FOUR SERIOUS SONGS (ERNSTE GESÄNGE) FOR BASS VOICE AND PIANO, OP. 121
Recording: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone (bass); Daniel Barenboim, piano [DG 449 633-2]

Published 1896.  Dedicated to Max Klinger.

While Brahms did not stick to his plan to retire from composition after the Op. 111 String Quintet, his production certainly decelerated.  The last two sets of piano pieces (Opp. 118-119) appeared in 1893, the huge collection of 33 folksong arrangements in 1894, and finally the two clarinet sonatas in 1895. The Four Serious Songs represent the only composition published in the last year of the composer’s life, and were in fact presented to the publisher on his last birthday.  They stand completely apart from his other songs, and are virtual motets in the clothing of art song.  They are compact, refined, uncompromising masterpieces.  The biblical texts are chosen from the pessimistic early chapters of Ecclesiastes and also from the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus (or Jesus Sirach).  The major-key hymn to love (or “charity”) from Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians is not as “serious,” but it represents the culmination of a progression across the cycle from bitterness to edification, from pessimistic realism to humanistic transcendence.  Nonetheless, as in the Requiem, Brahms wanted no misunderstanding, so they are explicitly “serious,” not “sacred.”  The songs were composed during Clara Schumann’s final illness.  The composer may or may not have been aware of the cancer that was taking root in his own body.  More likely, the knowledge of Clara’s coming death, coupled with a recent and depressing series of deaths among those close to him (some quite young), all contributed to the mood that brought these songs forth.  The prose texts from the Luther Bible do not admit strophic forms, but Brahms is careful to construct all four with clear elements of symmetry and balance.  The progression from despair to love across the set is reflected in the fact that each song becomes more “major” than the one before it.  No. 1 is completely minor.  Nos. 2 and 3 have major-key endings, but that of No. 3 is proportionally larger.  Nos. 2 and 3 display some thematic connections in their chains of descending thirds.  The piano parts are generally rather economical, although the faster “dust storm” sections of No. 1 and the many left-hand leaps of No. 4 are challenging.  No. 3, particularly when it reaches the section in 4/2 (alla breve), has a benedictory character from which No. 4 must work hard to escape.  The songs are meant for bass, made explicit by Brahms through his use of the bass clef (which he almost never employed in the vocal staves of song manuscripts).  A high-voice version exists, and women do sing them on occasion, but there is no doubt that Brahms’s indication of a lower male voice is the most suited for the songs, even when it is strained to its upper limit at the end of #4.  The texts lend themselves to several effective shifts of meter, tempo, and occasionally key.  This uncompromisingly honest final testament of the sung word is also a textbook pattern for how to set biblical texts in a skillful manner.  The dedication to Klinger acknowledges his series of prints inspired by Brahms’s music.

Note: The texts below are from the German Luther Bible text used by Brahms.  The King James Version is used as a comparable Reformation-era English text.  Lines are matched as closely as possible.  Scriptural references are listed in both German and English. 

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck--original keys, bass clef)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (from Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
ONLINE SCORES FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by Max Friedländer):
No. 1: Denn es gehet dem Menschen wie dem Vieh (original key, bass clef)
No. 1: Denn es gehet dem Menschen wie dem Vieh (in high key, F minor, treble clef)
No. 2: Ich wandte mich und sahe (original key, bass clef)
No. 2: Ich wandte mich und sahe (in high key, B-flat minor/major, treble clef)
No. 3: O Tod, wie bitter bist du! (original key, bass clef)
No. 3: O Tod, wie bitter bist du! (in high key, G minor/major, treble clef)
No. 4: Wenn ich mit Menschen- und mit Engelzungen redete (original key, bass clef)
No. 4: Wenn ich mit Menschen- und mit Engelzungen redete (in high key, G major, treble clef)


1. “Denn es gehet dem Menschen wie dem Vieh” (“For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts”).  Andante--Allegro--Andante--Allegro.  Alternating or varied binary form (ABA’B’).  D MINOR, 4/4, 3/4, and 9/4 time.

German Text:
--Denn es gehet dem Menschen wie dem Vieh;

wie dies stirbt, so stirbt er auch;
und haben alle einerlei Odem;
und der Mensch hat nichts mehr denn das Vieh:
denn es ist alles eitel.

--Es fährt alles an einen Ort;
es ist alles von Staub gemacht,
und wird wieder zu Staub.
--Wer weiß, ob der Geist des Menschen
aufwärts fahre,
und der Odem des Viehes unterwärts unter
die Erde fahre?

--Darum sahe ich, daß nichts bessers ist,
denn daß der Mensch fröhlich sei in seiner Arbeit,
denn das ist sein Teil.
Denn wer will ihn dahin bringen,
daß er sehe, was nach ihm geschehen wird?
                                --Prediger Salomo 3:19-22
English Text:
--For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts;
even one thing befalleth them:
as the one dieth, so dieth the other;
yea, they have all one breath;
so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast:
for all is vanity.

