Recording: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Daniel Barenboim, piano [DG 449 633-2]
Published 1889.

The middle of Brahms’s last three sets of “regular” song settings is distinguished from both Op. 105 and Op. 107, almost literally taking the “middle” road between them.  They are in general somewhat shorter than those of Op. 105 and certainly (with one exception) longer than the nearly epigrammatic folk-like songs of Op. 107.  Formally, they also contrast with Op. 105.  Whereas that set relied completely on modified strophic forms, Op. 106 turns toward ternary, or ABA-type settings.  Even the one modified strophic song in the set (No. 2) has a high level of subtle contrast between verses.  Thematically, the set seems, as always, carefully organized.  Whereas Op. 105 showed different (often gender-specific) perspectives on subjects such as death and betrayal, Op. 106 demonstrates a gradual motion from nostalgia toward regret.  The first two songs are cheerful, depicting fond memories of the past and present.  Nos. 3-5 gradually become darker, No. 3 beginning in the cheerful tone of the first two songs, but quickly moving to its bitter conclusion.  That bitterness continues in No. 4 and especially in No. 5.  Nos. 1 and 2 both share titles with previous songs, but the texts are not the same.  No. 1 is a very realistic musical evocation of the serenade it describes.  The piano accompaniment to the 6/8 tune of No. 2 is an equally effective depiction of the boat described in the text.  No. 3, Brahms’s last setting of his great contemporary (and personal friend) Klaus Groth, begins with one of his sweetest tunes, making the dark turn at the end of the song that much more biting.  No. 4, whose brevity anticipates the songs of Op. 107, is a curiously reflexive text that is perhaps appropriate for Brahms, who was approaching the end of his career as a song composer.  It is his only setting of this poet.  The last song takes the bitterness to its conclusion, but is not quite as effective a capstone to the set as “Verrat” was to Op. 105.  Overall, the songs of Op. 106 do not quite reach the mastery of the previous set, but they are pleasing, and, like Op. 105, display a convincing textual unity.  Unlike most sets, none of these songs shows a specifically female perspective (and the male perspective in Nos. 2 and 3 is not a strong one), making the set an ideal recital choice for a single singer.

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.

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck--original high keys and low keys both included)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke--original keys)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by Max Friedländer):
No. 1: Ständchen (in original key, G major)
No. 1: Ständchen (in middle key, E major)
No. 1: Ständchen (in low key, E-flat major)
No. 2: Auf dem See (in original key, E major)
No. 2: Auf dem See (in low key, C major)
No. 3: Es hing der Reif (in original key, A minor)
No. 3: Es hing der Reif (in low key, F minor)
No. 4: Meine Lieder (in original key, F-sharp minor)
No. 4: Meine Lieder (in low key, D-sharp minor)
No. 5: Ein Wanderer (in original key, F minor)
No. 5: Ein Wanderer (in low key, D minor)

1. Ständchen (Serenade).  Text by Franz Theodor Kugler.  Anmutig bewegt (With graceful motion).  Allegretto grazioso.  Ternary form.  G MAJOR, 4/4 time (Middle key E major, low key E-flat major).
(The title Ständchen is also used for Op. 14, No. 7.)

German Text:
Der Mond steht über dem Berge,
So recht für verliebte Leut’;
Im Garten rieselt ein Brunnen,
Sonst Stille weit und breit.

Neben der Mauer im Schatten,
Da stehn der Studenten drei,
Mit Flöt’ und Geig’ und Zither,
Und singen und spielen dabei.

