SYMPHONY NO. 4 in E MINOR, OP. 98
Recording: Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Claudio Abbado
his last symphonic masterpiece at a mountain retreat in 1884,
year after completing the Third
Symphony. Brahmsians often label
it as the composer’s “magnum opus,” although the German
Requiem competes for that
designation. It was composed specifically for the
Orchestra, led by his friend Hans von Bülow, rather than for
Vienna. Brahms was concerned from the outset about the
accessibility, but audiences responded enthusiastically.
quite serious and even tragic. Although the third
competes with the finale of the Second Symphony for sheer
this only emphasizes through contrast the severity and
the finale. The chains of thirds introduced in the first
movement, as well as the emphasis on the note C in all four
characterize the symphony. Bülow, only half-jokingly,
remarked after the first movement was played on two pianos at
gathering, “For the whole movement I had the feeling that I
given a beating by two incredibly intelligent people.”
It is the
only one of Brahms’s symphonic first movements to avoid
exposition, although the development begins with the first
theme in its
original form. The second movement is known for its
of the Phrygian mode. The first two movements also have
unusual final cadences. The only third movement in the
that actually sounds like a scherzo is paradoxically the only
avoid the three-part scherzo-like form. The introduction
triangle is the only time in the symphonies that a percussion
instrument other than timpani is used. Although it seems
anomalous, the movement does have clear references to the
even suggesting the theme of the finale’s variations in the
high and low chords in the coda. The extraordinary
finale is a passacaglia
or chaconne (Brahms
used the latter
term), a form common in the early eighteenth century. It
series of 30 continuous variations on an eight-bar stepwise
theme. Said to be derived from a Bach cantata
Cantata #150), Brahms gives the theme its essential character
the fifth note and its harmonies chromatic (outside the
scale). The variations can be split into four sections
corresponding to the first theme group, second theme group,
development, and recapitulation of sonata form (used in all
the other movements). The brief coda ends the symphony
powerful impact. Though intellectually and emotionally
challenging, the symphony’s greatness was already acknowledged
Brahms’s death a decade later. The orchestra is of
with double woodwind, four horns, two trumpets, and
Contrabassoon, piccolo, and triangle are used in the third
movement. Three trombones (and contrabassoon) are used
IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf &
Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
1st Movement: Allegro non troppo (Sonata-Allegro
form). E MINOR, Cut time [2/2].
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme
With no introduction at all, the main theme begins with a
upbeat, almost in mid-thought. The melody consists of
leading into downbeats, continually reversing direction.
pitches actually form a chain of thirds, descending in the
bars and ascending in the second four. The violas and
accompany with harmonized arpeggios, while flutes, clarinets,
bassoons provide punctuating weak beat chords, the horns
chords and octaves.
0:19 [m. 9]--Theme 1
as the violins now stick to the note “C” on long notes with
three-note upbeats. The bass line now moves up
half-step). The wind chords are less detached.
0:27 [m. 13]--The
figures become shorter, with two upbeats in each bar.
to two smoother four-note descending lines, an octave leap
the oboe) and a cadence that merges with the following varied
of the theme.
0:38 [m. 19]--Varied
of Theme 1. The upbeats and downbeats are played in
octaves. Violas and woodwinds play new descending scale
and the weak beat punctuations are in low strings.
0:52 [m. 27]--The
of the theme now slides upward by half-steps (from the initial
the long notes and steadily builds in volume.
0:59 [m. 31]--The
figures now lead into a huge expansion. This reaches a
volume level, with more woodwind participation.
1:13 [m. 39]--The
continues with a syncopated descending line and more agitated
figures. The harmony moves toward the minor version of
“dominant” key of B. The climax is reached with two
descending lines merging into dotted (long-short) rhythms.
1:37 [m. 53]--Transition.
extended transition begins with fanfare-like figures,
triplet rhythm, in the woodwinds. The full orchestra
descending response in dotted rhythm. There follows a
cello melody doubled by horns. The remaining strings and
provide a strongly rhythmic accompaniment of four punctuating
harmonized descents of four thirds each (B minor).
1:56 [m. 65]--The
is transferred to the violins in octaves. The full
except violins takes the punctuating descents of thirds.
of these is extended to five thirds in the low strings.
bass note helps to avert an expected strong arrival on a
2:09 [m. 73]--The
cadence on B minor is thwarted by a sudden and strong
the woodwind fanfares, this time underpinned by loud
in the strings, on G major/minor. An accented descent
leads to a
repetition of the same fanfares on C major/minor. This
dissipates into a series of detached two-note figures passed
and woodwinds, both in unison and leading back to B.
2:31 [m. 87]--Theme
The arrival is in the major key. The strings continue to
leaping figures, now in harmony, as the winds enter with
chords. The violins then emerge with a warm, rich
melody in dotted rhythm accompanied by pulsating triplets in
cellos. This diminishes suddenly in volume (B major).
2:46 [m. 95]--Flute,
and horn present a new melody that includes triplet
strings accompany with short pairs of repeated notes.
and horn then merge into the descending melody in dotted
The short pairs continue in the strings. The dotted
reaches a point of repose, with three-note figures passed
and flute, both underpinned by the oboe.
3:08 [m. 107]--Closing
Section. The repose of the second theme is interrupted
sudden dissonant (diminished) chord on G-sharp. The
remains quiet, but the calm is disturbed by a timpani roll
making their first entrance here) and the fanfare rhythm on
trumpet. Under the held wind chord, the strings play a
arpeggio that arches upward, then down as the bass slides down
G. The closing theme itself, a quiet major-key version
wind fanfare with isolated three-note interjections, follows.
