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of tension and release in relatively short temporal space.

It is important at this point to consider the characteristics of the pianos on which Brahms

composed the late miniatures and his general views on piano playing. He had been given a

Streicher grand in 1873, which he seems to have preferred up to 1880, after which he had also

used Bösendorfers (Cai, 1986: 407). The Streicher had a light action, short key stroke, leather-

covered hammers, and lower tension resulting from being straight-strung. It had a purer sound,

less overtones and a much lighter bass than modern grand pianos, with the middle register having

the fullest sound, dominating the bass and treble (Cai, 1989:60-1). This partly accounts for his

preference to place melodies in the ‘tenor voice,’ as these could be brought out comfortably due

to the inherently different tone of the middle register on his piano. The thicker texture of the bass

in his music (thirds places especially low) would not have sounded as heavy as on a modern

grand, because his bass would have a faster decay, possibly requiring more pedal. On the

contrary, too much pedal on a modern piano would produce a muddy sound and unclear

articulation of the melodies. According to pianist Eugen d’Albert, Brahms left the use of the

pedal to the player’s taste (Pascall, 1991:10), but he did indicate when he wanted a specific type

of pedalling. He used col ped for large sections, as in 117/1 (bar 38) and 117/2 (beginning), una

corda for atmospheric effect, as in 118/2 (bar 57), 118/6 (bar 5) and 118/3 (bar 41), and also

senza pedal in the last piece (bar 116) to enhance the solitude of the final triad. In 118/4, the

pedal supports the downbeat of the canon, while in 118/1, it is used to create harmonies from the

arpeggios. In 117/3 (bars 41-45), Brahms asks for a blurred effect through a 5-bar pedal, but in

119/4 (bars 39-40), a different pedal is required for each arpeggio to bring out the descending

inner voice in the right hand.

Florence May, Brahms’s student for some time, writes that ‘he made very much of the

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