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instance of creating agogic accent through rhythmic variation. The second A section is an almost

exact repetition of the first, except for the replacement of the original A minor variation with yet

another one, reminiscent of Brahms’s enthusiasm for double variation. The piece ends with a

reflective coda, which is a seemingly decelerated version of the B theme (similar to the codas of

the Ballade Op. 118/3 and the Rhapsodie Op. 79/1), achieved again through augmentation and


The third Intermezzo starts out as a simple 4-note figure, accompanied by a C major

arpeggio, the three pitches E, G and neighbouring A carrying sufficient meaning to provide

melodic and harmonic material for the whole piece (Fig. 14). Taking one more step forward in

his variation technique, Brahms works with both successive and motivic variation, displacing the

rhythmic figure in repetition, by syncopation, augmentation, extension, cross-rhythms, and

developing various parts of it through a variety of keys. The piece, similar to No.1, has an

ongoing battle between C major and its relative minor A, which itself competes with A major,

third-related to C. This tension is foreshadowed from the first bar and the pitch A plays an

important role until the end. Again, the initial motive foreshadows large-scale tonal conflicts.

The various sections are marked by tonal centres, rather than changes in thematic content

or character, as the central section is a developing variation of the initial 4-note motive, starting

in A major. A series of falling thirds in octaves play a similar role to the ones in Op. 118/6,

leading to the return of the theme in the initial key, but in augmentation, being cut off

prematurely to be replaced by a dominant-seventh falling arpeggio. This is especially interesting,

as the dominant preparation to the tonic appears after the tonic key has already arrived, almost

unnoticed due to the plagal cadence through F minor!


This late dominant still plays a

significant role as it leads to the statement of the theme in its original rhythm, which is once

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