phrase in
the piano. The violin continues with an elaboration of
the line and the piano adds two-note slurs on rising and
falling half-steps to the left hand against the counterpoint
12:44 [m. 256]--The counterpoint theme moves to the
piano left hand. The cello begins the rising line, but
this quickly becomes chromatic, and moves up strictly by
half-step for a measure. Meanwhile, the piano and the
violin add the familiar leaping interjections in dotted
rhythm. The piano’s leaps are narrower than the
violin’s, sixths or sevenths as opposed to octaves and
ninths. After two measures, the left hand and the cello
take over these dotted rhythm gestures, using them for narrow
upward leaps and wider downward ones, while the right hand has
arching figures harmonized in sixths before adding one more
dotted interjection. These measures drift toward G-sharp
minor and build in intensity.
12:50 [m. 260]--The left hand continues with the
narrower leaping gestures while the right hand is now
unharmonized. The cello adds two-note stepwise
slurs. The intensity builds even more, and there seems
to be a motion back to D-sharp, but it now functions as the
“dominant” in the prevailing G-sharp minor.
12:54 [m. 262]--The volume has reached forte,
and the piano now plays both major elements. The
counterpoint theme is harmonized in the right hand, while the
rising gesture of the closing theme is in solid left-hand
octaves. The cello briefly imitates the right hand while
the violin follows the left hand on the rising line. The
left hand then reaches down to the low bass for another
statement while the right hand continues in two-note harmonies
with figures derived from the counterpoint theme. The
cello plays the wide leaping gestures in dotted rhythm while
the violin smoothly arches back down.
12:59 [m. 266]--These elements continue to build, with
the cello’s dotted-rhythm figures and the right hand’s
harmonies sweeping up in two waves. The violin rises
again while the left hand sweeps down and back up in low
octaves. Everything culminates on a huge dissonant
“diminished seventh” chord, played in syncopation by the piano
while the strings play it as an arpeggio in contrary motion.
13:04 [m. 269]--The climax arrives with the definitive
return of B major. The string instruments broadly swing
back together, still in contrary motion, while the piano
passes the figures from the counterpoint theme and the wide
leaping gestures between the hands. After two measures,
both hands of the piano play continuous harmonies in the shape
of the counterpoint theme and in contrary motion as the cello
settles on a continuously reiterated low F-sharp. The
violin vigorously plays the rising gesture from the closing
theme three times, higher each time, then splits the fourth
statement into two shorter ones. Meanwhile, the piano
figures have reached higher and, in the last measure, become
13:14 [m. 275]--The passage from 12:28 [m. 246] is now
repeated in B major. The cello plays the mildly
chromatic variant of the ascending line while the piano plays
the dotted rhythms from the march section. Both
instruments quiet down, as they did before. The
three-note descents with left-hand punctuation follow as
before, but now the cadence is avoided, and instead of the
upward arpeggio, the three-note descents are extended down
another measure. The cello joins them, harmonizing a
13:22 [m. 280]--Re-transition. The three-note
descents are now slowed down and harmonized in sixths for two
statements. The middle note is lengthened, revealing a
connection to the main motive of Theme 2. The octave
interjections in the left hand become more isolated and move
to “straight” rhythm. Then the strings echo the same two
statements of the slower “Theme 2” descents, also harmonized
in sixths. Through all this, the left hand has been
anchored on the “dominant” note F-sharp, forming a “pedal
13:30 [m. 284]--The left hand F-sharps are simplified
to one long note per measure. In B minor, the piano
begins an actual harmonized statement of the first phrase from
Theme 2. This is echoed after a measure by the
strings. After the strings complete the phrase, the
piano plays the last sighing gesture a step lower. The
left hand finally moves away from the F-sharp. There are
then two slow chords that strongly prepare for the
long-awaited entry of the original main theme.
13:46 [m. 292]--Theme 1. Probably because Theme 2
and the Closing Theme are replaced by an entirely new section,
the restatement of Theme 1 is literal. The presentation
of the first eight measures is as at the beginning and 5:09,
with the exception that the cello anticipates the violin’s
descending arpeggio, playing it against the second and third
measures of the theme.
14:02 [m. 300]--Four-measure closure with cello moving
above the piano, as at 0:15 and 5:25 [m. 9].
14:10 [m. 304]--Contrasting phrase with syncopation and
buildup in intensity, as at 0:23 and 5:33 [m. 13].
14:25 [m. 312]--Violin takes over the lead with piano
syncopation and increasing excitement, as at 0:38 and 5:47 [m.
14:40 [m. 320]--Contrasting phrase led by piano, moving
to half-close with powerful chords, as at 0:53 and 6:02 [m.
14:53 [m. 327]--Grand statement of thematic opening
with syncopated piano leaps, then isolation of three-note
descending motion, as at 1:06 and 6:15 [m. 36].
15:06 [m. 334]--Statements of three-note descent in
long, full chords and dotted-rhythm sequel, as at 1:18 and
6:28 [m. 43].
15:20 [m. 342]--Third and fourth statements of long
chords, each followed by 3/2 measures, as at 1:32 and 6:41 [m.
15:30 [m. 346]--Mysterious cello statement of theme
over “diminished seventh” harmony, as at 1:41 and 6:51 [m.
15:38 [m. 350]-- Re-emergence of B major, then music
including two more 3/2 measures, as at 1:49 and 6:59 [m.
59]. The upbeat eighth note that had led to the first
three-note descent in the previous transition now moves to a
rolled B-major chord in the piano and a single note in the
violin as the cello begins the fugue subject.
Four-voice Fugue Replacing Transition and Theme 2
(Tempo un poco più Moderato)
15:46 [m.354]--In a most unorthodox move, Brahms
replaces the recapitulation of Theme 2 with a full fugue based
on an element from the Theme 2 complex. The fugue
subject is the disjunct chromatic line based on Theme 1 as
heard in the piano bass on D-sharp at 3:06 and 8:15 [m. 98],
then again in the cello on G-sharp at 3:41 and 8:51 [m.
118]. The key signature changes to that of B
minor. The highly chromatic fugue subject is a mixture
of major and minor. The first of the four voices to
present it is the cello, beginning on the home keynote of
B. Brahms directs it to be played marcato and pesante.
15:56 [m. 359]--The fugue is structured mostly in
five-measure units, with entries of the subject overlapping
the closing trill of the previous statement. Here in the
first fugue “exposition,” the top piano voice (here in the
piano’s tenor range) plays the next entry starting on the
“dominant” note F-sharp. The cello continues with the
first expected trill and then a second one at a higher
level. This leads into the main counterpoint, which is a
turning upbeat leading to a longer note
16:04 [m. 364]--The two voices now have a typical
“connecting” episode before the next entry. The cello
begins against the piano subject’s closing trill. It has
an arching line followed by another trill. The piano
imitates and overlaps this, playing the arching line against
the cello’s trill. The cello begins the pattern again a
step higher, but then its trill is held for a full measure as
the piano plays the lead-in to the next entry in the rhythm of
the subject’s first four notes. The connecting episode
is four measures long.
16:11 [m. 368]--The lower piano voice (hereafter the
“left hand”) plays the subject starting on B. It begins
higher than the previous “higher voice” entry. That
higher voice (now the “right hand”) joins the cello on the
counterpoint. The two voices alternate on the turning
upbeats, with the right hand playing them in the middle of the
measure. As the subject approaches its trill, the
right-hand voice leads into the final subject entry of the
16:20 [m. 373]--The violin is the fourth and last voice
of the fugue. Its statement of the subject begins on
F-sharp. The cello drops out for two measures, and both
hands of the piano now play the upbeat figures in parallel
harmony. In the third measure, the left hand and the
re-entering cello emerge into a new element consisting of two
descending triplet-rhythm figures on the last beat of the
measure. These are also played in parallel
harmony. At this point, the right hand drops out for the
rest of the statement. The cello and the left hand
continue with the triplet-rhythm figures for the last two
16:29 [m. 378]--As the violin plays its trill, the
right hand appears to begin another statement on G-sharp, but
it only plays the initial rising line before cutting
off. This begins a longer, more complex seven-measure
episode. The first five measures are largely based on
the trills along with a descending line using the rhythm of
the “turning upbeats.” Against the right hand’s aborted
statement, the violin continues with another trill, then an
arching line. The cello and the left hand, having
introduced the descending line, continue with it after a
break. The right hand and the violin also take up the
descending line, along with more trills. In the last two
measures, the piano voices return to the triplet figures as
the cello turns upward.
16:41 [m. 385]--The fugue culminates with a forceful
passage of stretto (overlapping entries of the
subject). Both piano voices now play in octaves.
