Recording: Edith Mathis, soprano; Brigitte Fassbaender, alto; Peter Schreier, tenor; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, bass; Peter Engel, piano [DG 449 641-2]

Published 1891.

Brahms prepared his last set of vocal quartets for publication in 1891, but it is likely that all six were composed earlier.  The obvious break between the two sophisticated Kugler settings and the four Zigeunerlieder, which seem a supplement to Op. 103, did not prevent Brahms from presenting them as a single entity, and the artificial separation into “Op. 112a” and “Op. 112b” that is sometimes seen did not stem from him.  He sent them as a complete group to Clara Schumann, simply calling them “six quartets.”  Still, the Zigeunerlieder were given their own subheading and numbered as 1-4 as well as 3-6.  The set’s “anthology” character stems from its publication after his announced “final” new composition, the G-major String Quintet, Op. 111.  The Kugler settings may date from 1888, when he wrote his only other setting of the poet, the first song “Ständchen” from Op. 106.  The Zigeunerlieder may have been written shortly after the publication of Op. 103, perhaps for a planned full second set.  Brahms was deciding which of his outstanding manuscripts were worth publishing.  The 13 canons for women’s voices, Op. 113, were another product of this “inventory,” as were some publications without opus numbers, such as the huge collection of 49 folksong arrangements.  The six pieces are unified by their genre and medium, but true to nature, Brahms was still careful to ensure that they could be a “set.”  They are arranged in three pairs of pieces in D and F, first minor, then major, then minor/major.  The dark D-minor ending of the spectral night piece “Nächtens” leads beautifully into the joyous D-major outburst or “daybreak” of the first “gypsy song,” whose opening text describes the brightly beaming sky.  At the same time, its opening two chords are the same ones that open the last song from Op. 103, making it more than feasible to perform an expanded set of 15 “gypsy songs.”  The upward shift from D-flat major of Op. 103, No. 11 to D major of Op. 112, No. 3 would be consistent with the abrupt key shifts within Op. 103, No. 11 itself.  These four Zigeunerlieder are somewhat more formally complex than most of Op. 103, suggesting a later composition, and Brahms did not arrange them for solo voice.  The last of the four makes an explicit musical reference to the first.  As for the two Kugler settings, they are the darkest and most profound of all his vocal quartets.  “Sehnsucht” is an extended and evocative masterpiece that makes the most of its brief text.  “Nächtens” is much shorter but is experimental and even daring.  It is the only piece in the entire Brahms oeuvre to be set in real, committed 5/4 meter from beginning to end, the brief modification to the 2+3 patterns in the postlude notwithstanding.  Its hushed but relentless piano tremolos add to the extremely disturbed and agitated nocturnal mood, and even the turn to major at the end hints at a hopeless daybreak, which is wonderfully contradicted if the first Zigeunerlied follows directly.  In both Kugler pieces, the treatment of the four voices in pairs is characteristic.

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)
From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)

1. Sehnsucht (Longing).  Text by Franz Theodor Kugler.  Andante.  Expanded ternary form (ABB’A’).  F MINOR, 2/4 time. 
(The title Sehnsucht is also used for the solo songs Op. 14, No. 8 and Op. 49, No. 3.)

German Text:
Es rinnen die Wasser Tag und Nacht,
Deine Sehnsucht wacht.
Du gedenkest der vergangenen Zeit,
Die liegt so weit.
Du siehst hinaus in den Morgenschein
Und bist allein.
Es rinnen die Wasser Tag und Nacht,
Deine Sehnsucht wacht.