3:21 [m. 114]--The
fanfares are interrupted by another quiet diminished chord
on E-sharp) with drum roll and trumpet fanfares. The
arpeggios are extended to nearly twice the length, with more
descents. The bass slides down by half-steps as the
bassoons and horn slide up. The volume swells.
reaching C-sharp, the bass moves back to E-sharp. Then
B-major fanfares enter again, this time forcefully on the
trumpet and horn punctuation, followed by a joyous arching
response in triplet rhythm.
3:40 [m. 125]--The
fanfares suddenly shift up to D major. Other winds join
punctuations. The fanfares and triplet rhythms become
insistent as the harmony moves back to B major. The
with an exuberant dotted rhythm.
4:00 [m. 137]--The
strong and forceful cadence on B is again somewhat averted,
by a sudden soft volume as it is reached. Harmonized
descents reminiscent of Theme 1, beginning in flutes and
then incorporating the other winds, bring the exposition to a
close. They are accompanied by arpeggios in low strings
detached weak beat echoes in the violins. Three figures
lead to a
sustained wind chord that starts to propel the music back to
key of E minor. The pattern is repeated a step lower,
a highly unstable and dissonant chord (a diminished seventh).
4:16 [m. 145]--The
passage is set up in a way that makes an exposition repeat
expected. Brahms plays a formal game here by beginning
development section as if it were
an exposition repeat. His only symphonic first movement
such a repeat thus deceives the listener into thinking that
one. The first eight-bar phrase with its chains of
heard as it was at the movement’s beginning.
4:31 [m. 153]--The
the long C’s with winding three-note upbeats diverges from the
exposition. The harmonies are new from the outset and
rising chromatic bass line, and the weak beat wind chords drop
favor of a smooth clarinet descent.
4:38 [m. 157]--The
upbeats develop into a flowing line with syncopations over bar
lines. It is passed between violin groups. The
bassoons, later joined by oboes, introduce three-note stepwise
harmonized in thirds and sixths. The clarinets later add
flowing accompaniment that dovetails with the violin
patterns begin in G minor, but move toward A-flat major.
notes with winding upbeats return in the woodwinds in A-flat,
accompanied by violins and filled with quiet tension.
4:59 [m. 169]--Suddenly,
is a huge outburst in the strings. Groups of three
chords are passed between the violins and the low strings as
and horns alternate a neighbor-note figure in dotted
These powerful three-note groups begin on the last upbeats of
so the downbeat is obscured. The passage vacillates
related keys of B-flat minor and D-flat major before pivoting
minor/major (approached by its alternate identity as
the end, the strings gradually come together as the winds
dotted rhythm and take over the alternation from the low
5:26 [m. 184]--As at
73], an expected arrival on B is thwarted by a deceptive
motion to G,
but this time it is suddenly quiet as well (pianissimo). The
passage is a
sort of mixture between those at 2:09 [m. 73] and 3:08 [m.
The fanfares and triplets are heard in the strings with their
major/minor mixture, but the drum roll, sustained horn octave,
mysterious character recall the later moment.
5:33 [m. 188]--Very
flutes, clarinets, and bassoons play the fanfares in unison, sotto voce. These
lead to the
quiet string arpeggios as heard at 3:08 [m. 107].
reminiscent of Theme 1 are heard in the oboes. These, as
the sustained bass note and the arpeggio, suggest C
winds then enter as the bass note shifts up a half-step.
5:49 [m. 196]--The
arpeggios and oboe figures are again played over the new bass
(C-sharp). The other winds again shift the bass note
D. It remains there much more briefly before a
and horn descent helps it move up one more half-step, to
There, the string arpeggios dissipate under a drum roll.
“mysterious” fanfares and triplets are now played by the
arching up and back down in yet another attempt to establish
“dominant” harmony of B major/minor.
6:10 [m. 206]--In a
outburst, the fanfares blast forth in their original character
strings, with trumpet and horn responses. The winds then
the fanfares gradually move to A-flat major. The triplet
begin a boisterous descent in the winds and brass as the
continues in the strings. The strings then lead another
with the winds responding. A-flat major is changed to
minor (same keynote), where a strong cadence is reached.
6:27 [m. 217]--The
a long passage in G-sharp minor of stepwise triplet motion
in thirds. After two loud punctuations, they become
Clarinets and bassoons, then oboes, then clarinets again, play
sinuous thirds. Against this, and quite surprisingly,
violins, playing pizzicato,
present the first phrase of Theme 1 in its entirety, all
played on the
offbeat and harmonized by violas and flutes, the cellos and
providing a plucked foundation on the downbeats.
6:45 [m. 227]--Re-transition.
part of Theme 1, the long note with the winding three-note
upbeat, is heard in two sequences with the four-note groups
the flute to three string sections (violas, then cellos, then
the other strings and winds alternating on the background
harmonies. The second sequence is a step higher than the
7:00 [m. 235]--Four
sequences follow, each with a winding figure played by a wind
instrument followed by a descending figure played by a string
group. The first two alternate clarinet and violins, the
one oboe and violins, and the last one (with the same pitches
third) clarinet and violas. The other winds and strings
background harmonies, again in alternation. These
become very quiet. The entire passage from 6:45 [m. 227]
moved from G-sharp minor in rising sequences to arrive back
home at E
7:18 [m. 243]--After
sequence, the winds drop out and the strings very quietly
(triple piano), led
by cellos, bridge into
the mysterious beginning of the recapitulation, hanging on the
7:27 [m. 247]--The
return is disguised, as the development began with Theme 1 in
original form. The original notes of Theme 1 are heard
clarinets, and bassoons, but they are twice as long, quiet,
and sustained. At the arrival of the fourth note, there
is a link
to previous passages such as 3:08 [m. 107] and 5:33 [m.
note is underpinned with a new harmony (a C major chord
colored by a
pervasive foreign note, A-flat), quiet string arpeggios, and a
roll, and is sustained for three bars.
