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About this Piece

Brahms' four sets of late solo piano pieces (Opp. 116-119, 1892-1893) are all in effect abstract instrumental songs, though unfailingly idiomatic. (So much so, that he abandoned his attempt to orchestrate the immediately popular Intermezzo, Op. 117, No. 1.) All are in the A-B-A song form typical of character pieces and are as highly concentrated as his greatest songs. They exploit many of the same techniques and style characteristics as we hear in the songs, like the thematic variation in the Andante teneramente Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2, with the middle section flowing in Brahms’ beloved two-against-three patterning in its purest form, duple melody over triplet accompaniment. (But – so characteristic – with a suggestion of melodic imitation in that accompaniment.) Or the rocking repeated bass with pedal tone in the middle section of the Romance, Op. 118, No. 5, a piece where Brahms also tucks the melody into a middle voice. (And note its fascinating little retransition back, accomplished by changing the chromatic inflection on a trill.)