Die Klänge schleichen der Schönsten
Sacht in den Traum hinein,
sie schaut den blonden Geliebten
und lispelt: »Vergiß nicht mein!«

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--The introduction is light.  The left hand leads with an upbeat into quickly rolled chords, the right hand playing after the beats.  The right hand then has two smoother lines that end with quickly rolled chords, under which the left hand has colorful “sliding” chords.  Finally, a light descent in fourths and thirds leads to the vocal entry.
0:11 [m. 5]--Stanza 1.  The melody is gracefully arching and deliberately nostalgic in character.  The piano accompaniment retains the “strumming” effect in the left hand, with alternating bass notes and chords.  After a break, the third line makes a sudden harmonic shift to E major, and the right hand chords gently soar above the voice.  The last line stretches out “Stille,” moving back to G major, then smoothly descends to a cadence.
0:31 [m. 13]--At the cadence, a piano interlude begins as the introduction had, but quickly transitions to the second stanza, or middle section, with a motion to D major.
0:35 [m. 15]--Stanza 2.  The vocal line is more forceful and rhythmic, as is the accompaniment.  The left hand retains the “strumming” character as the other instruments are described.  The first two lines are in the closely related D major.  Rolled chords return to bridge to the next line.
0:44 [m. 19]--The third line quickly shifts to C major (on the other side of G).  Rolled chords again bridge to the next line.  The fourth line is stated first in the more distant E-flat major, and then repeated, with a very subtle shift, in the even more distant B major.  Between the two statements of the fourth line, the accompaniment shifts to quick, rushing arpeggios before returning to the rolled chords under the second statement.   Both statements of the last line build strongly, and the second stretches out the word “spielen.”
0:55 [m. 24]--The piano interlude incorporates the rushing arpeggios that were just introduced while retaining the melodic structure of the introduction above them, even including the punctuating rolled chords.  At the end, it diminishes while moving back to the home key of G major.
1:06 [m. 27]--Stanza 3.  It is virtually identical to stanza 1, but Brahms marks it dolce (“sweetly”), and the first two lines subtly alter the right hand, with the top note playing before the lower notes and contributing to the “strumming.”  There are two slight alterations to notes to fit the declamation of the text, one subtraction at the beginning of the second line, and one addition in the middle of the last line.
1:28 [m. 36]--The piano postlude begins like the introduction, but after the initial rolled chords, it breaks into the melody from the end of the vocal line.  It then concludes with a final “strum.”
1:43--END OF SONG [39 mm.]

2. Auf dem See (On the Lake).  Text by Christian Reinhold.  Anmutig bewegt und ausdrucksvoll (With graceful motion and full of expression).  Two-part modified strophic form.  E MAJOR, 6/8 time (Low key C major).
(The title Auf dem See is also used for Op. 59, No. 2.)

German Text:
An dies Schifflein schmiege,
Holder See, dich sacht!
Frommer Liebe Wiege,
Nimm sie wohl in Acht!

Deine Wellen rauschen;
Rede nicht so laut!
Laß mich ihr nur lauschen,
Die mir viel vertraut!

[ Here a stanza not set by Brahms]

Deine Wellen zittern
Von der Sonne Glut;
Ob sie’s heimlich wittern,
Wie die Liebe tut?

Weit und weiter immer
Rück den Strand hinaus!
Aus dem Himmel nimmer
Laß mich steigen aus!

Fern von Menschenreden
Und von Menschensinn,
Als ein schwimmend Eden
Trag dies Schifflein hin!