7:40 [m. 253]--The
occurs for the next four notes (completing the “descending”
the chain of thirds). The fourth note is underpinned by
and arpeggios suggesting G major or E minor (the home key),
“color” note of D-sharp.
7:54 [m. 259]--After
disguised beginning, the recapitulation slides into its
expected path, picking up with the “ascending” chain of thirds
continuing as at 0:19 [m. 9] and 0:27 [m. 13].
8:20 [m. 273]--Varied
of Theme 1, as at 0:38 [m. 19] and 0:52 [m. 27].
8:41 [m. 285]--The
from 0:59 [m. 31] and 1:13 [m. 39] is greatly curtailed.
removal of ten bars from the passage allows it to remain at
home in E
minor for the transition and second theme group.
9:01 [m. 297]--Transition
1:37 [m. 53] now in the home key. Woodwind fanfares and
rhythms, followed by horn/cello melody with rhythmic
(four groups of four descending thirds).
9:21 [m. 309]--Continuation
melody on violins, as at 1:56 [m. 65]. Averted arrival
9:33 [m. 317]--Fanfares
syncopated chords, as at 2:09 [m. 73] on C minor/major, then F
minor/major. This is followed by detached, unison
figures passed between plucked strings and woodwinds, leading
back to E.
9:55 [m. 331]--Theme
2, as at
2:31 [m. 87], now in E major.
10:10 [m. 339]--Continuation
at 2:46 [m. 95], with the roles of the woodwind
somewhat reversed. Arrival at point of repose.
10:32 [m. 351]--Closing
as at 3:08 [m. 107] and 3:21 [m. 114]. The fanfare
figures are played by a horn instead of a trumpet. The
chords and string arpeggios are on C-sharp (sliding down to
(following the major-key version of the fanfare and triplets)
A-sharp. Drum rolls, as before. The sliding bass
again followed by the joyous outburst of fanfares with
horns, followed by the arching wind response in triplets.
11:04 [m. 369]--This
diverges from 3:40 [m. 125]. The shift of the fanfares
G-sharp, a half-step higher than the expected (and analogous)
The climactic passage is extended. Whereas the
passage in the exposition moved back to the major key after
fanfares, it now moves back to E minor (instead of major),
end is approaching and this ultimately tragic movement must
minor where it began. This occurs via the related key of
11:22 [m. 381]--The
section is further extended with accented, syncopated string
passing down through F major (and including a last wind
arrive, finally, on E minor. The triplets become more
forceful and dramatic, culminating on two harmonized wind
(punctuated by two loud outbursts) and a tremolo string arpeggio
into the powerful coda. The end of this passage is
similar to the quiet one at 6:27 [m. 217] in the
This earlier passage was underpinned by the quiet weak beat
string version of Theme 1, whose apotheosis follows here.
11:42 [m. 394]--Theme
presented in imitation with low strings and horns answered by
of the orchestra. It is stark and powerful. After
bars, the leading voice (low strings and horns) begins to play
syncopation. The Theme 1 material continues with the
elements (long notes with winding three-note upbeats, then the
detached upbeat figures), working toward a climax.
12:12 [m. 414]--The
descending lines from the climax of Theme 1 before the
both the exposition and recapitulation now become the climax
movement. They lead to accented, tragic short descents
winds and low strings against a powerful violin tremolo arpeggio.
material builds even more intensity in the full orchestra over
thundering timpani rolls before a powerful E-minor cadence.
12:45 [m. 436]--Five
punctuating chords from the full orchestra mark the
the movement closes with a broad plagal
cadence, with a sustained “subdominant” (A-minor) chord over
thumping timpani beats moving to the final E-minor
chord. Such a
plagal cadence was originally planned by Brahms to open the
before he deleted it in favor of the more direct beginning.
13:05--END OF MOVEMENT [440
Andante moderato (Varied Sonata form without
MAJOR, 6/8 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Introduction.
actually anticipates Theme 1, but these austere slow
fanfares, played first by a solo horn which is then joined by
winds (excluding clarinets), are not in the “right” key.
fanfares begin on E, but the notes used are those from C
The fanfares are actually in the Phrygian
mode, which has a half-step between the first and second notes
scale. This mode is often associated with the note E
has no sharps or flats when centered there.
0:30 [m. 5]--Theme
absence of the clarinets in the preceding fanfares is
their leading role in presenting the full theme that is
their distinctive dotted rhythms. They share this very
presentation with plucked violins. The remaining
strings are also plucked. Bassoons and later flutes
further accompaniment. While the theme is now clearly in
because of the notes F-sharp and G-sharp, the persistent
D-natural are vestiges of the Phrygian introduction.
1:18 [m. 13]--The
over the presentation of Theme 1 from the clarinets and
violins, with counterpoint from bassoons and continued plucked
1:30 [m. 15]--Suddenly,
clarinets re-enter alone with the bassoons. They now
play the fanfares with the persistent foreign (“Phrygian”)
The plucked strings have short punctuations. The other
enter on forceful rising arpeggios. These respond to the
clarinet/bassoon fanfares twice in sequence, the first
major and the second G major. Clarinets and bassoons
trailing passages in groups of three that diminish in
horns enter in preparation for another statement of the theme.
2:08 [m. 22]--The
clarinets and bassoons have moved back toward E. Theme 1
another full statement. The plucked strings play as
the horn, clarinet, and bassoons that support them drop out
leaving the plucked strings exposed as they complete the first
2:32 [m. 26]--The
bassoons, and horns re-enter at the end of the first phrase,
plucked strings drop out. The clarinets lead again for
phrase of the theme. The plucked strings make a
appearance toward the end of the phrase. The leading
then suddenly and unexpectedly abandons the modal inflections
to a full cadence in E, which has thus far been avoided.
