I studied these pieces at one point during my degree and had a brief play through them recently. I can’t claim that they are fully polished here in the video below, it had been a while too.
These three intermezzos were composed in 1892 and are among Brahms later works for the piano. The title ‘Intermezzo’ here is used to refer to character pieces. The three pieces are lyrical, melodic, and deeply emotional.
At the top of the score for Brahms Intermezzo Op. 117 no. 1 is a quote from an old Scottish poem Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament:
“Balow, my Babe, lie still and sleep! It grieves me sore to see thee weep.”
No. 1 opens with a simple, memorable melody. A repeated bell-like e flat can be heard above and below the melody here. The middle section is a stark contrast to this, with a darker theme and ascending arpeggios accompanying in the bass. The opening theme returns in the final section, this time with fuller harmonies, thicker texture, and split between the hands.
No.2 opens with a melody embellished with arpeggios, sweeping downwards and then upwards between the hands. The mood here is more agitated than the previous Intermezzo. Theme 2 appears in the warmer middle section, a transformed version of Theme 1 with chordal texture. This returns back to the original melody in arpeggiated form for the final section but expanded, embellished and growing in excitement.
No.3 begins with its opening melody in parallel octaves. This is then repeated with a leaping accompaniment in the bass creating a sense of urgency. The second phrase is given the same treatment – played first in parallel octaves and repeated with a more urgent bass line, this time also featuring syncopation. Inner melodies are added to these themes, thickening the texture. An expressive closing phrase ends this section. The syncopated melody of the faster middle section alternates between single notes and octaves, with arpeggiated accompaniment throughout. The final section returns to the opening tempo and themes.
Brahms Three Intermezzos Op. 117
No.1 in E Flat Major: 0:00
No.2 in B flat minor: 4:24
No.3 in C sharp minor: 8:22