FIVE SONGS (LIEDER) FOR LOW VOICE, OP. 105
The fifteen songs published in three sets of five,
Opp. 105, 106,
and 107, are
the last “standard” Lieder by Brahms. Only the Vier ernste
Gesänge to biblical texts, among his very last
utterances, would follow. These songs are utterly gratifying
for performers and listeners, displaying the supreme mastery of
someone who had spent more than thirty years perfecting the craft
of text setting. While several song groups rival the Op. 105
set in greatness (most notably Op. 96 among the later Lieder), it is
difficult to find one more unified in theme, more carefully
planned in structure and form. This is not immediately
apparent because complete performance almost requires two
singers. No. 2 is in an explicitly feminine voice, while No.
5 is not only explicitly masculine, but one of only two songs
outside the Vier
ernste Gesänge where Brahms notated the vocal part in
the bass clef. Like Op. 86 and Op. 94, the set is specified for low
voice in the original keys, but of course high key editions have
been published. The opening song, one of his most familiar
and melodious, functions as an introduction to the themes of the
remaining four. Groth’s highly abstract lines about the
fusion of word and melody are rendered comprehensible by Brahms’s
flowing setting, with its varied closing for each strophe.
The four songs that follow seem to present “feminine” and
“masculine” viewpoints on the alternating themes of “death” and
romantic “betrayal.” The image of the dying girl addressing
her beloved in No. 2 is easily one of the most masterful unions of
words and music, in direct response to the sentiments of No.
1. No. 3 is a simple strophic folk setting, but one in which
the musical expression within the verse is deftly tailored to fit
all the texts. The profound No. 4, with its quotation of the
chorale melody associated with Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and
musing on death, clearly anticipates the mood of the Vier ernste
Gesänge. Finally, No. 5, though set to a less
than exalted text by a minor poet Brahms oddly favored, is a great
dramatic song by any standard, an awesome vehicle for baritone and
bass singers, and a extremely effective culmination for the
set. A narrative ballad yields to a middle section more like
an actual staged scene, with the memorable climactic murder of the
jealous narrator’s rival.
Jessye Norman, soprano (Nos. 1-3); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,
baritone; Daniel Barenboim, piano [DG 449 633-2]
Note: Links to English translations of the
texts are from Emily Ezust’s site at http://www.lieder.net.
For the most part, the translations are line-by-line, except where
the difference between German and English syntax requires slight
alterations to the contents of certain lines. The German
texts (included here) are also visible in the translation links.
IMSLP WORK PAGE
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First
Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck--original key edition and
higher key edition. Higher keys of Nos. 2-4 match
Peters high-key edition. The D-flat key given here for No.
1 was not included in Peters.)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From
Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke--original
keys--includes front matter of Sämtliche Werke, v.
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by Max
No. 1: Wie Melodien zieht es mir (in
original key, A major)
No. 1: Wie Melodien zieht es mir (in high key, C major)
No. 1: Wie Melodien zieht es
mir (in middle key, B-flat major)
No. 2: Immer leiser wird mein
Schlummer (in original key, C-sharp minor)
No. 2: Immer leiser wird mein
Schlummer (in high key, F minor)
Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer (in middle key, D minor)
No. 3: Klage (in original key, F major)
No. 3: Klage (in high key, B-flat
No. 4: Auf dem Kirchhofe (in
original key, C minor)
No. 4: Auf dem Kirchhofe
(in high key, E minor)
4: Auf dem Kirchhofe (in middle key, D minor)
No. 5: Verrat (in original
key, B minor)
No. 5: Verrat (in high key, E-flat minor)
1. Wie Melodien zieht es mir (It Moves Like Melodies).
Text by Klaus Groth. Zart (Tenderly). Modified
strophic form. A MAJOR, Cut time [2/2] (High key C major
[Peters] or D-flat major [Simrock], middle key B-flat major).
Wie Melodien zieht es
Mir leise durch den Sinn,
Wie Frühlingsblumen blüht es,
Und schwebt wie Duft dahin.
