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Compare and Contrast Section A and B of Piano Quintet in F minor by Johannes Brahms


Due to the piece being romantic, without looking at each section, we would expect the two sections to contrast with each other. Romantic music is expressively especially with emotions. Therefore, a new sections would adopt a different expression of emotion. In Piano Quintet in F minor (PQIF), the sections do contrast more than they concur when looking at the separate elements music is made up of.


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Dynamics

The dynamics in romantic music is pretty extreme which is displayed in the first section of PQIF featuring pp at bar 3 and ff at bar 22. It is not just the extremity of the dynamics too. Brahms uses many of crescendoes to make sure that when the dynamics radically change (such as at bar 45 with a sudden fz), the transition is more smoother.

Section B starts with a moderate dynamic being mf at the start (bar 194) which moves to a forte of just f. Therefore, the range of dynamics used in section A is far greater. A well as this, there is use of crescendoes and diminuendos in section B has decreased possibly due to the range of dynamics decreasing.

Texture

The texture of section A ranges from homophonic, homorhythmic, in unison, chordal homophony, monophonic and to even a five part texture. Whereas, section B has a very limited texture with the majority of it sticking to being homophonic. This makes clear that the most expression is in section A and section B is only there to help bring the piece to a close.

Tempo/Rhythm

Section A can be seen to be based around its rhythmic features such as the 'galloping theme' (first seen at bar 13) which uses semi-quavers to create a fast pace to the section. The use of semi-quavers is made obvious at bar 158 where the syncopation and fragmented galloping theme builds on creating anticipation. There is also metrical displacement present at bar 178 in the piano part where the dotted rhythms suggest the piano is playing in 3/4.

Section B's rhythm is much more simpler with the use the string instruments playing homorhythmically the majority of the time. The main texture is homophonic due to the piano acting as the bass part playing descending arpeggios at bar 211 with Violin 1 playing the melody and the rest of the instruments filling in the harmony. Due to this, it makes clear that section B has been made more simpler and varying than section A providing a clear clue that the piece is coming to an end soon.

Melody

The melody of Section A introduces both the ‘galloping’ and ‘major’ theme to the piece. The ‘galloping’ theme has the much use of quavers, semi-quavers and rests to create an off beat syncopated rhythm that is more distinct for its rhythm than pitch. Whereas, the ‘major’ theme is the point at which the piece modulates major in chordal homophony. The opening melody of bars 1 - 21 can be seen to repeat as the use of a bridge in connecting the variations of the galloping and major theme. The ‘galloping’ is the main theme to this piece which is why it is varied the most.

Section B’s melody is similar to the third theme. However, this melodic phrasing is in C major. The melody is basic using dotted crochets and few quavers to make the melody relaxing to here contrasting to Section A. There is repetition in the melody such as at bars 197-199 where the phrase is moved down a tone.

Tonality

The tonality of Section A starts in C minor which can be made apparent from the key signature and the fact there are no other accidentals in the music. We would have expected the piece to have been in F minor seeing that the whole movement is in F minor. The key does modulate major at the ‘major’ theme of bar 22 to C major and the E major at bar 26.

Section B starts the piece in C major unlike Section A. This then modulates to G major (dominant of C) quickly at bar 203 and then B major at bar 206 (then back to C at bar 210).

Therefore, to sum up, Section A and B have:
  • Contrasting textures. 
  • Contrasting dynamics. 
  • Contrasting tonalities and modulations. 
  • Similarities in melodies (third theme from Section A is hinted in Section B’s main melody). 
  • Contrasting Rhythms.

Ultimately, the two sections are contrasting which goes with what Romantic period is about which is being expressive. Brahms piece pushes the instruments he has chosen to the limits of expression.

About Will Green

A student in England studying Automotive Engineering with Motorsport, Will created Ask Will Online back in 2010 to help students revise and bloggers make money. You can follow AskWillOnline via @AskWillOnline.

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