CELLO SONATA NO. 2 in F MAJOR, OP.
Recording: Yo-Yo Ma, cello and Emanuel Ax, piano [RCA Red Seal
The works following
the Fourth Symphony are generally regarded as belonging to the
“late style.” The earliest of these were three chamber
works composed during the summer of 1886 while Brahms was on a
productive vacation at a resort near Lake Thun in
Switzerland. The pieces, a cello sonata, a violin
sonata, and a piano trio, could have been conceived as a
group, and make an effective concert program for three
performers. The cello sonata is by far the most
expansive of the three. It is the only one in four
movements, and its scherzo movement is of unusual
breadth. By contrast, the second violin sonata and the
third piano trio are among his most concise chamber
compositions. The first cello sonata, Op. 38, was the
earliest published work for solo instrument and piano.
This second sonata creates a contrasting counterpart to that
introspective and dark piece through its use of the
instrument’s higher range, effects such as pizzicato
and tremolo, and the virtuosic, extroverted piano
part. The first movement is extraordinarily exuberant,
and the piano tremolo, an effect often used for piano
reductions of orchestral and opera scores and rarely used by
Brahms, is extremely effective and exciting. The
approach to the recapitulation is subdued, tense, and
ultimately satisfying. The slow movement is among
Brahms’s most tender and intimate. It is in F-sharp
major, a half-step above the sonata’s home key and not closely
related to it, a bold movement key choice whose analog is not
found elsewhere in Brahms. The key of F-sharp does play
a large role in the other three movements. The opening
cello pizzicato line and the very chromatic piano
chords at the beginning set a highly atmospheric mood.
The unusually extended developmental
scherzo is passionate
and fiery, with a demanding piano part and complex rhythmic
ambiguities. It represents the last time Brahms used a da capo marking to indicate the
reprise of the main scherzo after the contrasting trio
section, which is quiet and gentle. The rondo finale is
perhaps the most extreme example of Brahms’s late penchant for
brief closing movements, largely because of the relatively
expansive middle movements. It has been criticized for
not providing enough balance, but it is a witty and delightful
piece with an absolutely joyous ending.
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut
SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
SCORE FROM IMSLP (Cello part from first edition)
1st Movement: Allegro vivace (Sonata-Allegro
form). F MAJOR, 3/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1. Beginning with a rolled
chord, the piano immediately launches into the rapid
measured tremolo in six-note groups that occupies it
for much of the movement. The tremolo remains
in force during most of the harmonic changes in the
theme. The cello theme begins on the first
upbeat. It is extroverted and passionate, but very
jerky, with several pauses and clipped rhythms. After
shifting up and down a couple of times, the cello reaches
into its very highest register at the end of the phrase.
0:16 [m. 9]--The piano, while keeping the same rapid
rhythm in the right hand, moves from the tremolo to
arching arpeggios, starting high and moving steadily
downward. The left hand has already been playing wide
triplet arpeggios for a couple of bars, but now moves to
four-note groups in contrary motion that
conflict with the right hand’s six-note
groups. After two bars, it moves to bass
octaves. The cello begins the theme again an octave
lower, but after the first two gestures it moves back up and
seems to start yet again. The continuation stalls and
falters, however, and the piano right hand slows to
four-note groups, the left hand playing isolated broken
octaves. The cello finally settles in preparation for
the next phrase.
0:31 [m. 17]--The new phrase is more melodic and
soaring, with a less active piano accompaniment. The
first two bars are repeated an octave higher. Then the
piano drops out for a measure as the cello meditates on its
figuration. Finally, the piano enters with its own
meditation on the melody, played in octaves against held
0:44 [m. 24]--Transition. The cello finally
moves to its lowest register and again plays the meditation
on the last phrase, its pitch shifted down to that of the
phrase’s opening. The piano plays chords on the
“dominant” (the typical goal of the transition) in a cross
rhythm. Then the cello slides down in long notes,
circling the note D. The piano chords are dissonant
and seem to suggest a motion to G minor. After four
bars, the harmony changes, the long cello notes shift up by
a fourth, and the goal now appears to be the “correct” one
of C. The volume builds, and the goal seems to be C minor
before Theme 2 suddenly erupts in C major.
1:03 [m. 34]--Theme 2. The piano leaps from
upbeats into full chords in a rather heroic vein. The
cello adds a pair of three-note quasi-imitations before
dropping out for the remainder of the phrase. The
piano then continues in a passionate mood with
two-against-three conflicts between the hands. The
right hand plays lightly decorated octaves that touch on the
minor while the left plays wide-ranging arpeggios in triplet
rhythm. At the end of the phrase, the right hand
briefly moves to triplets in a forceful half-close (C
1:15 [m. 40]--Beginning with an upbeat and a chord, the cello starts
the theme, with the piano playing fully harmonized versions
of the brief imitations. After two bars, the cello
continues the theme, but veers away harmonically. The
piano accompaniment to this is a series of figures after the
beats, leaping triplet rhythms (where the first part of the
beat is a rest) in the right hand and low octaves in the
left. The key turns to E minor, where the cello,
followed directly by the piano, comes to a powerful full
1:25 [m. 46]--The piano moves back to the C-major
area for two bars of meandering triplet figures in both
hands against staccato leaps in straight rhythm from
the cello. Then, against a cello chord, the piano
erupts into a series of downward cascading, zigzagging
figures played in octaves between the hands. The first
two are passed to the cello on the third beat of the
bar. Then the piano alone launches into a longer
descent that reaches its lower register and then stalls at
that level, continuing the zigzag pattern on the same
pitches. These descents have led to A minor (the
“relative” key to C major), where the exposition will end.
1:35 [m. 52]--The cello plays a version of Theme 2 in
A minor with the same basic rhythm, but with inverted
directionality and wider leaps, beginning on the upbeat to create
syncopation. Meanwhile, the piano continues its zigzag
pattern in octaves, gradually sliding upward and the right
hand gradually breaking free. After a quick buildup,
the cello briefly drops out and the piano breaks into the
new version of the theme in full chords with wide arpeggios
in the left hand. As the piano approaches a full
cadence in A minor, the cello enters again with double stops
and its own widely arching arpeggios.
1:49 [m. 60]--Closing material (A minor). The
cello begins its own distinctive tremolo, beginning
with an oscillation on the same pitch (A) on different
strings, then gradually widening with downward chromatic
motion below the top A before repeating the pattern.
The piano’s strong accompanying chords attempt to assert the
major key, but the feel of the cello tremolo is
distinctly minor. After its second pattern, the cello
tremolo stalls. At the first ending (m. 65a), a
sliding inner voice in the piano seems to confirm A minor,
but the cello and piano are on the two pitches shared
between the A-minor and F-major chords, easing the
transition back to the beginning for the repeat.
2:00 [m. 1]--Theme 1, as at the beginning.
2:15 [m. 9]--Piano arpeggios and stalled continuation
of cello theme, as at 0:16.
