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included at the beginning of No. 1 an inscription of Herder’s translation of the Scottish folk poem

Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament. The lines Brahms quotes, “Schlaf sanft, mein Kind” (Sleep softly,

my child) are not typical of the poem as a whole. It actually tells the story of an abandoned and

grievous mother, who sings her sorrows to her baby. Both Bozarth (1990:376-7) and Parmer

(1997:376) argue that No. 2 is a continuation of the same poem (Herder’s Lullaby of an

Abandoned Mother), and that No.3 is written to Herzweh (Heart-sore), which can be read as the

culmination of the abandoned mother’s grief. Bozarth states that the C# minor Intermezzo can be

shown to be informed by the structure and emotional content of Herder’s translation of this

Scottish love-lament. If this is indeed true, it verifies that the three pieces should be played

together, and sheds light on why they are motivically, tonally, texturally and formally so closely


The only known sketching of Brahms’s piano miniatures is the page with the Op. 117

pieces on it, and it is also the only manuscript to contain a complete opus of the late piano pieces

(Cai, 1986: 123). The sketch page shows an evolution of thought from the main theme of No. 3

to the Section B theme of No. 2 which, enharmonically, are actually in the same key (Cai: 268).

This suggests that the third Intermezzo was sketched before the second. This makes it more

likely that No. 2 and 3 were not literal continuations of Herder’s poems as suggested by Bozarth,

but maybe only inspired by their moods. Brahms had said that he had written Op. 116 and 117

due to the abundance of women pianists in Ischl who would play them, including Ilona

Eibenschütz (Avins, 1997: 693), but without doubt, they were also written with Clara Schumann

in mind. Brahms sent Op. 117 to her with a letter in October, 1892, and she responded that the

third had no nationalistic colouring, and asked “is it Scottish?” (Cai: 174). Brahms’s interest in

Scottish folk poems and songs had inspired him almost forty years previously, in the finale of his

Op. 1 Piano Sonata, and the Op. 10 ‘Edward’ Ballade, No.1, which he also set as a sophisticated

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