THREE PARTSONGS (GESÄNGE) FOR SIX-VOICE MIXED CHORUS,
Recording: North German
Radio Chorus, conducted by Günter Jena; Gernot Kahl, piano (No.
[DG 449 646-2]
Op. 42 represents the earliest of Brahms’s secular partsongs for
chorus. They were preceded in publication by some sacred
for a capella chorus (notably the two motets, Op. 29), and two
secular choral works: the songs for women's chorus, 2 horns, and
Op. 17, and the contemporary songs for men's chorus, Op. 41.
42 begins a line of a capella secular choral works that would
with Opp. 62, 93a, and 104. This set of three is further
distinguished by being written for six-voice chorus
Brahms specifies divided altos and basses, as he always did when
writing for the six-voice ensemble, although the first alto part
almost certainly be taken by second sopranos in a standard
chorus. Choral writing in six parts lends a trademark
that is absent from standard four-part writing. It also
the composer to set off women against men in antiphonal
call-and-response, as he does in Nos. 1 and 3. This is much
effective with each group in three-part harmony. The first
employs antiphonal response growing toward the full texture at the
of each verse. The second, to a text by Müller (famous as
the writer of the poems set by Schubert in “Winterreise”), has the
voices moving together throughout, creating a particularly warm
effect. This song has an optional piano part that does not
double the voices, and is used in this recording. The third,
substantial song also uses call-and-response techniques as well as
effectively contrasted middle section. The opus number is
deceptively high, as the three songs were written around 1859-60
are roughly contemporary with Op. 17.
A word about Ossian, the “author” of No. 3. Supposedly an
translation of ancient Celtic epic poetry, “Ossian” is a 1762
collection manufactured by the Scottish poet James
MacPherson's work was given much credibility in German-speaking
because it had been translated and admired by Herder, one of the
influential figures in German literature.
Note: Links to English translations of the texts are from Emily
site at http://www.recmusic.org/lieder.
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
(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
Clemens Maria Wenzeslaus von Brentano, from the German operetta
libretto “Die Musikanten.” Langsam (slowly). Strophic form
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
“lamenting” of the flute.
0:10 [m. 4]--The statement
the second line begins imitatively, as had the first, but the
come together in a 3/2 measure with rocking motion in triplet
rhythm. The second basses initially lag behind the tenors
first basses. The men “catch up” with the text in this
0:21 [m. 8]--Third line of
text. The imitation is similar to line 1, but now both alto
and the tenors lead, followed by the sopranos and basses.
bass parts come together here, the imitation eliminating the top
harmony of the alto/tenor lead, among other slight
The harmony moves to major.
0:30 [m. 11]--The last
the stanza begins with the same imitation (sopranos/basses
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
brings the parts closer together.
0:41 [m. 15]--Tenors and
basses lead in another statement of the last line. The two
parts provide inner motion as the verse reaches its cadence.
second altos move after the other parts to the final
The cadence in G major achieves full closure.
0:59 [m. 21]--Second
(stanza 2). The first line is as at the beginning.
1:07 [m. 24]--The second
begins as at 0:10 [m. 4], but the melody pushes higher and new
harmonies are introduced in a slight variation before and during
1:19 [m. 28]--Third line
text. It is similar to 0:21 [m. 8], but now the three men’s
are imitated by the women. The harmony remains in
Instead of the top note, the bottom note is initially left out of
imitation, but the women remain in three parts and it later
emerges. The imitation is again not exact.
1:27 [m. 31]--Last
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.
with a slight and clever alteration to accommodate the different
declamation of the text (“Blickt zu mir”--three syllables as
“Stille, stille”--four syllables) in the two opening
Because the third line remained in minor, the sudden shift to
here creates a completely new effect that was not present at 0:30
11]. There is also a new crescendo,
an increase in volume not heard in stanza 1.
1:38 [m. 35]--Second
of the last line of the stanza, as at 0:41 [m. 15], but now the
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
now are in triplets (groups of three instead of two notes to a
so that there is a sense of more motion toward the final
Also, the second altos do not move after the cadence (another
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
Müller. Con moto. Ternary form (ABA’). B MAJOR,
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
explanation of "Vineta")
Throughout the song, the pentameter of the poem is usually
into distinctive five-bar phrases/lines, but four of them are
to six bars.
A section--Stanzas 1-3
0:00 [m. 1]--First
stanza. It is sung in a rocking, barcarolle-like
The six vocal parts move together. If certain parts add more
moving notes (such as first altos and tenors at the end of the
line), they stay on the same syllable of text as the other
The optional piano part adds to the rocking motion with the right
responding to the bass downbeat. The third line (phrase)
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
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
minor-tinged passage that is much quieter. The piano part is
long single notes. The men join at the second line, still at
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
results in the first six-measure phrase. There is slight
shifting in the two bass parts at the end, as they repeat “auch
instead of expanding “Klippe.” The cadence achieves full
B section--Stanza 4
1:45 [m. 42]--All parts
quiet unison except sopranos and tenors for first
The piano also plays octaves. The word “Grunde” is expanded
make a six-bar phrase. The sopranos and tenors join on the
line/phrase, the piano now playing chords and the voices
harmonizing. The first two phrases move to C major (through
minor) in a colorful half-step modulation.
