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variation, and the middle section is actually another variation of the theme on a larger scale and

in the parallel major, with a change in character from the agitato opening to a graceful waltz,

made clear by Brahms through his inclusion of the word grazioso. The poco agitato A section is

reminiscent of Op. 118 No. 4 with its repeated rhythmic figures. Six pitches are introduced in

the opening, and these generate the motivic and thematic material for both sections (shown in

Fig. 13). The theme itself consists of a 5-bar phrase, which is extended through inclusion of an

alternating V-I figure of 3 bars (which later becomes a transition of 6 bars between variation 2

and 3) and a final shortened statement of 4 bars. The variations have the same phrase structure as

the theme (consistent with Brahms’s principle of variation, as displayed most extensively in the

Handel Variations), except for the third one in the tonic key, which mirrors the 4-bar shortened


The piece is another example of the way Brahms uses harmonic and rhythmic procedures

to smooth the transition between sections. In this case, the new section is entered through the

appearance of its key and its new accompaniment figures by augmentation of a resolving

appoggiatura figure, creating a built-in ritardando at the same time (bars 33-35). This particular

piece seems to have given Brahms some trouble as to tempo indication, as in the autograph, he

included a marking ‘


Doppio movimento’ at the beginning of the middle section,

which did not make sense in terms of actual increase in tempo by a factor of two. What Brahms

really meant was that the B section doubled the note values of the theme and he proceeded to

omit this marking when he realized that it was unnecessary, as the music would speak for itself

(Epstein, 1995). The two sections have a common pulse; the only difference is that the second

covers the same section of the theme in six beats instead of three. The waltz moves in 4-bar

phrases and the section has a rounded binary form, a particular favourite of Brahms as he used it

previously in Op. 117 and 118. The return to the theme is achieved in augmentation, another

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