Doch kommt das Wort und faßt es
Und führt es vor das Aug’,
Wie Nebelgrau erblaßt es
Und schwindet wie ein Hauch.
Und dennoch ruht im Reime
Verborgen wohl ein Duft,
Den mild aus stillem Keime
Ein feuchtes Auge ruft.
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza (Strophe) 1. The piano bass
provides the downbeat, and the voice enters immediately with the
soaring, arching line that will begin each of the three
verses. The piano establishes a continuous pattern of sempre
dolce arpeggios, arching, then rising. The second
line makes a brief harmonic detour to B-flat as the piano
arpeggios add subtle harmonies to the top notes. The vocal
line introduces a long-short rhythm that will become
pervasive. The piano becomes less active under the third
line, moving to alternations and broken octaves, then
reactivates for the fourth, as the voice and piano both settle
on the “dominant” harmony, with the voice doubled and harmonized
by the right hand.
0:24 [m. 9]--As the voice completes the line, the piano
begins a descending sequence of mildly chromatic syncopated
thirds in the right hand that will appear in all the verses,
regardless of the harmonic context. The left hand also
adds mild syncopation in its arching arpeggios. This
sequence creates a bridge of almost two measures leading to a
repetition of the last line with a more complete closure in the
“dominant” E major. The piano then has another bridge in
which its arpeggios quickly move back to the home key.
0:39 [m. 14]--Stanza (Strophe) 2. The opening piano
downbeat flows from the previous bridge, but after that, the
setting of the first two lines closely matches that of stanza
1. Leading into the third line, the piano figures are
subtly reversed between the hands. The setting of the line
itself is also artfully, almost imperceptibly changed.
This prepares for the new setting of the fourth line, which
avoids the previous upward leap and descent, also avoiding the
“dominant” harmony, instead moving toward D major, the
“subdominant” key. The more subdued setting matches the
“disappearing breath” of the text.
1:02 [m. 22]--In the new harmonic environment, the
syncopated thirds and arpeggios appear as before to bridge into
the repetition of the last line. This time, the repetition
itself makes a further harmonic detour, moving toward a full
cadence in F-sharp minor, the “relative” minor key. Under
the repetition, the piano accompaniment still doubles the voice,
but now the right-hand entries are delayed until after the beat,
and the left hand is more active, adding wide leaps.
1:11 [m. 25]--The bridge to the third stanza is extended
by a full measure. After the cadence in F-sharp minor, the
piano slides the note F-sharp down to F, moving back to a
harmony on D, but the note F makes it D minor instead of D
major. At the last moment, minor changes back to major,
and a “plagal” cadence leads back to the home key, a very
different approach than the lead-in to the second stanza.
1:21 [m. 28]--Stanza (Strophe) 3. This time the
first three lines all match the setting of stanza 1, but the
striking surprise comes with the fourth line. Already in
the previous bridge, Brahms had shifted the note F-sharp down to
F. Here he does it again, but now the goal is F major, the
most significant harmonic detour from the home key. As in
the second stanza, the vocal line avoids the leap and
descent. The piano has leaping octaves in the left hand
that also have a half-step shift with the motion to F.
1:45 [m. 36]--The syncopated thirds and arpeggios appear
as expected, but now the third line is repeated as well as the
fourth. The syncopated figures are extended under the
repetition of the third line, which moves steadily downward and
shifts smoothly from F to B-flat. The voice pauses briefly
after this line. The harmony seems forcefully willed back
home to A major under the repetition of the last line as B-flat
leads very quickly to the preparatory “dominant” harmony.
This occurs under the words “ein feuchtes,” which are given an
extra repetition to a leap and descent in straight notes,
avoiding the long-short rhythm. This marks the arrival of
A major. The final descent on “Auge ruft” uses longer
notes to emphasize the cadence.