2:31 [m. 17]--New soaring phrase, as at 0:31.
2:44 [m. 24]--Transition, as at 0:44.
3:02 [m. 34]--Theme 2, as at 1:03.
3:13 [m. 40]--Cello statement of Theme 2 and motion
to E-minor cadence, as at 1:15.
3:24 [m. 46]--Motion back to C major, beginning of
piano “zigzag” pattern, and shift to A minor, as at 1:25.
3:34 [m. 52]--Syncopated version of Theme 2 in cello,
then piano, as at 1:35.
3:48 [m. 60]--Closing material, as at 1:49. At
the second ending (m. 65b), the harmony makes an artful
shift to a dissonant “diminished seventh” chord instead of
the expected A minor. This dissonant harmony is used
to move to the key of F-sharp minor, where the development
4:00 [m. 66]--The first two gestures of the main
theme are stated by the cello in F-sharp minor, a half-step
above the opening, against a thicker and very active piano tremolo.
The cello holds a low note (G-sharp). After an
extremely forceful change of harmony in the piano on the
second half of an upbeat, the pattern is repeated a fourth
higher for the first gesture and a fifth lower (creating a
very large jump) on the second gesture, with a held low
C-sharp. This time, the tremolo trails away
and is extended by half a bar.
4:16 [m. 74]--Beginning halfway through the bar,
still in F-sharp minor, the piano begins a very chromatic
pattern in triplet rhythm with a more “pianistic” texture
than the tremolo. The left hand takes the
first part of each triplet group, with its single notes
working down before being taken over by full chords.
The cello adds its own highly chromatic lines. The
music is mysterious and subdued, marked molto piano
sempre e legato. After two bars, a brief passage
of syncopation leads to the continuation of the phrase in
C-sharp minor. As the cello makes an octave descent to
a low D-sharp, the piano figuration climbs up the keyboard.
4:33 [m. 81]--Again halfway through the bar, another
similar mysterious phrase begins, with the cello moving up
as the piano moves back down in its same triplet
pattern. The harmony shifts up another fifth, to
G-sharp, and there is a similar passage of syncopation, this
time with the cello participating more heavily. The
phrase is extended with even more chromatic harmony
involving half-step shifts and dissonant “diminished
seventh” chords. The volume finally builds as the
music reaches its maximum amount of dissonance and chromatic
4:57 [m. 92]--As the piano forcefully lands on a
“diminished seventh,” the cello begins a steady tremolo
on the notes F and A-flat, both of which are in the piano’s
dissonant chord. The volume rapidly diminishes.
While the cello holds on to the tremolo on these two
pitches, the piano plays three more chords that contain
them. The piano figuration, with a low bass octave
below the first beat and a higher chord on the second beat,
recalls the shape of the main theme. The chords are F
minor, D-flat major, and the “dominant seventh” chord on
5:12 [m. 98]--The cello tremolo now becomes
active. At first, the lower note remains on F with the
upper note shifting to A-natural, then back to A-flat, then
G. The upper note then remains anchored to G, and the
lower note shifts away from F, first to D-flat, then down to
low C. This C-G tremolo is the goal, and
creates the background for the long “dominant” preparation
typical at the end of a development section. The piano
continues its pattern of chords with low octaves on the
first beat, moving through D-minor, back through the
“dominant seventh” on B-flat to the same chord on G.
The middle notes of this chord on G are then flattened
(against the D-flat in the cello), the dissonance increasing
anticipation for the arrival on C.
5:27 [m. 104]--Re-transition. Both the cello
and piano bass arrive on the pivotal note C. The C-G tremolo
remains in effect in the cello, although it shifts up and
down by octaves with the piano chords. The piano bass
has arrived on C, where it remains. The volume builds
quickly. While the piano bass remains anchored on C,
the chords on the second beat move through more dissonant
“dominant seventh” and “diminished seventh” harmonies before
finally arriving on the preparatory “dominant” chord on
C. This occurs at the climax before the volume
suddenly diminishes. Unexpectedly, the piano abandons
the low bass octave at this point. The lowest note
remains C in the high chords, and the cello remains on its tremolo,
but the piano surprisingly adds more dissonance, descending
to a quiet, mysterious “ninth” chord.
5:47 [m. 112]--The piano and cello both move to the
chord of the home key, F major, the cello tremolo
finally shifting away from C-G to C-F. But the reprise
has not yet arrived. The arrival on F occurs at an
intensely quiet moment. In full-measure chords, the
piano unmistakeably invokes the first seven notes of the
main theme. The cello tremolo shifts in
harmony to match the piano chords. Its bottom note
settles on F before briefly framing it with E and
F-sharp. As the piano breaks away from the transformed
Theme 1, the cello finally breaks its tremolo.
It plays a rising line that is then imitated and harmonized
by the piano. This rising line is centered on G, the
eighth note of the main theme.
6:07 [m. 120]--In the last phrase of the development
section, a three-note descent in thirds in the piano left
hand is followed an octave higher by the right hand.
Against the right hand statement, the cello plays the rising
line centered on G once more. Then it plays the
descent in thirds, using double stops, at the level where
the piano left hand had played it. Against the cello
descent, the piano left hand moves to the low bass, where it
plays another rising line, this time centered around
C. Then the piano follows with the original harmonized
line centered on G, now doubled in both hands.
6:15 [m. 124]--At the midpoint of the final
re-transitional phrase, the piano right hand begins a high tremolo
in thirds, descending six steps and doubled below by block
thirds an octave lower in the left hand. The cello
plays a long rising line beginning on its low C and twice as
slow as the rising lines just heard. Finally, the
piano tremolo leaps up to C-E, the left hand also
playing tremolo on those notes. The cello
plays an octave descent in long notes against it (the left
hand tremolo also moves down an octave with the
cello) as the volume rapidly increases. The right hand
tremolo descends by step until it fills in the full
“dominant” chord on C and at last announces the
6:23 [m. 128]--Theme 1. The first cello
presentation of the theme in F major is as at the
beginning. The tremolo in the piano left hand
is also unchanged. The right hand tremolo,
however, is subtly altered. Its first four measures
are an octave higher, placed there for a smoother transition
from the high tremolo that ended the development
section. Also, the top of the tremolo replaces
single notes with two-note harmonies in the first five
measures. The original pitch level is smoothly
approached in the fourth measure by manipulating and
inverting one of these two-note harmonies along with the
lower note of the tremolo.
6:39 [m. 136]--The phrase that followed here in the
exposition at 0:16 and 2:15 [m. 9], with arching piano
arpeggios, is condensed from eight to four bars. The
piano moves to solid descending octaves in the left hand,
while the right hand plays a fully harmonized version of the
theme’s first gestures. The cello plays gestures from
the theme in anticipation of the piano and using double
stops. The “stalling” of the theme as heard in the
exposition is eliminated, and the instruments condense the
melodic and harmonic motion toward the soaring phrase.