English Translation
0:00 [m. 1]--The piano introduction sets the graceful, somewhat halting pattern of the accompaniment.  Rising arpeggios, quickly rolled chords closing each of the first two bars, and a gentle lead-in with alternating right and left hand chords all prepare the vocal entry.
0:09 [m. 5]--Stanza (strophe) 1.  The vocal line has the character of a barcarolle, illustrating the boat on the water with typical long-short rhythms in 6/8 time.  The rippling accompaniment contributes to this, sweeping downward in arpeggios beginning off the beat.  The bass notes mark the beats.  When bridging from the second to the third line, the piano adds a subtle, syncopated upper voice that imitates the previous vocal notes.  This upper voice also appears after the last line, leading to and underpinning a repetition of that line and its motion to the “dominant” key of B major.  A two-bar bridge recalling the introduction remains in that key.
0:31 [m. 16]--Stanza (strophe) 2.  The first part of this verse becomes more forceful, the vocal line moving upward by half-steps.  The piano arpeggios sweep up and down.  The second line has a similar arching sweep.  Bridging to the third line, the piano has a bar of hemiola, or a grouping of implied 3/4 over the prevailing 6/8.  The last two lines return to the music of strophe 1, but come to a full cadence in the home key of E.  The two-bar bridge is similar to the previous one, but it now must move back to B major, since stanza 3 begins there in the same manner as stanza 2.
0:50 [m. 25]--Stanza (strophe) 3.  This stanza begins with similar text to that of stanza 2 (as, in fact, does the stanza Brahms omitted).  The music also begins as did strophe 2, but the second line makes an unexpected detour to G major.  The last two lines then intensify and work to a climax, moving again back to E major.  This ends the first part (three stanzas/strophes).  Note that strophe 2 has a clear connection to strophe 1, while strophe 3 is related to strophe 2, but not strophe 1.  This is an interesting progression for a modified strophic form.
1:06 [m. 32]--The piano interlude leading to the second part (two stanzas/strophes), retains the energy picked up by strophe 3.  The syncopated upper voice appears again and becomes more pronounced.  It drops out in the bar leading into the vocal entry for strophe 4.
1:11 [m. 35]--Stanza (strophe) 4.  The vocal line begins as did strophe 1, but Brahms indicates that the music continue to become more lively.  The descending arpeggios now overlap between the hands.  The upper voice appears earlier, its syncopations actually underpinning the vocal line and doubling it, rather than simply imitating the notes.  The music then diverges from strophe 1 in the last two lines, which have more sweep.  These lines are repeated and varied, including another piano hemiola in the first bar of the repetition.  This text repetition leads effortlessly to a full cadence like that of strophe 2.  Brahms clearly considered these two lines the climax of the poem.  Strophe 4 thus begins like strophe 1 and ends similarly to strophe 2.  Another bridge recalls the introduction.
1:35 [m. 48]--Stanza (strophe) 5.  Things become gradually and steadily quieter and more still over the course of the verse.  It is the most dissimilar to the other strophes.  The accompaniment keeps the “halting” character of the introduction, and each line is broadened to three bars instead of two.   The second line moves briefly to the related C-sharp minor.
1:47 [m. 54]--The third line of the stanza moves to straight alternation of the left and right hands on each of the six “beats.”  This undermines the 6/8 meter and suggests 3/4.  The vocal line remains clearly in 6/8, creating cross-grouping.  The line is again three bars.  The last line, another sweeping arch, returns to 6/8 grouping in the piano, but the notes and sliding chords are slower, pausing halfway through each bar.  This continues in a two-bar bridge to the repetition of these two lines, but the bridge suggests the “straight alternation” again.  The first bar of this bridge overlaps with the completion of the line, and includes a ringing syncopated top note.
2:03 [m. 61]--Brahms repeats the last two lines of the stanza.  The repetition of line 3 is stretched to four bars by the addition of the words “trag es” (“es” substituting for “dies Schifflein”).  The four-bar phrase returns to the straight alternation and cross-grouping heard in the line’s previous statement, but it now includes reiterations of the “ringing” syncopated top note heard in the preceding bridge.  In the last two bars, the piano halts completely after the first beat.
2:13 [m. 65]--The repetition of the last line is actually a double repetition, with every word except “hin” being stated twice (and the word “trag” being stated three times counting the addition to the third line).  This stretches the phrase to five bars, the longest in the song.  The accompaniment is again similar to the previous statement of the line, with 6/8 grouping and pauses, and the line has the same sweeping vocal arch, now greatly prolonged.
2:26 [m. 69]--The short postlude that overlaps the cadence returns to the halting character of the introduction, even including one more quickly rolled chord.  It slows and diminishes until the last, longer rolled chord.
2:45--END OF SONG [71 mm.]

3. Es hing der Reif (Hoarfrost was Hanging).  Text by Klaus Groth.  Träumerisch (Dreamily).  Ternary form.  A MINOR, 3/4 time (Low key F minor).

German Text:
Es hing der Reif im Lindenbaum,
Wodurch das Licht wie Silber floß.
Ich sah dein Haus, wie hell im Traum
Ein blitzend Feenschloß.