2:08 [m. 43]--Piano postlude. As the warm and
satisfying final vocal descent is concluded, the piano arpeggios
rise, then emerge into a series of three four-note descents that
begin on weak beats, creating a mild cross-rhythm. The
first and third of these overlap bar lines. The
cross-rhythms are marked by rolled figures in the left
hand. After the last of these, with the right hand having
descended into the middle range, the sense of meter is
restored. Unlike the final vocal cadence, that of the
piano is a “plagal” cadence nearly identical to the one that led
into the third stanza. It slows down leading into the
closing rolled chord.
2:32--END OF SONG [46 mm.]
2. Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer (My Slumber Grows
Ever More Peaceful). Text by Hermann von Lingg.
Langsam und leise (Slowly and quietly). Modified strophic
form. C-SHARP MINOR (ending in D-FLAT MAJOR), Cut time
[2/2], with two measures of 3/2 (High key F minor, middle key D
Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer,
Nur wie Schleier liegt mein Kummer
Zitternd über mir.
Oft im Traume hör’ ich dich
Rufen drauß vor meiner Tür:
Niemand wacht und öffnet dir,
Ich erwach’ und weine bitterlich.
Ja, ich werde sterben müssen,
Eine Andre wirst du küssen,
Wenn ich bleich und kalt.
Eh’ die Maienlüfte wehn,
Eh’ die Drossel singt im Wald:
Willst du mich noch einmal sehn,
Komm, o komme bald!
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1, lines 1-3. On a half-measure,
with no introduction, the dying narrator begins to sing. The
opening figure, turning below and then above a central note in
long-short rhythm, is the main musical argument. The right
hand of the piano doubles and harmonizes the voice while the left
hand plays constant upward leaps beginning off the beat, mostly
octaves but also fifths and sixths, some dissonant. The
first line is a closed cadence. The piano bridges to the
second with the same long-short rhythm. It is set higher,
and leads directly into the short third line, which works
downward. After pausing again, the singer repeats “über mir”
in longer notes ending in a full cadence. A left-hand
arpeggio leads into the next lines.
0:43 [m. 10]--Stanza 1, lines 4-5. The piano left
hand has broken its pattern under the cadence and now emerges into
a series of arpeggios that turn downward at the top. This is
the accompaniment pattern for these next two lines, with the right
hand echoing the cadence. The two lines are somewhat
brighter, moving to the “relative” major key over the warm
arpeggios. After the fifth line, the last arpeggio bridges
into a new syncopated accompaniment in the right hand.
1:01 [m. 15]--Stanza 1, lines 6-7. Off-beat pulses
begin in the right hand, first in thirds, then full chords.
The singer tries to rise, then breaks off, the piano arpeggio
moving from E major to G major. She tries again on the next
words, beginning a step lower, the key moving now to F
major. With the third attempt on the last line, another step
lower, she finally succeeds in rising higher, the key now E
minor. Having reached a high point of pitch and volume on
“weine,” she quickly descends and diminishes on
“bitterlich.” Those words, “weine bitterlich,” are repeated,
trailing off in longer notes, prolonged by two inserted measures
of 3/2 meter. The key slides from E minor to E major and
then back home to C-sharp minor with an arpeggio.
1:47 [m. 25]--Stanza 2, line 1. The last beat of the
second 3/2 measure serves as the upbeat (previously a
half-measure) to begin the second stanza with the same music that
began the first. The music previously used for the first
line of stanza 1, however, is given by the piano alone, without
the singer, who is gathering her strength after the
collapse. She then enters to sing the first line of stanza 2
to the music previously used for the second line of stanza
1, an artful “shift” that allows the composer to set the next line
to new music within the basic strophe. The piano bridge even
continues with music from the original third line.
2:10 [m. 31]--Stanza 2, lines 2-3. These lines are
set to new music, but there are still some similarities to what
has gone before. The second line has the same basic descent
heard at the beginning of the song, but it reaches lower, leading
into the ending note from below. The piano echoes this in a
continuation as the singer pauses. The new third line stays
low, leaping, then trailing. As with the third line in the
first stanza, words are repeated leading to a cadence, in this
case the desolate “bleich und kalt.” The vocal line dips to
the singer’s lowest pitch. But now after the new music comes
the familiar left-hand arpeggio for lines 4-5.