The left hand plays the subject, starting on A, and completes
it in full. A half-measure later, the cello also begins
the subject, and the violin a half-measure after that.
The right-hand voice does not partake in the overlapping
entries, but it decorates them with the descending line just
introduced in the preceding episode. The cello subject
is not stated completely, but it moves to its trill along with
the left hand. The violin statement cuts off after the
rising line, then dissipates into a broken line in long-short
16:49 [m. 390]--The fugue’s concluding episode is
mostly based on the triplet figures. As the left hand
and the cello play their concluding trills, the right hand
begins one more statement of the subject’s rising line,
starting on E. The left hand and cello follow their
harmonized trill with the triplet descents, also in
harmony. The violin then enters, inverting the triplet
to a rising figure before it turns back down in straight
rhythm. These patterns continue in all voices except the
right hand, which follows the rising line from the subject
with straight notes harmonizing the triplets in the other
16:56 [m. 394]--In the last two measures, there is a
sudden drop in volume as the cello and left hand move to
turning patterns on the triplet rhythm. The right hand
and the violin play long-short patterns, also in the triplet
rhythm. The music emerges back home in B major, with a
change back to five sharps.
New Transition and Closing Section
17:00 [m. 396]--Transition from fugue to closing
section. The voices break from their counterpoint.
The following transition passage is completely in triplet
rhythm and effectively in 12/8 time. The strings emerge
into a jaunty “hunting” rhythm, followed by the piano.
Both the strings and the piano are in the typical “horn fifth”
harmony typical of this “hunting” style. After two
measures, the music quiets down mysteriously as the cello and
left hand move together on the triplets while the violin and
right hand also join on more isolated gestures. The key
shifts up a whole step, to C-sharp major.
17:08 [m. 400]--The “hunting rhythm” is played again,
with the piano leading the strings, the right hand now in
octaves. Things become more animated and
boisterous. After two measures, the intensity builds
even more as the “hunting rhythm” reaches up, shifting from
C-sharp major to C-sharp minor, and the right hand begins to
play some chordal harmonies. The piano erupts into
cascading scales while the strings continue in the bouncy
rhythm. The piano scales shift the harmony again back
home to B.
17:19 [m. 406]--The music winds up toward a tremendous
climax. The cascading piano scales now add harmony to
the octaves over a powerful low F-sharp in the left
hand. The strings introduce a brief upward motion in
“straight” rhythm as the descending piano chords also
straighten out the triplets. The strings then emerge
into the plunging triplet scales. The right hand takes
the “straight” upward motion now as the left hand joins the
cello on the descent, reaching very low. Finally, the
strings allow the piano to lead into the climax with
thunderous scales in contrary motion, played in forceful
octaves by the diverging hands.
17:26 [m. 410]--Closing Section. With hard-earned
glory, the main theme emerges in full harmony and
scoring. The left hand plays the familiar syncopations
in leaping octaves. After two measures, the theme is
surprisingly, but not rudely interrupted by descending
triplets alternating between the hands of the piano,
harmonized in thirds. Against these triplets, the violin
plays an echo of the thematic phrase. The cello enters
with a reminiscence of the long-abandoned Theme 2, and Brahms
indicates a slowing here.
17:35 [m. 415]--The theme attempts to resume and regain
its momentum with the phrase a step higher, in C-sharp minor,
but once again the piano triplets in thirds, alternating
between the hands, interrupt its progress. Again, the
violin echoes the phrase against this, and again, the cello
interjects a reminiscence of Theme 2.
17:45 [m. 420]--The piano serenely resigns itself to
the Theme 2 interruption, and responds to the cello with its
own reminiscence, in full harmony and with the key shifted up
to D major. The piano chords are marked dolce.
The cello plays its descent again, and the piano responds with
slightly higher chords, still in D. There is then a
third exchange between cello and piano, the cello reaching
lower and moving back toward B, with the piano response
receding in volume. Finally, the cello confirms B major
with one more descent, above which Brahms indicates another
slight slowing. The piano responds with high chords, and
this fourth exchange reaches a fleeting moment of suspension
before things rush forward again.
17:59 [m. 427]--Transition to Coda. The violin,
which rested for the entire meditation on Theme 2, now takes
the lead with a phrase from Theme 1. It is harmonized
and accompanied by undulating broken chords in the piano right
hand while the left hand and the cello hold a long
F-sharp. This slides up in syncopation at the end of the
phrase. The entire pattern is then repeated a step
higher. Brahms directs that the music should become
louder and faster. The violin then isolates the first
three notes of its phrase, which rapidly rise in three
statements over the continuing undulations in the piano.
The passage culminates in a tumbling violin arpeggio on the
CODA - Schneller (Faster)
18:12 [m. 435]--The preceding passage should have
accelerated to the new faster tempo. The piano takes up
the violin’s pattern with the three rising notes and the
tumbling arpeggio. Meanwhile, the strings play in a
measured trill, breaking at the arpeggio. Under the
arpeggio, the left hand plays a three-note rising pattern that
would continue from the right hand if they were in the same
octave. The entire pattern, with the measured string
trill, rising three notes, arpeggio, and left-hand
continuation, is stated a third higher. The piano then
isolates the three notes without the arpeggio for two rising
statements, over which the string trill continues, then breaks
into a rising scale fragment. The piano then plays a
longer plunging “dominant” arpeggio. As it concludes,
the violin leads with a rising arpeggio into the next passage.
18:21 [m. 443]--With the indication con forza
and fortissimo, Theme 1 is heard in the cello and,
harmonized, in the piano bass. The right hand of the
piano plays thick syncopated chords, beginning with several
reiterations of the “dominant” harmony before moving to the
chord of the home keynote and other related sonorities.
The violin plays a soaring counterpoint. After the
statement of the first phrase from Theme 1 in the bass, the
piano plays leaping octaves under the continuing syncopated
chords. These provide a strong prolongation of the
“dominant” harmony on F-sharp. The cello, which has been
holding a “pedal point,” leads into the next statement with a
18:31 [m. 453]--Now the violin and the piano right hand
take up the thematic continuation, with the syncopated chords
moving to the left hand and the soaring counterpoint to the
cello. But the phrase cuts off after four measures,
yielding to the leaping bass octaves, now in both the piano
and cello, with the syncopated chords moving back to the right
hand. There is a strong motion to the harmony of the
“relative” key, G-sharp minor. There, a lead-in arpeggio
in quarter note triplets is played by the violin and right
18:39 [m. 461]--The syncopated chords become jubilant,
as do the leaping octaves in the left hand and cello.
The violin has been doubling the top notes of the syncopated
chords and continues to do so. Another lead-in arpeggio
in quarter note triplets is followed by two powerfully
descending arpeggios in the piano and violin, the piano moving
down with full harmony in both hands. The two descents
both begin in the second half of the measure, and the first
harmony in each is a dissonant “diminished seventh” over a
static “pedal point.” The second is a step lower than
the first. The cello marks each with a rhythmic descent.
18:47 [m. 469]--Now the piano plays four measures of
low bass notes followed by high chords punctuated by the
violin. The cello’s rhythmic descent marks each of these
chords. They lead into the final peroration.
18:52 [m. 473]--The piano bass now plays a rapidly
arching figure in octaves reminiscent of the closing
theme. The violin and cello play rising fragments of
Theme 1 in unison against it while the right hand plays rich
chords. After two rising statements of the pattern, the
piano bass octaves isolate the rising line four times without
the falling line that had followed it. The strings
isolate the descending figures from the theme in
syncopation. Each bass statement begins a step lower.
19:00 [m. 481]--The remainder of the coda consists of
highly rhetorical chords preceded by low bass notes.
These chords are held over bar lines in all three instruments
before moving to a shorter chord. Harmonies such as the
“subdominant” E major and the “relative” G-sharp minor are
emphasized. There are four such chords, with the third
and fourth of them leading to strong cadential motion.
The cadential motion after the fourth chord prolongs a
progression from the “dominant” F-sharp to the chord of the
home key, B major.
19:12 [m. 491]--The last three chords represent an
early example of a feature that would become common in Brahms:
ending a movement with a so-called “plagal” cadence, a final
motion from the “subdominant” and its related harmonies to the
last chord instead of from the “dominant.” In this case,
Brahms uses the plagal cadence to underscore the rising top
notes of the chords, which move from B to C-sharp to D-sharp,
ending with the “third” on the top of the final home “tonic”
chord. The strings, however, reiterate the home keynote
B against this progression, even adding a fanfare rhythm to
emphasize it. The last chord is held for two measures
with a fermata over the second measure.
19:26--END OF MOVEMENT [494 mm.]
