Brahms Op 76 no 5 Capriccio in C-sharp minor

The music of Brahms grabbed me in my late teens. I found a depth of emotion, from the heart, untainted by flashy keyboard antics. Maybe there’s a different kind of showing off in the way the pieces are constructed, the way motives are used, the way he can’t deny himself a cross-rhythm or two. He was a great craftsman and his music still holds great appeal for me, even though I also love practically all the piano repertoire.

I am revisiting this Capriccio which has defeated me at least twice in the past. I believe I now have the tools and guidance to do the job.

I write now merely to share a few observations – not to present a complete analysis. With greater experience I now find I spot points of interest that I missed years ago or I find them more quickly.

A few weeks ago I was struck by the similarity of a chord progression with one in Chopin’s 3rd Ballade. It’s not original. It just goes through the cycle of fifths. Technically having recently worked on the Chopin, the Brahms felt similar.

Chopin:

Ballade extr

Brahms: see bar 3

Brahms op 76 extr1

This Capriccio opens in a stormy manner. There are 3 constituents – the top line steps upwards in crotchets as if in 3 4 fighting against the 2-beats per bar 6 8 bass stabs with a chromatic inner line worming its way around.

Brahms op 76 extr2

The mood relaxes in the middle, the feeling is much more lyrical. Is the material new? No, it’s those opening 3 crotchets turned upside so that they descend.

Brahms op 76 extr3

The last page features a long diminuendo and rall as one is spent from all the turbulence. There is a moment of silence and then a rush to a tragic, angry or violent end. I notice the final C major Capriccio of the set also ends with a winding down, silence, some slower bars and another rush to the finish – this time exultant.

I am also reminded of the G minor Rhapsody with its feeling of winding down as sextuplets become triplet crotchets then crotchets before closing with 2 brusque chords.

If you don’t know it. Here’s a performance on youtube.

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