THREE PARTSONGS (GESÄNGE) FOR SIX-VOICE MIXED CHORUS,
Recording: North German
Radio Chorus, conducted by Günter Jena; Gernot Kahl, piano (No.
2) [DG 449 646-2]
Op. 42 represents the earliest of Brahms’s secular partsongs for
mixed chorus. They were preceded in publication by some
sacred works for a capella chorus (notably the two motets, Op. 29), and two other secular choral
works: the songs for women’s
chorus, 2 horns, and harp, Op. 17, and
the contemporary songs for men’s chorus, Op. 41.
Op. 42 begins a line of a capella secular choral works that would
continue with Opp. 62, 93a, and 104.
This set of three is further distinguished by being written for
six-voice chorus throughout. Brahms specifies divided altos
and basses, as he always did when writing for the six-voice
ensemble, although the first alto part can almost certainly be
taken by second sopranos in a standard chorus. Choral
writing in six parts lends a trademark richness that is absent
from standard four-part writing. It also allows the composer
to set off women against men in antiphonal call-and-response, as
he does in Nos. 1 and 3. This is much more effective with
each group in three-part harmony. The first song employs
antiphonal response growing toward the full texture at the end of
each verse. The second, to a text by Müller (famous as the
writer of the poems set by Schubert in “Winterreise”), has the six
voices moving together throughout, creating a particularly warm
effect. This song has an optional piano part that does not
merely double the voices, and is used in this recording. The
third, most substantial song also uses call-and-response
techniques as well as an effectively contrasted middle
section. The opus number is deceptively high, as the three
songs were written around 1859-60 and are roughly contemporary
with Op. 17.
A word about Ossian, the “author” of No. 3. Supposedly an
English translation of ancient Celtic epic poetry, “Ossian” is a
1762 collection manufactured by the Scottish poet James
MacPherson. MacPherson’s work was given much credibility in
German-speaking lands because it had been translated and admired
by Herder, one of the most influential figures in German
Note: Links to English translations of the texts are from Emily
Ezust’s site at http://www.lieder.net.
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. The link to the translation of No. 3 contains a
literal English rendering of Herder’s poetic translation. A
further link to the original Ossian/MacPherson English text is
FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck--Note
that the tenor clef is used. An extra scan of No. 3 precedes
the full edition)
SCORE FROM IMSLP
(From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
ONLINE SCORES FROM THE CHORAL PUBLIC DOMAIN LIBRARY (Choral Wiki):
2: Vineta (does not include the optional piano part)
3: Darthulas Grabesgesang
1. Abendständchen (Evening Serenade). Text
by Clemens Maria Wenzeslaus von Brentano, from the German operetta
libretto “Die Musikanten.” Langsam (slowly). Strophic form
with slight variation. G MINOR/MAJOR, Cut time [2/2], with
two isolated measures of 3/2 (one per strophe).
Hör, es klagt die Flöte wieder
Und die kühlen Brunnen rauschen,
Golden wehn die Töne nieder,
Stille, stille, laß uns lauschen!
Holdes Bitten, mild Verlangen,
Wie es süß zum Herzen spricht!
Durch die Nacht die mich umfangen,
Blickt zu mir der Töne Licht.
0:00 [m. 1]--First strophe
(stanza 1), beginning in G minor. The women are imitated
literally by the men for the first line, at a distance of one
beat. The men’s statement of the word “wieder” is half as
long. The halting echo effects and the minor key underscore
the “lamenting” of the flute.
0:10 [m. 4]--The statement
of the second line begins imitatively, as had the first, but the
voices come together in a 3/2 measure with rocking motion in
triplet rhythm. The second basses initially lag behind the
tenors and first basses. The men “catch up” with the text in
0:21 [m. 8]--Third line of
text. The imitation is similar to line 1, but now both alto
parts and the tenors lead, followed by the sopranos and
basses. The two bass parts come together here, the imitation
eliminating the top harmony of the alto/tenor lead, among other
slight alterations. The harmony moves to major.
0:30 [m. 11]--The last
line of the stanza begins with the same imitation (sopranos/basses
following altos/tenors) for two statements of the word “stille,”
the basses moving again into two parts. The notes of the
imitating and leading voices are now completely different.
Slight syncopation brings the parts closer together.
0:41 [m. 15]--Tenors and
first basses lead in another statement of the last line. The
two alto parts provide inner motion as the verse reaches its
cadence. The second altos move after the other parts to the
final syllable. The cadence in G major achieves full
0:59 [m. 21]--Second
strophe (stanza 2). The first line is as at the beginning.