6:47 [m. 140]--The soaring phrase is very similar to
its presentation in the exposition at 0:31 and 2:31 [m. 17],
especially in the cello. The piano figures are subtly
changed, both to remain at a more steady pitch level and to
add new rolled chords, along with a more active bass.
One of these rolled chords is played against the cello
meditation where the piano had dropped out. The
piano’s own two-bar meditation, along with the entire
transition, is removed, and the music moves directly from
the soaring phrase to Theme 2.
6:55 [m. 145]--Theme 2. The complete
elimination of the transition as a device to remain in the
home key of F major for the second theme is unconventional,
but effective. The new key places the theme a fourth
higher than its presentation at 1:03 and 3:02 [m. 34], but
otherwise, it follows the pattern quite closely, with the
cello dropping out after its pair of quasi-imitations.
7:07 [m. 151]--The cello presentation of the theme
closely follows the pattern at 1:15 and 3:13 [m. 40], but
instead of a fourth higher, as in the previous phrase, the
cello plays a fifth lower than in the exposition. The
piano pattern remains higher, as in the previous phrase, but
the left-hand octaves are replaced by single notes.
The harmonic change at the end of the phrase is now,
analogously, to A minor, with the forceful cadence occurring
7:17 [m. 157]--At this point, the passage analogous
to 1:25 and 3:24 [m. 46], the cello shifts to the higher
octave (the low octave would be below its range) and, like the piano,
is now a fourth higher than it was in the exposition.
The motion back to F major and the plunging, zigzagging
figures follow as expected. They now lead to the key
of D minor, which is “relative” to F major and follows the
tonal pattern established in the exposition.
7:28 [m. 163]--Analogous to 1:35 and 3:34 [m.
52]. Syncopated cello version of Theme 2 in D minor
with zigzag pattern continuing in the piano. Here, the
left hand rather than the right is the one that breaks free
of the doubled zigzag figures. When the piano takes up
the new version of the theme, the cello punctuates its entry
with a new chord.
7:42 [m. 171]--Closing material. While
following the pattern of 1:49 and 3:48 [m. 60], there are
interesting changes. The first pattern of the cello tremolo
begins with an octave rather than a unison oscillation,
and instead of the bottom note expanding downward, the
top note contracts downward. It is the same type of
harmony, but with a different approach. The second
pattern begins with the unison, as in the exposition, and
stalls, as it does there. Unlike either the first or
second endings of the exposition, the piano holds a D-minor
chord for a full measure under an oscillating cello D before
changing. Following this measure, the expected shift
does occur, and it is to a “diminished seventh” chord.
Here, it is used to move from D minor back to the home key
of F for the coda, but at first F minor, rather than F
major, is the goal.
7:55 [m. 178]--The first passage of the coda
is essentially analogous to the beginning of the development
section at 4:00 [m. 66], with the first gestures of the main
theme over the busy tremolo, the forceful change of
harmony, and the repetition a fourth higher. It is
simply shifted down a half-step,
from F-sharp minor to F minor. The second held low
note (now C) is extended by yet another bar as the harmony
of the piano tremolo is also stretched out with a hemiola,
or cross-rhythm. As in the development, it trails
8:13 [m. 187]--Over the continuing sustained C and
the quiet piano tremolo, the cello plays an entirely
new variant of the main theme that is sweetly soothing and
gradually shifts from minor to major. After two bars,
the cello moves to its own octave tremolo on
C. The piano takes up the “soothing” version of the
theme and extends it with hemiola groups of two
beats against the triple meter, shifting to major and
briefly pointing toward B-flat.
8:30 [m. 194]--The piano now begins a highly
transformed version of theme 2, marked grazioso.
The theme is played in right hand chords with wide triplet
arpeggios in the left hand. The cello repeats the
two-bar piano pattern as the right hand moves to triplet
figures that begin off the beat. The cello extends the
theme 2 material. The piano right hand moves to high
chords to harmonize the cello extension as both instruments
surge, then settle down, the cello sinking to its low C.
8:57 [m. 203]--The cello begins a tremolo
similar to that heard at 4:57 [m. 92]. It is subdued
and gentle. The top note stays steady while the bottom
note works downward. The piano plays chords similar to
those in the re-transition at the end of the development
section, with patterns invoking the main theme. A
shorter, lower chord on the first beat is followed by a
longer, higher one on the second. The cello tremolo
resets with the bottom notes on the preparatory pitches
B-flat, then C. With the marking un poco sostenuto,
the piano chords settle to a very warm, full cadence that
echoes the end of the preceding phrase.
9:12 [m. 207]--The F-major chord at the cadence is
marked forte, and its arrival awakens both
instruments from their reverie. Brahms makes sure to
indicate vivace to counteract the preceding sostenuto.
The piano plays a very exuberant version of the primary
gesture from the main theme, which is taken up by the cello
and then the piano’s own bass line. These figures
quickly lead to the abrupt, but satisfying final
chords. The cello’s descent, from B-flat to the top F
of the last chord, is particularly exuberant.
9:28--END OF MOVEMENT [211 mm.]
2nd Movement: Adagio
affettuoso (Ternary form with varied return). F-SHARP
MAJOR, 2/4 time.
0:00 [m. 1]--The piano begins the expressive theme,
which features a heavily dotted (long-short) rhythm leading
into a colorful chord. Against this, the cello plays a
thumping, almost marching pizzicato line in its low
register before rising in a questioning way. The harmony
of the piano theme almost immediately veers away from F-sharp
toward the closely related keys of B and C-sharp major.
The latter key is already reached by the end of the first
phrase, when the lower voices of the piano begin to move in a
very chromatic way and the cellist takes the bow to play a
confirming descent to low C-sharp.
0:27 [m. 5]--The second phrase makes an immediate shift
to B major, where the cello begins the melody and the piano,
in accompanied octaves, takes the marching line previously
played by the pizzicato cello. The melody veers
in new directions after the colorful chord, however, and the
cello line steadily rises by half-step, eventually landing on
a long high note (C-sharp). The piano initially
continues in patterns based on the marching line, but builds
to a climax as the cello reaches the high note, where it
breaks into new triplet rhythms. Here, the phrase is
extended three more bars for a total of seven. The cello
continues to linger in its high range. With the piano
triplets, it gradually settles down and moves back home to
1:17 [m. 12]--The moment of arrival is warm and
heartfelt. The cello plays an epilogue-like melody that
incorporates the triplet rhythms while the piano moves to a
more steady accompaniment with off-beat chords in the right
hand. After two bars, the epilogue-like tune moves to
the piano bass. The cello works upward again, and the
key moves yet again toward C-sharp.
1:41 [m. 16]--The piano, with both hands in the treble,
begins a second “epilogue” with a music box-like character in
the key of C-sharp major, where the A section
ends. The cello follows with the music box melody an
octave lower than the piano. The piano trails, coming to
a gentle but incomplete cadence.