2:57 [m. 30]--Theme 1
flowers into a beautiful, warm melody in E major. It is
the violins, bowing for the first time in the movement.
and cellos, still plucked, provide accompaniment in rising
arpeggios. The winds also accompany with mildly
lines. The violins then plunge downward in arpeggios
change of key to the “dominant” of B, the line quickly rising
an expectant repeated note. Here, the remaining strings
their bows for the first time.
3:35 [m. 36]--Transition
Beginning halfway through the bar, the woodwinds present
an austere and dramatic harmonized melody in detached triplet
rhythm. The strings then reply. This pattern is
with altered harmony (natural instead of melodic minor).
horn begins to pulse on a syncopated repeated note under three
woodwind chords. The horn is isolated, quickly
the three chords are repeated an octave lower, stretched out,
and at a
quiet volume, leading into Theme 2 (B minor).
4:02 [m. 41]--Theme
The cellos play a very warm and beautiful major-key theme,
rising and falling in a stepwise motion. All winds
bassoons drop out. The violins provide a decorative
characterized by short rests. The bassoons and violas
counterpoint to the cellos. The theme reaches a full
TRANSITION TO RECAPITULATION (in lieu of Development Section)
4:56 [m. 50]--The
Theme 2 merges into echoes from clarinet, violins, bassoons,
cellos again. The strings then lead an extension of the
rising and falling in pitch and volume. This is echoed
clarinets and bassoons, the strings continuing with rising
5:34 [m. 57]--The
dissipates into the rising two-note figures, passed from
woodwinds. The flute is then isolated in alternation
violins. The violas take over the alternation from the
flute. The violas then expand the two-note figures into
sweeping, but quiet arpeggio, passed to the violins, who move
back down twice The arpeggios are accompanied first by
horns and bassoons, then by oboes and clarinets with
harmonized rising line from the flutes leads to the
6:14 [m. 64]--Theme
The theme is rescored. The violins are still plucked, as
cellos and basses, but the violas are not. They
the clarinets in presenting the melody. The woodwinds
pass harmonized descending groups (usually thirds) between
Flutes, clarinets, horns, and bassoons are heard, but oboes
not. The timpani are heard for the first time on soft
7:00 [m. 72]--Horns
another presentation of Theme 1 with bassoons and plucked
including violas), as at 1:18 [m. 13].
7:12 [m. 74]--The
enter again as at 1:30 [m. 15], but now all woodwinds play
unison. The violins (bowed) take over halfway through
statement. A very active counterpoint with shorter notes
over in the violas. This then moves to the violins as
the woodwinds enter with their response to the fanfares.
response suggest B major, as before.
7:23 [m. 76]--The
statement of the fanfares is taken by the low strings.
following response continues the active, rapid motion in
mostly in arpeggios, expanding on what was heard in the
still suggesting G major. The winds drop out, and the
continue, the violins playing the fanfare rhythms in a
sequence before passing them to the low strings and moving to
faster notes with the violas. The passage moves to
7:43 [m. 80]--A
blast of the fanfare from winds and horns is followed by a
response. The strings forcefully continue, and the winds
respond to them. The strings begin another sequence, but
continue with a resumption of the rapid motion, including
the violas, as the winds respond with the fanfare
passage moves from B-flat to B and builds to a climax.
8:06 [m. 84]--Transition
The preceding development has replaced the last statement
of Theme 1 from 2:08 [m. 22] and its more melodious variation
[m. 30]. Now the transition enters in the home minor key
minor), played forcefully by the whole orchestra, including
timpani. This is the climax of the movement. The
rhythm is extended by half a bar, but there is only one
the three rising chords (in their longer version), now from
bassoons without the repeated pulsation.
8:32 [m. 88]--Theme 2,
home key of E major. The violins play the melody.
decorative accompaniment with the rests is absent, and the
the counterpoint formerly taken by the bassoons. The
completely absent until the end of the melody, where bassoons
clarinets, then flutes and oboes enter in syncopation in
sixths, while violins and violas suddenly and actively descend
9:36 [m. 98]--Theme 2
a new and dramatic variation in place of the previous
transition to the
recapitulation. It is played in exuberant syncopation
strings and woodwinds with timpani rolls.
10:01 [m. 102]--This
breaks off. The strings quietly begin the second half of
theme. Then clarinets and bassoons, accompanied by a
over in thirds with four rising figures containing dotted
the strings begin to pluck, leading into the coda. The
and bassoons then play the three slow, syncopated rising
the end of the transition.
10:28 [m. 106]--The
play a sustained note (the dominant note, B), while the
violas play mysterious arpeggios (marked triple piano) on a diminished
the timpani begins a soft roll. The clarinets play
Theme 1 similar to those heard at 2:32 [m. 26]. The oboe
takes over the fragments. This moment is reminiscent of
similar “mysterious” passages in the first movement.
11:02 [m. 111]--The
arpeggios and the timpani roll break off. After a
break, the principal clarinet resumes the Theme 1 material
accompaniment, slowing to a satisfying resolution and cadence
11:22 [m. 113]--At the
of the cadence, the horns suddenly start to blast out the
fanfares as heard in the introduction. They are
rising lines in bassoons, violins and violas, and rising
arpeggios in the cellos. The accompaniment, still in E,
with the “Phrygian” horns. The woodwinds join with the
the fanfares. Now, the Phrygian mode is re-interpreted
as C major
mixed with E major. C begins to function as a “dominant”
suggesting the previously unheard F major.
11:44 [m. 116]--The
end and the music again quiets down. Three rising
follow with an unusual harmonic sequence. First, the
one in C major. Then the clarinets in E major.
flute and oboe play over a timpani roll in F major, a harmony
implied earlier. This F-major arpeggio slides down to
E-major chord. This cadence is known as a “Phrygian”
is highly appropriate given the use of that mode in the
The final chord is sustained by woodwinds and horns.