1:07 [m. 24]--The second
line begins as at 0:10 [m. 4], but the melody pushes higher and
new harmonies are introduced in a slight variation before and
during the 3/2 measure.
1:19 [m. 28]--Third line
of text. It is similar to 0:21 [m. 8], but now the three
men’s parts are imitated by the women. The harmony remains
in minor. Instead of the top note, the bottom note is
initially left out of the imitation, but the women remain in three
parts and it later emerges. The imitation is again not
1:27 [m. 31]--Last
line. Altos and tenors resume the lead, as at 0:21 [m. 8]
and 0:30 [m. 11]. The passage is mostly identical to that at
0:30 [m. 11], but with a slight and clever alteration to
accommodate the different declamation of the text (“Blickt zu
mir”--three syllables as opposed to “Stille, stille”--four
syllables) in the two opening statements. Because the third
line remained in minor, the sudden shift to major here creates a
completely new effect that was not present at 0:30 [m. 11].
There is also a new crescendo,
an increase in volume not heard in stanza 1.
1:38 [m. 35]--Second
statement of the last line of the stanza, as at 0:41 [m. 15], but
now the second basses join in the lead (this is somewhat
facilitated by the one-syllable “Licht” instead of the
two-syllable “lauschen” in the second basses at the end of the
previous statement). It is otherwise similar to the first
cadence, except the “moving” alto parts now are in triplets
(groups of three instead of two notes to a beat), so that there is
a sense of more motion toward the final cadence. Also, the
second altos do not move after the cadence (another function of
the “missing” syllable). Brahms also indicates full volume (forte) here, as opposed to
0:41 [m. 15], which was marked piano.
2:02--END OF SONG [40 mm.]
2. Vineta (Vineta). Text by
Wilhelm Müller. Con moto. Ternary form (ABA’). B
MAJOR, 3/8 time.
Aus des Meeres tiefem, tiefem Grunde
klingen Abendglocken, dumpf und matt.
Uns zu geben wunderbare Kunde
von der schönen, alten Wunderstadt.
In der Fluten Schoß hinabgesunken,
blieben unten ihre Trümmer stehn.
Ihre Zinnen lassen goldne Funken
widerscheinend auf dem Spiegel sehn.
Und der Schiffer, der den Zauberschimmer
einmal sah im hellen Abendrot,
nach der selben Stelle schifft er immer,
ob auch ringsumher die Klippe droht.
Aus des Herzens tiefem, tiefem Grunde
klingt es mir wie Glocken, dumpf und matt.
Ach, sie geben wunderbare Kunde
von der Liebe, die geliebt es hat.
Eine schöne Welt ist da versunken,
ihre Trümmer blieben unten stehn,
lassen sich als goldne Himmelsfunken
oft im Spiegel meiner Träume sehn.
Und dann möcht ich tauchen in die Tiefen,
mich versenken in den Wunderschein,
und mir ist, als ob mich Engel riefen
in die alte Wunderstadt herein.
English Translation (with
brief explanation of “Vineta”)
Throughout the song, the pentameter of the poem is usually
translated into distinctive five-bar phrases/lines, but four of
them are expanded to six bars.
A section--Stanzas 1-3
0:00 [m. 1]--First
stanza. It is sung in a rocking, barcarolle-like
motion. The six vocal parts move together. If certain
parts add more moving notes (such as first altos and tenors at the
end of the second line), they stay on the same syllable of text as
the other parts. The optional piano part adds to the rocking
motion with the right hand responding to the bass downbeat.
The third line (phrase) moves strikingly to B minor and D
major. The last line begins in D major, but is wrenched back
to a B-major cadence in the last three bars.
0:34 [m. 1]--Second
stanza. It is musically identical to the first.
1:08 [m. 21]--Third
stanza. The first line is presented by women alone in
another minor-tinged passage that is much quieter. The piano part
is reduced to long single notes. The men join at the second
line, still at a quiet level, now including a full piano part and
moving to a half-cadence in the “dominant” key of F-sharp.
1:25 [m. 31]--The last two
lines return to the character of the first two stanzas, with some
intensification (such as higher pitches at “Stelle”). The
extension of the word “Klippe” through a syncopation before the
cadence results in the first six-measure phrase. There is
slight text shifting in the two bass parts at the end, as they
repeat “auch rings-” instead of expanding “Klippe.” The
cadence achieves full closure.