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Introduction.  The piano has a distinct two voices split between the hands.  The right hand has straightforward descending thirds in eighth notes, establishing the melancholy mood.  The left hand has faster sixteenth notes, some of which are held over strong beats and bar lines.  These reach up and zigzag down.  The synchronicity of the two voices is further disrupted in a second statement, when the right-hand voice decorates its material with clashing triplet rhythm.  The two statements have the same colorful harmonic progression in F minor.  There is a one-bar dolce extension of the last F-minor harmony.
0:11 [m. 6]--Lines 1-2 (A).  The soprano and alto enter with their halting initial statement of line 1, which does not veer from F minor.  They give out the first four words almost with trepidation, adding dramatic pauses.  The last three words are set to a smoother arching line.  The voices are harmonized in thirds throughout and given a piano accompaniment with smooth rising arpeggios.
0:18 [m. 10]--The tenor and bass take a turn at line 1, overlapping with the women’s conclusion.  They start in the same place and in the same manner, but the vocal notes and the accompaniment quickly deviate, shifting the harmony toward the minor version of the “dominant” (C minor), using colorful “seventh chords” in the accompaniment.  In the smoother last three words, they zigzag instead of arching, and expand to sixths instead of thirds.
0:26 [m. 14]--The tenor and bass continue with their statement of line 2, the bass initially lagging just behind the tenor with its entry.  Their first high long note on “deine” is held over a descending “diminished seventh” harmony in the piano, played in triplet rhythm.  They continue and conclude the line, zigzagging down with the tenor emerging into a cadential turn figure.  The piano, with broken bass octaves leading to upper harmonies, remains in the triplet rhythm.  The voices point to an arrival on C minor, but this is thwarted by the same “diminished seventh” chord, over which the women start their overlapping statement.
0:35 [m. 18]--The soprano and alto appear to echo the tenor/bass statement of the line, with the alto lagging behind the soprano as the bass had lagged behind the tenor.  The notes are the same, sung over the descending “diminished seventh” in triplets and the continuation in triplets.  Unexpectedly, the tenor, then the bass, enter quickly following the alto.  They extend the statement and change its harmony.  All the voices repeat “deine.”  The soprano and alto repeat “deine Sehnsucht,” having entered earlier than the men.  The alto even adds an extra “deine” as its faster two-note figures trail behind the soprano.  The harmony is again colorful, and the arrival at the end of the seven-measure phrase is an unexpected G-major chord.
0:50 [m. 25]--Lines 3-4 (B).  The G-major chord becomes a “dominant” seventh chord in a very unstable C major.  The tenor haltingly gives out the first two words of line 3, “Du gedenkest,” in a rising chromatic line, all half-steps.  The bass overlaps and freely inverts the chromatic line, adding one whole step.  Overlapping with this, the tenor concludes the line, reaching up and descending.  A sixth above, the soprano simultaneously sings the rising chromatic line on “Du gedenkest.”  The alto inverts this as the bass had done, while the bass begins its completion of the line with a descent and an upward leap.  The piano reiterates the long “dominant” chord on G under all of this.
0:59 [m. 29]--Halfway through this measure, the tenor and soprano join on the conclusion of the line, the tenor singing it for the second time.  The tenor has the chromatic line, but the soprano soars and swells up to a slow descent.  The tenor’s continuation is in the same slow rhythm, but he only reaches up at the end.  At the same time, the bass is finishing his extended conclusion.  He holds a note, then sings the inversion of the chromatic line, reaching and holding the last word “Zeit” before the others.  The alto is the latest to begin the continuation, soaring up like the soprano and quickly concluding with a chromatic descent.  The piano moves to arching triplets in the right hand.  The goal appears to be an arrival on C major.
1:04 [m. 32]--As the upper three voices converge on “Zeit,” the arrival on C major is thwarted by the familiar “diminished seventh,” descending in the piano in triplets again.  On that colorful harmony, the upper three voices intone line 4.  The bass trails behind a measure.  As the upper three voices shift up a half-step on “weit” and the bass rises slowly by half-step to complete the line, the piano has another descending arpeggio, this one beginning an octave higher.  It is not on the “diminished seventh,” but on the “dominant” based on B-flat, which would seem to point to an arrival on E-flat (“relative” to C minor), but this is quickly converted to another “diminished seventh” by the bass line rising from B-flat to B-natural.
1:13 [m. 36]--The piano does indeed reach E-flat in its bass, but this is only part of a prolongation of the delayed arrival on C, initially C minor.  As the bass slides up on “weit,” the other voices repeat the line, the bass quickly joining them.  The soprano is highly evocative here, with a jagged but flowing line that again soars up.  The other voices are more static, but the tenor becomes more active as all four voices reiterate “so weit,” giving those words a third time.  In the piano, the familiar broken bass octaves leading to upper harmonies alternate C minor with another “diminished seventh” (actually “half-diminished”), and at the very end, as the voices make their final arrival on “weit,” the harmony unexpectedly brightens to C major.
