ABSTRACT

Uniquely among his scherzo-type movements, Brahms designated the second movement of the Piano Quartet, Op. 25, as an intermezzo. This movement, however, retains the ternary design associated with minuets and scherzos, the designation signifying a shift in expressive quality. Several of Brahms’s later scherzo-type movements also exhibit this tendency towards wistful lyricism that diverges from the expressive realms of the minuet and the scherzo, and many writers-past and present, including Brahms himself-refer to these movements as intermezzos as well.1 After surveying the intermezzo from Op. 25, this chapter considers the third movements of the String Quartet, Op. 51, No. 1, the First and Third Symphonies (Opp. 68 and 90), and the String Quintet, Op. 111. Among these movements a variety of structural features support their expressive designs, but they share a preference for subtle effects-such as sensitive deformations of rounded binary form, flexible use of phrase expansion, and atypical metric or durational realization of unstable melodic pitches-rather than overtly dissonant devices like metric displacement and extensive undercutting of tonal stability through lengthy dominant prolongations.