The six Klavierstücke that make up the op. 118 set were published in 1893 and dedicated to Brahms’ lifelong friend, Clara Schumann. In the late summer of 1893, Brahms sent Clara manuscripts of the pieces, which thrilled her. She wrote to him how remarkable it was that he had managed to convey “a wealth of sentiment in the smallest of dimensions”. Brahms did not want fanciful or poetic titles for the pieces, instead giving them the rather generic titles Intermezzo, Ballade and Romanze. They are among the very last pieces Brahms wrote, revealing the composer at the very height of his powers. We sense the assurance of a master craftsman at work, with all the features of his compositional style evident: motivic development, imitative counterpoint, cross rhythms and dense, rich textures.
The wistful Intermezzo in A, op. 118 no. 2, is surely one of the best-loved short works for piano from the Romantic period. It is full of nostalgia and yearning, of tender feelings tinged with passionate memories.
Having taught this piece very many times over the years, I have been struck by the wealth of buried treasure contained in the score – important details that are just underneath the surface and easy to miss. How many players have not noticed the canon in the chorale-like centre of the B section? Or the subtle changes of colour required to underscore the different harmonies and voice leading in the variants of phrases as they recur, transformed? It takes a keen eye and a keen ear to do justice to this piece.
Study edition and video walkthrough
I am delighted to announce the publication of a comprehensive collection of resources for this work on the Online Academy, the first of which is a detailed study edition with over forty annotations and a practice worksheet.
The study edition is accompanied by a walkthrough comprised of five videos. These start with an introductory video that provides some background to the work and its features. Further videos then examine aspects such as interpretation, texture, pedalling and voicing.
As an alternative to a more formal analysis of this work, I provide my own personal interpretation over a set of seven videos as a complement to the walkthrough and study edition. These videos examine the work section by section, focussing on feelings, ideas, colours and a narrative that I have evolved over a number of years – starting with a little background to Brahms’ relationship with Robert and Clara Schumann, and to the special connection Brahms had with Clara after Robert’s untimely death.
I hope that these new resources will help guide you as you explore this wonderful work!
Access and purchase options
The complete collection of resources is available with an annual subscription to the Online Academy, in addition to our growing library of hundreds of videos, articles, eBooks and downloads for £119.99 per year.
Please click here to view if you are already a subscriber or click here if you’d like to to subscribe.
Alternatively, the following components can be purchased individually from our store:
- The study edition and video walkthroughs can be purchased here for £9.99. Alternatively they can be purchased here as a collection of editions featuring works by Bach, Chopin, Schubert and Debussy for £19.99.
- The complete collection, including the study edition, video walkthroughs and fantasy analysis videos can be purchased here for £13.99.