Brahms – Serenade No. 2 in A-Major, Op. 16

by Max Derrickson

Johannes Brahms   (b Hamburg, 1833; d Vienna, 1897)

Serenade No. 2 in A-Major, Op. 16
I.    Allegro moderato
II.   Scherzo
III. Adagio non troppo
IV. Quasi Menuetto
V.   Rondo: Allegro


[. . .]

Brahms was not a rebel, but he had an amazing ear and an extraordinary amount of creative talent for composing.  Thus, even though he chose to write another serenade, in the footsteps of Mozart, Brahms finagled with the instrumentation to achieve his own sound.  That sound, in this Serenade No. 2, is hugely rich and deep, employing only woodwinds, horns, violas, cellos and double basses – for texture’s sake, the violins were left out completely.  Brahms did, however, stick with Mozart’s five movement serenade format and adhered to basic Classical structures, yet typical of his works to come, the Romantic harmonies and melodies he creates are wondrous.

Each movement has its own, sweet charm, but the Adagio is especially lovely, and contains a Romantic style tip-of-the-hat to one of Brahms’ great heroes, J.S. Bach.  Whereas in Baroque music, and certainly in Bach’s Cantatas, a movement would not end in resolution to the tonic in order to propel the work forward and prepare the listener for the next movement, Brahms ends his Adagio in much the same, unresolved way – an homage that creates a striking and winsome effect.    [. . .]