2:41 [m. 37]--Stanza 2, lines 4-5. The arpeggios lead
back into the music from 0:43 [m. 10], with the motion to the
“relative” major key. There is only a very slight adjustment
to the piano part under the fifth line. As before, the last
arpeggio bridges into the syncopated thirds in the right hand.
2:59 [m. 42]--Stanza 2, lines 6-7. The first rising
attempt in the vocal line seems to match 1:01 [m. 15], with the
motion to G major. But now the second attempt is higher,
not lower, moving to B-flat instead of F, and she also begins to
build in volume. The piano continues this buildup in the
arpeggio and bridge to the last attempt on the final line.
As she sings “komm, o komme,” the piano artfully slides from
B-flat major into D-flat, with a change of key signature from
sharps to flats (this is a re-spelling of the “home” or “parallel”
major key on C-sharp). This turn to the home major
represents the climax of pitch and volume.
3:18 [m. 47]--Having reached the high point and spending
all of the character’s strength, the singer quickly descends over
the piano’s D-flat-major arpeggio and syncopated chords,
stretching out the word “komme.” The last notes slide by
half-step into the final word “bald” on a dissonant “diminished
seventh” harmony. There are no more arpeggios, but the
syncopated chords continue, diminishing quickly. The singer
repeats the plea of the final line, reaching the warm cadence as
the piano’s syncopation breaks. The piano utters two more
sets of repeated syncopated chords in the middle register, the
second on another colorful harmony, then concludes with a low
octave downbeat and a full major chord.
4:00--END OF SONG [53 mm.]
3. Klage (Lament). Allegedly a folk text from
the lower Rhine, but probably written by the compiler, Anton
Wilhelm Florentin von Zuccalmaglio. Einfach und
ausdrucksvoll (Simply and full of expression--voice); Andante
espressivo (piano part). Simple strophic form. F
MAJOR, 3/4 time (High key B-flat major).
(The title Klage is also used for Op. 69, Nos. 1 and
Feins Liebchen, trau du nicht,
Daß er dein Herz nicht bricht!
Schön Worte will er geben,
Es kostet dein jung Leben,
Glaubs sicherlich, glaubs sicherlich!
Ich werde nimmer froh,
Denn mir ging es also:
Die Blätter vom Baum gefallen
Mit den schönen Worten allen,
Ist Winterzeit, ist Winterzeit!
Es ist jetzt Winterzeit,
Die Vögelein sind weit,
Die mir im Lenz gesungen,
Mein Herz ist mir gesprungen
Vor Liebesleid, vor Liebesleid.
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza (strophe) 1, lines 1-2. Beginning
with an upbeat, the singer presents two identical phrases, a
long-short rhythm after the upbeat being their main
distinction. They seem to press forward in a gentle
manner. The piano discreetly accompanies, reiterating the
“dominant” note C in the bass. The harmony is changed under
the end of the second phrase to move toward the “relative” minor
key (D minor).
0:08 [m. 5]--Stanza 1, lines 3-4. These two lines
also use the long-short rhythm, but they move steadily and
sequentially downward and feature a “leaning” note (a so-called
“appoggiatura”) at the end of each phrase. Another minor
key, the “supertonic” G minor, asserts itself, but the end of the
fourth line veers back to D minor. Under these lines, the
piano has rests on the downbeats and plays slurred chords on the
second and third beats of each measure.
0:15 [m. 9]--Stanza 1, line 5. Swelling in both pitch
and volume, the singer presents the first statement to a slower
descending arpeggio that seems to want to move back to
major. The repetition, however, continues to descend,
re-introduces the long-short rhythm, and falls to a full arrival
on the “relative” minor key. The piano becomes steadily more
active under these two climax phrases of repeated text.