(with timpani) punctuate it three times, the last time plucked
12:09--END OF MOVEMENT [118
Movement: Allegro giocoso (Sonata form with foreshortened
recapitulation). C MAJOR, 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1,
1. Brahms adds piccolo, contrabassoon, and triangle to
orchestra. The opening is played by the full orchestra
in a loud,
exuberant manner. There are two lines in contrary
descending steps from the higher instruments and ascending
the lower ones. These change direction on longer
They are arrested by an accented loud chord with a drum roll
0:09 [m. 6]--Theme 1,
2. The theme resumes with detached repeated chords,
with a short-short-long rhythm and continuing with faster
notes than at
0:12 [m. 10]--Theme 1,
3. A very abrupt harmonic shift leads to a loud fanfare
major with descending neighbor-note turns. The accents
strong and on the weak beats of bars. There are more
rolls. A descending string arpeggio in triplets leads
back to C
0:21 [m. 19]--Theme 1,
resumes after the interruption of Part 3, now played more
quietly, without the short-short-long repeated notes. It
greatly extended. A long crescendo begins, culminating
extended timpani roll and downward-arching, rushing string
0:37 [m. 35]--Theme 1,
now inverted with the higher instruments moving up and the
moving down. The arresting loud chord is now more fully
harmonized, and marks the first entrance of the ringing
0:43 [m. 40]--Transition.
1, Part 2 seems to begin again with the triangle, but its
direction is altered, and there is a motion toward the
of G major. All instruments except the low strings drop
out. They descend by thirds in the short-short-long
notes, quickly diminishing in volume. The violins and
another chain of descending thirds with the repeated
Finally, the flute, clarinet, and bassoon play a longer chain
descending thirds in single notes, the repeated notes
continuing in the
0:54 [m. 52]--Theme
more gentle and graceful, but jaunty melody from the first
light accompaniment from the other strings and running
piccolo, flute, clarinets, and bassoons. A trill leads
next phrase (G major).
1:06 [m. 63]--The
over the melody, straightening it out and passing it between
them. The strings play a more rhythmic accompaniment,
except for a bowed triplet rhythm counterpoint in the
triangle enters here with light rhythmic tapping.
1:20 [m. 77]--The
bowed, begin a closing phrase that develops into a
This becomes more ominous, and the whole orchestra enters,
large timpani roll, over a huge crescendo. The motion is back
major and to Theme 1.
1:32 [m. 89]--Theme 1,
begins as at the start of the movement. The “arresting”
now expanded and passed between two large groups. The
includes strings, bassoons, horns, and timpani. The
includes the other woodwinds, trumpets, and a prominent,
triangle. Clarinets play in both groups. The first
plays loudly, the second softly for two rising sequences.
1:45 [m. 100]--The two
groups unite and play alternating low and high chords for
sequences. Timpani are only played on the low chords;
piccolo, oboes, trumpets, and triangle only on the high
Following these sequences, Theme 1, Part 2 begins. It is
interrupted by two large, syncopated chords (with triangle and
rolls), then continues and is developed, moving to the related
key, A minor.
2:01 [m. 117]--Further
development of Theme 1, Part 2. Fragments are passed
strings and winds, the latter accompanied by plucked
strings and winds then unite, playing in counterpoint on the
of Theme 1, Part 2. This passage moves from A minor to E
2:23 [m. 139]--Development
Theme 1, Part 1 in C-sharp minor (the relative key to the
major). First the winds play the “inverted” version in
with syncopated accompaniment from violas and cellos (playing
bassoons). Then the strings play the original
version in stark unison. The groups join for a brief
before the winds drop out completely.
2:36 [m. 151]--Further
development of Theme 1, Parts 1 and 2 in C-sharp minor by
alone. This becomes ever quieter, trailing off to triple
shorter, the low strings begin plucking, and all is suspended
plucked unison C-sharp from all strings before a pause.
2:55 [m. 168]--The
punctuates a very quiet, syncopated entry of Theme 1, Part 1
all winds and horns. This is in D-flat major (the
version of the previous key; C-sharp and D-flat are the same
note). The “arresting” pause from the plucked strings
leads to a
trailing, descending bassoon line with chords from the other
winds. The strings then enter, bowed, as does a timpani
two quiet transitional chords.
3:11 [m. 181]--Re-transition.
this passage Poco meno
presto. It is a moment of respite, despite the
transitional character. The horns, bassoons, and
a very tranquil version of the formerly boisterous Theme 1,
Part 3 in
D-flat major, accompanied by plucked strings. The oboe
over the melody. The strings take up their bows as the
moves away from D-flat. Flute and piccolo enter.
is passed between strings and winds, and moves to the
“dominant” chord of the home key, C major. This passage
somewhat reminiscent of the main theme from the second
3:38 [m. 199]--The
arrival on C at the moment of the recapitulation is thwarted
sudden blast of Theme 1, Part 3 in its original form and in
original key of E-flat (as at 0:12 [m. 10]). We thus
very different versions of this material juxtaposed. The
beginning of the recapitulation here also indicates that the
of Parts 1 and 2 of the theme at the beginning of the
constituted their “reprise.” Compare the first movement,
development also begins with the main theme.
3:47 [m. 208]--Theme
1, Part 2,
as at 0:21 [m. 19], with some very minor variations in the
4:03 [m. 224]--The
version of Theme 1, Part 1 from 0:37 [m. 35] is stretched to
length and mixed with the “original” version before the large
“arresting” chord with triangle.
