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Brahms: Symphony No.2, 4th movement

Form scheme
4th movement
For the sombre Brahms this movement is a very cheerful one. It has overcome everything that could disturb a positive attitude to life.

bars 1-23
From the basic unit (1st bar of the symphony) the main theme in 9 bars is developed, leading to a transitional theme. All this goes on in a gentle piano.

bars 24-43
Only at the second appearance of the theme the full orchestra resounds in a jubilant forte.

The transitional theme, modified in its musical substance by lenghthening the notes, carries on the jubilation in D major.

Further transitions, shaped by clarinet, wind and oboe themes lead on to the secondary theme.

bars 78-97
The secondary theme - the head is again derived from the basic unit - is a broad-flowing theme presented by the strings and should be given a "pastoral interpretation", expressing a special mood in nature. It is a melodic theme of great power and breath-taking vitality.

In the ensuing bridge we find again a theme that contains the basic unit, this time in an eighth-note rhythm. Scales of thirds lead on to fortissimo beats of the orchestra.

A short epilogue closes the exposition.

bars 155-172
The epilogue becomes a part of the development, like a musical introduction, until the main theme occurs in its original shape in D major. The 4th bar of the theme turns independent and becomes the centre of the musical process. Soon after the main theme is reversed, but this time the 2nd bar turns independent as a split motif.

bars 206-224
The following sequence belongs to the bridge theme, which leads to a slow, quiet section entitled "Tranquillo". The newly introduced triplet theme is again derived from the basic unit. This theme recurs a second time, namely in the Coda, combined with the secondary theme. This could also explain the prevailing mood of the whole symphony, an explanation not given by Brahms himself. Almost all the themes of the symphony develop out of the basic unit, but the triplet theme and the secondary theme are particularly memorable. The hymn to nature, inspired by the region around Wörthersee in Carinthia, finds a meaningful expression in the basic unit and all the themes derived from it. The section "Tranquillo" consists of the triplet theme which alternates with the bridge theme and leads straight on to the recapitulation.

The recapitulation repeats the stated themes in D major. The main theme follows.

Next comes the secondary theme in the root key D major.

The Coda, which feels like a triumphant hymn to the landscape of the lake, consists of two previous themes: the secondary theme confronted by the triplet theme.

A new theme, urging on to the conclusion, is formed from the basic unit. In fortissimo it ascends to extreme heights.

bars 409-429
A sequence of scales leads to the secondary theme brilliantly resounding in the trumpets, which creates the impression of a final blaze of glory. His ode to nature has found its crowning culmination.

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