Under the first statement, with longer notes in the voice, the
right hand descends in faster notes using double third harmonies
after longer notes on the downbeats. Under the repetition,
the harmonies become faster and more colorful, including an
unusual “augmented” chord on the last word.
0:22 [m. 13]--Piano postlude. The volume quickly
returns to a quiet level. For two measures, with their
upbeats, the closing vocal phrase is echoed, then moved up a
third. Both are still in the same minor key. But then
the opening major key is finally re-established with another
upward sequence. The right hand has chords in the slower
rhythm of the vocal climax, and the left plays wide, soothing
arpeggios in the now-familiar faster notes. The complete
symmetry is disrupted at the very end by an added fifth measure
that serves to fully confirm the return to major.
0:30 [m. 1]--Stanza (strophe) 2, lines 1-2. The
similar thematic progress of the three verses lends itself to the
simple strophic repetition.
0:37 [m. 5]--Stanza 2, lines 3-4. As at 0:08, but
with added syllables disrupting the long-short rhythm of the third
line and splitting the upbeat of the fourth.
0:43 [m. 9]--Stanza 2, line 5. Climax with repeated
text, as at 0:15.
0:50 [m. 13]--Piano postlude, as at 0:22.
0:59 [m. 1]--Stanza (strophe) 3, lines 1-2, as at the
beginning and 0:30.
1:07 [m. 5]--Stanza 3, lines 3-4, as at 0:08 and
0:37. Declamation as in stanza 1.
1:13 [m. 9]--Stanza 3, line 5. Climax with repeated
text, as at 0:15 and 0:43.
1:20 [m. 13]--Piano postlude, as at 0:22 and 0:50.
1:36--END OF SONG [17 mm. (x3)]--Stanza 3 is written out
(not marked with repeat signs) in the original (Simrock) and
Peters editions, but not in the Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche
4. Auf dem Kirchhofe (In the Churchyard).
Text by Detlev von Liliencron. Mäßig (Moderately--voice);
Andante moderato (piano part). Modified strophic form.
C MINOR (ending C MAJOR), 3/4 and 4/4 time (High key E minor,
middle key D minor).
Der Tag ging regenschwer und sturmbewegt,
Ich war an manch vergessenem Grab gewesen,
Verwittert Stein und Kreuz, die Kränze alt,
Die Namen überwachsen, kaum zu lesen.
Der Tag ging sturmbewegt und regenschwer,
Auf allen Gräbern fror das Wort: Gewesen.
Wie sturmestot die Särge schlummerten,
Auf allen Gräbern taute still: Genesen.
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1. The piano begins with a brief,
but stormy and powerful introduction depicting the rainstorm on
the graveyard. It starts on the upbeat, with a sweeping
upward arpeggio in 32nd notes on the chord of A-flat. This
leads to a dissonant “diminished” chord on the downbeat. The
pattern continues for four total statements. All the upbeat
arpeggios are on the harmony of A-flat, but with the bass anchored
on the keynote C. After two statements with the dissonant
chord (on D), the next two land on the “dominant” chord, but with
the keynote C persisting in the bass. The vocal entry
follows the fourth statement.
0:13 [m. 5]--Lines 1-2. The vocal entry coincides
with a fifth upbeat arpeggio, in seven notes, and the first line
continues over a sixth. These are quieter than the
introduction. The presentation is anguished, but
declamatory, allowing the piano arpeggios and dissonant chords to
lead it down from the opening cry. After the first line is
sung, the piano has one more arpeggio, but it is a slower six-note
group. With the second line, the accompaniment moves to
steadier left-hand octaves on downbeats and right-hand chords off
the beat. This quiets down even more and trails down to a
delayed arrival on the “dominant” harmony. At this arrival
point on “gewesen,” the meter changes to 4/4 for the third and
0:32 [m. 10]--Lines 3-4. The piano plays a brief
lead-in on the upbeat as the voice pauses. Moving briefly to
F minor, this is also heard under the third line, which has a
halting character matched by the pauses in the piano. Under
the fourth line, the piano bass moves down forcefully, and the
right hand has mild syncopation. The voice rises strongly
here, seemingly prepared for another arrival on the “dominant,”
but at the point of arrival, the piano erupts into a line
seemingly reminiscent of the main melodic figure from another song
in the group, “Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer” (the other
“death” song). The “dominant” itself is tinged with a biting
“ninth” note above it, and a descending arpeggio plunges back into
1:01 [m. 16]--Stanza 2. The introduction is heard as
it was at the beginning of the song, approached from the last beat
of the first bar in the return to 3/4 meter.