4:13 [m. 233]--Transition.
a fourth higher, so that the music can remain in the home key
rather than moving to G major. There is also some slight
variation, including some jaunty syncopation. The
thirds from the low strings, then the violins and violas, are
heard. Clarinet and horns insert a slight extension
longer chain of thirds in the winds. Here the oboe takes
from the clarinet. The repeated notes are not heard in
4:27 [m. 247]--Theme
2, in the
home key of C major. An oboe joins the violins in the
presentation of the jaunty melody. The running responses
heard from the same instruments as before. There is some
harmony in the horns. The previous quiet trill is
replaced by a
large swelling and a timpani roll.
4:39 [m. 258]--The
1:06 [m. 63] is transformed into a very martial passage with
in the character of Theme 1, Part 3. The material still
to Theme 2. The passage is also extended with new
harmonies. There is a steady buildup of energy and
4:58 [m. 276]--The
phrase from 1:20 [m. 77] is now played in loud, punctuating
descents from the whole orchestra. These seem to be
leading to a
strong cadence, but diverge over a bass line that descends in
half-steps. The harmony moves to the “dominant” chord in
transition to the coda.
5:04 [m. 282]--Very
and quietly, the short-short-long rhythm begins to be tapped
timpani. This continues at some length. The string
later joined by cellos, start a long series of repetitions of
G. In G minor, fragments of Theme 1 are heard passed
instruments. This builds in volume with loud horn
timpani beats and low string thumping on G remaining constant.
5:27 [m. 305]--C major
emerge over the thumping G’s, which are joined by horns and
trumpets. The thumping G’s are suddenly abandoned, and
is unexpectedly diverted to the “subdominant” key of F major,
Theme 1, Part 1 is heard and reaches a full cadence.
5:39 [m. 317]--The
cadence merges with sequences of high and low chords similar
at 1:45 [m. 100]. All instruments play on the high
only the flute, piccolo, and triangle drop out from the low
There are five chords, high-low-high-low-high.
5:49 [m. 326]--Loud
of Theme 1, Part 2 developed in B-flat major (reached from F
the preceding chords), then a half-step lower, in A
B-flat major portion has thumping timpani and ringing triangle
6:00 [m. 337]--The
purpose of A
major is revealed: The relationship of A to C is the same as
C to E-flat. The A major was to prepare for the sudden
of Theme 1, Part 3, heard for the first time in the home key
rather than E-flat, the key of its two previous (equally
appearances. The difference here is that the preceding
also strong and loud. Theme 1, Part 3 itself is
intensified with ringing triangle rolls. The strings
flourishes of Theme 1, Part 2 underneath it.
6:09 [m. 347]--Final
of Theme 1, Part 1. The strings now play only the
in unison. The longer chords are harmonized. The
gradually enter. A violin flourish with a timpani roll
leads to a
joyous chord with triangle roll. Three short chords with
and timpani bring the movement to a close.
6:25--END OF MOVEMENT [357
Movement: Allegro energico e passionato - Più Allegro
(Passacaglia [Chaconne] with coda). E MINOR, 3/4 and
FIRST SECTION (Theme and Variations 1-11), 3/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme. Brahms
contrabassoon from the previous movement and adds three
heard in the other movements. The eight-bar Chaconne
presented by the winds and brass. It is an ascending
scale to the
fifth degree (B), with a chromatic note (A-sharp) on the firth
bar. The theme ends with a motion back to E. The
harmonization of the theme is very ambiguous and suggests A
almost as much as E minor (the first chord is an inversion of
minor). The entrance of timpani and trumpets on the
(chromatic) note gives it the emphasis that will reach its
fruition in the coda.
0:19 [m. 9]--Variation 1. The
broken up. Timpani and horns play on the first beat of
plucked strings (with trombones in the first four bars) on the
beat, and there is a rest on the third. The harmony is
0:34 [m. 17]--Variation 2. The
this variation dovetail with the end of Variation 1. The
clarinet begin a smooth line. They are joined by the
winds. Plucked strings continue. The harmony is
ambiguous now, more clearly in E minor (confirmed by the
chord in the seventh bar).
0:51 [m. 25]--Variation 3. The
orchestra plays on this variation, which is louder than the
Variation 2. The winds introduce a three-note (or
lower neighbor motion. The upper strings continue to
notes, but the cellos and basses play bowed arpeggios. E
even more clearly established here, already in the second
There is a timpani roll in the seventh bar.
1:06 [m. 33]--Variation 4. With E
established, the first violins begin a broad, arching melody
second violins and violas, who play on syncopated off
strings are now bowed. Bassoons are the only winds
The “theme” itself is now moved to the bass instruments in
1:26 [m. 41]--Variation 5.
naturally out of Variation 4, the broad melody is embellished
extra notes. All notes have smaller duration
winds add descending embellishments, some in a clashing
1:41 [m. 49]--Variation 6. The
the broad melody is changed so that it mostly arches
The violins and violas still play the melody. Cellos
arpeggios. The wind commentary is more sparse, largely
two-note descents. The oboes double the second violins
last four bars.
1:56 [m. 57]--Variation 7. The
more rhythmic and heavily dotted (sharp long-short
violins again lead, with woodwind responses. The “theme”
bass also uses these dotted rhythms. The violins
introduce a hemiola
(two 3/4 bars rhythmically
re-arranged to suggest one 3/2 bar) in the sixth and seventh
2:12 [m. 65]--Variation 8. The
with even faster notes in a rapid oscillation with the lower
moving steadily downward. These oscillations are broken
twice. The wind accompaniment is slower. In the
half, the variation becomes suddenly quiet, and a descending
(half-step motion) flute (and viola) line is added to the
oscillations, along with a soft timpani roll. The
harmony and the
notes of the theme itself in the bass are altered to suggest a
to A minor.