Und offen stand das Fenster dein,
Ich konnte dir ins Zimmer sehn -
Da tratst du in den Sonnenschein,
Du dunkelste der Feen!

Ich bebt’ in seligem Genuß,
So frühlingswarm und wunderbar:
Da merkt’ ich gleich an deinem Gruß,
Daß Frost und Winter war.

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--The brief piano introduction beginning with a partial bar does not clearly establish the minor key, but strongly suggests it.  There are two “sighing” figures in chords, the first moving to C major and the second to A minor.  The left hand figures, three-note upbeat rising arpeggios, persist through the first stanza.
0:08 [m. 5]--Stanza 1.  The very sweet, swaying melody is a major/minor mixture, and by the end of the second line, the music clearly feels more in C major than in A minor (the two are “relative” keys).  The short-long rhythm becomes nearly obsessive.  The accompaniment, whose top notes double the vocal line, includes some colorful chords with notes foreign to both keys.  The bass line with three-note upbeats steadily and insistently works its way down the keyboard.
0:20 [m. 13]--The last two lines of stanza 1 continue the major/minor ambiguity, the third line seeming to move clearly to minor.  The last line includes leaps up and down an octave on the dissonant note F-sharp, and it builds noticeably.  The line is then repeated, breaking the short-long rhythm, leaping up an octave, and floating back down.  The piano retains the established rhythmic patterns in both hands.  The vocal line comes to a half-cadence in C major, and this is echoed by the piano, whose top and bottom notes have “stalled” on the “dominant” note, G.
0:40 [m. 26]--Stanza 2.  The C-major character continues for the first two lines, the suddenly sparse accompaniment suggesting the trepidation of looking in the window.  The flowing vocal rhythms, clearly contrasted with the persistent short-long of stanza 1, grow out of the repetition of that stanza’s last line.  The accompaniment is reduced to punctuating “sigh” figures.  These underlie the long-held notes on “offen” and “konnte,” and also mark the end of each line.  At the end of the second line, the “sigh” figures grow into the pervasive short-long rhythm, bridging to the last two lines and  preparing the change of key to A-flat.
0:58 [m. 38]--The last two lines of the stanza are musically more related to stanza 1, but include a dramatic shift to the foreign key of A-flat as the woman enters the room.  They are mostly in the short-long rhythm, but include one arching line on “Sonnenschein.” Line 4 quickly returns back to the more familiar area of C major.  A short, dramatic recall of the piano introduction sets up the last stanza and once again prepares A minor.
1:19 [m. 48]--Stanza 3.  It is very similar to stanza 1, but with important changes.  The first line is altered to better fit the declamation.  This includes a dramatic pause after “Ich bebt’” (“I trembled”), and a leap to the highest vocal pitch of the song after the pause, leading into faster notes on “seligem Genuß.”  There is then a piano “echo” that was not there before, mirroring the similar “echo” during the pause after “Ich bebt’.”  Lines 2 and 3 are virtually identical to their counterparts in stanza 1, but the opening harmonies under line 2 are less colorful.  Line 3 again moves to minor.
1:41 [m. 62]--Line 4 is now altered, along with its repetition, to stay strongly in A minor and end there, not only confirming the key of the song, but starkly emphasizing the very dark turn of the line.  The repetition of the line, which is displaced by two beats, has a similar motion to its counterpart in stanza 1, but it works further upward after the octave leap.  The accompaniment also completely breaks the pattern, settling onto long chords in the low register.  At the last two words, the vocal line broadens greatly, stretching out the bitterly bleak A-minor cadence.
1:59 [m. 74]--The postlude stretches out the “sigh” figure from the introduction over a broad arpeggio in the left hand.  All ambiguity is now dispersed in this closing, which transforms the “sigh” into a highly pathetic wail.  Perhaps ironically, the wail is set to the same pitches as the hopeful “Ich bebt’” at the beginning of the stanza.
2:11--END OF SONG [77 mm.]