--All go unto one place;
all are of the dust,
and all turn to dust again.
--Who knoweth the spirit of man
that goeth upward,
and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward
to the earth?

--Wherefore, I perceive that there is nothing better,
than that a man should rejoice in his own works;
for that is his portion:
for who shall bring him
to see what shall be after him?
                                --Ecclesiastes 3:19-22

PART 1 (A). Andante, 4/4
0:00 [m. 1]--The piano, with the right hand in the tenor register and the left hand in the low bass, presents the opening vocal line as a two-bar introduction.  It is below a tolling bell sound on the “dominant” note, A.  The hands are mostly doubled, but when the right hand varies to anticipate the vocal line in the second bar, the left hand remains anchored to the pattern from the first bar.  The mood is funereal, direct, and solemn.
0:11 [m. 3]--The vocalist enters, singing the first words of verse 19 to the line just presented by the piano.  Underneath him, the pianist continues to reiterate the first bar of its introduction as an ostinato with the continuing “tolling” note on A.  At “wie dies stirbt,” the vocalist changes to even more deliberate motion with heavy “sighing” figures.  He reaches a cadence as the clause is completed with “so stirbt er auch.”  Under this clause, the “tolling” notes move briefly up and down from A, but the repeated line is unchanged, save for moving up an octave in the left hand (above the bass) on the last statement.
0:35 [m. 8]--Right after the cadence, the entire clause beginning with “wie dies stirbt” is repeated at a higher and more dramatic level.  The piano now breaks from its repetitions somewhat, playing the first half of the bar twice as the repetition begins, then moving to slower chords to support a motion to the “dominant” chord.  The piano then has a small interlude in which the basic motion of its previous ostinato line is finally played in harmony, here doubled in sixths and tenths.  Leading into the next portion, the line is imitated in octaves by the low bass.
1:00 [m. 13]--The next phrase of the verse (about “one breath”) is sung to similar lines.  First, the voice takes on three “tolling” notes before completing the phrase on a rising scale.  Then, the phrase is repeated to two of the arching patterns from the song’s opening, now at a higher level.  The accompaniment is directly derived from the previous interlude, with its harmonies on the moving line, which interestingly has an opposing descent against the voice’s rising scale.  The low bass imitation is heard between the two “arching” vocal lines on the second statement of the phrase.
1:22 [m. 18]--The remainder of the verse is set to essentially the same music as the first phrases from 0:11 [m. 3].  The line ending with the word “Vieh” is exactly parallel to the first phrase.  The following line, which sums up the verse, basically follows the music used for “wie dies stirbt,” but with minor alterations, including a new octave leap downward, to follow the declamation of “denn es ist alles eitel.”  The accompaniment, other than being marked sotto voce, is unaltered from its earlier parallel.
1:47 [m. 23]--The last phrase is repeated, and is highly similar to the repetition heard at 0:35 [m. 8], but Brahms adds some colorful inflections to the voice and piano on “alles” that add a sense of finality to the approaching cadence.  He also indicates an option for the singer to continue descending on “denn es ist” rather than taking the higher, dramatic line heard before.  Fischer-Dieskau sings the familiar higher line.
PART 2 (B).  Allegro, 3/4
2:02 [m. 26]--Robbing the vocal cadence of its promised power, Brahms merges it with a dramatic shift in meter and speed.  Over throbbing bass reiterations of the keynote D, the right hand plays rapid, hushed lines in triplet rhythm.  These begin with a scale starting after the downbeat, then move to arching arpeggios on a colorful “diminished seventh” chord.  This pattern is stated three times.  Each successive pattern is an octave (minus a half-step) higher than the last one.  The reiterations on D also move up an octave under each pattern, but instead of a low octave below, they are given G minor and then D major harmonies.  The last of these jumps back down under the arpeggios.
2:09 [m. 32]--The voice enters with verse 20.  Its first two phrases are sung to arching lines that move up on a scale and down on an arpeggio (a “diminished” seventh, as anticipated by the rushing piano motion).  Under these, the bass remains on its reiterated low D, but this moves down by step twice as the voice sings the descending arpeggio.  The right hand plays descending broken octaves under the rising scale, but these are still in triplet rhythm, so they clash somewhat with the vocal rhythm.  Simple rising arpeggios are heard under the vocal arpeggios.  The first phrase moves to G minor.  The second phrase is a transposition a step higher, moving to A minor.
2:18 [m. 40]--The third and last phrase of verse 20 plunges downward, both in the voice and the piano, the latter playing mostly “diminished seventh
arpeggios.  The throbbing bass is now on the “dominant” note as the music strongly moves back home to D minor.  After the singer finishes the verse, anticipating, but cutting short a full cadence, the piano echoes the line, decorating it with the continuing arpeggios, and it quiets rapidly, still with the throbbing low bass.  The arpeggios are broken up at the end, anticipating new music for verse 21.  Throughout the setting of verse 20, the piano depicts the dust.
