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The Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 83 by Johannes Brahms is a composition for solo piano with orchestral accompaniment. It is separated by a gap of 22 years from the composer's first piano concerto. Brahms began work on the piece in 1878 and completed it in 1881 while in Pressbaummarker near Viennamarker. It is dedicated to his teacher, Eduard Marxsen.

Background

The piece is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (B-flat), 2 bassoons, 4 horns (2 B-flat bass, 2 F bass), 2 trumpets (B-flat), timpani (B-flat and F), and strings.

The piece is in four movements, rather than the three typical of concertos in the Classical and Romantic periods:

  1. Allegro non troppo (B-flat major)
  2. Allegro appassionato (D minor)
  3. Andante (B-flat major/F-sharp major)
  4. Allegretto grazioso (B-flat major)


The additional movement results in a concerto considerably lengthier than most other concertos written up to that time. Upon its completion, Brahms sent its score to his friend, the surgeon and violinist Theodore Billroth to whom Brahms had dedicated his first two string quartets, describing the work as "some little piano pieces." Brahms even described the stormy and impassioned scherzo as a "little wisp of a scherzo."

The premiere of this concerto was given in Budapestmarker on November 9, 1881, with Brahms as soloist, and was an immediate and great success. He proceeded to perform the piece in many cities across Europe.

Description

Allegro non troppo

The first movement is in the concerto variant of sonata form. The main theme is introduced with a horn solo, with the piano interceding. The woodwind instruments proceed to introduce a small motif before an unusually placed cadenza appears. The full orchestra repeats the theme and introduces more motifs in the orchestral exposition. The piano and orchestra work together to develop these themes in the piano exposition before the key changes to F Minor (from F Major, the dominant) and the piano plays a powerful and difficult section before the next orchestral tutti appears. The development, like many such sections in the Classical period, works its way from the dominant key back to the tonic while heavily developing themes. At the beginning of the recapitulation, the theme is replayed before a differing transition is heard, returning to the music heard in the piano exposition (this time in B-flat Major / B-flat Minor). A coda appears after the minor key section, finishing off this movement.

Allegro appassionato

This scherzo is in the key of D Minor and is in ternary form. Contrary to Brahms's "tiny wisp of a scherzo" remark, it is a tumultuous movement. The piano and orchestra introduce the theme and develop it before a quiet section intervenes. Soon afterwards the piano and orchestra launch into a stormy development of the theme before coming to the central episode (in D major). The central episode is brisk and begins with the full orchestra before yet another quiet section intervenes; then the piano is integrated into the orchestral effect to repeat the theme of the central episode. The beginning section returns but is highly varied.

Andante

The slow movement is in the tonic key of B-flat Major and is unusual in that it utilizes a cello solo. Brahms rewrote the cello's theme and changed into a song, Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer. This movement is clearly similar to chamber music.

Allegretto grazioso

The last movement consists of five clearly distinghuishable sections, of which the last is a 'stretto' (faster) coda.The first section (bars 1 to 64) is built on two themes: the first and main theme of classical structure (1-8) is first played by the piano and then repeated by the orchestra. The second theme (16-20) is likewise presented by the piano and repeated - and expanded - by the orchestra. A kind of development of the first theme leads to the next section.The second section (65-164) is built on three themes. Number three (65-73, a minor) is very different from the previous ones: by its minor key and its rhythm. Number four (81-88) is still in a minor and number five (97-104) in F major. These three themes are repeated several times, which gives the section the character of a development.The third section (165-308) can be seen as a reprise of the first; it is built on the first two themes, but a striking new element is given in 201-205 and repeated in 238-241.The fourth section (309-376) gives the themes 3, 5 and 4, in that order.The coda is built on the main theme, but even here (398) Brahms presents a new element.

Notable Interpretations



Notes

  1. http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/brahms_piano_con2.html
  2. http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/brahms_piano_con2.html


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