1:24 [m. 41]--Lines 5-6 (B’).  Line 5 is treated in a similar manner to line 3, with imitation and inversion of short fragments.  The C-major harmony becomes a “dominant” seventh in the home key of F, similar to the harmony under line 3.  The bass begins, now with a five-note gesture that rises, then drops a step on “Du siehst hinaus.”  The rising line is not completely by half-steps, but it is chromatic.  The tenor freely inverts the line before the bass finishes.  Before the tenor finishes, the alto takes the original bass line an octave higher, and the bass himself harmonizes her a sixth below.  Finally, the soprano overlaps with the inversion.  The piano sustains the “dominant” chord on C throughout.
1:32 [m. 45]--This passage is similar to 0:59 [m. 29], but not quite as complex.  The lower three voices all enter to complete the line together, rising in harmony and overlapping with the soprano’s conclusion of her fragment.  As they reach “Morgenschein,” the soprano belatedly follows them on the rising line.  The soprano’s soaring line here resembles the previous passage at 0:59 [m. 29].  The other three voices have new flowing lines, the tenor reaching high at the outset.  All complete “Morgenschein” together except for the bass, who finishes the word earlier on a held low C.  The piano becomes active with harmonized triplets, but a “straight” rhythm emerges in the bass and then in the upper voices.
1:39 [m. 48]--An arrival back home on F would be expected after the prolonged harmonies around C, but following the previous pattern at 1:04 [m. 32], it is thwarted by the “diminished seventh,” again descending in triplets in the piano.  It is a half-step lower than it was before.  The upper three voices intone line 6 as they had line 4, on the “diminished seventh” harmony, but not distributed in the same way.  The bass enters late as before and rises chromatically after the other three move up a half-step on the second syllable of “allein.”  The high descending arpeggio is on a “dominant seventh” based on G-flat, suggesting an arrival on B, a very distant harmony, but the conversion to an unstable “diminished seventh” allows motion to F.
1:48 [m. 52]--This conclusion is analogous to 1:13 [m. 36], with subtle alterations.  All the vocal lines resemble their presentation there with slight changes, and their cadence is extended by a measure to merge with the next section, a reprise of the introduction.  The extension allows the entire line 6 to be stated two more times instead of one and a half.  In the familiar piano figures, again in triplet rhythm with broken bass octaves leading to upper harmonies, the “half-diminished” seventh chord is heard, but only once, and the cadence in F minor is more full and complete, using “dominant” harmony.  It does not brighten to major.
1:58 [m. 57]--The vocal cadence in F minor, the home key, merges directly into a full restatement of the piano introduction, which is presented exactly as at the beginning.
2:09 [m. 62]--Lines 7-8 (A’).  These lines are textually an exact restatement of lines 1-2 and are treated as a varied reprise.  The soprano and alto sing exactly what they did at 0:11 [m. 6], and the piano is also almost the same.  Now, however, the tenor and bass follow them in a very close canon at a level a step above.  As the soprano and alto complete the line, the tenor and bass repeat “Tag” before reaching high and following with the conclusion on “und Nacht.”  This merges with the soprano and alto repeating all of “Tag und Nacht in a new extension that reaches higher and prepares the continuation in the home key.  The tenor and bass then also repeat “und Nacht.”  The continuation for line 8 is now in F minor rather than C minor.
2:20 [m. 68]--The presentation of line 8 resembles that of line 2 at 0:26 [m. 14], with the descending “diminished seventh” in the piano.  Now, however, the main melodic line is presented by the soprano in F minor, including the cadential turn, and all three of the other voices enter in succession with supporting lines.  Coming in later, the tenor and bass omit the word “wacht” here.  The soprano adds an additional upper neighbor syncopation before the arrival cadence, which this time is not thwarted, but merges with a new second statement of the line.
2:29 [m. 72]--With the cadence comes a new and highly elegant statement of the last line.  The music of the piano introduction returns, but now in the voices, and the melody artfully intertwines between the soprano and alto.  The alto passes the first figure to the soprano, then takes it back.  The soprano then does the same with the triplet figure, which is slightly different from those in the introduction.  The soprano repeats “deine” and the alto repeats “deine Sehnsucht.”  Meanwhile, the tenor and bass support with longer notes in a single statement of the line, the tenor reaching high in two yearning downward lines.  The piano has rising sixteenth-note arpeggios and off-beat right-hand figures, mostly broken octaves.
2:36 [m. 76]--At another F-minor arrival point, the piano suddenly breaks into one last “diminished seventh,” rising in a bass arpeggio.  The arpeggio continues, adding other notes and rising into the high range.  The voices, meanwhile, state the last line one final time, beginning with the bass, followed by the tenor and then the alto and soprano together, all in longer notes against the arpeggio.  They all sustain “Sehnsucht,” stretching the first syllable out over a measure and a half on a “half-diminished seventh” harmony, which is also held in the right hand over another long rising left-hand arpeggio.  Brahms directs that the voices and piano should rapidly diminish in volume and slow down.
2:46 [m. 80]--The voices finally resolve onto an F-major chord (not minor) on “wacht,” the bass adding an extra leap from the “dominant” to the keynote F.  Later, the tenor moves up from the third of the chord to the fifth (or “dominant”).  The voices hold this suddenly warm and soothing final harmony as the piano reiterates the F-major chord three times, the first one high over a low bass octave, the second one with both hands moving inward, and then back out to the higher chord over the low octave, the chord held with a fermata after the voices cut off.
2:59--END OF QUARTET [82 mm.]

