After a sostenuto opening which dances around the 5th of the scale, the movement begins a simple fugue, with the theme first stated by the viola, followed by 1st violin, and cello (slightly modified). After a crescendo building on all voices at once into a contrasting coda, a middle section leverages variations and fragments of the original theme, with the cello using an upside-down version in a solo statement. When the original fugal theme returns, it is never fully restated, though a “tangled” version leads to a return of the 1st section’s coda, and the original key.

The keys in this movement cycle downward by minor 3rds, starting with B minor, then G# minor, F minor, D minor, and returning to B minor.

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