2:05 [m. 53] --The texture
character of the main “barcarolle” rhythm return in the voices and
piano for the last two phrases. There is buildup during a
through E major back home to B. The last word “hat” is
for another six-bar phrase that ends with a half-cadence.
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
tenor, and second bass parts.
2:57 [m. 84]--Sixth
stanza. Although essentially musically identical to the
stanza, it is sung strongly throughout, without the dramatically
quieter opening. Also, the altos join together on the
first alto part in the first line, the tenors now taking the
second alto part (the basses are still absent). The previous
layout is restored in the second line, with the men joining.
3:14 [m. 94]--As at 1:25
31]. “Wunderstadt” is expanded (as “Klippe” had been) for
last six-bar phrase at the cadence (with text shifting in the
3:38--END OF SONG [104 mm.]
3. Darthulas Grabesgesang
(Darthulas Grave Song).
by Johann Gottfried Herder, adapted from an English text by Ossian
(James MacPherson). Moderato, ma non troppo. Ternary
(ABA’). G MINOR, Cut time [2/2] with several 3/2 insertions.
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
alto parts present the first line beginning in stark unison, then
dividing and ending on a bare fifth. The three male parts
in harmony, moving to 3/2 for two bars at the soaring line on
0:20 [m. 8]--Second
statement, corresponding to the third and fourth lines of text
the first stanza). Altos begin the statement as before, but
not complete the line of text (instead repeating “um dich.”)
new and longer response from tenors and basses incorporates both
of text. There is one 3/2 bar at the second statement of
Zweig.” The cadence is more full than that of the first
0:41 [m. 17] --Third
statement, corresponding to the first line of the second
stanza. The altos begin their unison statement as before,
quickly imitated by the tenors, then undivided basses at a
one measure, each voice finishing in succession. The end of
alto line is moved lower and remains undivided. The tenor
begins at a different pitch level, but ends as the original alto
had. The basses present their line exactly as the original
line an octave lower, dividing and ending on a fifth.
0:55 [m. 23]--First
the sopranos. The women’s parts present a response using the
music the men used in the first statement (with two 3/2
They are joined by the tenors, so the texture of the response is
four parts instead of three. The sopranos match the previous
tenor line, but the lower three parts redistribute and expand upon
previous bass parts (the first alto line nearly matching the
first bass line). The new tenor line is more active at the
beginning, lagging slightly behind the female parts. The
the same as at 0:41 [m. 17] (thus, the third musical “statement”
uses one line of text).
1:06 [m. 27]--Fourth
statement, corresponding to lines 2-4 of the second stanza.
basses present the opening phrase, just as the altos had done in
first two statements (and they themselves had done while imitating
the third statement). The response uses the music of the
statement, but it is sung by the women, again with the added tenor
line, with similar redistribution to that heard at 0:55 [m.
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,
the statement contains three lines of text.
1:27 [m. 36]--Fifth
statement (transition), corresponding to the third stanza (with
text repetition) up to (not including) the imperative “Wach
The basses begin the familiar statement, but women, then tenors
enter. The women then take the lead at “kommt dir die Sonne”
two imitative phrases and the first real intensification of the
song. The phrases hint at B minor. All voices then
together, moving back to G minor and settling down for the
B Section (1½
stanzas)--Poco animato, G Major
1:54 [m. 48]--The opening
the B section
resolves the tension of the previous cadence, but the musical
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
(three-note groups in the space of two) are introduced. All
voices present the imperative to Darthula to “Wake up!” and
the same vein through the end of the third stanza and the first
lines of the fourth. The musical style is almost “pastoral,”
indicative of Darthula being told that “spring is outside,” but
quiet dynamic level reminds us that this is still a funeral hymn,
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
music. The men imitate the musical line, but restate the
text to almost the same music as before. Almost
Brahms inserts the word “lauen” (“tepid”) into the tenor line
“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
out, and the men continue their statement with the second line of
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
series of three antiphonal exchanges with the women. The men
first state the third line of stanza four (“weben die Blumen”),
women then state (in exact musical imitation), the imperative
auf, Darthula!” Two more exchanges follow on the imperative.
the pattern is broken in a series of rising interjections of "Wach
auf!" passed from the tenors to the two alto parts. These
parts provide a harmonic backdrop to an echo from the first
basses. The music gradually settles, moves back to minor,
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
of the last stanza, obscuring the boundary between sections.
two statements use the same elements as those of the A section, but rearranged.
2:54 [m. 80]--First
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
27]). Women and tenors respond as in the third statement and by
the first (0:55 [m. 23]). Also, the two 3/2 bars are changed
three 2/2 bars to reflect the different accentuation of the text.
3:16 [m. 89]--Second
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
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
poem is used as a coda, with several dovetailing vocal entries and
major/minor mixture. The opening itself dovetails with the
completion of the previous statement, the second altos “sliding”
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
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
to actually “fall asleep.”
4:17--END OF SONG [107 mm.]
END OF SET
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