2nd Movement: Scherzo
– Allegro molto; Trio – Più lento (Scherzo and Trio). B
MINOR, 3/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1. This first section presents
two twelve-bar units, subdivided into three four-bar segments,
each following the same basic rhythmic pattern. An
upbeat in eighth notes leads into three bars of straight
quarter notes, followed by a closing downbeat. The
upbeat to the next segment is in the same bar as the
downbeat. The first four bars are presented by the
cello, which plays the basic form of the theme, a closed,
arching phrase, at first played lightly and quietly. The
piano immediately responds with the same phrase, now
harmonized, but the cello enters a measure later in canon,
imitating it directly. The piano begins the third
segment, which consists of downward leaping octaves in the
right hand on F-sharp, as the cello quickly finishes its
imitation. Against the octaves, the left hand and cello
add thematic harmonies.
0:07 [m. 13]--The violin makes its first entry on the
original line, now in F-sharp minor instead of B minor.
It is harmonized directly by the cello while the piano
rests. Everything remains quiet and light. The
violin then repeats its line, but now the piano enters in
canon, harmonized in the left hand. The cello harmonies
are changed, moving to a repeated “pedal point” note to
accommodate the piano’s canon. In the third segment, the
piano does not quite finish its canon, but moves to upward
leaping octaves on C-sharp, which the strings punctuate with
upbeat-downbeat figures in harmony.
0:14 [m. 25]--The first part closes with a transitional
flourish. The strings move to and hold the “dominant”
chord in B minor, pivoting back there, while the piano plays
two cascading arpeggios, each one moving from the right hand
to the left over two measures. The second begins and
ends lower than the first, but the entire arpeggio sequence
outlines a colorful “diminished seventh” chord.
0:16 [m. 29a]--The four-measure first ending emerges
out of the cascading arpeggios and simply consists of the
piano left hand gradually zigzagging upward in upbeat-downbeat
figures leading into the repeat.
0:19 [m. 1]--Part 1 repeated. First twelve-bar
unit. Cello statement, piano response with cello canon,
then downward leaping octaves, as at the beginning.
0:26 [m. 13]--Second twelve-bar unit. Violin with
cello harmony, repetition with piano canon, and upward leaping
octaves, as at 0:07.
0:33 [m. 25]--Transitional flourish with cascading
arpeggios, as at 0:14.
0:35 [m. 29b]--Second ending. After everything
has been completely quiet, there is a loud outburst. The
strings move to a bright G-major chord, and the piano plays a
continuous four-bar descending arpeggio on that chord,
articulating each measure with a small upward leap. The
first three measures are notated in seven-note groups,
creating a sense of asymmetry. The piano lands on a low
G, after which the cello, then the violin, play the familiar
upbeat from the theme and hold the downbeat, each confirming G
0:40 [m. 37]--Part 2. The long central section is
organized in units of eight bars instead of twelve, still
subdivided into four-bar segments and following the same
rhythmic pattern as before. As the strings hold their
G-major chord, the piano plays the theme, which now has a
noble character instead of an ominous and skittish one.
The left hand adds reiterations of the upbeat figure.
The second segment is a new consequent or “answer” to the
first one. This “answer” was not heard in the
repetitions and canons of Part 1.
0:44 [m. 45]--The next unit moves to E minor
(“relative” to G major). In full harmony, high in the
right hand, the piano plays the theme. The cello holds a
drone fifth while the left hand holds an octave E. The
violin adds upbeat figures and a cadential gesture derived
from the leaping octaves. As with the G-major statement,
the second four-measure segment is a consequent or “answer” to
0:49 [m. 53]--The next unit is similar to the previous
one, but each “segment” is in a different key. The new
addition is the violin using its upbeat figures to shoot
upward from the “dominant” note to the “tonic” note in each
key. The left hand and the cello now reiterate their
harmonies, again with upbeat-downbeat motion. The first
segment is in C major, the second (the consequent or “answer”)
a step higher, in D minor.
0:54 [m. 61]--This unit adds downward-rushing figures
in piano octaves. These figures turn, then plunge
downward over each four-measure segment. The violin
takes the lead on the thematic material, reaching very high,
with the cello playing the upbeat figures and leaping
octaves. The first four-bar segment is in another new
key, C-sharp minor, while the second one moves toward the home
key of B, but this is apparently B major, not minor, as it was
in Part 1. In this “answering” segment, the violin
continues upward instead of making the typical downward motion
at the end. The high violin adds to the excitement.
0:59 [m. 69]--The climax comes with a full eight-bar
unit in B major. It follows the statement and answer
pattern, but remains in the same key, as did the first two
units of Part 2. The violin doubles the top note of the
piano’s high right-hand chords. The cello and left hand
play powerful and active chords.
1:04 [m. 77]--The downward-rushing piano octave figures
from 0:54 [m. 61] return with their typical turning
motions. B major has yielded to B minor, but the harmony
highly emphasizes the “dominant” F-sharp. The strings
play one typical four-bar segment against the octaves, but
then they hold the “dominant” chord for the next four measures
as the piano figures make a second tumble down to the low
1:09 [m. 85]--The rhythmic pattern of the units is now
somewhat disrupted. The strings, in thirds, isolate the
descending motion of the theme against a held piano
F-sharp. The piano bass then slides up to G preceding a
single downward-rushing figure in the right hand, whereupon
the strings state their isolated descending motion a half-step
higher against the held piano G. Once again, the piano
slides up, now to A-flat, followed by another of the
downward-rushing figures a half-step higher. This one
rapidly quiets down.
1:13 [m. 93]--The strings quiet down, but now become
more active and continuous with their descending motion.
They begin a half-step higher, as expected, but they next
sequence the pattern up a third, then a fifth without any
breaks between them, continuously and quickly building.
The piano, meanwhile, has moved up to A, then A-sharp, but
without the downward-rushing figures between them. These
half-step motions consistently happen on the last beat of the
measure, held over across the bar line. The strings
repeat their last pattern of the sequence, but now the piano
right hand doubles their harmony as the fuller volume is again
achieved. With the A-sharp in the bass, the home key of
B minor is again asserted.
1:18 [m. 101]--The instruments suddenly quiet
down. Mysteriously, the violin starts to sing a new
melody against isolated thematic figures in the piano right
hand and ominous leaps in the cello and piano bass. This
melody spins itself over twelve bars, with three thematic
fragments in the right hand. It seems as if it will be
extended another four bars to create a “double unit” of
sixteen bars, but the last four notes of the melody are broken
by full measure rests, extending the last segment to eight
bars and the total statement of the melody to twenty.
The piano adds two shorter fragments that punctuate the
beginning and the halfway point of this rest-extended
segment. The mysterious melody’s identity will be
1:30 [m. 121]--Part 3. This final portion is a
variation of Part 1, moving again to twelve-bar units.
The cello states its familiar thematic opening, now punctuated
by short piano chords. The piano response follows, again
with the cello trailing in canon, but a new element is now
added, a faster, passionate variant of the mysterious melody
in the violin just introduced. The closure of the violin
melody, a long-held note over three measures followed by a
downward resolution, happens over the original third segment
with the downward leaping octaves.
1:38 [m. 133]--The statement in F-sharp minor led by
the violin follows as expected, now with an added bass line in
the piano. But in the second segment, the piano not only
plays in canon as expected (the canon now played in the left
hand with added harmony), but also adds the new and passionate
melody just played by the violin, presenting it in right hand
octaves. Like the violin, the piano concludes the new
melody with a long three measure note and a resolution (the
latter coming a beat earlier than the violin had). The
upward leaping octaves against the upbeat-downbeat string
figures are now entirely in left-hand octaves.
1:45 [m. 145]--The pattern now deviates from Part 1,
and elements from Part 2 are introduced. The violin
plays a statement and answer in eight bars, like the units in
Part 2, and the piano plays its now familiar downward-rushing
figures in the right hand, slightly transformed in
shape. The left hand, then the cello add brief harmonic
counterpoint to the violin line.
1:50 [m. 153]--The piano transforms the downward
rushing figures into upbeat-downbeat gestures characterized by
their opening turns. These are played continuously,
moving down, as the violin isolates the initial upbeat from
the theme, gradually moving upward. The cello punctuates
this with its own upbeat figures, but these are rhythmically
displaced onto the second beat of the bar. After four
bars of this pattern, the piano extends it two more bars by
again reaching upward, breaking into an ecstatic upward reach.
