About this work
At the age of 20, on his third and final try, Brahms established himself as a master of a genre that, decades earlier, Beethoven infused with a new level of personal expression and, indeed, epochally transformed: the solo piano sonata. In terms of both form and expression, Brahms' Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor is conceived on a grand scale. The first movement, marked Allegro maestoso (though many pianists seem to play it Adagio maestoso), indeed opens majestically, with a theme marked by great solid chords that range across the entire keyboard. The second subject begins lyrically, but it, too, swells in grandeur, and the whole movement builds to a triumphant climax in the bright major mode. The slow movement, Andante, is one of the great love poems in music, its two lyrical themes combining at last in a magnificent expression of rapturous passion. The Scherzo is a dark and dramatic waltz for which the grandly solemn, chordal Trio provides welcome relief. A haunting Intermezzo, a disturbing movement with ghostly echoes of the Sonata's opening, is followed by the Finale, in which a dark, gnarly dance of death is contrasted with a broad, confident chordal second subject. In contrast to conventional sonata practice, the second theme ultimately prevails, bringing this youthful masterwork to a triumphant conclusion.