Recording: North German Radio Chorus, conducted by Günter Jena; Gernot Kahl, piano (No. 2) [DG 449 646-2]
Published 1868.

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 literature.

Note: Links to English translations of the texts are from Emily Ezust’s site at  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.
  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 also included.

ONLINE SCORE 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)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
No. 1: Abendständchen
No. 2: Vineta (does not include the optional piano part)
No. 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).

German Text:
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.

English Translation

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 this measure.
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 closure.
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 exact.
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.

German Text:
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 modulation.
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 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 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 3/2 insertions.

German Text:
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.

English Translation
Original Ossian/MacPherson English text

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 text).
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 rearranged.
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.]