1:54 [m. 159]--The strings drop out, and the piano
breaks into cascading arpeggios similar to those at 0:14 and
0:33 [m. 25]. Like those arpeggios, these outline a
colorful “diminished seventh” chord, but there are eight notes
to each measure (clashing with the triple-time rhythm) instead
of six, increased even from the seven-note groups heard in the
second ending at 0:35 [m. 29b]. There are four of these
eight-note arpeggios, each one an octave lower than the last
and beginning with its last four notes. The left hand
punctuates them with the upbeat figure from the theme.
After the last arpeggio lands on F-sharp, the strings enter on
that note, repeating it over two measures and slowing down in
anticipation of the Trio section.
TRIO (Più lento, B major)
1:59 [m. 165]--Part 1. The melody is broad and
tuneful, with a characteristic sway between longer notes on
downbeats (some held over bar lines) and shorter ones off the
downbeats. It is played in the piano’s tenor register in
two-note harmonies, with the left hand playing distinctive
upbeat figures in the low bass. After two measures,
these bass upbeat figures add a characteristic repeated note
reminiscent of the scherzo theme. Closer inspection
reveals that the warm B-major melody was anticipated by the
violin’s mysterious entry at 1:18 [m. 101] and the
“passionate” variant introduced as a counterpoint to Part 3 at
1:30 [m. 121]. Against this first statement in two
phrases, the violin and cello simply hold a long
F-sharp. At the end, after shorter melody figures at the
cadence, they play an upward scale to lead into the second
2:15 [m. 181]--Part 1, varied repetition. The
theme is now played by the strings, who break from their
long-held unison note. They play it in pleasing
harmonies of sixths and tenths. Against it, the piano
isolates the upbeat figures previously played in the bass
(including the characteristic repeated notes), now doubling
them in octaves between the hands. These figures briefly
add harmonies at the cadence, then the repeated-note gesture
is used to lead into Part 2.
2:32 [m. 197]--Part 2. It begins with a
contrasting period in which the violin doubles the piano’s
melodic line. The cello doubles the upbeat figures in
the piano bass. The first phrase makes a detour toward E
major. The second phrase soars upward rapturously, then
settles back down in preparation for the return to the main
melodic phrase. This preparation is extended by two bars
from the expected pattern.
2:52 [m. 215]--The return of the main melody has the
cello doubling the now higher piano with the violin alone
holding the long F-sharp. The first phrase proceeds as
expected. The second, however, builds upward, creating
another contrast and even more anticipation for the climactic
final statement. In this upward buildup, the last part
of the first phrase is isolated and used for an ascending
sequence. The held violin notes move up
accordingly. After two rising sequences, the melodic
line pauses as the bass figures with their repeated notes
continue. At the same time, the violin erupts into
leaping octaves, down and back up, also using the repeated
notes. This continues in another two-bar extension,
ratcheting up the tension.
3:11 [m. 233]--The climax is reached with the grandest
statement of the Trio theme, presented in full. The
piano is now two octaves higher than its original
presentation, its harmonies fuller. The cello again
doubles the piano bass upbeat figures with repeated
notes. What really makes the statement stand out,
however, is the violin, which plays in shimmering high tremolo
octaves that only gradually move away from and back to the
note F-sharp. When the statement reaches its own high
point, the upbeat figures continuously shoot upward, creating
a slight cross rhythm, with the repeated-note figure appearing
on one downbeat. The first ending to Part 2 (mm.
247a-248a) zigzags downward in piano and violin to lead into
3:27 [m. 197]--Part 2 repeated. Contrasting
period with two-bar extension, as at 2:32.
3:47 [m. 215]--Return of main melody, then new buildup
and extension with leaping violin, as at 2:52.
4:06 [m. 233]--Climax with grand statement, as at
3:11. The first measure of the second ending (m. 247b)
comes to a full stop, in contrast to the immediate “lead-in”
from the first ending.
4:21 [m. 248b]--Re-transition to Scherzo reprise.
The cadence is repeated by the piano, adding a rolled
chord. It is then echoed by the strings in strongly
plucked chords. The strings then hold a low B as the
piano isolates the cadence gesture in low bass octaves, moving
to minor and playing it twice in descending sequence, quickly
diminishing in volume. It becomes suspended on the
“dominant” note F-sharp, punctuated by plucked strings.
This sets up the return of the scherzo with the following
SCHERZO REPRISE (Tempo primo)
4:35 [m. 261]-- Part 1. First twelve-bar
unit. Cello statement, piano response with cello canon,
then downward leaping octaves, as at the beginning and 0:19.
4:43 [m. 273]-- Second twelve-bar unit. Violin
with cello harmony, repetition with piano canon, and upward
leaping octaves, as at 0:07 and 0:26 [m. 13].
4:50 [m. 285]-- Transitional flourish with cascading
arpeggios, as at 0:14 and 0:33 [m. 25].
4:52 [m. 289]--Loud outburst in G major with arpeggio
in seven-note groups, then thematic upbeats from the strings,
as at 0:35 [m. 29b].
4:57 [m. 297]--Part 2. First eight-bar
unit. Noble piano statement in G major, as at 0:40 [m.
5:02 [m. 305]--Statement in E minor with cello drone
fifth and violin decorations, as at 0:44 [m. 45].
5:06 [m. 313]--Statement in C major and D minor with
upward-shooting violin figures, as at 0:49 [m. 53].
5:11 [m. 321]--Statement led by violin beginning in
C-sharp minor and moving toward B major, with downward-rushing
piano octaves, as at 0:54 [m. 61].
5:16 [m. 329]--Climactic statement in B major, as at
0:59 [m. 69].
5:21 [m. 337]--Downward-rushing piano octaves plunge to
low bass as strings move to a held “dominant” chord, as at
1:04 [m. 77].
5:25 [m. 345]--Isolation and sequential statements of
thematic descending motion in strings and downward-rushing
piano figures, as at 1:09 [m. 85].
5:30 [m. 353]--Active and continuous motion with
buildup in volume and rise in pitch, culminating in full
assertion of B minor, as at 1:13 [m. 93].
5:35 [m. 361]--Emergence of new melody in violin, now
known to be an embryonic version of the Trio theme, as at 1:18
5:48 [m. 381]--Part 3. Cello opening with piano
response and canon, now with added passionate “Trio” melody in
violin, as at 1:30 [m. 121].
5:54 [m. 393]--Statement led by violin with passionate
melody in piano, as at 1:38 [m. 133].
6:03 [m. 405]--Violin statement and answer in eight
bars with rushing piano figures, as at 1:45 [m. 145].
6:07 [m. 413]--Continuous upbeat-downbeat gestures in
piano with isolated upbeat figures in violin and cello, then
ecstatic upward extension, as at 1:50 [m. 153].
6:11 [m. 419]--Cascading eight-note arpeggios on
“diminished seventh” harmony with upbeat figures in left hand,
as at 1:54 [m. 159], but they are reduced from four to three,
cut off by the beginning of the coda.
6:14 [m. 423]--Quietly and lightly, the cello uses the
rhythm of the scherzo theme to reach upward, ending with a
descending octave. At the same time, the piano plays
colorful full-measure chords in a descending pattern.
The cello then begins a second pattern an octave higher, with
the piano chords beginning again at a higher level, but the
cello passes the pattern to the violin after one
measure. The violin cuts off the pattern before the
descending octave. The cello repeats the violin’s last
notes. At the same time, the piano chords become slower,
being held for two measures. The violin/cello sequence
is repeated a step lower, at which point the tempo is marked
“Un poco più lento.”
6:20 [m. 433]--At this point Brahms directs both
strings to play pizzicato, and they are plucked until
the final chord. The downward sequence of violin/cello
alternation continues, but the quick eighth-note upbeat is
replaced by a single quarter note. For the first
exchange, the piano chord is again two measures long.
But the strings then completely slow down the momentum by
doubling the length of their exchanges, placing a rest between
the second and third notes, the last note now moving down
instead of up. The perceived meter is two slower 3/4
measures superimposed onto four notated ones. The piano
chords are now four notated measures.
6:25 [m. 439]--The new four-bar pattern continues over
three more iterations of the downward sequence (for a total of
four), with the piano playing a long chord for each of
them. The effect is of a sudden braking to the forward
6:36 [m. 450]--Because of the metric ambiguity created
by the longer violin/cello exchanges, the last measure of the
fourth exchange (m. 450) is able to double as the first
measure of the next one, with the transitional note F-sharp on
the middle beat of the notated bar. The last piano chord
is B major, not minor, and it will be held for seven
measures. Against it, the violin, then the cello, lead
from F-sharp to a descending octave on B. Each
instrument then stretches that octave out, with two rests
between each note, creating even more of a slowing effect,
which is even marked “ritard.”