2:25 [m. 46]--Verse 21 begins with a powerful downward leap of an octave.  The piano responds with downward-crashing chords on the last two beats of each bar, the bass notes of each bar moving down by thirds.  The voice than soars upward in a broken chord before plunging in another octave leap. 
2:30 [m. 50]--The verse continues with “aufwärts fahre,” the rising vocal line reflecting the text (“upward”).  The piano chords at this point, which now begin to include the downbeat, reflect the uncertainty by alternating low descending chords with high ascending ones (the descents tellingly under “aufwärts”).  The two words are repeated with a further upward move, then a third time in a descending arpeggio.  These repetitions have moved through A major, arriving on C-sharp minor.
2:36 [m. 55]--Beginning strong, and at a high level, the piano descent following verse 20 from 2:18 [m. 40] is heard in C-sharp minor at the conclusion of the last “fahre.”  It is given twice, the second time an octave lower.  This time, the left hand has downward and upward motion (mostly in thirds) against this.  Instead of the fragmentation heard before Verse 21, the decorated descent simply cuts off after its second statement.
2:41 [m. 60]--The contrasting corollary phrase about the spirit of the beasts begins as had the first part about the spirit of man at 2:25 [m. 46].  It is a step lower, in C-sharp minor, but it has the same ascending broken chord and downward octave leap, and the same sharp piano chords with bass notes descending by thirds. 
2:46 [m. 64]--At “unterwärts unter die Erde,” the music is varied.  Reflecting the text, the vocal line moves  downward.  The piano chords alternate between ascents and descents, as in the parallel passage earlier, but now the ascents are under “unterwärts,” reflecting the “opposition” to the text seen before, now in the other direction.  The ascents are low, the descents high.  The words “unterwärts unter die Erde” are repeated as they continue to descend, finally adding “fahre” and diminishing greatly.  Slow piano motion, with bass notes on downbeats and chords after, moves back through A major, slowing in preparation for the return.
PART 3 (A’).  Andante, 4/4
3:02 [m. 76]--The first sentence of Verse 22 is given to the music of the first part, but it artfully abbreviates and conflates the elements of that music.  With the arrival back on D minor, the first phrase is sung to the opening musical phrase.  The second phrase, however, skips to the contrasting music from 1:00 [m. 13], complete with the “tolling” notes.  It includes the ascending scale, but cuts off before the arching lines.  It is also set in G minor, a fourth higher than before.  The final phase, “denn das ist sein Teil,” returns to D minor and is set to a quiet descending cadence similar to the one that ended Part 1, but retaining accompaniment vestiges from the contrasting music at 1:00 [m. 13].
PART 4 (B’).  Allegro, 3/4 and 9/4
3:35 [m. 82]--This arrival is very similar to the one at 2:02 [m. 26], and again there are three patterns.  This time, though, the first two diminished seventh arpeggios are interrupted by another scale run before the next pattern, creating overlap and already making the interlude somewhat smoother than before.  The last pattern approaches the vocal entry with continuing arpeggios, as it had before.
3:42 [m. 88]--The opening vocal ascent on the second sentence of Verse 22 is very similar to 2:09 [m. 32], but the accompaniment is immediately different.  The broken chords are replaced by a straight descending line that is nearly a chromatic scale, with many half-steps, still in triplet rhythm.  At “dahin bringen,” the meter suddenly broadens to 9/4 and the accompanying triplets settle onto a trill with supporting harmonies.  The thumping bass notes move down by half-steps, with three groups in the 9/4 bar.  The word “bringen” actually departs from the previous vocal line at “Ort” in Verse 20 before breaking.
3:47 [m. 91]--The final phrase of the verse follows the rhythm of “dahin bringen” for “daß er sehe.”  The trill continues, but the thumping bass settles on the “dominant” note A, moving down to G but quickly back up.  The voice breaks again, then presents a new ascent for the remaining words, “was nach ihm geschehen wird.”  The piano breaks for two beats, then the trill enters again at a lower level in the middle of chords.  At first, it is slower, not in triplets, but speeds to the triplets again under “wird.”  The thumping bass again establishes itself on A, with a longer chord and the continuing trill under “wird.”
3:58 [m. 94]--Beginning on the last three beats of m. 93, the last words, “was nach ihm geschehen wird,” are repeated to longer, somewhat warmer notes, slowly leaping up and down and ending on the “dominant” note, A.  The music remains starkly in minor, though.  Under this repetition, the thumping bass settles on the keynote D.  The trill settles there, after moving briefly upward, under “ihm” on the downbeat.  The upper harmonies move slowly.  Under the final word “wird,” the trill spreads out to a bare fifth, which then breaks its motion as the vocalist drops out.  The bass slows by inserting syncopation.  This music has diminished under “geschehen wird,” maximizing the impact of the two sharp chords that end the song.
4:27--END OF SONG [98 mm.]