B Section--F minor
2:07 [m. 20]--C-sharp is re-interpreted as D-flat, and
E-sharp as F to make the half-step pivot from F-sharp major to
F minor. The cello begins the lamenting melody on an
upbeat. It features an opening leap, dotted rhythms, and
regular, steady piano chords after the beat. Halfway
through the phrase, the melody brightens and shifts to D-flat
major. The cello leaps down to a low D-flat, then
briefly adds an upper voice over the low notes.
2:40 [m. 25]--The piano begins a rapturous, highly
chromatic series of doubled parallel sixths and thirds in both
hands. The rapture builds to a climax as the cello adds
brief figures, syncopated at first, in its lower
register. The piano harmonies surge, recede, and surge
again, moving decisively back to F minor.
2:58 [m. 28]--The piano, with both hands in the treble
range, at first in more doubled sixths, forcefully states the
main gesture of the B section theme. The cello
immediately imitates the gesture, still in the lower
register. The piano left hand then also moves to bass
octaves. The piano begins to meditate on the figure,
becoming harmonically active and again moving toward D-flat as
the cello settles to a syncopated repetition of the “dominant”
note and then the tonic (home) note in that key. The
volume rapidly diminishes. The piano briefly hints at a
further harmonic motion to G-flat.
3:27 [m. 33]--The cello clearly but quietly states the
marching line, the accompaniment to the main theme of the
movement, in D-flat major. In the low bass, it states
the first four notes. The next four are taken by the
piano bass. The pattern is then repeated an octave
higher, still over D-flat harmony. The cello moves up
yet another octave and meditates on the first four
notes. The piano harmonies and the cello meditation
shift up another level, to G-flat major. G-flat is of
course another way of notating F-sharp, the home key of the
3:55 [m. 37]--The cello, now in its high range, speeds
up to a group of six, becoming more agitated. The piano,
in octaves, takes up the groups of six, which seem to
gradually inch and lean upward with their strategically placed
repeated notes. The octaves are soon supplemented with
other harmonies, including a “pedal point” on a low
D-flat. The cello reaches even higher, the G-flat key is
confirmed, the agitation increases more, and the piano left
hand erupts into a wide, highly syncopated arpeggio against
high octaves in the right hand.
4:09 [m. 40]--Brahms changes the notation and the key
signature to F-sharp. The music is highly unstable at
this point, however. The cello enters with forceful pizzicato,
now in its high range and outlining the opening of the
marching line, not in F-sharp major, but F-sharp minor.
The piano plays a version of the main theme with highly
chromatic, even dissonant harmonies, taking full advantage of
the implications given by the “colorful” chord after the
dotted rhythm. These harmonies waver between implied G
major (with the “dominant” chord on D), F-sharp minor, and D
major itself. The agitation quickly subsides. The
cello moves down by octaves, but stubbornly persists with its
plucked minor-key version of the first notes from the marching
line, cutting off the first note on repetitions in each
octave. Finally, a colorful “diminished seventh” chord
leads into the original version of the theme in F-sharp major.
4:35 [m. 44]--The first four measures of the main
theme, with the marching pizzicato cello, are stated
as at the beginning. The first note of the cello line is
cut off, following the pattern of the previous pizzicato
figures in minor.
5:02 [m. 48]--The passage in B major from 0:27 [m. 5]
begins with no alterations in the cello part, but the piano
statement of the marching line is decorated with broken
octaves. After the first four bars, when the cello
reaches its high note, the piano exploits the faster rhythms
generated by the broken octaves and moves to more decorative
arpeggios above a steady bass line. The music then
deviates even more from the original pattern, replacing the
triplets with the faster rhythms and extending the phrase by
another bar for a total of eight. The key does not move
back to F-sharp, but to B minor and then D major, a key hinted
in the re-transition.
5:51 [m. 56]--The warm, heartfelt epilogue with triplet
rhythms from 1:17 [m. 12] arrives, transposed to D
major. The piano accompaniment continues in the newly
established vein, with the flowing, faster arpeggios.
The piano moves to triplets in the second bar. With the
motion of the tune to the piano bass, the cello and the piano
right hand are more decorative than they were before, the
latter incorporating the triplet rhythm from the epilogue
theme itself. The fourth bar is altered and moves back
home to F-sharp major where it had previously shifted to
C-sharp for the second “epilogue.”
6:15 [m. 60]--Second “epilogue,” analogous to 1:14 [m.
16], but now in the home key of F-sharp. The “music box”
character is minimized. The piano plays the tune in
octaves against an active low bass in the faster rhythms that
have been prominent through the A’ section.
Against this, the cello plays a line derived from the marching
figure. The cello’s own statement of the tune that
follows is in its middle range. The piano moves the
faster rhythms to the right hand here and includes some
syncopation. Unlike the A section, the gentle
second “epilogue” does move to a complete cadence, but it
coincides with the arrival of the coda.
6:37 [m. 63]--The cello begins the pizzicato
marching line as at the beginning of both the A and A’
sections. The piano seems to begin the theme itself, but
it is shifted up a fifth and leads to more colorful
harmonies. The intensity quickly builds, and the cello pizzicato
is extended, incorporating arpeggios in the faster rhythm,
which has not yet been played in pizzicato. The
harmony is highly chromatic, touching on the same areas heard
at the end of the re-transition at 4:09 [m. 40]. At the
culmination, the theme from the B section, with its
distinctive opening leap, is heard in the piano a half-step
higher than before, in F-sharp minor. The theme is
immediately shifted to F-sharp major by the cello, and the
music settles down.
7:01 [m. 67]--The cello statement of the major
transformation of the B section theme moves directly
back into the mood and character of the second “epilogue,”
whose rocking motions take over in both instruments. The
volume diminishes, and the cello leaps up for its last
beautiful cadence as the piano plays its last chords over a
slow rising arpeggio.
7:50--END OF MOVEMENT [71 mm.]
3rd Movement: Allegro
passionato (Scherzo and Trio). F MINOR, 6/8
0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1 (“Exposition”). The piano,
marked mezza voce, begins the passionate, rhythmically
fluid scherzo theme, whose outline closely resembles that of
the finale from the Third Symphony (and is in the same
key). It is played primarily, but not exclusively, in
doubled sixths. Already at the outset, the left hand,
which plays broken octaves in the first and third measures,
establishes a clashing duple grouping of notes (implied 3/4)
against the prevalent triple (6/8) grouping. This
becomes even more pronounced when the cello enters in the
fifth bar with wide leaps that shadow the piano bass.
The sixth and eighth measures move completely to an implied
3/4. The fifth and sixth measures are repeated and
intensified in the seventh and eighth, building to a
passionate two-bar extension, also in implied 3/4 meter, that
shifts to C minor.
0:11 [m. 11]--The cello takes the lead with a new
phrase, an exuberant opening figure leading to a long
note. The piano responds with a cascading descent
harmonized in thirds and fourths. This is repeated with
the cello leaping to a higher long note. Two similar but
abbreviated cello statements with piano responses follow.