1:13 [m. 20]--Lines 1-2. The first line is presented
exactly as it was in Stanza 1. The text is similar, but the
adjectives are reversed. The second line seems as if it will
also continue as before, but a second six-note arpeggio appears,
and both the voice and the bass line are driven upward. The
bass moves up chromatically by half-step. Two more six-note
arpeggios disrupt the previous accompaniment pattern for this
line. The rising bass and voice swell to a climax on the key
word “Gewesen” on the “subdominant” harmony of F minor, to which
the bass has risen. The voice sings the word to a descending
arpeggio that recalls the one leading back to 3/4, in contour if
not in harmony. The piano echoes this, trailing in two-note
1:37 [m. 26]--Line 3. The meter again changes to 4/4
at this point, but now the minor key yields to major for the
transfigured close of the song. The setting of these lines
is entirely different from stanza 1. Suddenly hushed, the
piano leads from its echo into a rich chordal texture, with a
solid bottom line supporting a syncopated descent in both
hands. The voice enters on line 3 with another descending
line that is in fact a quotation of the familiar Hassler/Bach
“passion chorale” heard so frequently in the St. Matthew
Passion. After the descent, the voice rises to sing a
descending arpeggio on “schlummerten.”
1:58 [m. 29]--Line 4. This line also begins with the
“passion chorale” descent, moved up a third in pitch and shifted
forward two beats in the meter. The piano’s right hand now
moves to off-beat chord figures, with the left in low bass
octaves. After the descent, the voice leaps up to sing
“still,” then pauses as the piano’s off-beat figures lead to the
clinching word “Genesen.” This word, “healed,” is imbued
with spirituality through the passion melody and the warm,
extended major-key cadence to which it is set. Under the
cadence, the piano plays a major-key transformation of its music
from the end of stanza 1.
2:21 [m. 33]--The piano postlude reverentially continues
the mildly syncopated cadence music, then slows to reiterated
C-major chords, also syncopated and held across strong
beats. The final held chord is widely spaced, perfectly
clinching the musical and textual message of the song’s closing
3:01--END OF SONG [36 mm.]
5. Verrat (Betrayal). Text by Karl
Lemcke. Angemessen bewegt (With controlled, steady
motion--voice); Con moto (piano part). Combination of
modified strophic and ternary forms. B MINOR, 4/4 time (High
key E-flat minor--curiously this is the key of the middle section
in the original B-minor setting).
Ich stand in einer lauen Nacht
An einer grünen Linde,
Der Mond schien hell, der Wind ging sacht,
Der Gießbach floß geschwinde.
Die Linde stand vor Liebchens Haus,
Die Türe hört’ ich knarren.
Mein Schatz ließ sacht ein Mannsbild raus:
»Laß morgen mich nicht harren;
Laß mich nicht harren, süßer Mann,
Wie hab’ ich dich so gerne!
Ans Fenster klopfe leise an,
Mein Schatz ist in der Ferne!«
Laß ab vom Druck und Kuß, Feinslieb,
Du Schöner im Sammetkleide,
Nun spute dich, du feiner Dieb,
Ein Mann harrt auf der Heide.
Der Mond scheint hell, der Rasen grün
Ist gut zu unserm Begegnen,
Du trägst ein Schwert und nickst so kühn,
Dein’ Liebschaft will ich segnen! -
Und als erschien der lichte Tag,
Was fand er auf der Heide?
