Piano Quartet No. 3 in c minor, Op. 60, "Werther" - Johannes Brahms
The viola and cello drop out, leaving the piano to play a stark descent to the abyss in low octaves still in C minor. The first sequence swings back toward G minor, the second to a new area, A minor. The second sequence is not precisely analogous to the first, especially the cascading piano line. These consist of short trill-like figures in octaves in the violin and cello, supported by chords and double stops in the piano and viola.
The strong beats are punctuated by low bass piano octaves. The viola participates in the trill-like figures at the end of the passage. The piano brings the volume back down. The order is cello, violin, cello, violin, viola, violin. All three string instruments then move back to A minor over the descent, the piano slowing to triplet octaves.
The cello takes the winding main pattern. The piano also begins to play the pattern, passing it between the hands. The cello then joins in the intense tremolo , all instruments now playing the main pattern in harmony over the piano bass. There is a powerful crescendo as the piano begins to play chords in the right hand. There is a strong motion from A minor to E minor. This version includes a new downward plunge subtly introduced by the piano bass in the last passage. There follows a long transitional pattern. The piano right hand begins to play fast broken octaves.
Against them, the violin and viola in unison and the cello and piano bass also in unison, but not with the upper strings , play metrically displaced versions of the main pattern, the high strings beginning on the last beats of each bar, the cello and piano bass beginning on the downbeats. At the high point, the violin and viola again break into tremolo playing. The piano bass and cello now begin to pass the thematic pattern between them. The piano right hand slows from fast broken octaves to descending arpeggios in triplet rhythm as the piano bass now quite low and the cello come together again on metrically displaced groups of four, then three rising notes.
The tremolos end, as do the ever more hesitant piano triplets. Since the opening material was used for most of the development section, including being stated unaltered at its beginning, it is omitted here. The theme is played in a direct transposition to the home major key of G where we would expect all themes in the recapitulation instead of the original B-flat. The cello has the syncopated repeated-note pulsations, as in the exposition. The pulsating notes are moved to the piano bass, and the cello begins a new, highly expressive melody that inverts the general descending motion of Theme 1, Part 2.
Since Brahms is already in G, there is no need to move back there, so the opening is altered to avoid such a key change. The large arrival point is as in the exposition. As at [m. The last two bars of the passage, however, have altered pitches and harmonies that effect an unexpected key change to E-flat major. Then, the entire passage from [m.
The passage merges directly into the sequential descent with precipitous left hand octaves heard before [m. In total, 36 bars of exposition material have been simply excised here, as opposed to the much smaller insertion of new material at [m. The function of E-flat major is to give later emphasis to the minor version of the key on G, which contains the note E-flat a pitch not present in pure G major.
In most cases, such a theme would be in the home major key in the recapitulation, but such an analogy has already happened with Theme 1, Part 2.
This phrase finally moves definitively back to the home key of G minor. Aside from some register shifts and other minor alterations, the most important difference is that it is in minor instead of major. It is passed to strings, as before, and leads toward the same strong cadence. This time, the intensity surprisingly weakens at the cadence.
Decoding the music masterpieces: Brahms's Piano Quartet in G minor
It is played in the home key of G minor and is drastically altered. Instead of triumphant and full-hearted, it is now mysterious and even ominous. The other two strings provide smooth harmonies. The piano lines are expressive and smooth, still in the quiet, mysterious minor key. There is less contrast here, since the music is already quiet, but the minor key still lends it a darker character. The piano plays largely the same music as in the earlier passage, as do the strings, but the violin and viola now play their fragments in triplet rhythm.
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The passage is abbreviated by one bar. Here, the music comes closer to the exposition. The piano triplets and piano bass have the same character, as does the violin melody now doubled by viola instead of cello. The cello line is less active than the viola line in the earlier passage. This passage is exactly analogous to [m. CODA [m.
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- Decoding the music masterpieces: Brahms's Piano Quartet in G minor.
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The strings respond on the weak beats, the viola entering slightly earlier in syncopation. The piano right hand plays in the triplet rhythm with a strong upper voice projecting over the triplets. Two isolated right hand figures on the weak beats alternate with three smoother ones in the next bar.
This alternation happens four times. The passage steadily, gradually, and powerfully increases in intensity. It is roughly analogous to [m. The climax quickly recedes. The strings, then the piano triplets and bass drop out. This corresponds roughly with [m.
They hold notes over bar lines as the piano, in harmony, responds to them. Reaching steadily upward, the instruments come to their last high point and then, sapped of all strength, descend and diminish again. The strings play long chords and the piano plays oscillating triplets under a syncopated upper voice, all slowing to the final quiet G-minor chord.
The strings alone open the movement, and all three play with mutes throughout. The cello begins a quiet pulsation on the keynote C. The violin and viola enter in harmony with the hushed, melancholy main theme, which has a drooping, sighing character. The cello stays on the same note until the pulsation moves in the seventh bar. The violin and viola add plucked interjections. The volume level remains very quiet, and the piano melody moves toward an arrival point, not in C minor, but in C major. The arrival is somewhat aborted by the breaking off of the piano.
The pulsations move from the cello to the viola.
The main theme is now played by the piano. The violin and cello, playing mostly in unison, add a new counterpoint to the main theme. Motion to G-major harmony, as before. Arrival point in C major, as before. The constant pulsations finally break off. The viola and cello begin to oscillate, and the piano, aborting the expected cadence, repeats a sequence of the previous descending chords played by the upper strings. These chords move the key center to F minor, where the second major theme is heard.
It enters in the violin as the piano completes its chords, and consists of a halting, rather nervous melody decorated with grace notes appogiaturas. The piano plays decorative arpeggios, first arching upward, then remaining more static.