0:17 [m. 17]--The cello continues its exuberant C-minor
phrase, moving to rising scales. Under this, the piano
makes a rhythmic shift. The sense of two beats per bar
in the 6/8 meter is maintained, but the notes are now placed
in a duple subdivision, with two notes where there would
normally be three, clashing with the rhythm of the cello
scales. Unlike the passages of implied 3/4, these duple
subdivisions actually change the length of the notes.
The piano plays forceful, almost angry chords in this new
rhythm. At the end of its rising scales, the cello also
moves to this duple subdivision before its cadences.
0:22 [m. 21]--The cello reaches a strong cadence in C
minor. The piano continues with a transition that moves
back to F minor. The forceful chords in the duple rhythm
continue in the right hand, moving downward and becoming
quiet, while the left hand returns to the regular 6/8 rhythm
in galloping three-note figures.
0:26 [m. 25]--The closing phrase of the first part is
more restrained. The cello plays a melancholy line that
begins in F minor but immediately moves back to C minor.
Its cadence, decorated with a small trill, is repeated and
extended. The piano plays low bass octaves with right
hand responses. These responses begin with a double
third and then leap downward. The regular 6/8 grouping
and subdivision is in force throughout this closing phrase.
The repeated cadence is followed by a very brief harmonic
0:35 [m. 33]--Part 2 (“Development”). The first
four bars of the scherzo (mm. 1-4) are repeated with slight
alterations. The cello now plays the low broken octaves
that had been played by the left hand, but they remain in the
6/8 grouping. This frees the left hand to add fuller
harmonies to the melody.
0:39 [m. 37]--The repetition breaks with an early
motion to the exuberant cello phrase from 0:11 [m. 11],
complete with the cascading piano descents. It now
begins in the home key of F minor rather than C minor, the
passage with the motion to C minor having been skipped.
The harmony is unstable, however, and the abbreviated
statements are more unsettled. They lead to a more
sustained ascent that still uses the turning figures from the
main scherzo theme. This builds up to an arrival on a
dissonant “diminished seventh” chord. The cello holds a
high note (F-sharp), while the piano plunges downward,
maintaining the dissonant harmony, but diminishing quickly.
0:50 [m. 47]--The piano bass mysteriously begins to
mutter below in the turning figures that are typical of the
scherzo theme. Above this muttering, the right hand,
also in the low range, makes a harmonic shift toward the key
of E minor using its “dominant” chord. The cello is
absent for these bars.
0:55 [m. 51]--E minor is now explicitly indicated with
a key signature change. The first four bars of the
scherzo, transposed to that key, are now taken by the cello,
the piano adding a galloping accompaniment. These four
bars are followed by a repetition of the mysterious, muttering
four bars from 0:50 [m. 47]. The left hand is repeated
exactly, but the right hand chords are rhythmically displaced,
now played on the weak beats. The chords themselves are
subtly altered to indicate a motion to F-sharp minor.
1:03 [m. 59]--A very intense and harmonically unstable
passage begins. The cello, in its lowest register,
maintains the constant turning, neighbor-note motion typical
of the theme. The piano plays full chords on the weakest
parts of the 6/8 measure, abruptly inserting jarring downbeat
chords before harmonic shifts. Most of the chords are
“dominant” or “diminished seventh” chords. In four-bar
units, the music, steadily building, moves through F-sharp
minor, D minor, and B-flat minor. At this last shift,
the key signature moves back to four flats, indicating an
impending return to the home key. Here, the piano left
hand also helps to stabilize the galloping rhythm by playing
octaves on the strong and weak beats. The right hand
chords move downward instead of upward.
1:16 [m. 71]--The arrival after the unstable passage
heralds the return of the material from 0:39 [m. 37], now
transposed up a fourth and beginning in B-flat minor.
The entire passage is transposed, including the exuberant
cello phrase, the sustained ascent, and the arrival on a
“diminished seventh” chord.
1:27 [m. 81]--The mysterious piano bass derived from
0:50 [m. 47] is moved up to a higher level. The right
hand chords, which re-establish the home key of F minor, are
now syncopated, entering off the beat before the weak second
part of the bar. These transitional bars lead to the
return of the opening material.
1:31 [m. 85]--Part 3 (“Reprise” or “Rounding”).
The opening material is presented with a thicker and more
elaborate scoring. The cello now plays the main melody
while the piano provides a new series of chords, alternating
between the right and left hands, that forcefully and
continually assert the implied 3/4. The cello continues
the melodic presentation at the point where it had entered
before in an accompanying role (the fifth measure). The
piano alters its pattern slightly, shifting the first chord of
each measure to the left hand and briefly abandoning the
implied 3/4 in the fifth and seventh measures. The
two-bar extension is shifted, avoiding the motion to C minor
and firmly establishing F minor.
1:42 [m. 95]--Analogous to 0:11 [m. 11], in F minor
rather than C minor. Again, the instruments switch
roles. The piano plays the opening gesture in full
harmony, including a chord underneath the long note. The
cello replaces the plunging piano responses with arching
1:48 [m. 101]--Analogous to 0:17 [m. 17]. The
role reversal continues with the first scale. The cello
moves to leaping figures in the duple subdivision. The
second scale returns to the original pattern, with the cello
playing the scale and the piano playing thick chords in the
duple subdivision before the cadence.
1:52 [m. 105]--Analogous to 0:22 [m. 21]. The
strong cadence in F minor again leads to the transitional
passage, now moving to B-flat minor. This time, the
piano’s chords in the duple subdivision are thicker because
the left hand participates in them. The cello, which
dropped out at this point before, takes over the galloping
figures in regular 6/8 rhythm that had previously been played
by the left hand.
1:57 [m. 109]--A “codetta” is added to round off the
main scherzo. A three-note descent in the piano, with a
contrary ascent in the bass, is imitated a fourth below by the
cello. The piano descent is then stretched to a full
measure in implied 3/4 while leaping bass octaves maintain the
conflicting 6/8 grouping. This pattern is repeated twice
more, each time a step lower. On the third pattern, the
stretched out piano descent leaps up an octave and is fully
harmonized, the cello joins in a lower harmony, and the left
hand octaves finally join the implied 3/4. The right
hand and cello repeat this twice more, each time a fourth
lower. On the repetitions, the left hand octaves move
back to the 6/8 grouping. The harmonies of this passage
move through the circle of fifths to arrive back at F minor.
2:06 [m. 117]--Arriving definitively on F minor, the
music moves back to the two-against-three patterns just heard
at 1:52 [m. 105]. This time, the cello has the duple
subdivision, which it maintains in wide leaps until the final
chords. The piano plays broad arpeggios reaching up to
block chords in the regular 6/8 rhythm. These also
continue until the last chords. There are three of them,
all F-minor chords with supporting F’s from the cello in
different octaves. The third chord is delayed by a
syncopated pause on a strong beat. It is followed by a
closing low octave F, which ends the scherzo.
