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At-A-Glance

Length: c. 4 minutes

Orchestration: solo piano

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 also exploit many of the same techniques and style characteristics as we hear in his songs, like 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.)

—John Henken