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bar phrases, summarizing the whole process, culminating in a climactic 2-bar phrase before the F

major cadence (bars 127-28), which is a close imitation between three voices, similar to a passage

in Op. 117/1 near the end (Ex. 3).

Ex. 3 Close imitation in 117/1 and 118/4:

The presence of Baroque features does not exclude the presence of Brahms’s technique of

developing variation and harmonic ambiguity, especially in the central section of the initial ‘A’

(Fig. 8). Keys are again 3rd-related, with disguised returns and unconventional modulations,

moving from F minor to C major to A-flat major in the middle section, the three pitches outlining

an F minor triad, and the same ones found in the opening upbeat. This is the leading voice, the

dux of the canon, but the fact that it is placed on the second beat while the comes or second voice

appears on the first beat of the bar is another instance of Brahms creating ambiguity as to the

position of the downbeat. Rhythmic devices are used to mark new beginnings and to smooth

transitions between sections, as Brahms stops triplet motion at the end of Section A by resting on

a solitary C of 3½ beats (in canon), preparing for the crotchet rhythms of the B section (causing

tonal ambiguity in the meantime), and reintroduces it at the transition back to A, where even

faster rhythms of semiquavers lead to the return. This time, the initial canonic theme is stated in

descending octave-displaced registers, similar to the canon of the B section, bringing together the

two sections and unifying the piece. The coda, as stated above, has an overall resolving function,

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