4. Meine Lieder (My Songs).  Text by Adolf Frey.  Bewegt und leise (With motion and quietly).  Through-composed form with much melodic repetition.  F-SHARP MINOR, Cut time [2/2] (Low key D-sharp minor).

German Text:
Wenn mein Herz beginnt zu klingen
Und den Tönen löst die Schwingen,
Schweben vor mir her und wieder
Bleiche Wonnen, unvergessen
Und die Schatten von Zypressen -
Dunkel klingen meine Lieder!

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--The introduction presents all of the basic melodic ideas used in the song.  In the top voice, there is a four-note descent in long-short rhythm.  This is followed by more steady motion in the third bar.  Finally, there is a hovering figure in faster long-short (dotted) rhythm that includes half-steps and a prominent grace note.  The first two bars are supported by descending arpeggios passed down to the left hand.  The third and fourth bars gradually turn these around.  All of these elements contribute to a wistful, delicate, and melancholy mood.
0:07 [m. 5]--The first two lines retain the character of the introduction.  The piano part under the first line is nearly identical to the introduction at first, introducing only slight and subtle variations.  The vocal line retains the rhythm, but not the contour of the pattern presented in the introduction.  It introduces a rising sweep in the “steady” third bar.  The end of the vocal phrase takes over the prominent grace note from the piano.
0:13 [m. 9]--The second line is highly similar to the first, but it introduces subtle, colorful changes in the pitches of both the voice and piano parts that help it turn to the “dominant” key of C-sharp minor.
0:19 [m. 13]--The third and fourth lines are less agitated, marked dolce (“sweetly”) by Brahms.  Two introductory measures begin the familiar pattern in C-sharp minor.  When the voice enters, it continues this rhythmic pattern of the slower long-short figures for the entire third line, while the piano also continues these over the persistent descending arpeggios.  The end of the line turns to a remote-sounding D major, where the fourth line begins.
0:28 [m. 19]--The fourth line moves to the “steady” figures based on the rising sweep heard in the third bar of the first line.  There are two of these, heard while the piano continues the slower long-short figures and descending arpeggios.  The “steady” figures turn downward on their last note.  The last two bars of the phrase move to a straightened-out version of the “hovering” figure heard at the end of the introduction.  They make another harmonic motion, an easy progression from D to G major.  In the last bar, the piano left hand introduces rising arpeggios for the first time.
0:36 [m. 23]--The fifth line reduces the vocal motion to slower notes on four drooping two-note figures that gradually expand downward.  The top note of each remains the same, but the bottom notes move down by half-step each time.. The right hand of the piano plays rich, full chords under these figures.  The left hand continues the new upward arpeggios introduced at the end of the fourth line.  These are in three-note groups beginning off the beat.  One piano-only measure follows the text.  This echoes, at a higher level, the last “drooping” figure heard on “Cypressen.”  The line is set in G major, with some minor-key inflection, but never really settles there.
0:46 [m. 28]--The final line is a sort of “return” to the first line and the introduction, but now the vocal line begins by moving down, while the piano arpeggios continue the upward motion.  This is now in the more continuous pattern from the introduction, but with reversed direction.  The phrase slides easily down to the home key of F-sharp minor from the G major of the fifth line.  The piano bass moves steadily downward, first doubling the voice and then breaking free.
0:52 [m. 32]--The line is repeated to a new vocal phrase that begins higher, introduces the “steady” figure (now with a downward sweep), and ends with the “hovering” figure incorporating the characteristic grace note from the introduction and first line.  The piano bass continues to move downward against the rising arpeggios.  The line comes to a full cadence in F-sharp minor after being stretched to an extra bar by prolonging the words of the title.
1:00 [m. 36]--The postlude, which overlaps with the vocal cadence, is a repetition of the introduction with some added harmonies, but the last measure is repeated as the music slows to a close, and some final cadence chords are added over a rising arpeggio.
1:22--END OF SONG [42 mm.]

5. Ein Wanderer (A Traveler).  Text by Christian Reinhold.  In langsam gehender Bewegung (In slow, but constant motion).  Modified strophic or ternary form (First and third verses nearly identical)  F  MINOR, 2/4 time (Low key D minor).