2:16 [m. 126]--Transition to Trio. The three-bar
transition repeats the closing octave F, then moves to two
outward expanding F-major chords, quickly changing the mode
for the onset of the Trio.
TRIO (F major)
2:20 [m. 129]--Part 1. The
first phrase is an untroubled, smooth melody in the cello’s
upper range. It is marked dolce espressivo and
has a mostly stepwise, downward contour. It is also in
pure F major. The last three notes are repeated.
The harmonic and rhythmic interest is in the piano part.
The right hand, with its oscillating motion and repeated lower
notes, retains a hint of the implied 3/4 motion characteristic
of the main scherzo. The solid bass octaves, however,
anchor the music in 6/8. In the second half of the
phrase, the piano harmonies make a distinct turn toward the
minor key, especially as they move lower under the repeated
cello notes at the end.
2:29 [m. 137]--In the second phrase, the cello line
changes direction and has a rising contour with a yearning
quality that is magnified by the chromatic harmonies in the
piano. Both hands are in a solid 6/8 pulse, the right
hand moving to block harmonies, mostly thirds, while the left
has broken octaves coming after the main beats. The
middle of the phrase turns to C major
with a hint of minor. At the end of the phrase, the
piano moves to the quasi-3/4 oscillating motion in both hands,
with highly colorful harmonies, as the rising cello line
smoothly leads back to F major.
2:38 [m. 129]--Part 1 repeated. First phrase, as
2:48 [m. 137]--Second phrase, as at 2:29.
2:58 [m. 145]--Part 2. The key suddenly shifts
down to the rather remote D-flat major. The first phrase
combines elements from both Part 1 phrases in the cello
part. The merging of elements, with a half-close leading
directly into the second half, results in a seven-bar phrase,
the only such irregular phrase in the trio section. The
piano accompaniment in both hands is similar to that of the
first phrase from Part 1.
3:07 [m. 152]--The second phrase moves to the even more
remote key of G-flat. Its first half continues in the
vein of the D-flat phrase that preceded it. The second
half re-spells G-flat as F-sharp, and the pattern
shifts. The cello moves to oscillating figures that lean
into longer notes, while the piano,
richly harmonized, moves to the rising element from Part 1
that was just heard in the cello. The phrase recedes and
breaks off, avoiding any close in F-sharp.
3:17 [m. 160]--Re-transition. A long passage
begins that will eventually move to the return of Part
1. The piano moves to a new pattern of descending broken
chords, with the left hand playing in the middle of each bar
in another implied 3/4 grouping. This is undermined by
the cello, which plays long descending arpeggios in 6/8
grouping, but holds many notes across strong downbeats.
In the first phrase of this passage, F-sharp becomes the
“dominant” of B major/minor, but a strong arrival in that key
3:26 [m. 168]--In a very artful harmonic shift, F-sharp
slides up to G. The same pattern continues in both
instruments, but Brahms now begins a very slow and steady crescendo.
The trio to this point has only had isolated strong
accents. G serves as the “dominant” of C, which shortly
arrives and in turn serves as the preparatory “dominant” for
the home key of F. The music reaches a climax with low
C’s on the cello.
3:35 [m. 176]--The last four bars of the re-transition
intensify the C-major harmony as a preparation for F
major. The piano descents subtly change rhythm to move
toward the regular 6/8 grouping. The cello soars upward
to its high register. Following the preceding climax,
the volume diminishes in preparation for the return of the
Part 1 material.
3:40 [m. 180]--The first phrase from Part 1 returns in
F major, almost in its entirety, but the last two bars, which
contained the three repeated cello notes, are altered,
The cello notes are moved down a third rather than repeated,
which intensifies the feeling of a shift toward minor.
The piano is mostly the same, but the last bar is a hollow
octave C instead of a full C-major chord. This assists
in eliminating the motion toward C that happened at this point
in Part 1.
3:49 [m. 188]---The second phrase makes a brief turn
toward B-flat to facilitate the confirmation of F major.
This confirmation takes the place of the previous shift toward
C in the second phrase of part 1. It is reduced to four
bars. The last four bars of the second phrase had served
to lead back to F, but in this case, the music is already
there, so the phrase is abbreviated and leads into the full
repeat of Part 2.
3:55 [m. 145]--Part 2 repeated. Seven-bar phrase
in D-flat combining Part 1 elements, as at 2:58.
4:03 [m. 152]--Phrase in G-flat/F-sharp, as at 3:07.
4:14 [m. 160]--Re-transition. Passage with
F-sharp as “dominant” of B, as at 3:17.
4:23 [m. 168]--Slide up to G and then to C as
“dominant” of F with buildup and climax, as at 3:26.
4:32 [m. 176]--End of re-transition, diminishing volume
and soaring cello line, as 3:35.
4:37 [m. 180]--First phrase from Part 1 with altered
ending, as at 3:40.
4:47 [m. 188]--Altered second phrase from Part 1 with
confirmation of F major, as at 3:49.
4:52 [m. 192]--The second phrase is provided with a
four-bar completion that was not heard before the
repeat. It appears as if there will be an arrival at an
F-major cadence, but the piano right hand comes to a halt, the
volume diminishes, and the harmony makes a decisive change
from F major to F minor in preparation for the reprise of the
main scherzo. It reaches a suspended pause on dissonant
“diminished” harmony [m. 195]. The reprise is not
written out, and is indicated with a “Da capo.”
5:02 [m. 1]--Part 1 (“Exposition”). First phrase
of scherzo, mainly presented by the piano, with two-bar
extension, as at the beginning.
5:13 [m. 11]--Exuberant phrase in C minor led by cello,
as at 0:11.
5:20 [m. 17]--Scales in cello and move to duple
subdivision of beat in piano, as at 0:17.
5:24 [m. 21]--C-minor cadence and piano transition back
to F minor, as at 0:22.
5:28 [m. 25]--Closing phrase with melancholy cello
line, as at 0:26.
5:37 [m. 33]--Part 2 (“Development”). Slightly
altered repetition of first four bars, as at 0:35.
5:52 [m. 37]--Early arrival of cello phrase, then
buildup to “diminished” chord and descent, as at 0:39.
5:53 [m. 47]--Mysterious, muttering piano bass and
motion to E minor, as at 0:50.
5:57 [m. 51]--First four bars of scherzo in E minor,
then motion to F-sharp with muttering bass, as at 0:55.
6:06 [m. 59]--Intense, harmonically unstable passage
moving through F-sharp minor, D minor, and B-flat minor, as at
6:18 [m. 71]--Transposition of material from 5:52 [or
0:39--m. 37] up a fourth, as at 1:16.
6:29 [m. 81]--Transition re-establishing F minor, as at
6:34 [m. 85]--Part 3 (“Reprise” or “Rounding”).