2. “Ich wandte mich und sahe” (“So I returned, and considered”).  Andante.  Through-composed form.  G MINOR--G MAJOR, 3/4 time.

German Text:
--Ich wandte mich und sahe an
alle, die Unrecht leiden unter der Sonne;
und siehe, da waren Tränen derer,
die Unrecht litten und hatten keinen Tröster;
und die ihnen Unrecht täten waren zu mächtig,
daß sie keinen Tröster haben konnten.

--Da lobte ich die Toten,
die schon gestorben waren
mehr als die Lebendigen,
die noch das Leben hatten;
--und der noch nicht ist, ist besser als alle beide,
und des Bösen nicht inne wird,
das unter der Sonne geschieht.
                                --Prediger Salomo 4:1-3
English Text:
--So I returned, and considered
all the oppressions that are done under the sun:
and behold, the tears of such
as were oppressed, and they had no comforter;
and on the side of their oppressors there was power;
but they had no comforter.

--Wherefore I praised the dead
which are already dead
more than the living
which are yet alive.
--Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been,
who hath not seen the evil work
that is done under the sun.
                                --Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

0:00 [m. 1]--In broken octaves beginning on an upbeat, the piano outlines the descending G-minor chord in short-long rhythm.  The singer follows with his opening words on the same descending pitches.  After he begins, a quiet rhythmic pattern of piano chords begins off the beat, the bass keeping the pulse.  The descending chords, both broken and blocked, underpin the piano pattern.  The mood is solemn and austere.  The vocal line leaps up to “und sahe” before winding back down over the continuing piano chord descents.
0:18 [m. 7]--At “die Unrecht leiden,” the voice has a new idea that begins with repeated notes and then gradually wends its way down, turning on “unter” and settling on “Sonne.”  This melodic idea is always associated with the word “Unrecht” (KJV “oppression,” “oppressed,” “oppressor”).  The piano begins by continuing the off-beat chords, which are now more static, but it then breaks into downward-winding inner lines that still begin off the beat.  The bass continues the idea of descending broken chords and motion downward in thirds.  The “Unrecht” idea is stated twice with the text, the first time ending in a half-cadence, and the second time beginning higher, ascending on “unter” and completing the cadence on G minor.
0:41 [m. 15]--The piano introduces the next idea, another descending broken-chord line that obtains tenderness through a gentle upward leap and sighing descent.  It is in the related major key of B-flat.  When the voice enters with “und siehe,” its downward leaps are larger.  “Siehe” is repeated.  The piano continues with an elaboration of the idea that is faster, includes syncopation, and introduces chromatic color notes.  At “da waren Tränen,” the voice takes up the tender idea first presented by the piano.  The accompaniment has slow syncopation.  The singer repeats “Tränen” to the faster, syncopated chromatic line heard under “und siehe,” now transferred to the vocal line.  The chromatic harmonies continue with the sighing “derer.”
1:06 [m. 23]--The next line of the verse, which includes the word “Unrecht,” is again set to the “Unrecht” idea beginning with repeated notes.  Its ending is inflected a step downward from the first appearance.  The harmony is active, moving from B-flat to D minor.  There follows the next line of the verse, which also includes “Unrecht,” and sets the idea even higher, with the repeated notes on the singer’s highest pitch yet.  It leads to a strong cadence on D minor.  The accompaniment throughout both lines is on the familiar patterns of off-beat descents, broken chords there and in the bass, and winding lines with chromatic notes.  The rising chords after “mächtig” make a motion to major.
1:29 [m. 31]--For the last line of the verse, Brahms goes back to the tender idea heard at 0:41 [m. 15].  It is now in D major.  The piano lines under this are quite elaborate, including some syncopation, with the hands moving in opposite directions.  The word “keinen” is repeated before the completion of the verse.  This begins on the faster syncopated chromatic line that was heard before, starting on a new high pitch.  At “haben konnten,” this syncopated line is extended, becoming very chromatic and including a descending triplet rhythm.  This breaks on a “sighing” descent that has moved back to a powerful half-cadence on the “dominant” chord of the home key, G minor.  The music is strangely soothing and painful at the same time.
1:46 [m. 36]--There is a definite break before Verse 2.  There are two beats of silence, then the singer “praises the dead” to the same descending G-minor chord that opened the song, now suddenly quiet and accompanied only by the same notes in piano octaves, the right hand playing off the beat.  The vocal line now descends two full chords, landing on a low G.  The next line, still referring to the dead, is set to a very static melody over solemn short-long chords and a low bass.  This moves to another half-cadence on D.
2:13 [m. 45]--The remainder of Verse 2 is set to a parallel phrase that also begins with the bare G-minor chord.  This time, however, the unfortunate living souls are depicted in a chain of pure thirds that breaks away from the G-minor chord after half the descent and moves down to a low A and an A-major chord.  It appears that this chord is the “dominant” of D minor.  The last line of the verse, parallel to the second, is given a similar setting with solemn chords, and it also ends on the A-major chord, now sounding more like a complete motion to A.
2:40 [m. 53]--The third and last parallel phrase sets the long first clause of Verse 3, and is the emotional heart of the song.  It begins with a similar unison descent, the right hand off the beats.  This sets “und der noch nicht ist.”  This descent, however, is marked sotto voce, even quieter, and is sung to a highly unstable “diminished seventh” arpeggio.  There is then a break of a full bar before the thought is completed, and this only happens after another bar with only a piano bass octave on a foreign note, A-sharp.  The words “ist besser als alle beide” have the same solemn short-long chords and static motion used in the parallel phrases, and they move to a highly unexpected B-major chord.  This chord is the “dominant” of E minor, a new key.
3:12 [m. 61]--For the remainder of the text, the music is notated in G major.  It begins with more slow vocal motion beginning in E minor, the key just prepared.  E minor is the related minor key to G major and bridges there.   The vocal line has repeated notes suggesting the “Unrecht” idea.  The piano has a highly syncopated right hand playing in chords while the left hand has slow descending arpeggios that are extended to four-note chains of thirds.  By the end of “nicht inne wird,” the music has arrived at G major.
3:23 [m. 65]--The remainder of the verse, including the final statement of “unter der Sonne,” is in a somewhat soothing G major.  The singer’s descending groups of three notes once again soar to the highest pitch of the song on “unter.”  The left hand has moving chords and octaves, while the right hand remains syncopated.  Under “Sonne” and “geschieht,” the right hand introduces a poignant rising half-step figure, first in its inner voice and then in the top voice.  The bass also has half-step motion in octaves.  The right-hand figures are in an off-beat short-long-long rhythm.  The singer’s last G-major cadence is very gentle.
3:39 [m. 69]--The quiet piano postlude overlaps the vocal cadence.  At first, it continues the short-long-long rhythm just introduced, beginning off the beat over low bass octaves that remain anchored on G.  The chromatic half-step motion is still heard.  After two of these short-long-long figures, the remaining right hand gestures slow down through longer notes.  First are two “sighing” mid-range two-note descents over colorful harmonies.  Finally, three simple off-beat G-major chords follow the bass notes.  The first two of these are in the tenor range.  The last adds a higher doubling to this for a full chord with G on the top.
4:18--END OF SONG [75 mm.]