6:45 [m. 458]--The strings take their bows again and
join the piano on the final hushed B-major chord as the energy
of this highly energetic movement is now completely
drained. They play an octave F. While this quiet
major chord is a perfect lead-in for the following movement,
Brahms must have realized that the complete dissipation of the
forward momentum and the change of timbre to pizzicato
strings resulted in a strangely ineffective ending, thus
prompting him to completely recompose the coda in the revised
6:59--END OF MOVEMENT [459 mm.]
Movement: Adagio non troppo – Allegro – Tempo primo
(Modified ternary form with extended closing section
[ABA’C]). B MAJOR, 4/4 time with one 2/4 measure.
0:00 [m. 1]--The main theme is hushed, understated, and
still. The piano presents the opening in chorale-like
descending chords marked by a long-short rhythm in the
middle. As the piano completes its statement, the
strings enter with an answer. It is slightly more
active, with moving notes in the violin harmonized by the
cello. The answering phrase ends with its own
“questioning” gesture, a light grace note in the violin.
0:27 [m. 7]--The piano begins its phrase again,
starting in the same way, but veering toward the “relative”
G-sharp minor at the end. The string answer confirms the
minor-key detour. The cello is more active this time,
and the phrase again ends with a light grace note in the
0:55 [m. 13]--The piano begins its third statement,
this time moving from G-sharp minor back to B major., now with
a more decisive conclusion. This time the string answer
is more decisive, with downward leaps and another harmonic
turn, this time to E major. The grace note is omitted,
as is the measure-long chord.
1:19 [m. 18]--Now the piano and strings engage in
shorter exchanges beginning in E major. The piano plays
a simple one-measure descent, and the strings respond with a
short rising line. The piano repeats its short descent,
but the strings now extend their response, which moves the
harmony back to B major. It seems as if the strings will
complete their arrival, but they are interrupted by another
1:50 [m. 25]--Now the piano and strings finally come
together. The first piano entry dovetails with the
conclusion of the strings’ previous extended phrase. The
strings then enter against the piano’s mildly chromatic
continuation for one measure, the violin moving down and the
cello moving up. The piano then leads for another
measure, reaching higher, before the strings again enter, with
the violin an octave lower and the cello a third lower.
2:09 [m. 29]--All three instruments now play together
in longer notes, moving toward an extremely satisfying final
cadence. This cadence is slightly delayed, with the
anticipatory “dominant” chord being held over the bar line in
the right hand and the strings (the left hand does move on the
downbeat) and the arrival finally coming midway through the
measure. There is hardly time to linger on this
cadence. It has closed off an extremely still, yet
highly intense opening section, and its much-awaited
resolution barely happens before the piano launches directly
into the contrasting B section.
B Section (E major)
2:29 [m. 33]--The piano, with an upbeat, begins a
broadly lyrical melody in E major, harmonized in the right
hand with low bass octaves. The strings begin to play pizzicato,
plucking out widely leaping accompanying figures and passing
them between each other in alternation. These figures
begin with a wide leap of more than an octave and then a
smaller leap back down. The piano melody itself has a
song-like character, and indeed it seems to be, if not a
quotation, then at least an oblique reference to Schubert’s
song “Am Meer” (“On the Sea”) from the cycle Schwanengesang.
2:46 [m. 37]--The second phrase has moved to B
major. In the first measure, a triplet rhythm is heard
in an inner piano voice, and the plucked violin notes also
match this rhythm, briefly breaking from the pattern.
The second measure has a broad downward motion leading to an
interrupted cadence in B. After two chromatic chords,
this downward motion is stated again, reaching lower and
extending the phrase to five measures. At the end, the
violin briefly breaks from the pattern again and plays a
descending arpeggio before both strings take their bows.
3:06 [m. 42]--The strings now take over the melodic
presentation in a harmonically active sequence. The
cello leads the violin in a series of dovetailing
phrases. These have an upward motion beginning with a
long-short (dotted) rhythm. The piano, meanwhile, moves
to the accompaniment with arching arpeggios in triplet rhythm
(notated as six-note groups with a rest on the first “note” of
the group). Its left-hand bass supports these rhythms in
low octaves. The strings move through F-sharp major on
the first upward motion, then appear to arrive on C-sharp
minor with the second sequence.
3:22 [m. 46]--The strings come together in C-sharp
minor, beginning with a poignant dissonance that is resolved
by the cello’s descent. The cello descends in straight
notes while the violin moves down melodically, mostly
stepwise, and adding syncopation. The piano’s
“sextuplet” accompaniment patterns continue. A full
arrival on C-sharp minor is avoided, and the descending
pattern in the violin begins again against a held cello
note. This time, it is diverted toward G-sharp minor at
the end. Finally, the strings come together rhythmically
with a gentle descent, slowing and moving toward a full
cadence on E major.
3:39 [m. 50]--The piano fulfills the cadence as the
strings drop out for two measures. It continues with a
gentle closing gesture that is stated twice, the second time
with a mild syncopation beginning off the beat. The
strings then enter, with the violin echoing the piano’s
syncopated gesture. The piano moves to simple
accompanying chords. The strings briefly divert the key
to A major, adding harmonic color, and the violin begins the
non-syncopated gesture there. This diversion does not
last long, and the gesture is completed back in E major.
To finish this “coda,” the piano, then the strings each play a
measure of sighing cadence figures. The conclusion in
the strings overlaps directly with the return of the A
4:13 [m. 58]--As the strings complete their cadence in
E major to close the B section, the piano begins the
main theme of the A section with a direct, unmediated
motion back to B major. The first chorale-like chords
are placed slightly higher, their pitches and harmonies
altered to facilitate the somewhat abrupt transition back to
B. A new “leaning” chord is added on the downbeat of the
second measure. By the third measure, the harmonies have
come close to the original orientation.
4:26 [m. 61]--With the arrival in the fourth measure,
the piano does not rest for the string answer, but begins a
delicate, high decorative line with six-note groups in triplet
(or sextuplet) rhythm. The strings enter as expected and
play their original answer from the opening without
alteration, including the violin grace note. The piano’s
embellishment is entirely in the right hand. It begins
by meandering up and down, gradually extending outward, then
emerging into downward arching figures before reaching even
higher and circling back down against the held string chord
with the grace note.
4:38 [m. 64]--While this phrase corresponds to 0:27 [m.
7], there are significant and artful changes. First, the
piano adds a descending inner voice in eighth notes under its
first chord. Then, in the second measure, there is a
subtle, but effective harmonic diversion that causes the music
to move not to the expected “relative” G-sharp minor, but to
the totally unrelated B-flat minor, a half-step below the main
key. When the strings enter with their response, it is
in that key. Again, the piano adds right-hand
embellishments in triplet rhythm. From the second
measure, these have a distinct upward-striving reach.
5:04 [m. 70]--Corresponding to 0:55 [m. 13], the piano
now must move from B-flat minor back to B major, which it
does, again including the descending inner voice in eighth
notes under the first chord. The harmonic shift happens
with an extra “leaning” chord in the second measure (as heard
in the first phrase of this section). B major has fully
returned with the third measure, and the string answer is as
it was in the corresponding passage. The piano, of
course, again adds its triplet decoration in the right hand,
but this time there is a large downward reach at the same time
the violin is leaping down.
5:26 [m. 75]--This passage very closely matches that at
1:19 [m. 18], in both the piano and strings, with the major
exception that the triplet decorations continue throughout the
exchanges. The decorations are placed in an inner voice
when the piano is playing its chords, and they continue under
the string responses. Under the second, more extended
string response, not only do the decorative figures continue,
but a bass octave on F-sharp is added during the last two
measures as the right hand reaches up rapturously. Where
before, the string arrival was interrupted by the piano entry
on the concluding passage of the main section, it is now
interrupted by an entirely new and wholly unexpected full
closing section in a surprising “Allegro” tempo.
Extended Closing Section (C Section) – Allegro
5:56 [m. 82]--At double the speed, the piano rushes
forth quietly, but passionately building in a new, fully
harmonized melody that bears a vague resemblance to the theme
from the B section. The bass line is doubled by
the cello. The violin remains silent at first.
After four measures, there is one inserted 2/4 bar.
6:04 [m. 87]--The cello moves up to a higher F-sharp,
which it sustains for four measures. In the meantime,
the piano continues its joyous outburst, breaking into
reaching and falling figures with left-hand thirds rising in
syncopation. These thirds then slowly move down with
some chromatic notes as the right hand emerges into quieter
rising octave figures. These in turn speed up to triplet
rhythm, with downward steps followed by upward leaping
octaves. With these triplets, the cello briefly moves
away from its sustained F-sharp, and the violin makes its
first entry of this section, playing fragments of the melody.
