But the one who is addressed does not speak; the question “Now, Lord, how can I console myself?” remains open. After reaching the climax, the accumulated energy has to disintegrate somehow. Repeating the last words in an echo functions as ‘discharging’. Everything slows down and finally comes to a halt on the question mark: the #ivo7. The expectation of a resolution is not fulfilled; the expectation-tension turns into denial-tension. At the same time, there is a harmonic expectation, as this last chord implies continuation. It doesn’t, however, need to be the continuation that one expects in the theoretical way (the V, perhaps of the A.C.). The G# dim7 chord has lost some of its harmonic implications due to the changed register, so many iterations, and the B in the lowest voice (without the bass). Listen to the section from m.142:
When the music finally continues, the cadential V6/4 sounds and the listener is relieved, this is going to be the final cadence. The dominant, underlined with the D-pedal (A) in the bass is greatly expanded, hosting another imitative part on the words “My hope is in Thee”. This clearly cadential progression has another closing feature: the Picardy third. The harmonic progression above the dominant pedal is: V6/4 ->5/3 - V6/4 -> (viio7)ii - ii - V7 - V6/4 -> 7. The starting V6/4 is retaken at the end of the phrase. The harmonic rhythm is decelerated close to the final resolution into V7, the tempo is retarded, and the final chords are emphasized by the wind instruments: it is the gesture that prepares us for the final tonic chord, the harmonic end of the piece. Listen to the section before the fugue begins:
The final, major tonic has arrived. The tempo has immediately become faster, which suits well the overwhelming excitement about the fulfilled expectation of the so-long-expected ‘final’ chord. The insecurity throughout the whole movement is now over. The excitement puts focus on the strong cadence, strong tonic, major, synchronized in all the voices; the listener enjoys the final resolution.
The fast movement in all the voices has the mood of a motoric Baroque polyphony. The interaction of this notion, with awareness of the tonic pedal and continuation of harmonic progression confirms the closure: the listener recognizes the model closing tonic pedal (of a fugue or a prelude). The ‘exhaling’ after so much tension is taking place, after all it was not a sad end, there is hope. The attention is weakened. In the text, this last part is a sort of epilogue, an external conclusion, the final words that come after the story is told. Musically, a coda. Listen to the fugue:
At the moment the listener becomes aware that the tonic pedal is not just prolonging the final harmony, that the piece is not ended and that something else is taking place, the first voices have already exposed the theme of the fugue. The last section of the third movement is the whole fugue, set above the tonic pedal in the bass, the pedal of A German Requiem.
The fugue could certainly not be expected. If the listener was indeed overwhelmed by the resolution, if she has indeed allowed herself to just enjoy in the moment and lose focus, then she cannot perceive the wholeness of the fugue, she has missed one part due to the pedal. But at a certain moment she is aware that this is a new section.
At that moment things invert: the pedal was the foundation of the final resolution but now it is accompanying a new section, it is ‘just’ a tonic pedal. At some point it is becoming dissonant, first with the harmonies, then with the keys. The moments it is still considered being the end of the movement (closing T-pedal), the listener is not surprised to hear the subdominant and the dominant chord above it. The first surprise comes when the following, tonic chord (D major), transforms into (viio7)V. This means directing towards the dominant area, which is not characteristic of closing T-pedal. The dominant hosts the answer of the fugue-theme, and naturally, the tonic comes back with the next entry. The pedal is so alternating between being consonant and being dissonant. The listener is possibly in a momentary confusion, trying to find the interpretation that will fit all the musical events, including the higher-level structure. Recognizing imitation of a (quite long) theme, the listener perhaps sees the possibility that the other voices are also going to imitate it. This would result in a fugal exposition, and the listener becomes aware of the pedal that starts sounding as a deviation. What has begun as a textbook example of T-pedal, is now turning into a ‘too-long’ pedal. The pedal should have stopped. Perhaps Brahms has envisioned another structural moment to terminate it. As it is discussed in the chapter ‘Models’, opening T-pedals are often either very short, hosting the basic idea, or somewhat longer, hosting the first phrase (or its first half). In either case, the termination of the pedal comes at a moment of structural differentiation. If one focusses on this ‘deviating’ pedal, the attention gets directed to the structural gestures, such as closing figures, retardations, culminations, and similar. When recognizing these gestures, the listener experiences also the expectation-tension related to the pedal, as she knows that the pedal is just ‘waiting’ for the right moment to stop (or resolve or contribute to any change). The listener is also waiting.