Opening material with thicker scoring, avoiding motion to C
minor, as at 1:31.
6:44 [m. 95]--Analogous to 5:13 [or 0:11--m. 11], as at
6:50 [m. 101]--Analogous to 5:20 [or 0:17--m. 17], as
6:55 [m. 105]--Analogous to 5:24 [or 0:22--m. 21], as
6:59 [m. 109]--“Codetta” with repeated patterns and
motion through circle of fifths, as at 1:57.
7:08 [m. 117]--Three-against-two patterns, then final
F-minor chords and F octave, as at 2:06.
7:22--END OF MOVEMENT [195 (+125) mm.]
4th Movement: Allegro molto
(Rondo form). F MAJOR, Cut time (2/2).
FIRST STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A)
0:00 [m. 1]--The extremely amiable and tuneful theme,
marked mezza voce, has a leisurely feel despite the
“Allegro molto.” It is is presented in full by the
cello, and is distinguished by its opening upbeat and the leap
up from that upbeat. It then settles into the rhythmic
pattern of a quarter note followed by two eighths
(long-short-short), which is also used by the accompanying
piano chords. These are set quite low, with the right
hand in the tenor range and the left hand in the low
bass. Some variety is created by the chromatic note
E-flat at the beginning of the third and fifth measures and
the full repetition of the sixth measure as the seventh.
The theme comes to a full cadence at the ninth measure, but
the next statement has already begun.
0:15 [m. 9]--A new statement of the theme begins on the
upbeat to the ninth measure, as the first cello statement is
coming to its cadence. This so-called “elision”
preserves the regular phrase structure even though the theme
has an “extra” measure due to the repetition in the sixth and
seventh measures. The piano right hand, now in the
treble range, takes the melodic lead in this second
statement. The left hand plays rising triplet arpeggios
that conflict with the straight rhythm of the melody.
These arpeggios become more regular after the first two
measures, where they pause halfway through the bar. The
cello also plays triplet figures, its first arching ones
responding to the piano left hand. After the first two
bars, the cello responses to the left hand are more
continually active. The cello moves briefly to
“straight” rhythm halfway through the phrase and to a more
solid bass line in the richly harmonized measure before the
cadence. The melodic line in the repeated measures is
altered, making a brief turn to D minor before the approach to
0:31 [m. 17]--Transition. The F-major cadence
arrives after a brief buildup, and is a satisfying moment of
restrained jubilation. This cadence merges directly into
a new “codetta” that serves as a transitional melody.
The jubilant mood continues for two measures, with a fully
harmonized piano melody and a solid cello bass. The
jubilant material begins to turn harmonically in the third
measure. Its characteristic two-note rising figures
become a steady pulse in an inner voice, and are briefly
grouped in three-beat units. After four bars, the key of
A minor is reached after the music passes through its
FIRST CONTRASTING THEME (B), A minor--C major
0:41 [m. 23]--The piano starkly emerges in triple
octaves. These octaves begin with a syncopated downward
leap in long notes followed by rising scale figures. The
cello pulsates under this with distinct rhythmic figures where
a double stop leaps down to a low A that behaves like a “pedal
point.” After a repetition of the syncopated leap down,
the scale figures begin as before, but suddenly and decisively
shift the key to E minor. The arrival on E minor is
followed by two quieter bars of material in that key, with a
thumping pedal point in the piano bass, clashing triplet runs
in inner voice of the right hand and, in opposing motion to
this, detached cello notes in “straight” rhythm. Another
firm E-minor arrival follows.
0:52 [m. 29]--The first part of the previous phrase is
repeated and varied. The cello takes over the syncopated
downward leap and the following scale figures. Its notes
are the same as the piano octaves until the end of the second
set of scale figures. The piano chords that accompany
are of the same character as the previous cello pulsations,
but the harmony is more chromatic and wandering The key
of the passage seems to still be A minor, but there are strong
hints of other keys. The alteration at the end of the
cello line and its accompanying piano chord leads to another
sudden, decisive shift, now to C major.
0:59 [m. 33]--As before, the harmonic shift is followed
by triplet runs over a low pedal point. Because of the
major key, the triplets are of a more jubilant character than
the earlier triplet passage in E minor. This time, the
triplet figures, all generally rising, are passed from the
cello to the piano, whose left hand quickly moves away from
the pedal point C. Detached notes in “straight” rhythm
are present in the right hand, then the left. Then the
cello plays two triplet runs beginning at a lower level
against piano chords that seem to move briefly to G minor.
1:06 [m. 37]--Re-transition. The piano takes over
the triplet runs, now in both hands and a mixture of scales
and arpeggios. After playing two pizzicato
chords, the cello has another triplet run against strong piano
chords passed from the left hand to a syncopated right
hand. The hints at G minor and other keys continue, but
when the piano begins its colorful, somewhat chromatic triplet
runs again after the chords, it becomes clear that C major has
been converted to the preparatory “dominant” of F major.
The piano triplets dissipate after the cello plucks four low
C’s. A brief pause precedes the return of the rondo
SECOND STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A’)
1:20 [m. 45]--The cello again plays the rondo theme as
at the beginning. While the left hand of the piano
maintains the throbbing low notes in long-short-short rhythm,
the right hand continues the triplet patterns, now arpeggios,
from the previous section, clashing with the rhythm of the
theme and making it more dynamic. As the cello
approaches the cadence, the volume suddenly diminishes, and
the formerly decisive cadence is converted into a gentle rise
in long, full-measure notes. Under this, the colorful
piano harmony makes a hint at A major, then A minor, before
finally confirming the cadence on F major. This,
however, is immediately changed to F minor in the
1:38 [m. 54]--In three transitional bars, the
continuing triplet arpeggios in the piano, moving down from
the high register, along with a slow reminiscence of the
theme’s cadence figure in the cello, make a motion toward the
key of the second contrasting section, B-flat minor. In
the left hand, low bass notes alternate with higher harmonies.
SECOND CONTRASTING THEME (C), B-flat minor
1:44 [m. 57]--The new theme, presented by the cello, is
plaintive, with a sighing melody and “leaning” descents.
The piano accompaniment is characterized by slow triplets in
quarter notes (implied 6/4 meter against the cello’s 4/4) in
the tenor range. The first four-bar half-phrase reaches
a cadence in B-flat minor, the only full “home key” cadence in
the entire contrasting episode. The second half of the
phrase makes a brighter turn and moves to a cadence in A-flat
2:00 [m. 65]--The theme continues with a new and
extended phrase. The cello melody becomes more
passionate and yearning. It breaks into an
upward-striving line, and the piano moves to straight-rhythm
accompaniment against it. The striving line extends the
phrase, and there is a brief cadence on D-flat major (the
“relative” key to B-flat minor) in the fifth measure.
