Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Johannes Brahms

It is generally agreed that Brahms rarely showed extreme emotions in his compositions. The late piano works, which consist of 20 pieces in four sets -- Opp. 116, 117, 118, and 119 -- often divulge agitation and a sense of loss (most were written after the deaths of Brahms' sister Elise and his close friend Elizabeth von Herzogenberg), but almost always inject some opposite feeling into the mix, too, like serenity, joy, or confidence. This Intermezzo in A minor, like many of the late works, presents a puzzling emotional world, appearing fantasy-like, sadly real, gentle, and calm, but inwardly troubled. The work is marked Adagio and in many pianists' hands will sound even slower. The gentle, long-breathed upper-register main theme has its peaks and valleys in its somewhat angular contour, but is mostly descending or lingering in the valleys. In contrast, the music in the middle section rises upward and gains both power and a sense of sunlight emerging from gray clouds, but it cannot quite achieve a feeling of serenity or happiness. The main theme returns, sparsely scored as it was on its first appearance, and the work soon ends, notes descending to reach quiet ambivalence. This piece typically lasts about four minutes.