Ein Toter in dem Blumen lag
Zu einer Falschen Leide.
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1, lines 1-2. The brief
introduction, beginning on an upbeat, establishes the narrative
ballad character. An austere bass melody is punctuated by
off-beat chords in the tenor register. The singer (whose
line is unusually notated in the bass clef) also enters on an
upbeat. His melody is straightforward, distinguished by a
long-short rhythm to begin the first three measures. The
accompaniment continues in a restrained manner, with simple chords
in the middle of the measures. At the end of the second
line, the piano becomes more active, bridging to the next line
with an echo of the vocal melody in the bass.
0:16 [m. 8]-Stanza 1, lines 3-4. The third line
continues in a similar manner, with downward motion, still opening
measures with a long-short rhythm. The fourth line reaches
down and rises toward a full cadence, using the “melodic minor”
raised pitches to approach it. The piano moves to marching
bass octaves with more off-beat right hand chords under this
line. Then, in one of the distinctive features of the
setting, the last word of the stanza is repeated. This
happens in all stanzas except for Stanza 2 (whose last line is
attached to Stanza 3). These repetitions, reiterating the
cadence, are not in the original poem.
0:28 [m. 13]--Stanza 2, lines 1-3. The introduction
is repeated, and the setting of the first two lines exactly
matches that of Stanza 1. The vocal melody of line 3 is also
the same, but the volume level, matching the “secret” discovery of
the text in this line (the appearance of the rival) quiets down to
pianissimo, and the piano slows to long chords under
it. This prepares for the totally new music that sets the
speech of the unfaithful woman in the last line of this stanza and
the whole of Stanza 3.
0:50 [m. 22]--Stanza 2, line 4 and Stanza 3, lines
1-2. To depict the woman’s speech to her paramour, Brahms
sets the vocal line higher and marks it in a secretive sotto
voce. The closing line of Stanza 2 flows directly into
the first line of Stanza 3. These lines contain the repeated
entreaty “Laß (morgen) mich nicht harren (süßer Mann).” They
are set in the contrasting “subdominant” key of E minor.
They begin with the long-short rhythm, but quickly move to flowing
eighth notes. The piano plays a light alternation of
left-hand harmonies on the beat with the right hand following off
the beat. The second line of Stanza 3 follows directly,
“sweetly” descending to an arrival on the “relative” major key (D
major) and a brief vocal pause.
1:03 [m. 28]--Stanza 3, lines 3-4. The third line,
inviting the rival to knock on her door, is uttered breathlessly
in short notes, and there is another brief vocal pause. The
last line of the stanza moves strongly from the “relative” key of
D major to the “dominant” key of F-sharp major as the singer leaps
down and then rises. The repetition of the last word, as
established in Stanza 1, follows here, adding the emphasis
interjection “ja” to make three syllables with “Ferne” (this
happens in all the remaining stanzas as well, which end with
two-syllable words). For this line, Brahms indicates a
slowing, and the repetition trails upward before the piano
alternations come to a pause in anticipation of the contrasting
Part 2--Lebhafter (Livelier--voice); Più mosso (piano
part), E-flat minor
1:21 [m. 34]--Stanza 4, lines 1-2. E-flat minor looks
like a distant key, but it is not. It is identical to
D-sharp minor, the “relative” key to F-sharp major, where the
first part just ended. But the character changes suddenly
and dramatically, from narrative ballad to dramatic scene.
The perspective shifts from first person narrative to second
person address as the man confronts his rival. The vocal
melody has the same basic rhythm as the one from the first
section, and the shape is as if the earlier melody were turned
around and reversed. Faster moving notes are added to the
second line. At this point, the piano restrains itself to
forcefully punctuating chords. The second line ends on the
“dominant” harmony (B-flat).