2. Nächtens (At Night).  Text by Franz Theodor Kugler.  Unruhig bewegt (Restlessly agitated).  Ternary varied strophic form.  D MINOR, 5/4 time.

German Text:
Nächtens wachen auf die irren,
Lügenmächt’gen Spukgestalten,
Welche deinen Sinn verwirren.

Nächtens ist im Blumengarten
Reif gefallen, daß vergebens
Du der Blumen würdest warten.

Nächtens haben Gram und Sorgen
In dein Herz sich eingenistet,
Und auf Tränen blickt der Morgen.

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]
--Stanza (strophe) 1.  The 5/4 meter is treated as 2+3.  In the first measure, the piano presents the ominous melody that provides the thread between the verses.  The left hand rises, then falls in a faster rhythm over the first two beats.  The right hand, in the tenor range, repeats the faster motion, then closes off the melody with two longer notes, creating a three-beat unit.  The piano then breaks into its constant accompaniment, decorating the established melody with tremolo 32nd notes in the right hand, mezza voce, against low bass notes.  On the first line, the soprano and tenor present a slow-moving, ghostly introductory melody over the tremolo, staying in unison, sotto voce, until breaking into a brief harmony at the very end.
0:13 [m. 4]--The alto and bass, in unison octaves, sing the first two lines to the established melody, swelling in volume on the second line and varying it to close with a  downward-leaping octave.  Against this, the soprano, tenor, and piano present the material just heard in the “introductory” statement, the two voices singing their slower melody to line 2 as the faster alto and bass present both lines.  At the end, the soprano and tenor exchange their previous harmonies, and the piano tremolo is very slightly varied from the introductory statement.
0:20 [m. 6]--Line 3 is presented to new material.  The alto and bass break into harmony, mostly thirds, with an arching line, the bass slowing at the end of the line.  The piano tremolo decorates the alto’s upper melody.  The soprano and tenor then enter, also in harmony but not parallel, and give their own statement of the text as the alto and bass (again mostly in thirds until the end) repeat it without the first word “Welche.”  The piano tremolo here decorates the soprano until adding two very brief eighth note breaks at the end.  The melody is highly agitated, swelling and receding on both statements.  The voices reach a full cadence.
0:28 [m. 8]--Stanza (strophe) 2.  As the voices reach their cadence, the piano restates its introduction before breaking into tremolo again.  This time, the soprano and tenor in unison have a new idea, entering on the upbeat of the piano introduction.  It is faster, but still narrow in range, and they sing both the first two lines together with the alto and bass.  After the soprano/tenor upbeat, the alto and bass enter in their unison octaves to present the two lines to the familiar melody.  After a harmonic shift in line 1, the second line dips down a third, moving from the firmly established D minor down to B-flat minor.  The tenor, omitting “daß vergebens,” breaks off before the soprano, who extends her arrival to the downbeat of the third line.
0:39 [m. 11]--The pairs change for line 3, with the tenor and bass against the soprano and alto.  The tenor and bass sing a gentler dolce version of the original line 3 melody, mostly in thirds, but instead of all of line 3, they repeat “daß vergebens” from the end of line 2 and then sing “Du der Blumen.”  The harmonic level remains on B-flat, shifting to major, and the piano decorates the tenor line.  The tenor and bass then stretch out “würdest warten” in non-parallel lines as the soprano and alto, harmonized mostly in thirds, sing the entire line on faster notes, the piano decorating the soprano.