2:28 [m. 73]--Variation 9. This
essentially an embellished version of Variation 8 (compare
and 5). It introduces triplet motion, even faster than
heard in Variation 8. The sudden quiet in the fifth bar
preserved. Oboe and bassoon (the latter in contrary
added to the descending chromatic flute line, but the violas
play it. This soft timpani roll is played in the same
place. The oscillations in the second half are now on
E) rather than the downward-moving lower line.
2:45 [m. 81]--Variation 10. The
two transitional variations. It begins in A minor,
endings of Variations 8 and 9, which were in that key.
played very quietly, with alternations between string and wind
with no brass. A motion back to E minor at the end is
3:01 [m. 89]--Variation 11. This
begins in A minor. The soft chords from Variation 10 are
up. The first and third bars use triplet rhythm.
much emphasis and playing on the second half of each beat,
in the violins and violas during the last four bars.
strings play mostly together here, and horns are added in the
four bars. The actual “theme” is still in the low
The last bar appears to be moving toward E minor again, and
motion is not sidestepped, the preparatory “dominant” harmony
delayed until the last bar so that the arrival of E minor at
12 is stronger.
SECOND SECTION (Variations 12-15), 3/2 time.
3:20 [m. 97]--Variation 12.
variations seem to be at a slower tempo, in actuality the bars
simply twice as long. Brahms specifically indicates that
speed of the notes should be the same. This variation is
expressive flute solo with short off-beat accompanying chords
violins, violas, and horns. The theme is embedded in the
beautiful, but somewhat halting flute melody.
4:03 [m. 105]--Variation 13. This
first variation in the major key (E major). The violins
continue their soft, detached off-beat chords. The
oboe pass gentle rising and falling lines between them.
cellos and violas add upward winding lines. In the last
bars, the flutes join the oboe and clarinets, and all play the
chords as the strings, including violins, continue with the
winding lines. The notes of the theme are buried
in the musical texture. A descending oboe line leads to
variation. The resolution through a plagal cadence is
4:38 [m. 113]--Variation 14. The
end of the
oboe line merges with this variation, also in major. The
trombones, heard for the first time since Variation 3, enter
in a very
solemn chorale with expressive rests. They are joined by
and horns. The violas and cellos play short rising
against the trombone chorale. The resolution in the last
is delayed, again using a plagal cadence (motion from A to
horn line similar to the preceding oboe line in Variation 13
5:14 [m. 121]--Variation 15. The
continues (still in major), but now the woodwinds (except
the brass instruments, including now trumpets. The
the other strings on the short responses, the violas and
playing descending lines against the rising lines of the
The resolution of a plagal cadence is again delayed, and this
is not fulfilled at the beginning of the next variation.
flute enters with a similar descending transitional line, but
breaks off at a pause on A minor before the sudden and
of the next section. This prepares for the opening
of Variation 16, which is highly similar to the original
THIRD SECTION (Variations 16-23), 3/4 time.
5:55 [m. 129]--Variation 16. With
force, the winds begin the variation, back in 3/4 and back in
key. It opens as had the original Theme, but with
different harmonization (still beginning on A minor, though,
now with A
in the bass). The strings enter with a new and powerful
descending scale in the last four bars. The timpani roll
in the same place and is now more sustained. The last
an F-sharp in the bass, is more dissonant and unstable than it
the original Theme
6:08 [m. 137]--Variation 17.
swell from a quiet volume. Flute, oboe, and bassoon play
two-note phrases on weak beats. The original theme is in
the tremolo cellos,
but, as at the end
of Variation 16, the F-sharp bass at the end reveals this
variations as developmental and less stable.
6:19 [m. 145]--Variation 18. The
continue in the violins and violas. Bassoons, horns,
basses alternate with flute, oboe, clarinet, another horn, and
trombones on a swelling up-down neighbor-note motion with
on the second and third beats. The trombones drop out
instruments come more together in the second half of the
variation. This one, unlike the previous two, ends with
6:30 [m. 153]--Variation 19. Strings and
alternate with woodwinds four times on a detached, moving
in the strings and more angular in the winds. In the
alternations, the winds play the more arching version.
strings take the angular version in the last
cellos and basses, along with trombones, provide a solid
the first three string alternations. This, as with
9, and 13-15, ends with an A-minor chord.
6:41 [m. 161]--Variation 20. A
triplet motion begins in strings, winds, and horns.
There is a
strong syncopation with a trombone blast on the second beats
first, third, and fifth bars. The strings play the
continuously, while the winds and horns break in the second
bars. In the last three bars, the winds abandon the
entirely in favor of punctuating chords. This variation
on an A-minor chord, as does the next one.
6:52 [m. 169]--Variation 21. The
increases greatly here, as the flutes and violins play
scales against swelling wind lines, viola tremolos, and
rolls. This occurs in the first and third bars.
trombones play weak beat blasts on the second beats of the
fourth, fifth, and sixth bars. The fourth, fifth and
consist of punctuating chords from winds and strings on the
third beats, interrupted by the trombone blasts. The
bars are suddenly very quiet. The sweeping, rapid scales
passed between the strings over a soft timpani roll and
and brass chords.
7:04 [m. 177]--Variation 22. This
is quiet throughout. Trombones drop out
strings pass an oscillating triplet rhythm from cellos to
violins. The winds play off-beat chords in straight
The strings come together in the fifth bar. In these
bars, the triplet oscillations and off-beat chords alternate
strings and winds. This variation ends on E minor.
7:15 [m. 185]--Variation 23. This
is transitional and louder than the last one. The
upward arpeggios in triplet rhythm, alternating with
in the winds, also in triplet rhythm. The horns play the
six chords of the theme very distinctly. A strong
timpani roll is
heard in the fifth bar (against the “chromatic” fifth note, as
before). The last three bars alternate the string and
triplets at the distance of one beat before they come together
last bar. These last three bars are on a sustained
“dominant” harmony, similar to the end of Variation 11.
a dramatic pause at the end.