3. “O Tod, wie bitter bist du” (“O death, how bitter art thou”).  Grave.  Through-composed form.  E MINOR--E MAJOR, 3/2 and alla breve cut time [4/2].

German Text:
--O Tod, wie bitter bist du,
wenn an dich gedenket ein Mensch,
der gute Tage und genug hat
und ohne Sorge lebet;
und dem es wohl geht in allen Dingen
und noch wohl essen mag!
O Tod, wie bitter bist du!

--O Tod, wie wohl tust du dem Dürftigen,
der da schwach und alt ist,
der in allen Sorgen steckt,
und nichts Bessers zu hoffen,
noch zu erwarten hat!
O Tod, wie wohl tust du!
                                --Jesus Sirach 41:1-2
English Text:
--O death, how bitter
is the remembrance of thee to a man
that liveth at rest in his possessions,
unto the man that hath nothing to vex him,
and that hath prosperity in all things:
yea, unto him that is yet able to receive meat!
O death, how bitter [art thou]!

--O death, acceptable is thy sentence unto the needy,
and to him whose strength faileth, that is now in the last age,
and is vexed with all things,
and to him that despaireth,
and hath lost patience!
O death, how acceptable is thy sentence!
                                --Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 41:1-2

0:00 [m. 1]--In 3/2 time and E minor, the singer begins on a powerful upbeat with two statements of “O Tod.”  These statements form a four-note chain of descending thirds.  These happen to be the same notes that open the Fourth Symphony.  The piano enters with strong rising two-chord gestures against “Tod” on the downbeats.  These chords match the ones outlined or implied by the descending vocal line.
0:11 [m. 3]--The remainder of the exclamatory phrase also begins on an upbeat, with piano chords entering on “bitter.”  The short descending line on “bitter” has a note (C-natural) that clashes with the C-sharp used for the upbeat “wie.”  These two words, “wie bitter,” are stated again in the same rhythm, but this time beginning on the downbeat and a third lower.  The chords still enter on “bitter,” now starting with a harsh “diminished seventh.”  The phrase is completed with “bist du” on a similar descent, the piano chords now flowing more together and leading to a half-close.
0:27 [m. 6]--With yet another upbeat, this one consisting of two repeated octaves, the piano begins a steady, ominous melody with full harmonization.  The voice enters on the downbeat with the next phrase, singing to the same material as the piano, but at a pitch level a fourth higher (or a fifth lower).  The resulting canon includes a repetition of “gedenket ein Mensch.”  The left hand notes are very steady, consisting almost entirely of two-note repetitions.  The phrase steadily builds its way upward, moving to the key of G major.
0:38 [m. 8]--Beginning with “der gute Tage und genug hat,” the rest of the first verse is delivered in a march-like manner, with bass octaves and chords after the beats in the right hand.  The vocal line is steady as well.  The passage begins in G major, but at “ohne Sorge,” the harmony moves to B minor, another related key.  At “und dem es wohl geht,” the singer leaps an octave to his high range before working his way quickly downward.  The verse is completed with strong, slower repeated notes and an extremely decisive cadence in B minor.  The accompaniment pattern trails this.
1:03 [m. 13]--The opening phrase is repeated, beginning with the chain of descending thirds on the two statements of “O Tod” and their accompanying chord gestures on the downbeats.   The phrase is more subdued than the opening statement, but the musical material is the same.
1:13 [m. 15]--The remainder of the phrase is stated, beginning with the statement and repetition of “wie bitter,” as at 0:11 [m. 3].  The harmonies and lines are the same, but Brahms directs that these statements should diminish, leading into the highly contrasting music for Verse 2.
1:32 [m. 18]--The same upbeats that led into the canon at 0:27 [m. 6], now merge with the new, very broad alla breve [4/2] meter.  At the same time, the mode shifts from E minor to E major, which will be in force for most of the song’s remaining course.  The alla breve motion is established by a short and hymn-like piano interlude.  Low bass octaves, some widely-spaced, underpin a slow right-hand syncopation that creates long, gorgeously suspended harmonies that only resolve to the next chord after the bass notes.  Both hands reach a point of some repose before the re-entry of the voice.