0:47 [m. 13]--The phrase is extended by a repetition of the line.  The soprano having delayed the arrival, the other three voices now sing together in harmony.  The piano tremolo changes to slower rising triplet-rhythm arpeggios.  The soprano joins the other three on “würdest warten.”  All voices reach a cadence in B-flat major, somewhat brightening the overwhelmingly dark mood.
0:50 [m. 14]--Stanza (strophe) 3.  The piano again states its introduction with the cadence, but it is varied.  The right hand takes both the two-beat and three-beat segments, allowing the left hand to facilitate a rapid key change back to D minor.  The statement of the first two lines begins with the alto and bass again in unison on the familiar melody.  The soprano and tenor again have a new idea.  They sing together but add harmonies on thirds or sixths, with some notes still unison.  They enter a beat after the alto and bass begin, singing on faster notes and concluding each of the lines together with them.  During line 2, the soprano reaches high, and all voices swell strongly in volume to forte, greatly heightening the anxiety.
1:02 [m. 17]--All four voices now present the third line together, remaining at the forte volume level.  The original melody in stanza 1 used a “diminished” arpeggio, and one is used here, but now it is at a different level, hinting briefly at the key of G minor (“relative” to the previous B-flat major).  The piano tremolo mostly shadows the soprano line, but the tenor reaches high.  The line is then repeated by all voices with extra internal repetition.  Back strongly in D minor, the repetition reaches a powerful climax, the soprano reaching her highest note.  The words “auf Tränen” are repeated before the line continues.
1:09 [m. 19]--Not including the cadence arrival, line 3 in stanza 1 was two measures.  In stanza 2 it was three.  Stanza 3 takes the extension even further, stretching it to four measures before the cadence.  After the repetition of “auf Tränen,” the volume rapidly diminishes on “blickt der Morgen,” the first syllable on “Morgen” sung with mild syncopation.  Those words are also repeated with the word “Morgen” now stretched to a full measure.  Under this measure, the piano tremolo breaks four times for the length of an eighth note, heightening the sense of reduced energy and anxiety toward dark resignation.
1:17 [m. 21]--The piano postlude is of course based on the main melody.  On the last vocal cadence, all voices end on D except the tenor, who ends on the fifth A.  The melody is stretched out with a modification of the 5/4 meter.  Two two-beat units are followed by two three-beat units (I analyze this as two interrupted 5/4 bars rather than as four measures of 2/4 and 3/4).  The piano bass statement is delayed until the beat after the vocal arrival.  The right hand overlaps with it on the original two-beat unit.  The two three-beat units are devoted to lengthened statements of last slower notes.  The second of these statements shifts up to create the final cadence, which unexpectedly turns to major-key harmony at the last moment, held with a fermata.
1:34--END OF QUARTET [22 mm.]

FOUR ZIGEUNERLIEDER (GYPSY SONGS).  Texts translated from the Hungarian by Hugo Conrat.
3. No. 1: “Himmel strahlt so helle und klar” (“The sky is beaming, so bright and clear”).  Allegro non troppo.  Slightly varied strophic form.  D MAJOR, 2/4 time.

German Text:
Himmel strahlt so helle und klar,
Heller strahlt mir dein Augenpaar.
Du meine Rose, mir ins Auge blick,
Daß ich dich segne in meinem Glück.

Vögleins Lied so lieblich erklingt,
Süß’res Lied mir mein Liebchen singt.
Du meine Rose, mir ins Auge blick,
Daß ich dich segne in meinem Glück.

Sonne küßt das ganze Erdenrund,
Heißer küßt mich dein Rosenmund.
Du meine Rose, mir ins Auge blick,
Daß ich dich segne in meinem Glück.