1:29 [m. 38]--Stanza 4, lines 3-4. Under these lines,
the piano becomes more excited, adding descending three-note
groups harmonized in thirds against leaping bass octaves.
The voice leaps up and down on the third line before rising on the
fourth. Here, the piano breaks its patterns and harmonizes
the voice. The repetition of the last word (again with the
emphasizing “ja”) leaps back down to the low register and slows
down. After the voice again closes on the “dominant,” the
piano marches back down to E-flat in a thrilling bridge using
long-short rhythm in octaves.
1:44 [m. 45]--Stanza 5, lines 1-2. The vocal part
here is the same as in the first two lines of Stanza 4. The
piano part, however, is elaborated in a compositionally brilliant
manner. Against the first line, in bass octaves, the piano
plays the main melody from the first section, emphasizing
the connection. The right hand punctuates this with off-beat
octaves. The pattern continues when the quotation from the
opening section breaks under the second line.
1:51 [m. 49]--Stanza 5, lines 3-4. The third line is
the same as in stanza 4, in both the voice and piano part, with
the descending piano lines in thirds. As the last line
begins, however, the voice suddenly cuts off on “Liebschaft” with
a falling octave. For this climactic line of the song, new
text repetition is added. After breaking, the voice repeats
“dein Liebschaft,” then completes the line on a descent. As
it does, the key artfully changes back to B, major, not
minor. At the point of the key change, the last word
“segnen” is sung. The piano begins a new variant of its
active lines, harmonized like horn calls and turning back up.
2:00 [m. 54]--With excited passion, the man prepares to
slay the interloper. The entire line is repeated, including
the double statement of “dein Liebschaft,” with the voice echoing
the piano “horn call” in high notes against punctuating
chords. As he reaches the end, the piano again presents its
“horn call,” and the final word “segnen” leaps down an
octave. The “horn call” figure is extended higher.
There follows the “standard” repetition of the last word with “ja”
(in this case the third statement), set to a full measure note and
another downward octave leap against perilous chordal alternations
in the piano. These shift to minor at the last moment and
culminate in a powerfully dissonant held “diminished seventh” to
mark the murder.
Part 3--Wie zu Anfang (As at the beginning)
2:15 [m. 60]--As a transition back to the quiet narrative
mood after the terrifying dissonant chord, the piano has a more
extended lead-in than the previous introduction. The main
melody from the earlier verses is heard in the bass, with
harmonies in the tenor register. It then moves up to that
tenor register in longer notes. These are surprisingly
reminiscent of the word repetition from the very end of Stanza 4,
in the middle section. The entire lead-in is set over the
“dominant” harmony, where it comes to a hushed pause.
2:30 [m. 63]--Stanza 6, lines 1-2. The vocal line
here is unchanged from the corresponding lines of the first two
stanzas, but the piano accompaniment is in more sustained
harmonies, following the voice without the frequent breaks and
rests heard before. The echoing bridge is heard after the
second line, as expected.
2:50 [m. 68]--Stanza 6, lines 3-4. These lines are
intensified from Stanza 1. The two downward motions in line
3 reach a step lower. Instead of reaching down before its
upward motion, line 4 continues directly upward from line 3.
The line is thus higher (by a fourth), and reaches the cadence
“early,” on the first syllable of “Leide.” The piano does
move to the familiar marching bass octaves and off-beat
3:08 [m. 72]--It is left to the now-expected repetition of
the final word “Leide” (again with “ja”) to confirm and clinch
this cadence. The first syllable of “Leide” is held for a
full measure before leaping down, the piano further isolating its
chords to two in a measure. It plays these on the weak beats
with “dominant” harmony under the longer note (itself the
“dominant” note) before finally moving definitively to the “tonic”
B-minor chords under the vocal cadence. Here they move to
the downbeat. All are extremely quiet. The piano then
provides extreme contrast with a final “shocking” loud, held
B-minor chord in a higher range
3:40--END OF SONG [74 mm.]
END OF SET
BRAHMS LISTENING GUIDES HOME