German Text:
Hier, wo sich die Straßen scheiden,
Wo nun gehn die Wege hin?
Meiner ist der Weg der Leiden,
Des ich immer sicher bin.

Wandrer, die des Weges gehen,
Fragen freundlich: Wo hinaus?
Keiner wird mich doch verstehen,
Sag’ ich ihm, wo ich zu Haus.

Reiche Erde, arme Erde,
Hast du keinen Raum für mich?
Wo ich einst begraben werde,
An der Stelle lieb’ ich dich.

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1.  Two chords, the top voice of which descends by a third, set up the stark mood of the song The piano part is steady and inexorable, the hands moving mostly in opposite directions, the right hand up and the left hand down in groups of four, sometimes combined with rests and syncopation.  The upward vocal sweep of the first line is constant through the three verses.  The second line winds its way down in an almost tortured manner.  The piano imitates the motion of this line in a one-bar break before the third line.
0:18 [m. 7]--The third line intensifies the mood and introduces more dotted (long-short) rhythms, along with syncopation in the piano left hand.  The left hand begins by shadowing the decisive vocal line, but then plunges strongly downward.  The last line of the stanza comes to a full cadence after a colorful harmonic detour to the “Neapolitan” harmony of G-flat major, a half-step above the home key.,  The voice strives upward after steadily moving down in line 3, and the left hand continues to work down to the bottom of the keyboard.  Before the cadence, the right hand begins to play halting harmonized descents in groups of two notes.  This continues after the cadence, as the last two words, “sicher bin” are repeated for another confirming cadence an octave lower.  The music then quiets down as the two-note groups trail off.
0:35 [m. 13]--Stanza 2.  The opening descent emerges from the trailing piano groups.  It is reduced to simple, quiet harmonic thirds in the low bass register.  They outline the chord of the home key.  The vocal line begins as in stanza 1, but the piano part is changed, with the right hand moving down in plodding groups beginning off the beat.  The left hand plays low broken octaves, as it did at the end of stanza 1.  The second vocal line diverges from the notes of stanza 1 with the hopeful question, and makes another move toward G-flat (earlier than in stanza 1), this time actually reaching a cadence there, which is echoed by the piano in another one-bar break before the third line.
0:53 [m. 19]--Lines three and four begin lower than in stanza 1, and the piano part becomes more agitated, with quicker dotted rhythms.  F minor is quickly re-established.  Line four intensifies, as before, but now four words (syllables) are repeated instead of two (three syllables), and the repetition becomes more agitated rather than settling down.  The two statements heavily emphasize the harmony of the “dominant” chord, and the second one is expanded with longer note values. The vocal line of this expansion nearly cries out, and the piano, still playing in faster dotted rhythms, breaks into highly dramatic chords.  These lead to a dramatic pause on the highly anticipatory, unresolved “dominant” chord, and the vocal line also does not reach resolution after its lamenting climax.
1:16 [m. 26]--Stanza 3.  It is introduced by bare octaves instead of chords, but the notes are the same descending third.  The octaves are echoed after the beat in the low bass.  Except for the first two measures, the verse is virtually identical to stanza 1.  Those two measures dispense with the upward striving of the piano part in favor of four descending block chords in the right hand and offbeat octaves in the left on the note F, continuing and completing the F-minor broken chord that began in the descent of the introductory bar.
1:34 [m. 32]--In the third line of the stanza, another very minor difference from stanza 1 is that the notes of the word “werde” in the vocal line are a third higher than those of “Leiden” in stanza 1.  Three words are repeated at the end (three syllables, though, as in stanza 1).
1:51 [m. 38]--The piano postlude begins with the same desolate low bass descent of harmonized thirds that introduced stanza 2, appearing in the same way after the downward trailing two-note groups of the piano.  To close the song, the descent is repeated two octaves higher, in full harmony and above an ascending F-minor arpeggio.  This final descent adds one more descending third to complete the broken chord in the top voice.
2:14--END OF SONG [40 mm.]