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]-Stanza (strophe) 1.  Lines 1-2.  After two forceful “pre-dominant” and “dominant” piano chords reminiscent of the last song (No. 11) from Op. 103, the voices sing in full, jubilant harmony.  In four-bar line 1, the soprano begins high, and the line follows a downward trajectory.  The piano has chords with high and low upbeat-downbeat left-hand motion.  Seven-bar line 2 continues with narrower motion and one slight offset between soprano/tenor and alto/bass pairs in the first measure.  The piano right hand imitates the descent at the end of line 1 while the left leaps to syncopated harmonies.  The words “dein Augenpaar” are joyously and forcefully repeated before a piano bridge with undulating thirds in long-short rhythm.
0:15 [m. 13]--Lines 3-4.  These lines are set to the undulating patterns just heard in the brief bridge, downward-dipping figures in long-short rhythm.  The tenor and bass lag a bit at the end of line 3, creating a quasi-imitation.  The second half of line 3 rises in pitch and volume, and like line 1, it is four bars.  The first half of line 4 continues the pattern for its first half, rising again in pitch, then reaches a forte climax on longer notes for the last half of the line, “in meinem Glück.”  The volume recedes and the pitch descends as those words are repeated, reaching a cadence in another seven-bar phrase.  The piano largely follows the vocal patterns, with a leaping, mildly syncopated left hand that has straight downward leaps at the end.
0:26 [m. 23]--A piano interlude merges with the vocal cadence, initially utilizing the undulating patterns, rising on these for four bars and building in volume before reaching the two opening chords, which are now stretched out to two full measures against a leaping left hand.  These lead into the second stanza.
0:33 [m. 29]--Stanza (strophe) 2.  Lines 1-2.  The vocal lines follow the patterns from stanza 1 in line 1, but the bass does not sing.  The tenor mixes notes from the original tenor and bass parts.  The piano has a new tremolo accompaniment figure that imitates the Hungarian cimbalom and illustrates the birdsong described in the text.  The left hand has short figures that complement the right-hand tremolo.  In line 4, the soprano has the same notes, but the alto line largely follows the previous tenor line, and the tenor takes notes from both the alto and bass lines.  The piano has syncopated “chirping” figures.  In the text repetition, the piano follows the original melody while the vocal lines are changed in contour.  The bridge follows as before.
0:45 [m. 40]--Lines 3-4.  The text and music are identical to stanza 1 at 0:15 [m. 13].
0:56 [m. 50]--Interlude, as at 0:26 [m. 23].
1:03 [m. 56]--Stanza (strophe) 3.  Lines 1-2.  The vocal parts are mostly as in stanza 1, but to compensate for the extra syllable in line 1, the third measure, which has a general descent, adds a note to each part, changing the rhythm to four short notes instead of the previous short-short-long.  In the soprano and alto, a note is added to create a straight descent where there had been a skip.  The tenor and bass simply split up their previous notes.  The piano is also slightly different, adding extra syncopated chords under line 1 and making the previous three-note descents under line 2, which imitate the descent that was three notes and is now four, also four-note descents.  The familiar piano bridge follows as before.
1:15 [m. 67]--Lines 3-4.  The first seven measures are textually and musically as in the other two stanzas.  From the eighth measure, there is slight alteration in the alto, tenor, and piano to lead into an extended repetition.  Instead of just “in meinem Glück,” the entire line 4 is repeated, extending the phrase from seven to twelve bars.  The voices steadily descend, with the familiar downward leaps in the left hand of the piano.  They also recede in volume before they reach long full-measure notes on “meinem Glück.”  The cadence is more complete as well, with the soprano on the keynote instead of the third of the chord.  Under the long notes, there are pauses between the left-hand leaps.  A sudden loud chord and low bass octave end the song.
1:41--END OF QUARTET [83 mm.]

4. No. 2: “Rote Rosenknospen” (“Red rosebuds”).  Allegretto grazioso.  Binary form (AA’BB’) with coda.  F MAJOR, 2/4 time.

German Text:
Rote Rosenknospen
künden schon des Lenzes Triebe.
Rosenrote Wangen
Deuten Mädchens erste Liebe.
Kleiner roter Vogel,
Flieg herab zur roten Rose!
Bursche geht zum ros’gen
Mädchen kosen.