After all the voices have exposed the theme, the soprano starts the fifth entry, that transforms into a long melismatic line in the home key (the other voices decrease their activity, to make space), quite closural in its nature (see figure 7). This gesture, together with the pedal, create the ground for the expectation of the closure. However, instead of a proper resolution into the tonic chord, the movement continues, modulating into G major. Not only that the piece is not finalized, the pedal tone has changed its harmonic function, and shortly after that, the key is again changed. The listener might not have any more expectations concerning the pedal.
The listener might experience a slight confusion related to the pedal tone, and turn the full attention to the polyphony, ignoring the pedal. At the moment the music modulates to A major (with a number of stretto entries), the pedal becomes dissonant also with the key. Although it does belong to the tone collection, at the moment it is not the tonic or the dominant, and thus it is (temporary) not any more perceived as harmonic pedal (see the discussion in ‘Models’), it is not implicative in harmonic sense. Its working is in sonorous realm. In this case, the pedal on D under the other events in A major is probably not felt as subdominant but as simply dissonant. The function of its pitch in this context is not clear, and it is slowly losing the harmonic potential. It is coloring the other events more with its sound than with its harmonic function: it is turning into a drone. This drone is not foundational in the sense of anchoring the music to one central pitch - because in this context the D cannot be the central pitch on the local level. It becomes a textural drone. The most important relations at the moment are counterpointal - at least if the attention is focused on the local-level events. This is, however, just one of the possibilities. Another is holding on to the home-key tonic, in which case the events in A major sound as becoming more and more detached, as a digression that has perhaps become an independent story.
‘Duck or rabbit?’ Probably both, to a certain extent (or alternatively). When the conflicting interaction (dissonance) between the pedal tone and the current key, or between such a long pedal and the fugue polyphony transforms into competitive interaction, the listener’s focus is a crucial factor, deciding which of the two to follow as the primary source. In case the listener chooses to hold on to the tonic-ness of the pedal, it does, indeed become the harmonic anchor to the home-key. In case the listener wants to enjoy the interweaving of themes and other polyphonic layers, she might (unconsciously) choose to ignore the drone for a moment. If this happens, the drone becomes a part of the canvas, a sonorous foundation for the events in A major. It will not be possible to totally ignore it, as the pedal is scored in organ pedals, basses and cellos, contra bassoon, continuous timpani beats, tuba, and trombones. The sound will be there even if one tries not to listen, but the meaning of it will change.
This short case study has shown how the interaction between the pedal tone(s), the other musical events, and the listener’s experience with tonal music influences the meaning of the perceived patterns. The assigned meaning of the dominant pedal before the fugue starts influences the forming of the meaning of the fugue pedal. The forming of the understanding of this extraordinary pedal (while listening to this movement) influences the way this pedal is heard. In turn, the kind of attention we want to give to this pedal will influence the way it colors the music.
 This place could be ascribed double meaning. On the one hand, as interpreted here, the harmonic means (especially the dominant pedal) realize the closing gesture: we are in the cadence that still has to resolve. On the other hand, the Picardy third, which is indeed the sign of the end, is usually coming at the end of the cadence, as the resolution of the dominant. The ascending motif that is spreading throughout the voices (reaching very high register in soprano and tenor), in such calm unfolding are almost symbolic for the ascension of the soul and uniting with God. In this sense the melodic means suggest a coda.