World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Piano Concerto No. 2 (Brahms)

Article Id: WHEBN0000228255
Reproduction Date:

Title: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Brahms)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Johannes Brahms, Piano Concerto No. 1 (Brahms), Emil Gilels, Sviatoslav Richter, Joyce Hatto
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Piano Concerto No. 2 (Brahms)

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 83 by Johannes Brahms is separated by a gap of 22 years from his first piano concerto. Brahms began work on the piece in 1878 and completed it in 1881 while in Pressbaum near Vienna. It is dedicated to his teacher, Eduard Marxsen. The premiere of the concerto was given in Budapest on November 9, 1881, with Brahms as soloist, and was an immediate success. He proceeded to perform the piece in many cities across Europe.[1]


  • Background 1
  • Description 2
    • Allegro non troppo 2.1
    • Allegro appassionato 2.2
    • Andante 2.3
    • Allegretto grazioso 2.4
  • Notable interpretations 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The piece is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (B-flat), 2 bassoons, 4 horns (initially 2 in B-flat bass, 2 in F), 2 trumpets (B-flat), timpani (B-flat and F), and strings. (The trumpets and timpani are used only in the first two movements, which is unusual.)

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)
  4. Allegretto grazioso (B-flat major)

The additional movement results in a concerto considerably longer than most other concertos written up to that time, with typical performances lasting around 50 minutes. Upon its completion, Brahms sent its score to his friend, the surgeon and violinist Theodor Billroth to whom Brahms had dedicated his first two string quartets, describing the work as "some little piano pieces."[1] Brahms even described the stormy scherzo as a "little wisp of a scherzo."[2]


Allegro non troppo

Problems playing these files? See .

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 (borrowed, perhaps unconsciously, from the opening of the first movement of his Serenade No. 2) 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

NBC Symphony Orchestra with Arturo Toscanini and Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall in 1940

Problems playing this file? See .

This scherzo is in the key of D minor and is in ternary form. Contrary to Brahms' "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.


NBC Symphony Orchestra with Arturo Toscanini and Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall in 1940

Problems playing this file? See .

The slow movement is in the tonic key of B-flat major and is unusual in utilizing an extensive cello solo within a piano concerto (the source of this idea may be Clara Schumann's Piano Concerto, which features a slow movement scored only for cello and piano). Brahms subsequently rewrote the cello's theme and changed it into a song, Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer ("My Slumber Grows Ever More Peaceful") with lyrics by Hermann Van Lingg. (Op. 105, No. 2). Within the concerto, the cello plays the theme for the first three minutes, before the piano comes in. However, the gentler melodic piece that the piano plays soon gives way to a stormy theme in B-flat minor. When the storm subsides, still in the minor key, the piano plays a transitional motif that leads to the key of G-flat major, before the cello comes in to reprise, in the wrong key, and knowing that it has to get back to B-flat major, the piano and the orchestra make a transition to finish off the theme in its original home key of B-flat major. After the piano plays the transitional motifs, the piano quickly reprises the middle section in a major key before the final coda is established.

Allegretto grazioso

NBC Symphony Orchestra with Arturo Toscanini and Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall in 1940

Problems playing these files? See .

The last movement consists of five clearly distinguishable sections, which introduce and develop five different themes.

The first section (bars 1 to 64) presents themes 1 and 2. The first theme (also the "main theme") (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. Finally, a kind of development of the first theme leads on to the next section.

The second section (65-164) contains the next three themes. Theme 3 (65-73) is very different from the previous ones, due largely to its minor setting and its distinctive, Hungarian rhythm. Theme 4 (81-88) is still in a minor and theme 5 (97-104) is in F major. These three themes are each repeated back and forth 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) reprises themes 3, 5 and 4, in that order.

The final section, the coda, is built on the main theme, but even here (398) Brahms presents a new element, restating the main theme in triple rhythm (a device he used earlier to end his violin concerto) over a little march, first played by the piano, then answered by the orchestra, which trades themes with the soloist before the final chords.

Notable interpretations


  1. ^ a b Glesner, Elizabeth Schwarm (October 10, 2000). "Johannes Brahms - Piano Concerto No.2, Op.83". Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved April 18, 2015. 
  2. ^ Allsen, J. Michael (2002). "Johannes Brahms - Piano Concerto No. 2".  

External links

  • Discovering MusicBBC Radio 3's (includes a video clip discussing the piece)
  • Brahms' Orchestra Works (free music score of this composition available. In public domain.)
  • Piano Concerto No. 2: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  • First edition annotated in composer's hand at The Juilliard Manuscript Collection
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.