1:47 [m. 20]--The singer enters with a new interpretation of “O Tod” that warmly turns the initial descent upside down, making a rising sixth.  The slow, hymn-like harmonies and syncopations continue in the piano.  The singer then continues the second verse with broad downward leaps on “wie wohl” and “tust du.”  There is then a slowly arching line for “Dürftigen.”  The piano pattern continues, bridging to the next phrase with some chromatic notes and a motion to the related key (the “subdominant”) of A.
2:21 [m. 25]--The next two lines of the verse are set in a mixture of A minor and A major.  The accompaniment changes to pairs of repeated chords in the right hand that are no longer syncopated.  The left hand plays static octaves.  The minor-key inflections are heard under “schwach und alt” (“old and weak”), and “Sorgen” (“vexations”).  The singer has angular descending lines to express these qualities.
2:38 [m. 27]--At the end of the phrase, the word “steckt,” the piano chords slide up to a colorful chord (an “augmented sixth”), together with which the singer almost chants the next words, “und nichts Bessers,” on a descending scale line.  A similar pattern follows for “zu hoffen,” but the chord is now that of the “relative” C-sharp minor and the singer begins “zu hoffen” after it sounds, reaching an arrival on C-sharp minor.
2:55 [m. 29]--A highly colorful “diminished seventh” chord leads to a wailing cry on the verse’s actual last words, “noch zu erwarten hat.”  The sliding chords lead back to E as the singer cries out in a long, winding melisma on “erwarten.”  This E, however, is the E minor of the opening, briefly in force.  This is quickly dispelled when the singer gently arrives on the last word (“hat”), while the piano stretches out a resolution to the expectant “dominant” chord.  This highly anticipatory moment is the end of the alla breve section.
3:15 [m. 31]--The meter shifts back to 3/2 for the extended closing, which is a meditation on the first words of Verse 2 (“O Tod, wie wohl tust du!”).  The same pitches as at the opening are used for a twofold statement of “O Tod,” but the chain of descending thirds undergoes directional change to become two highly beautiful rising sixths, and the notes are inflected to the E-major mode.  Although the music is back in 3/2, the hymn-like accompaniment makes a return, complete with the suspended harmonies and syncopation. 
3:27 [m. 33]--The phrase is completed with a long line on “wie wohl tust du.”  It begins with a downward leap of a sixth, then a long note and a slow, broad descent.  The cadence is lovely, if incomplete, and the hymn-like accompaniment provides a bridge with some chromatic notes.
3:48 [m. 37]--The leap on “wie wohl” is heard again, this time widened to a seventh.  Instead of a long note, the words “wie wohl” are repeated again before the final  “tust du.”  This slow, broad descent is similar to the previous one, but it now leads decisively to the keynote E for the beautiful major-key cadence.  The hymn-like accompaniment, slowing slightly, reaches back upward, and after the singer’s last note, the E on “du,” it melts into a rising E-major arpeggio in the bass, supported by upper harmonies that lead to the last transfigured chord.  The left hand leaps up from its low bass octave to echo the chord in a different vertical orientation.  These chords are usually held until they die away.
4:29--END OF SONG [40 mm.]


4. “Wenn ich mit Menschen- und mit Engelzungen redete” (“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels”).  Andante con moto ed anima--Adagio.  Through-composed form with strophic elements.  E-FLAT MAJOR, 4/4 and 3/4 time.

German Text:
Wenn ich mit Menschen- und mit Engelzungen redete,
und hätte der Liebe nicht,
so wär’ ich ein tönend Erz,
oder eine klingende Schelle.
--Und wenn ich weissagen könnte,
und wüßte alle Geheimnisse
und alle Erkenntnis,
und hätte allen Glauben, also
daß ich Berge versetzte,
und hätte der Liebe nicht,
so wäre ich nichts.
--Und wenn ich alle meine Habe den Armen gäbe,
und ließe meinen Leib brennen,
und hätte der Liebe nicht,
so wäre mir’s nichts nütze.

