Johannes Brahms Symphony No 2 First Movement Allegro Non-Troppo Essay

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Excerpt from Essay :

Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 2, first movement (Allegro non-Troppo)

The objective of this work is to conduct a music and score analysis of Brahms Symphony No. 2, first movement (Allegro non-troppo).

Johannes Brahms composed Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73 during the summer of 1877 while visiting a town in the Austrian province of Carinthia. In comparison to the 15 years it took for Brahms to complete his First Symphony, the composition of Symphony No. 2 was very brief. Brahms scores this symphony for 2 flues, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, and one tuba, timpani accompanied by strings. Brahms Symphony No. 2 is similar to Beethoven's Sixth Symphony characterized by a pastoral mood and is similar to the First Symphony of Brahms due to the somber C minor tonality.


The work is not tragic nor is it particularly dramatic in nature however; the piano is the lead instrument in the first two movements, which contains dynamics that reach forte in minor scales. The last two movements of the Symphony are lighter in tone and are much shorter. Emphasis of the various instruments enables the orchestra conductor to emphasize various parts of the symphony due to the contrast in melodies and the manner in which these overlap one another. This composition of Brahms premiered on December 30, 1877 in Vienna under director Hans Richter. This symphony is performed in 40 to 50 minutes time.

IV. Musical Analysis

Following a 2011 concert featuring Brahms' Allegro non-troppo Ken Meltzer reports on the performance stating the following: "Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg, Germany, on May 7, 1833, and died in Vienna, Austria, on April 3, 1897. The first performance of the Violin Concerto took place at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Germany, on January 1, 1879, with Joseph Joachim as soloist and the composer conducting. In addition to the solo violin, the Concerto is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings.(Meltzer, 2011, p.1)

V. Brahms Seeks Advice of Joachim

The advice of Joachim was sought by Brahms on this piece and is reported to have stated the following upon following the solo violin section of the Concerto's first movement to Joachim in 1878:

After having written it out I really don't know what you will make of the solo part alone. It was my intention of course, that you should correct it, not sparing the quality of the composition and that if you thought it not worth scoring, that you should say so. I shall be satisfied if you will mark those parts that are difficult, awkward, or impossible to play. The whole affair is in four movements." (Meltzer, 2011, p.1)

Joachim is stated to have responded as follows:

"It gives me great pleasure to know that you are composing a Violin

Concerto -- in four movements too! I have had a good look at what you sent me and have made a few notes and alterations, but without the full score one can't say much. I can however make out most of it and there is a lot of really good violin music in it, but whether it can be played with comfort in a hot concert-room remains to be seen." (Meltzer, 2011, p.1)

Allegro non-troppo is a Violin Concerto and is tradition in fashion in its beginning with what is described as a "purely orchestral exposition of the movement's principal themes." (Brinkmann, 1934) The first noble theme is reported to be stated by the bassoons, violas, and cellos with support being derived from the horns. As the soloist enters the theme reaches full development and the strings play "an agitated and forceful closing motif." (Brinkmann, 1934) It is reported that the soloist's entrance is "fiery" followed by the mood calming and embellishing the primary themes. The development is extended in this piece and a broad range of moods featured and a "triumphant orchestral statement heralds the varied recapitulation. The soloist's cadenza leads to the final coda, which begins with the utmost serenity. However, the coda soon builds to a powerful climax, with the soloist offering a grand concluding flourish." (Brinkmann, 1934)

The work of David Epstein states of Brahms Symphony No. 2 as follows:

"Perhaps no composer of the period so reveled in the structural possibilities of ambiguity as did Brahms. His Second Symphony is a case in point, ambiguous properties inherent in the basic ideas of the opening movement exerting pervasive effects upon the overall structure of this and subsequent movements." (p.162 cited in Volk, nd)

VI. Form and Development of Allegro non-troppo

The first Allegro makes use of the form of first sonata movement and is reported to "state its relation to symphonic tradition, the Viennese sonata 'spirit' to which the movement is addressing itself, as well as setting forth the general layout; comprising an exposition with several theme, a functionality and structurally contrasted development followed by a summarizing recapitulation" and as well the individual is informed about the uniqueness of this symphony and how the piece is developed and placed against the background which is only general in nature relating the method that will be used in the movement.

VII. Five Aspects of Second Symphony of Brahms

There are five aspects reported in the work of Brinkmann (1934) entitled "Late Idyll: The Second Symphony of Johannes Brahms " and these are stated to include: (1) the peculiar opening of the movement; (2) the richness of themes and characters in the exposition with its internal shadings; (3) the specific shaping of the development; (4) two particular features of the recapitulation that diverge from a mere replica of the exposition; and (5) the function of the coda with the emotional and structure goal of the movement and the strangely restrained ending. (Brinkmann, 1934)

Stated is that in every composition are moments of emphasis that allow one to experience the individual character of the movement and this is stated to be true of the opening of Brahms' Second Symphony since it "begins remarkably and ends remarkably as well. It is reported that the opening occurs in several stages "strangely hesitant." (Brinkmann, 1934)

In the beginning of this piece there is stated to be "heard directly, with no introduction to frame or lead into it, the aforesaid main theme pastorally swaying internally…" and forming a "quasi-period" and instrumentally stated to be articulated clearly in the "symmetrical four-measure changing of horns and woodwinds over the string bass line" however stated is that the harmony of the piece is "metrically ambiguous, unstable from the beginning because of the overlaying groups of measures in the thematic configuration." (Brinkmann, 1934)

VIII. Unfolding of Movement in Several Stages

At the end of the sixteen measures is stated to be unasserted in the transpositions of the ongoing bass model with the tonic D major, which rounds it off "instead the consequent opens to the dominant." (Brinkmann, 1934) It is reported that it is not unusual in Brahms' work for there to be an "unfolding of movement in several stages, with the animation ebbing away right after the start." (Brinkmann, 1934) In fact, the latter works of Brahms are stated to procure this particular "restrained opening" and a good example for comparison is that of the first movement of the Clarinet Quintet in B minor op. 11 as the layout is stated to be similar at least basically while being somewhat more constricted and smaller in scale than the symphony and still to go further. The movement is reported to begin with a "twofold motivic constellation in the strings" which continuously descends and after four measures to "trail off in low register." (Brinkmann, 1934) It is reported that the piece begins anew as the sound of the clarinet flowers and this "new colors that changes everything." (Brinkmann, 1934) This is stated to be much like the symphony of Brahms.

IX. Background to the Development

Stated of the background to the development "is a process of motivic splitting off and compression. In mm 52-54 (first violins) the front part of the theme is isolated and compressed into three quarters immediately afterward. This produces the irregular three-measure unit." (Brinkmann, 1934)

The recapitulation is reported as "basically a repeat of the exposition" being both the same and different as well but sounding the same however in a different place and "heard with variants" and these variants being both connected and reacting to events in the past. (Brinkmann, 1934) According to Volk (nd) the metric weight of the entire exposition of the first movement Allegro non-troppo is divided into three parts of very different regularities with the first part stated to correspond to the measures 1-43, the second to measures 44-117 and the third to measures 118-156. (paraphrased)

X. Fulfillment Begins with Measure 477

The fulfillment of the piece is stated to begin with measure 477 and it is stated to be the "one extraordinary moment in the movement" and to be of the…

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