The phrase is then extended even more, to a total of twelve
bars. The cello’s lines become even more restless, and
the piano freely moves between the quarter-note triplets and
longer chords. At the end of the phrase, B-flat minor is
again attained, but a cadence is carefully avoided. At
the very end, the piano right hand moves to the faster triplet
arpeggios in eighth notes that are characteristic of the
previous re-transition and statement of the rondo theme.
2:26 [m. 77]--The cello moves to a four-note descent in
B-flat minor, again avoiding a cadence. The note F, the
“dominant” in this key, is held expectantly for two
measures. The piano continues with the faster triplet
arpeggios moving up the keyboard. The cello descent is
repeated with the piano triplets moving back down. There
is one last descent, this time beginning with the long-held
F. The descent and the piano arpeggios change the key
again, to G-flat major, where the next statement of the rondo
theme will be stated. A full cadence in B-flat minor has
been almost cruelly averted and avoided.
THIRD STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (A”), G-flat major
2:41 [m. 85]--The statement of the Rondo theme in
G-flat, a half-step higher than the home key, is unusual, but
consistent with the previous role of F-sharp (the same note
differently spelled) in the other movements. This
appearance of the theme has a more mellow character, partly
due to the key, which is less bright. The piano part is
very similar to its statement at 0:15 [m. 9] in both
hands. The cello, however, is completely changed,
playing pizzicato throughout the statement. Two
descending arpeggios replace the arching ones from the earlier
piano statement. The plucked cello then moves to the
long-short-short rhythm of the theme, providing it with a
2:56 [m. 92]--At the point where the theme’s satisfying
cadence would be expected, there is a sudden diversion and
elaboration on the identical sixth and seventh measures.
The meditation on the music from these measures is used for a
long motion back home to F major. First, G-flat is
re-spelled as F-sharp and slides into minor. From there,
the key moves to G major, then G minor. The left hand
continues playing in triplet arpeggios, and the cello
continues plucking. The regular pulse is somewhat
obscured by longer groupings. Another motion to D minor
is implied as the music becomes more forceful and returns to
the long-short-short rhythm. The cello also takes the
bow at this point, playing wide arpeggios. D minor never
actually arrives, but the music instead pivots easily back to
F for a delayed return of the “jubilant” cadence.
3:05 [m. 96]--The transitional “codetta” from 0:31 [m.
17] returns. Its arrival is even more jubilant for
having been delayed by the diversion and key changes. It
is the same length as its earlier appearance, and the
instruments largely play in the same manner, especially the
“pulsing” two-note rising figures in the inner voice, but the
harmonies and arrivals are changed to facilitate a motion to D minor instead of A
minor. The changes are subtle and begin after the first
measure, introducing the new direction in the third.
FIRST CONTRASTING THEME (B’), D minor--F major
3:16 [m. 102]--Analogous to 0:41 [m. 23]. The
setting of the theme in D minor means that the low cello note
that alternates with double stops and acts like a pedal point
is now D. The key change is now to, rather than from A
minor. The material with the triplets in the inner voice
is in that key, as is the subsequent arrival point.
3:27 [m. 108]--Analogous to 0:52 [m. 29]. The
decisive key change is now to the home key of F major.
3:34 [m. 112]--Analogous to 0:59 [m. 33]. The
brief motion at the end is to C minor.
3:42 [m. 116]--Re-transition. The first two bars,
with the piano triplets and the pizzicato chords, are
analogous to 1:06 [m. 37]. After this, the triplet run
is transferred to the piano left hand from the cello, and the
cello plays double stops alternating with the syncopated right
hand, taking the left hand’s previous role. The material
then deviates more substantially. With no key change
necessary, Brahms instead luxuriates in another
digression. The piano triplet runs that took place here
are moved to the cello, and the piano adds harmonies to these,
also in triplet rhythm. Hints are made toward the
“subdominant” key, B-flat major. From that point, there
is no real analog to the previous passage. The cello and
piano come together in a triplet run that builds in volume and
moves to the minor key.
3:52 [m. 122]--At the point of climax, the piano breaks
into loud syncopated chords against rising triplet arpeggios
in the cello whose end notes are held over bar lines.
After two bars, the piano chords speed up, leaping up and down
and abandoning the syncopation. The chords and arpeggios
move through colorful harmonies such as G-flat major, E-flat
minor, and D-flat major before finally landing on C, which
serves as a pedal point. The top notes of the top chords
basically move down by step. Following the arrival on C,
the volume rapidly diminishes, the cello drops out, and the
piano dissolves into upward triplet arpeggios that are highly
chromatic, but remain anchored by the C pedal point, leading
into the final rondo statement.
FOURTH STATEMENT OF RONDO THEME (CODA--A”’)
4:04 [m. 129]--The cello’s entrance on the upbeat is
very surreptitious, coming against the stream of upward piano
arpeggios. It presents the theme in an entirely new
light, playing it pizzicato. Not only that, but
the rhythm is changed so that what were formerly “straight”
eighth notes are now played as “scotch snaps,” short-long
rhythms on the beat. The piano, meanwhile, seamlessly
leads into a very light accompaniment of downward-arching
arpeggios in the right hand and detached bass notes in the
left. The piano is marked molto leggiero and non
legato. Brahms wanted to make sure the piano does
not overpower the pizzicato cello, so he explicitly
indicated that the damper pedal should not be used. In
case the cellist cannot make the pizzicato work, he
also allowed the option of very soft staccato with the
bow, but no self-respecting cellist would do this. The
theme “stalls” at the fifth measure on the chromatic note
E-flat, and the “scotch snap” upbeat into it is repeated.
4:14 [m. 135]--The upbeat “scotch snap” is repeated
again, this time suddenly much louder and with the bow.
What follows is a four-bar expansion of the theme’s fifth bar,
where the pizzicato had stalled. It is stretched
out in long cello notes. The piano right hand changes to
a harmonized descending scale pattern in “straight” rhythm
while the arching triplet arpeggios move to the left hand
bass. Brahms also ventures afield harmonically, using
the chromatic E-flat to move to B-flat, then to A-flat over
the course of this diversion. The piano
pauses, the cello makes an upward leap, slowing before
descending again, and the piano re-enters with arpeggios on
dissonant “diminished” chords, the rhythm still clashing
between the hands. The slowing continues as the
“diminished” harmonies lead back to F major.
4:22 [m. 139]--Brahms pulls things together with a
return to the stalled theme in the cello, which resumes with
the repeated music in the sixth and seventh measures. He
marks it vivace to emphasize the exuberance of the
closing. The piano right hand now plays wide, upward
arching triplet arpeggios against it, with full left hand
chords between punctuating C’s and F’s. The theme
reaches its cadence as the piano motion briefly stops.
The cadence is more satisfying and jubilant than ever, and is
followed by a sweeping triplet arpeggio in the piano, the
hands moving in opposite directions. The cello joins and
harmonizes the right hand at the end of its arpeggio,
continuing into the two final downward leaping F-major chords.
4:35--END OF MOVEMENT [144 mm.]
END OF SONATA