--Wir sehen jetzt durch einen Spiegel
in einem dunkeln Worte;
dann aber von Angesicht zu Angesichte.
Jetzt erkenne ich’s stückweise,
dann aber werd ich’s erkennen,
gleich wie ich erkennet bin.

--Nun aber bleibet Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe,
diese drei;
aber die Liebe ist die größeste unter ihnen.
                                --1. Korinther 13:1-3, 12-13
English Text:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
and have not charity,
I am become as sounding brass,
or a tinkling cymbal.
--And though I have the gift of prophecy,
and understand all mysteries,
and all knowledge;
and though I have all faith,
so that I could remove mountains,
and have not charity,
I am nothing.
--And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,
and though I give my body to be burned,
and have not charity,
it profiteth me nothing.

--For now we see through a glass,
darkly;
but then face to face:
now I know in part;
but then shall I know
even as also I am known.

--And now abideth faith, hope, charity,
these three;
but the greatest of these is charity.
                        --1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 12-13

PART 1 (Verses 1-3).  Andante con moto ed anima, 4/4
0:00 [m. 1]--Verse 1.  The piano enters with strong rising chords punctuated by syncopated downward leaps in the bass.  The piano chords then sweep back down more quickly, and faster bass octaves rise upward.
0:06 [m. 3]--The conditional clause of Verse 1 is presented to a broadly sweeping line that begins with an octave leap downward on “Wenn.”  The line then strides upward, turning back briefly at “Engelzungen.”  The piano accompaniment continues the character of the introductory bars, with groups of three rising chords in the right hand against large downward leaps in the left hand
0:15 [m. 7]--The words “Und hätte der Liebe nicht” introduce music that will recur when this refrain is heard in verses 2 and 3 as well.  It begins with a winding melody that pauses on “Liebe.”  Under the pause, the piano begins an echo of the winding melody and continues it, moving briefly to A-flat.  The consequent phrase, describing how useless anything is when charity and love are absent, introduces a march-like accompaniment figure in the piano, with right hand after-beat chords following leaping bass notes.  The vocal line is almost jaunty here, although it makes a distinct turn to minor, with descending thirds outlining unstable “diminished seventh” chords, before arriving on a subdued half-cadence, echoed by the piano.
0:31 [m. 13]--Verse 2.  The piano recovers its energy and plays the three rising chords again, with the downward bass leaps.  The vocal line has an added introductory bar that starts with a higher octave leap.  From the second vocal bar [m. 15], both the vocal line and the piano part closely follow the pattern from Verse 1 at 0:06 [m. 3].  At “Geheimnisse,” the piano chords reverse direction and descend, while the voice makes the same additional octave leap heard at the beginning of the verse.  The piano continues to reverse the chords at “alle Erkenntins,” although the vocal line gets back on track.
0:44 [m. 19]--Since this verse is longer, material must be added at “und hätte allen Glauben.”  It is derived from the refrain music used for “Und hätte der Liebe nicht,” and is set in B-flat minor.  The piano doubles the voice in multiple unison octaves.  The line is subdued, but erupts strongly at “also.”  “Daß ich Berge versetzte” is set to a powerful, cascading line that overlaps with strong descents in groups of two from the piano.  It reaches a cadence.  The piano echoes the vocal line as a bridge.
0:57 [m. 24]--The refrain is heard, largely as at 0:15 [m. 7], but with the new text in the “consequent” phrase, which requires a repetition of the important words “so wäre ich nichts.”  The half-cadence, echoed by the piano, follows as before.
1:12 [m. 30]--Verse 3.  The verse begins with a striking motion to C-flat major, where similar material to the previous stanzas is presented.  At first, the basic opening pattern, with the descending octave vocal leap and the rising piano chords with leaping bass, is used.  After three bars, the music changes keys again, to F minor, where “und ließe meinen Leib brennen” is set to a powerful cascading line similar to that heard in the extension from 0:44 [m. 19].  This is especially clear when “meinen Leib brennen” is repeated.  The cadence and the piano echo serving as a bridge clearly follow the pre-refrain music from verse 2.
1:32 [m. 38]--The refrain is varied.  Since it begins away from the home key of E-flat, the word “Liebe” is extended even more, with descents in a dotted (long-short) rhythm.  The winding piano line is also extended.  These modifications help to arrive back on E-flat.  The “consequent” phrase, “so wäre mir
s nichts nütze,” is similar to that of Verse 2, but the voice suddenly breaks off, and the piano leads downward in chains of thirds outlining “diminished seventh” chords, taking over for the voice.  The piano descent trails off before completing the half-cadence.
1:47 [m. 44]--Another piano descent begins, this one much warmer, and “so wäre mir
s nichts nütze” is repeated to a broad, lyrical line with dotted rhythms.  The piano echoes this line.  It arrives at a full cadence in E-flat after stretching out “nütze.”  The piano line continues beyond the vocal cadence, slowing down, quieting, and reaching upward.  This piano extension moves to the new key of B major, arriving on its preparatory “dominant” chord, where there is a long pause.  That chord is notated in C-flat major (heard at 1:12 [m. 30]), which is the same key (“enharmonic”) as B major.
PART 2 (Verse 12).  Adagio, B major, 3/4
