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especially when passing from one section to the other, and all seem proportional, sometimes

indicated in the music, as in Op. 118/5. Epstein (1990: 204-5) concludes from analysis that ‘a

steady basic pulse runs continuously throughout a work of Brahms, . . . serving as the referential

basis for explicit changes of tempo. According to him, new tempos relate to this basic pulse in

simple ratios. Rink (1995:270) provides a logical solution to calculating such proportional

tempos by ‘letting the durationally equal motivic correspondences “speak for themselves”.’ The

best example is perhaps Op. 117, where there is a common underlying pulse which runs through

the three Intermezzi; each is an Andante, yet each contains a slightly different marking, together

with other tempo-related indications throughout the music. The best way to determine a common

tempo is to consider the motivic unity and related thematic ideas (Fig.1), arriving at a solution

which could best communicate the details as well as the outlines of the music. A similar example

of proportionate tempo can be found on a local scale in Op. 119/2.

Davies (1929: 182) writes that Brahms, like Beethoven, used few but particular

expression marks only to convey the inner musical meaning, and that in his playing, ‘. . . one felt

the fundamental rhythms underlying the surface rhythms.’ This suggests that there was an

underlying pulse, but Brahms would also use rubato locally, preferring to ‘lengthen a bar or

phrase rather than spoil it by making up the time into a metronomic bar’ (Davies:182). This gave

his music its shrinking and swelling effect, aided by ‘hairpins’ (short crescendos and

decrescendos), adding sincerity and warmth to the phrases. It is interesting that many of his

tempo markings actually relate more to the character of the music rather than to actual speed.

Op. 119 No. 3 actually lacks tempo markings, as the terms Grazioso e giocoso and leggiero carry

implications only about the general effects that the piece should have. The correct speed would

naturally be one which could bring across the light and graceful character, another flowing


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