B section--Stanza 4
1:45 [m. 42]--All parts
sing in quiet unison except sopranos and tenors for first
line/phrase. The piano also plays octaves. The word
“Grunde” is expanded to make a six-bar phrase. The sopranos
and tenors join on the second line/phrase, the piano now playing
chords and the voices harmonizing. The first two phrases
move to C major (through E minor) in a colorful half-step
2:05 [m. 53] --The texture
and character of the main “barcarolle” rhythm return in the voices
and piano for the last two phrases. There is buildup during
a motion through E major back home to B. The last word “hat”
is expanded for another six-bar phrase that ends with a
A’ section--Stanzas 5-6
It is mostly musically identical to the A section, but the music of the first (fifth)
stanza is not repeated as it was for the second, and there are
dynamic changes in the sixth stanza.
2:23 [m. 64]--Fifth
stanza. Musically identical to the first and second stanzas
except for some slight alterations at the beginning in the second
alto, tenor, and second bass parts.
2:57 [m. 84]--Sixth
stanza. Although essentially musically identical to the
third stanza, it is sung strongly throughout, without the
dramatically quieter opening. Also, the altos join together
on the previous first alto part in the first line, the tenors now
taking the previous second alto part (the basses are still
absent). The previous part layout is restored in the second
line, with the men joining.
3:14 [m. 94]--As at 1:25
[m. 31]. “Wunderstadt” is expanded (as “Klippe” had been)
for the last six-bar phrase at the cadence (with text shifting in
the vocal bass parts).
3:38--END OF SONG [104 mm.]
3. Darthulas Grabesgesang
(Darthulas Grave Song).
Text by Johann Gottfried Herder, adapted from an English text by
Ossian (James MacPherson). Moderato, ma non troppo.
Ternary form (ABA’). G MINOR, Cut time [2/2] with several
Mädchen von Kola, du schläfst!
Um dich schweigen die blauen Ströme Selmas!
Sie trauren um dich, den letzten Zweig
von Thruthils Stamm!
Wann erstehst du wieder in deiner Schöne?
Schönste der Schönen in Erin!
Du schläfst im Grabe langen Schlaf,
dein Morgenrot ist ferne!
Nimmer, o nimmer kommt dir die Sonne
weckend an deine Ruhestätte: “Wach auf!
Wach auf, Darthula!
Frühling ist draußen!
“Die (lauen) Lüfte säuseln,
Auf grünen Hügeln, holdseliges Mädchen,
Weben die Blumen!
Im Hain wallt sprießendes Laub!”
Auf immer, auf immer, so weiche denn, Sonne,
Dem Mädchen von Kola, sie schläft!
Nie ersteht sie wieder in ihrer Schöne!
Nie siehst du sie lieblich wandeln mehr.
A Section (2½ stanzas, 5
musical 2-phrase “statements”)
0:00 [m. 1]--First musical
statement, corresponding to the first two lines of text. The
two alto parts present the first line beginning in stark unison,
then dividing and ending on a bare fifth. The three male
parts answer in harmony, moving to 3/2 for two bars at the soaring
line on “blauen Ströme.”
0:20 [m. 8]--Second
musical statement, corresponding to the third and fourth lines of
text (end of the first stanza). Altos begin the statement as
before, but do not complete the line of text (instead repeating
“um dich.”) A new and longer response from tenors and basses
incorporates both lines of text. There is one 3/2 bar at the
second statement of “letzten Zweig.” The cadence is more
full than that of the first statement.
0:41 [m. 17] --Third
musical statement, corresponding to the first line of the
second stanza. The altos begin their unison statement as
before, but are quickly imitated by the tenors, then undivided
basses at a distance of one measure, each voice finishing in
succession. The end of the alto line is moved lower and
remains undivided. The tenor line begins at a different
pitch level, but ends as the original alto line had. The
basses present their line exactly as the original alto line an
octave lower, dividing and ending on a fifth.
0:55 [m. 23]--First
entrance of the sopranos. The women’s parts present a
response using the music the men used in the first statement (with
two 3/2 bars). They are joined by the tenors, so the texture
of the response is in four parts instead of three. The
sopranos match the previous tenor line, but the lower three parts
redistribute and expand upon the previous bass parts (the first
alto line nearly matching the previous first bass line). The
new tenor line is more active at the beginning, lagging slightly
behind the female parts. The text is the same as at 0:41 [m.