2:06 [m. 48]--The piano establishes a pattern of rising triplet groups in the right hand, playing in the middle register.  The left hand plays low octaves that slowly leap up on the second beat of each 3/4 bar.  The mood is solemn, but gentle.  The vocal line for the first phrase of Verse 12, describing our current vision, is rapturous, gently soaring up and down in two waves.  As the phrase is finished, the piano part becomes more chromatic, and the left hand more active during a bridge to the next phrase.
2:28 [m. 54]--The next phrase, describing the future vision, has wider leaps and some syncopation.  After the initial large descending leap of a seventh, the line arches slowly up and then back down.  The last word, “Angesichte,” is stretched out greatly.  The accompaniment under this phrase is still in triplets, but they now rise upward in groups of six notes split between the hands, pausing on the last beat of each bar.  This long-breathed phrase reaches a full-cadence that overlaps with the piano’s lead-in to the next phrase.
2:48 [m. 60]--With the vocal cadence, the piano seems to echo the opening of the first phrase of the section, from 2:06 [m. 48].  When the voice does enter after two bars, it maintains the character of that phrase, but changes keys to F-sharp major as it describes our current ability to recognize.  There is a brief bridge as the triplets move to the left hand
3:04 [m. 66]--The last phrase of the verse, which is slightly longer, begins with an upbeat and is then nearly identical (at first) to the answering phrase from 2:28 [m. 54].  It describes the perfect recognition of the future.  It is varied at the end by not moving back down and extending the music in the high register for the added text at “gleich wie ich erkennet bin.”  The harmonies are more chromatic, and the voice includes an expressive turn figure before the cadence.  The piano triplets first follow the pattern from 2:28 [m. 54], then include two bars of “hemiola,” with three groups of two ascending triplets that cross bar lines and the vocal phrase.   Finally, under the turn figure, they slow and are reduced to the first beat, followed by a long note.
3:25 [m. 72]--At the vocal cadence, the piano begins to play the first phrase again, but now in the middle register.  It suddenly makes a harmonic shift (again re-spelling B major as C-flat) and moves back to the home key of E-flat.  The volume and speed also gradually increase as the right hand chords and left hand rising figures (no longer in triplets) transition into a brief shift back to 4/4
PART 3 (Verse 13).  Combination of elements from Part 1 and Part 2.  E-flat major, 4/4 and 3/4
3:34 [m. 76]--The opening phrase of the verse begins like the main vocal melody of the song’s first section.  It is marked “più moto,” but the opening tempo is implied.  The rising groups of three chords and the large downward bass leaps are present in the piano. 
3:39 [m. 78]--At the threefold virtues, “Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe,” the vocal line suddenly slows down, but the piano keeps pressing forward with its patterns.  The score gives the singer two options on all of these words.  On the first two, smaller leaps are offered as an alternative to the preferred difficult downward leaps of tenths.  On the last, “Liebe,” Brahms marks the most significant moment in the song with a jump to very high note for a bass (G above middle C).  This note then slides down a step.  There is an alternative that slides up by half-steps to the same target note, avoiding the G.  In this recording, Fischer-Dieskau sings the more difficult versions on all three words.  The phrase then descends, diminishes from the climax, and slows, finally sliding up to an anticipatory pause.
4:00 [m. 83]--For the final clinching phrase, Brahms turns to the music and 3/4 meter of Part 2.  He marks it “Sostenuto un poco,” obviously implying the “Adagio” tempo.  The markings here imply that the two speeds are not that far apart.  He sets the words to both melodic phrases from Verse 12.  First, he uses the music from 2:06 [m. 48], again with triplet accompaniment.  This time, however, the actual melody is in the top notes of the piano, heard at the beginning of each triplet group.  The singer harmonizes below, mostly in sixths.  The piano triplets, with their arching shapes, are now in both hands.  The piano has a brief bridge to the repetition.
4:19 [m. 89]--The phrase is repeated without the initial “aber.”  It uses the “answering” music from 2:28 [m. 54], complete with syncopation.  The patterns also return, and the piano triplets are all ascending.  The word “größeste,” “greatest,” is stretched out over six slow notes and soars quite high.  The final words, “unter ihnen,” have large downward leaps, but these only add to the strength and warmth of the final vocal cadence, which is heard over piano triplets leading to held notes.  All of this music, originally sung in B major during Part 2, is heard for the first time in the home key of E-flat.
4:42 [m. 95]--The piano postlude begins with the vocal cadence.  It continues the ascending triplets leading to held notes as heard under the voice before the cadence.  They are grouped in patterns of two beats rather than three, creating a cross rhythm  Against this, the left hand leaps up, then slowly works back down in an arpeggio.  There are three closing chords.  The first is quite widely spaced.  The second has both hands moving inward, and the final chord keeps the right hand in this register while moving the left hand back down to a low bass octave.  This is the benediction of Brahms’s song-writing (and compositional) career.
5:12--END OF SONG [99 mm.]
END OF CYCLE


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