6:14 [m. 93]--The cello moves back to the F-sharp, and
the piano repeats the rising octave figures against the
descending thirds. Before they speed up to the triplet
rhythm, however, they are diverted up a half-step, and the key
suddenly shifts from B major to C major. There, the
triplets are heard, and the violin again plays its melodic
6:21 [m. 97]--The triplet figures move to the piano
bass, and above them, the right hand begins the “Allegro”
melody anew in C major. This time, however, it expands
upward after two measures. With the cello taking a brief
break, the violin comes in to double the piano’s melodic notes
on this upward expansion. Although there are some
chromatic notes, it seems as if this very excited, rapidly
building passage will make a grand arrival on a C-major
6:28 [m. 101]--The expected cadence arrives
melodically, but it is thwarted harmonically by a low bass
F-sharp and an underlying A-minor chord in the right
hand. The resulting dissonance increases the agitation,
but the volume rapidly recedes. The triplet figures are
now passed from the cello to the violin as the piano breaks
into bell-like chords that steadily move down the
keyboard. These chords are all on the harmony of A
minor, but the string triplets, especially in the cello, are
more suggestive of G major. In the fourth measure, the
piano chords and violin triplets further complicate things
with the chromatic note E-flat.
6:35 [m. 105]--A new sequence of the string triplets
and bell-like piano chords begins with new harmonies.
The bell-like chords are now “diminished,” and seem to suggest
B-flat major (along with the string triplets, which now
include F-natural in the cello), but there is never any
arrival on that key or even on that note. The passage
simply sustains the suspense without hinting at a
cadence. This sequence is extended two measures beyond
the last one.
6:45 [m. 111]--Abruptly, the harmonies shift again,
this time back to the “dominant” in the home key of B major,
where the alternating string triplets are heard. The
piano breaks into more forceful leaping gestures derived from
the main melody of this “Allegro” section. These settle
down over four statements, and the music is now firmly back
home in B.
6:52 [m. 115]--The left hand of the piano begins to
play a slow trill in six-note groups (triplet rhythm).
The right hand sustains long thirds as the cello inverts the
“leaping gestures” derived from the “Allegro” theme, arching
down instead of up. The piano breaks its left-hand trill
and responds very forcefully with the original gestures in
full harmony in both hands. The trill begins
again. The whole passage is repeated in the piano, but
now the cello plays the figures in their original direction
and the violin responds to them in a brief canonic
imitation. The last piano gesture reaches a third higher
7:05 [m. 123]--The climax is reached with the original
“Allegro” melody in the piano bass and the cello. The
right hand, doubled for a few notes by the violin, plays full
chords moving in the opposite direction from the thematic
bass. After two measures, the left hand reiterates a low
“pedal point” on F-sharp. It is asked to alternate these
low bell-like octaves with the continuing contrary motion
above it, which deviates from the original melody and
intensifies it. The cello doubles the lower part while
the violin rests for four measures. Then the violin
enters to double the upper piano part in a continuing buildup.
7:22 [m. 133]--The pedal point and the buildup break
off in a series of low reiterations of the home keynote B
followed by chords in both the piano and the strings, playing
double and triple stops. These chords speed up from one
to a measure to two, then four, moving down and settling to a
quiet murmur. The piano then plays a figure that is a
more distinct and direct reference to the B section,
specifically its closing gesture. The violin echoes
this, and then the piano repeats it with added
syncopation. Finally, the strings slow this gesture down
with doubled note values before descending gently into the
brief reprise of the main theme.
Coda – Tempo primo
7:53 [m. 149]--The conclusion returns to the A
section, with a near-exact repetition of the closing passage
from 1:50 [m. 25]. Although it lacks the piano
decorations heard in the A’ section, the resumption
here could have followed it seamlessly, as if the big
“Allegro” interruption had never happened. Indeed,
Brahms would take advantage of this in the 1889/91 revision,
simply cutting the “Allegro” and splicing this closing onto
the A’ section.
8:12 [m. 153]--The longer chords and cadence from 2:09
[m. 29] bring the movement to a close. That cadence had
been cut off by the immediate beginning of the B
section, but here Brahms makes things more conclusive by
repeating the chord after the delayed resolution, adding
another measure with a fermata. He also changes
the last string note from a doubling of the piano’s B to a
high, suspended F-sharp.
8:48--END OF MOVEMENT [157 mm.]
Movement: Finale – Allegro molto agitato (Varied
Sonata-Allegro form with Rondo elements). B MINOR, 3/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1. The cello presents the
obsessively driven main theme with its distinctive dotted
(long-short) rhythm that punctuates the end of every other
bar. The piano accompanies with sweeping arpeggios in
triplets. In each bar, one left-hand triplet is followed
by two in the right. After two statements of a
four-measure unit featuring the dotted rhythm, the cello soars
up and down in two arpeggios, each followed by a cadence
gesture. The second of these slows greatly to a
suspended arrival on the “dominant” harmony. Despite the
agitation, the theme is light and secretive, with the cello
marked mezza voce.
0:21 [m. 18]--The theme is now stated by the violin,
the cello moving to plucked punctuations. The initial
four-measure units with the dotted rhythm are played as
expected, as is the first arpeggio. But here Brahms
inserts a new element. The violin plays the arpeggio,
but without its cadence gesture. It is immediately
imitated by the cello, reaching slightly higher. Only
then does the violin play the original second arpeggio with
its cadence gesture and slowing to the “dominant”
harmony. Even this is modified slightly, with an
approach to the cadence in faster notes and directional
changes in the piano arpeggios. The cello doubles the
violin in the approach to the cadence, which now omits a held
0:44 [m. 38]--The new imitation between violin and
cello is played again, with the key shifted to G-sharp
minor. The imitation is followed by the arpeggio with
the cadence gesture in the form just heard, still in the
violin, with the cadence doubled by the cello. The
slowing is now to an arrival on G-sharp. The piano
arpeggios continue almost obsessively and persistently.
0:55 [m. 46]--The cadence gesture itself is now
isolated and decorated in the violin, with the cello adding
two closing notes. It is stated twice, with the piano
arpeggios now including descents in the right hand. The
volume builds, and a third statement begins. This
expands, with the violin playing two downward leaps. It
reaches a high point, then plunges down, the piano shadowing
this with a cascading arpeggio, still in the triplet
rhythm. It is at the point of the downward plunge where
the revised version will deviate and take its own path.
Here, as there, the passage shifts from G-sharp minor back to
1:06 [m. 56]--Transition. The cadence gesture is
combined with the main dotted rhythm. The strings
forcefully play the former in octaves, given sharpness by a
crushing grace note or appoggiatura. The piano responds
with chords in the dotted rhythm. Three such exchanges
lead to F major and F-sharp minor. The strings add a
dissonant half-step clash at the end of their third cadence
1:15 [m. 65]--The strings now abandon the cadence
gesture and alternate with the piano on the dotted
rhythm. After two of these briefer exchanges, the
strings attempt to begin another one, but the piano then
completely takes over, hammering the rhythm and making a full
arrival on C-sharp major. The piano punctuates this with
a three-note descent followed by an octave leap. This is
then converted into an odd sort of canon between the
strings. The violin follows the cello first by a beat
and a half, quickly reduced to a beat by a subtly held note on
the cello’s first octave leap.
1:28 [m. 77]--After a three-note rising upbeat leading
from C-sharp to F-sharp, the entire pattern is repeated a
fifth higher, beginning on F-sharp minor. The string and
piano exchanges are played at the new pitch level as they were
at 1:06 [m. 56], leading to C major and C-sharp minor.
1:37 [m. 86]--The short exchanges on the dotted rhythm
and the forceful piano takeover follow as they did at 1:15 [m.
65], but the piano’s arrival is now on A-flat major (notated
as G-sharp major). The piano punctuation and string
canon follow on that level as they did before.
1:49 [m. 98]--The piano punctuation and string canon
are repeated, but inflected to minor (G-sharp minor). As
the volume quiets down, the cello drops out, and the violin
continues its pattern for three more measures, still becoming
softer. At the same time, the piano enters with a low
bass octave on C-sharp. Chords above it, heard under the
continuing violin, lead along the circle of fifths to F-sharp
major, where Theme 2 will be played. After its
three-measure continuation, the violin moves to C-sharp,
serving as the preparatory “dominant” harmony for Theme 2 in
1:58 [m. 105]--Theme 2 (F-sharp major). The cello
enters with the full presentation of the broadly lyrical
theme. It is essentially a quotation of “Nimm sie hin
denn, diese Lieder,” the last song of Beethoven’s cycle An
die ferne Geliebete. This song had been quoted by
Schumann at the end of his C-major Fantasie (Op. 17),
which was probably significant for Brahms. The
presentation in four six-measure phrases is accompanied by the
piano right hand in a continuation of the figuration used for
the “canon,” with three-note descents followed by octave
leaps, moving with the melody. The left hand plays long
bass notes and octaves. The pattern breaks up into short
figures under the fourth phrase, which comes to a full
2:23 [m. 129]--The cello continues the Theme 2 complex
in a contrasting passage with the same rhythmic swing, but
which has more chromatic inflections. The six-bar phrase
structure continues. At this point, the piano moves to
the triplet arpeggios it had used to accompany Theme 1.