FOURTH SECTION (Variations 24-30)
7:27 [m. 193]--Variation 24.
structure is quite similar to that of Variation 1, but the
entirely different. The downbeats are played by horns
trumpets with a timpani roll. For the first six bars,
this is a
unison E. The responses (which carry the notes of the
from the strings with a downward neighbor-note figure in
triplets. These are supported by trombone chords and
chords in straight rhythm from the woodwinds. The
variation is a
powerful moment of arrival.
7:39 [m. 201]--Variation 25. This
is essentially a more powerful version of Variation 2.
variation, it begins on the upbeat from the previous
The oboe and clarinet line is transferred to forceful violins
oboes and bassoons. The triplets from the previous
in repeated chords, are played by brass, timpani, flutes, and
clarinets. The low strings play with these triplets, but
play rising octaves in straight rhythm. After this
trombones drop out until the coda.
7:52 [m. 209]--Variation 26. This
is similar to Variation 3, but it takes the opposite path from
previous variation, and is more subdued than Variation 3 had
been. The horns take the slow lower neighbor-note
The strings play in quietly oscillating triplets
the second half, the oboes in thirds take over the
figures from the horns. The most important difference is
harmony, which is shifted to C minor/major. The basses
note for the first four bars, and the variation ends on the
chord of C. This harmonic shift helps build tension in
8:05 [m. 217]--Variation 27. This
in full C major, is entirely new. Flutes, oboes, and
play long two-note descents harmonized in thirds. The
are plucked on the two weak beats. The violas and some
play decorative lines that begin on an off-beat. In the
bars, the violins join with a slow arching motion, also
thirds. The variation is quiet and gentle.
8:17 [m. 225]--Variation 28. This
begins in C major. The flutes, clarinets, and bassoons
smooth line, still harmonized in thirds, but including many
chromatic notes. The low strings continue to be plucked,
to the first two beats. The violas and violins pass
triplet arpeggios between them. The last four bars move
from C back to E with a bass line rising in half-steps.
its transitional and chromatic nature, the variation is one of
beautiful since the “slow” section.
8:28 [m. 233]--Variation 29. In
penultimate variation, which returns to the home key of E
makes a reference to the main theme of the first
strings, playing in plucked unison off the beat, play a
chain of descending thirds in the first four bars, a major
characteristic of the first-movement theme. Against
flute, supported by clarinets and bassoons, plays two-note
that obscure the bar line. In the last four bars, the
take their bows, a horn enters, and all instruments play in
partly chromatic lines, the winds moving up at the end while
strings turn downward.
8:40 [m. 241]--Variation 30. The
variation makes the descending third chain even more
is played loudly and with heavy accents. The low strings
violins in imitation on the descending third chain at the
one beat. The winds and violas play sharp chords off the
(where the plucked unison strings had played the descending
Variation 29). The fifth bar of the variation changes to
upward leaps in the violins, the off-beat chords continuing in
winds and violas. The timpani and trumpets enter in the
8:52 [m. 249]--In a
extension to Variation 30 that acts as a transition to the
eight-bar units are finally broken. The leaping violins
cellos widen to octaves and tenths. The horns also play
octaves. These are held across bar lines, first in the
low strings, then in the violins, then horns and low strings
creating cross rhythms and a hemiola
(four 3/4 bars clashing with two implied 3/2 bars). The
play chords with the violins. The violas are isolated,
thirds in faster syncopation. The timpani beats become
louder, emerging in a roll, and the tempo slows just enough to
the coda. The last bar is on a striking “augmented”
suggests both E major and C major.
9:00 [m. 253]--The
up slightly for the coda. It begins with what sounds
“Variation 31,” with full winds and brass (including
blasting the harmonized theme against cascading string
however, on the fifth bar, the dissonant note A-sharp (now
B-flat) This note, and the chords supporting it, are
out to four bars with two strong timpani rolls and two
9:08 [m. 261]--In what
like “Variation 32,“ the B-flat slides up to B-natural in a
winds and plucked strings. This slides again up to C in
chord, yet again giving that note and that harmony
bass continues to move chromatically upward with both
leaps (usually of a fourth) against strongly arching violin tremolo arpeggios.
trombones enter in the fifth bar. The “variation” is
four bars, vacillating strongly between E major and F major (a
introduced by the C and the B-flat). It increases
9:21 [m. 273]--“Variation 33”
brings the music back to the realm of A minor and E minor,
beginning with a strong implication of F. The trombones
rising line that clearly recalls the Theme. Strings and
play punctuating chords separated by rests. This creates
with eight 3/4 bars
re-arranged into four implied 3/2 bars. The trombone
extended by longer chords and drum rolls. The
“dissonant” note is
still notated as B-flat rather than the A-sharp used
variations. The “variation” is an extension of the first
bars of the Theme, facilitated by the implied 3/2 bars.
9:28 [m. 281]--“Variation 34”
begins with a drop in volume, but steadily and dramatically
builds. The violins and winds lead an exhilarating
ascending and descending harmonized three-note groups.
trumpets, and horns punctuate this while the violas play
repeated thirds in triplets. This passage is the last of
“pseudo-variations” in the coda.
9:35 [m. 289]--The
to play the Theme in faster notes. A loud syncopated
the rest of the orchestra on the “dissonant” note, again
A-sharp, finally interprets the harmony underneath it as a
sixth” chord, which leads to the “dominant” chord of E minor,
strongly resolves there. The sequence is repeated a
time. This confirmation of E minor has a severe, even
9:42 [m. 297]--The
consist of a fast and syncopated version of the Theme, then a
five cadence gestures beginning with three-note upbeats, all
E minor. The last of these is extended, winding
final two chords strongly punctuate the arrival with a timpani
10:02--END OF MOVEMENT [311
END OF SYMPHONY
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