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2 Rhapsodies Op.79

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Rhapsody in B minor, Opus 79, No.1

Rhapsody in G minor, Opus 79, No.2

The two Op.79 Rhapsodies, composed in 1879, are dedicated to the composer’s greatly valued friend, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg. They are passionate pieces but are cast in more definite moulds – the first in a spacious ternary design and the second in sonata form – than the title might lead one to expect.

No.1 in B minor, marked Agitato, immediately sets about developing its bold opening sequences with key modulations and counterpoint. A suggested second subject in D minor is interrupted by more stormy development of the opening section, but reappears as the B major theme of a serene middle or ‘trio’ section with a drone bass. A full reprise of the first part follows, and the Rhapsody ends in the major key with a coda which incorporates the theme of the middle section.

No.2 in G minor is marked Molto passionato, and stormily impassioned it certainly is. The restless first subject requires the right hand to sustain harmonic support in the middle of the texture, which means that the left hand must cross over to provide both the bass and the upper melody. The second subject resembles a march. A rhythmically adventurous development is reined back by insistent pedal notes to the key of G minor for the recapitulation and a desolate, peremptorily concluded coda.

© Eric Mason

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