At the same time, the violin makes entries on the main rhythm
of Theme 1. There are two of these interjections against
each of the first two cello phrases. In the third
phrase, after one violin interjection, everything slows down
and recedes, including the piano arpeggios. The key
center has moved to E major.
2:43 [m. 147]--Very slowly, sostenuto molto,
the cello holds a note over a bar line and leads into a
statement of the theme’s first phrase in E major. The
piano accompaniment is reduced to single triplet arpeggios
whose notes are held to form chords. These are held over
for a full measure in the third and sixth measures of the
2:52 [m. 153]--The violin enters, similarly holding a
note over a bar line, but it shifts back to the theme’s main
key of F-sharp major. Still at the slow tempo, it plays
the first phrase of the theme, with a new counterpoint in the
cello. The piano moves to alternating left-hand octaves
and right-hand chords on each beat, creating two-beat units
that cross over the main triple meter. During the first
phrase, the violin gradually picks up speed and is back in the
main tempo for the second and third phrases, which proceed as
expected with the new counterpoint and piano accompaniment.
3:13 [m. 171]--The original fourth phrase is
transformed into a chromatic variant with sighing violin
figures and cello arpeggios. The piano has already moved
from its two-beat alternations at the end of the last phrase,
and now plays slow arpeggios. All three instruments slow
down and come to a pause on a colorful “diminished seventh”
3:24 [m. 177]--Closing section. The violin plays
an arching figure that descends with short upbeat notes and
then ascends in longer notes. The piano combines its
arpeggios with imitations of the violin on the short upbeat
notes, along with rolled chords. The phrase is played
twice, the second time with a higher opening note. After
this, the cello, which has been playing punctuating bass
notes, moves back to the main rhythm of Theme 1, playing it on
the note F-sharp, alternating high and low. Against
this, the violin plays sweeping downward leaps and the piano
becomes more agitated, with more frequent rolled chords.
3:33 [m. 185]--The violin’s leaps are sped up to
two-beat units instead of long-short ones. This crosses
the prevailing triple meter. The piano right hand moves
to figurations suggestive of canonic passages from the
transition, with the three-note descents and octave
leaps. These follow the violin, also obscuring the
meter, and the cello’s octaves, now not including the dotted
rhythm, follow both the piano and violin. After four
measures of this cross-rhythm “hemiola,” in which the violin
simply alternates its top notes, the violin reaches up to a
high note, under which the piano plays a plunging arpeggio in
both triplet and “straight” rhythm. The cello plays a
simple upward arpeggio, then punctuates the piano plunge as
everything comes to a brief pause.
3:43 [m. 195]-- Brahms indicates a slightly slower
speed and mezza voce. The violin and cello in
octaves begin to play Theme 1 in the home key of B minor after
the exposition has closed in F-sharp major. This may
seem like an exposition repeat or a rondo-like return, but
after the first four measures, the string instruments move the
thematic opening down a step. After four measures there,
they move those same measures down another step, creating a
downward sequence with three statements of these
measures. The piano arpeggios now arch in “straight”
rhythm, with a faster ascent and a slower descent.
3:57 [m. 207]--The piano settles on two measure-long
B-major chords. These are marked mezza voce, as
is the thematic fragment in the strings that follows them (and
which the piano briefly joins). The piano chords and
string response are stated a second time. The piano
chords are then heard a third time, but the left hand is moved
down a third to G major, creating a dissonance, and the string
response is a third higher. This exchange is also
shortened by a measure, cutting off the first note of the
string fragment and placing the dotted rhythm at the end of
the measure with the second chord. A second statement of
this shorter exchange is given with the dissonant left hand
and the higher string response.
4:14 [m. 221]--Suddenly loud, the piano plays two
E-minor chords. The violin responds with the dotted
rhythm, doubled by the piano, which harmonizes it on E
minor. The cello and left hand then play the dotted
rhythm on C-natural, moving down to B. This entire
pattern, beginning with the dotted rhythm in the violin and
right hand and continuing with the cello and left hand, is
repeated an octave lower and slightly quieter. A second
repetition another octave lower begins at an even quieter
level, but it breaks off before the cello (now without the
piano left hand) would have moved down to B.
4:22 [m. 228]--The instruments settle to a held chord
on E minor (the “subdominant”), which has been emphasized, but
then move to F-sharp major (the “dominant”) and back to E
minor. After a brief slowing, the harmony moves
unexpectedly to the “dominant” chord in D major, the
“relative” key. There, the cello begins to pulsate,
placing a long-short rhythm on the last beat of the measure
4:30 [m. 235]--The pulsing cello introduces an entirely
new melody in D major, played by the violin. The
pulsations continue, but they are passed between the cello and
the piano. The piano also supports and harmonizes the
violin melody. The pulsations, which after two exchanges
have begun to move away from the “dominant” note A, are then
taken entirely by the cello again. The violin melody is
soaring and expressive, but not clearly related to Theme 1 or
Theme 2. It is 12 measures long and moves to G major at
the end over syncopated piano chords, with the cello
pulsations punctuating on that note.
4:43 [m. 247]--After the violin melody closes, the
piano pivots abruptly to another new and more distant key,
E-flat major. There, it plays a richly harmonized
chorale-like melody that still has a buoyant swing. The
chorale melody’s second phrase pivots artfully back to
G. The strings have paused for the entirety of this
“chorale” statement, but the cello enters again with its
pulsations on G, as if the “chorale” interruption had not
5:00 [m. 263]--Shifting back to D major, the violin
melody begins again against the cello and piano
pulsations. The first eight measures are the same as
they were at 4:30 [m. 235], but with the pulsations switching
from cello to piano again in the last measure. The
thematic statement is then expanded. First, the previous
four measures are repeated with new harmony emphasizing the
“dominant” in D major. Then the violin and piano reach
higher. As they move down, they, along with the cello
pulsations, settle on a colorful “diminished seventh”
chord. The chord is reiterated and inverted, but it
remains in force for five measures, settling down to the piano
pulsating and fading out on a low bass A.
5:25 [m. 287]--The “chorale” melody from 4:43 [m. 247]
is presented again, this time remaining on D, but transformed
to minor. The cello now carries the melody above the
piano chords. These chords are highly chromatic,
including the “Neapolitan” and “Augmented sixth” chords, but
the second phrase remains in D minor. It ends on the
preparatory “dominant,” anticipating the D-minor return of
Theme 1. The entire presentation is extremely
hushed. Brahms marks the statement pianissimo
5:43 [m. 301]--In yet another “false return” of Theme
1, its first two four-measure units are played by the violin
in D minor as the key signature changes to the single flat of
that key. The piano plays the expected triplet
accompaniment, but the triplets are entirely in the right hand
against isolated bass notes, and the figures are simply
repeated three times in each bar before they change in the
next bar. The cello joins in counterpoint on the second
statement, unexpectedly using the new “chorale” melody.
The first soaring arpeggio is played by the piano right hand
in octaves, with the triplets moving to the left hand.
The continuation with the cadence gesture is strikingly
changed to suggest a new harmony, B-flat major.
5:57 [m. 313]--The second arpeggio and cadence gesture
are not heard. Instead, the first four-measure unit is
stated again, now by the cello and the piano left hand, with
the violin playing the counterpoint of the “chorale”
melody. The triplets continue as before in the right
hand. After this first unit, the violin drops out, and
the cello, with the piano bass, appears to begin the second
statement, but the dotted rhythm stalls on the chromatic note
A-flat, which is used to pivot again to E-flat.
6:06 [m. 322]--Unexpectedly, the violin emerges into
Theme 2 in E-flat major against the low A-flat in the cello
and piano bass. Its first two six-measure phrases are
played in full. Under it, the piano moves to arching
figures in straight rhythm. The cello enters in an
apparent imitation in the fourth measure, but the imitation
breaks, and it emerges into a counterpoint, with the cello
rapturously reaching very high against the violin presentation
of the Theme 2 melody.