17] (thus, the third musical “statement” only uses one line of
1:06 [m. 27]--Fourth
musical statement, corresponding to lines 2-4 of the second
stanza. The basses present the opening phrase, just as the
altos had done in the first two statements (and they themselves
had done while imitating in the third statement). The
response uses the music of the second statement, but it is sung by
the women, again with the added tenor line, with similar
redistribution to that heard at 0:55 [m. 23]. As in the
second statement, there are two lines of text in the response, but
the text of the opening bass phrase is not repeated, so the
statement contains three lines of text.
1:27 [m. 36]--Fifth
musical statement (transition), corresponding to the third stanza
(with some text repetition) up to (not including) the imperative
“Wach auf!” The basses begin the familiar statement, but
women, then tenors quickly enter. The women then take the
lead at “kommt dir die Sonne” for two imitative phrases and the
first real intensification of the song. The phrases hint at
B minor. All voices then come together, moving back to G
minor and settling down for the unresolved cadence.
B Section (1½
stanzas)--Poco animato, G Major
1:54 [m. 48]--The opening
of the B section
immediately resolves the tension of the previous cadence, but the
musical idiom is entirely different. The voices begin
together, at a quicker speed, in the major key, and no longer in
the archaic style of the A
section. Two triplets (three-note groups in the space of
two) are introduced. All six voices present the imperative
to Darthula to “Wake up!” and continue in the same vein through
the end of the third stanza and the first two lines of the
fourth. The musical style is almost “pastoral,” indicative
of Darthula being told that “spring is outside,” but the quiet
dynamic level reminds us that this is still a funeral hymn, as do
minor-key tinges at the end of the passage.
2:14 [m. 59]--The women
continue with the last two lines of the fourth stanza, set to
similar music. The men imitate the musical line, but restate
the previous text to almost the same music as before. Almost
imperceptibly, Brahms inserts the word “lauen” (“tepid”) into the
tenor line before “Lüfte,” resulting in “tepid breezes”
whispering. The top two female parts repeat “sprießendes” to
a lilting triplet rhythm. This passage is polytextual (different parts
present different texts at the same time).
2:24 [m. 65]--The women
drop out, and the men continue their statement with the second
line of the fourth stanza, to the same music as before, but with
an obviously thinner texture than when all six voices sang it.
2:34 [m. 70]--The men
begin a series of three antiphonal exchanges with the women.
The men first state the third line of stanza four (“weben die
Blumen”), but the women then state (in exact musical imitation),
the imperative “Wach auf, Darthula!” Two more exchanges follow on
the imperative. Then the pattern is broken in a series of
rising interjections of "Wach auf!" passed from the tenors to the
two alto parts. These three parts provide a harmonic
backdrop to an echo from the first basses. The music
gradually settles, moves back to minor, and seamlessly transitions
to the A’ section
(varied and abbreviated reprise).
A’ Section (1 stanza, 2
musical 2-phrase “statements”)--Tempo I
The word “auf,” heard repeatedly in “Wach auf!” at the end of the
B section, is also the
first word of the last stanza, obscuring the boundary between
sections. The two statements use the same elements as those
of the A section, but
2:54 [m. 80]--First
musical statement, corresponding to the first two lines of the
last stanza. Basses present the opening phrase (as in the
fourth statement in A at
1:06 [m. 27]). Women and tenors respond as in the third statement and by
extension, the first (0:55 [m. 23]). Also, the two 3/2 bars
are changed to three 2/2 bars to reflect the different
accentuation of the text.
3:16 [m. 89]--Second
musical statement, corresponding to the last two lines of the last
stanza. There is an “imitative” opening statement, as in the
third statement above (0:41 [m. 17]). Women and tenors
respond as in the fourth
statement. So the two statements of A’ combine and rearrange the
call/response structures of the third and fourth statements of A.
3:43 [m. 100]--Coda. The first line of
the poem is used as a coda, with several dovetailing vocal entries
and a major/minor mixture. The opening itself dovetails with
the completion of the previous statement, the second altos
“sliding” into it. The second altos and both bass parts call
“Mädchen von Kola,” and the sopranos and first altos respond with
“sie schläft.” Tenors and second basses then call, and both
alto parts respond as the first basses state “Mädchen von Kola”
one more time in longer notes. Tenors and second basses
present a final “sie schläft,” and hold the last note. Both
alto parts then simply state “schläft,” and finally the sopranos
join the altos for a last repetition of the word as the first
basses finish their phrase. The final held chord is major
(the so-called “picardy third“). Over the course of this
coda, the voices seem to actually “fall asleep.”
4:17--END OF SONG [107 mm.]
END OF SET
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