6:19 [m. 334]--The statement of Theme 2 does not
continue as expected. The violin appears to begin the
first phrase again, but the cello ominously brings in the
dotted rhythm from Theme 1. The piano, however, changes
its triplet arpeggios to a rippling downward motion, as if to
counter the cello. The violin quickly deviates from the
theme and reaches up again in a pair of sequences. The
intensity and the speed both increase. The harmony
becomes unstable. It moves away from E-flat, back
through D minor and then C major before the downward marching
dotted rhythm in the cello (reinforced by the piano bass) and
a forceful zigzag motion in the violin lead again to the
“dominant” harmony in D--but that is not the goal.
6:32 [m. 347]--Re-transition. The massive
harmonic transition here is to the “dominant” harmony in the
home key of B minor, indicating that the recapitulation will
begin soon. The piano now plays sweeping arpeggios up
and down the keyboard as the left hand and cello interject
with the persistent dotted rhythm. The violin plays
isolated cadence gestures that seem to indicate a hugely
satisfying arrival on B minor, an anticipation that increases
when the violin moves back to the zigzag motion (supported by
the piano bass) on the highly expectant “dominant” harmony
against joyously arching arpeggios in the piano right hand.
6:41 [m. 356]--The recapitulation would be completely
expected here, and indeed Theme 1 does return in the
violin. The key of B minor, however, does not, despite
the big setup. The piano bass does reiterate the note B,
as does the cello, which continues to interject the dotted
rhythm against the theme, but the harmony in the cascading
piano arpeggios does not support it. Not only that, but
the violin’s feverish statement of the Theme 1 melody is a
step too high. This is the third and most deceptive
“false return.” The first two four-measure units are
played over very unstable harmony that vaguely suggests E
6:49 [m. 364]--The first soaring arpeggio and cadence
gesture is played by the violin, which reaches high, with the
cello entering a measure later in counterpoint. The
piano arpeggios tumble down after initial bass octaves.
This continues through the first cadence gesture. The
harmony suggests F-sharp minor, indicating a potential
transformation into “dominant” harmony to finally prepare the
return of B minor. The second arpeggio is heard then
heard in the expanded version as originally played at 0:21 [m.
18], with the cello again entering in quasi-imitation.
6:57 [m. 372]--The strings feverishly approach the
second cadence gesture in contrary motion, but this is greatly
expanded, with the faster upbeat reiterated three times as the
violin steadily moves down. The piano arpeggios also
plunge down continuously over these reiterations. The
cello continues to play in the opposite direction against
them. The harmony of these upbeat gestures is F-sharp
minor, not yet transformed to major to serve as a preparatory
“dominant.” Finally, the strings in octaves play the
cadence gesture, fortissimo. Only then do we
hear F-sharp major emerge as a “dominant” in held string
chords and rushing piano arpeggios, arching up and down over
three measures before finally arriving at a held chord.
7:09 [m. 381]--Continuation of Theme 1. The
delayed, but massive “dominant” preparation would seem to
herald the long-awaited return to B minor, but since the first
part of Theme 1 has already been played in the re-transition,
Brahms continues as if it had been the return. This
means another harmonic curveball as the passage corresponding
to 0:44 [m. 38] is now played. This, of course, is in
G-sharp minor, not B minor, so the preparation has been yet
again averted. Because this corresponds to the
exposition in both material and key, it can be said that the
“real” return begins here. The piano arpeggios are as
they were there, as is the melody, but the earlier cello
imitation against the violin as heard in the re-transition is
incorporated, with the melody continuing in the violin.
The cadence and arrival are expanded by a measure with a held
7:19 [m. 390]--Corresponds closely to 0:55 [m.
46]. The only significant change is in the expansion and
buildup. There, the violin embellishes its downward
leaps with turn figures, and the cello plays against them with
descending arpeggios. The downward plunge with the
cascading piano arpeggio leading back to B is played as it was
7:30 [m. 400]--Transition. As at 1:06 [m. 56],
the cadence gesture is combined with the dotted rhythm leading
to F major and F-sharp minor.
7:40 [m. 409]--String and piano alternation on the
dotted rhythm leading to C-sharp major, as at 1:15 [m.
65]. The piano punctuation with octave leap and the
string canon are heard as expected. The remainder of the
transition is then cut, and the string canon is played again,
changed from C-sharp major to C-sharp minor. This now
leads directly into the statement of Theme 2 in B major (the
home major key and home key of the Trio).
7:56 [m. 425]--Theme 2 (B major). Its
presentation is greatly abbreviated, and this return is
essentially analogous to 2:52 [m. 153]. The scoring is
entirely new. The fully harmonized melody is now played
by the piano, and the cello contributes a contrasting line
derived from the faster upbeat approach to the cadence
gesture. It also occasionally doubles the piano
bass. The violin is silent for the entire
8:15 [m. 443]--Analogous to 3:13 [m. 171]. The
piano plays the chromatic variant with the sighing
gestures. The violin is still absent. The piano
slows and comes to the expected pause on the “diminished
seventh” chord, with the cello adding one more interjection of
the upbeat rhythm.
8:23 [m. 449]--Closing section, analogous to 3:24 [m.
177]. The piano right hand now plays the original main
line that had been presented by the violin. Its left
hand plays continuously upward arching arpeggios. The
violin itself finally enters, imitating both the short upbeat
notes and the longer ascent. As expected, the cello
moves to the main Theme 1 rhythm, now on the home keynote of
B, alternating high and low. The piano plays the
sweeping downward leaps as the violin reiterates the short
8:32 [m. 457]--Analogous to 3:33 [m. 185]. The
four measures of “hemiola” are played as expected, with the
piano and violin essentially reversing roles from the original
presentation. The violin now takes the figures derived
from the canonic passages, and the piano the faster leaps in
two-beat units. The piano’s left hand continues with
arpeggios, now all moving upward and following the
cross-rhythm. The cello plays its original
octaves. At the point of the plunging piano arpeggio and
high violin note, these instruments return to their original
roles (though the violin plays a lower double-stop), and the
cello plays its upward arpeggio. The plunging arpeggio
is cut short by a measure, and the piano turns around, rushing
upward into the coda.
8:40 [m. 465]--The key signature changes back to the
two sharps of B minor, where the movement will end, but the
major-key flavor persists through these first few
measures. The previous passage rushes headlong into the
rhythm of Theme 1, more insistent than ever. All three
instruments play it, the piano decorating the longer notes
with triplet-rhythm arpeggios. It is richly harmonized
in the left hand. As usual, two statements of the
four-measure unit are played. In the first, the violin
takes the melodic lead, with the cello playing a harmonizing
line. In the second, the roles are exchanged, the melody
moving to the cello and the violin soaring very high on the
harmonizing line, now doubled by the piano’s top notes.
8:47 [m. 473]--The instruments begin the buildup to the
closing as minor firmly takes over. The strings play
leaping octaves in contrary motion against tumbling piano
arpeggios. After the arpeggio turns upward, the strings
play forceful repeated chords against a powerful scale figure
in the piano, doubled in octaves between the hands. This
scale figure is notable for finding its way into the revised
version. The chords fail to reach a cadence, instead
making a “deceptive” harmonic motion, and the piano again
plays the same upward arpeggio, with the powerful scale figure
and forceful string chords then repeated at the same level.
8:57 [m. 483]--The arrival chord is subtly altered, as
is the next upward arpeggio, causing the third statement of
the string chords and piano scale figure to be shifted up in
pitch and harmony, suggesting C major. Finally, another
upward shift and a fourth statement of the string chords and
piano scale figure leads to the decisive arrival on B
minor. Here, Brahms commits to ending his minor-key
finale in minor, and thus ending his major-key trio in minor,
a bold choice that would be retained in the revised version.
9:05 [m. 491]--At the arrival point, the tempo is
marked “Schneller” (“Faster”), and the strings begin to play a
series of angry chords with syncopation held across the bar
lines. The piano, meanwhile, punctuates the downbeats
with its own hammered chords. After eight measures of
these chords, which literally pound B minor definitively into
the listener’s heads, the piano plays a rising arpeggio in
octaves with the right hand being offset behind the
left. This arpeggio is played twice more, each time
being cut off by a string chord and beginning a third higher.
9:17 [m. 509]--The strings play an octave on the
“dominant” note F-sharp, and under this the piano plays a
decisive B-minor cadence. After a nearly three-measure
pause, the final arrival is given one last emphasis with
another extended cadence using two statements of a highly
rhetorical short-long gesture. Thus ends Brahms’s first
published piece of chamber music, a fascinating, ambitious,
youthful, exuberant, but also undeniably wild and
undisciplined work whose best elements would produce a true
masterpiece near the end of the composer’s career.
9:30--END OF MOVEMENT [518 mm.]
END OF TRIO
BRAHMS LISTENING GUIDES HOME