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Lines 1-2 (A).  The voices sing about the red rosebuds in tender harmony.  The tenor, high in his range, sings dolce.  The piano has light descending arpeggios off the beat with similarly light and detached lower bass notes leading to higher harmonies in the left.  The right hand plays an off-beat chord at the end of each measure after the arpeggio.  Line 1 ends on F-major harmony.  The bass begins line 2 a beat early, but then moves with the other voices.  Approaching the end of the line as the voices rise, the piano briefly breaks its pattern before the last word, which stretches the phrase to five bars before ending on “dominant” harmony.  The piano harmonies rise in preparation for the next line.
0:15 [m. 10]--Lines 3-4 (A’).  The voice parts are the same as in the first two lines at first as they describe the red-cheeked maiden, comparing her to the rosebuds.  The contour of the voice parts is changed at the seventh measure (third measure of line 4), with all voices changing their direction to a general downward motion.  The “dominant” harmonic goal is the same.  The piano figuration is similar, but the arpeggios and left-hand notes are now marked as sustained rather than detached.  The bridging piano harmonies also descend after the vocal arrival.
0:27 [m. 19]--Lines 5-6 (B).  Line 5 is set to a suddenly forceful, fully harmonized descending line beginning with long-short rhythm.  The piano follows the long-short rhythm in the left hand with off-beat arching figures in the right hand.  The line is only two measures long.  Line 6, which is the same length as lines 2 and 4, is set to a rich and soaring four-measure phrase.  The soprano rises high, then arches back down before leaping to the melodic conclusion.  The tenor reaches down and back up before descending with the soprano, high in his range.  The alto quickly arches up and down, and the bass provides a solid foundation.  The piano right hand continues its patterns from line 5 over a straight and solid bass.
0:36 [m. 25]--Lines 7-8 (B’).  These lines are complicated both by enjambment and a shorter second line.  Brahms begins line 7 like line 5, with the forceful harmonized descending line, now with the piano doubling the voices in block harmonies.  The second measure continues the forceful long-short rhythm in all voices where in line 5 it had only continued in the tenor and bass.  The enjambed word “Mädchen” is included in the measure.  The last word “kosen” is simply set with rising soprano, falling bass, and static inner parts ending on an octave C.  The piano turns to off-beat two-voice syncopated descents over a long-short left hand.  These continue, diminishing, two bars beyond the voices, completing the four-bar phrase.
0:44 [m. 31]--Coda.  Instead of ending with the unsatisfying short vocal phrase and trailing piano, Brahms brilliantly decides to repeat the last two lines in a virtually a cappella version.  The piano quietly continues its F-major harmony for three bars.  The alto and bass begin on the same octave C, holding over a bar line, then the soprano and tenor join with opposing lines.  The phrase combines the rising elements from the A phrases with the descending ones from the B phrases.  At the midpoint, the piano drops out completely for three bars.  The beautiful phrase closes with the soprano on the fifth of the chord.  The piano gently enters here, its right hand rising to the high keynote to complete the melody before the final chord.
1:04--END OF QUARTET [38 mm.]

5. No. 3: “Brennessel steht am Weges Rand” (“Stinging nettles stand at the side of the road”).  Allegro.  Modified binary form (AA-bridge-BB’).  F MINOR/MAJOR, 2/4 time.

German Text:
Brennessel steht am Wegesrand,
Neider und Feinde hab’ ich in Stadt und Land.
Neidet, haßt, verleumdet,
doch das bringt mir keine Not,
Wenn mir nur mein süßes Liebchen
treu bleibt bis zum Tod.

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Lines 1-2 (A).  The piano has a forceful two-measure introduction.  After an initial octave, the following faster chords have internal and bass motion before the top voice moves down, leading into the vocal entry.  Both lines are sung in passionate block harmonies, with descending lines and upward leaps.  The piano has rapid rising sixteenth-note triplet arpeggios in six-note groups, along with one straight eighth-note group under faster vocal notes in the first bar.  The first four-measure line ends on the “relative” A-flat major harmony with an arching piano arpeggio.  The second line has five measures with straight eighth-note groups in the first two, a more active and chromatic tenor and alto, and a full F-minor closure.
0:13 [m. 3]--Lines 1-2 (A) repeated, back from m. 11 without the two-measure piano introduction.
0:22 [m. 12]--Lines 3-4 (transition).  Line 3, with only three strong syllables of negative words, is sung to a powerful four-bar phrase with extreme chromatic motion.  The soprano descends entirely by half-steps, with longer notes on “Neidet,” until adding one descending third at the end.  The other voices support the chromatic line, the bass moving faster without the longer notes on “Neidet.”  The bass already starts line 4 as the other voices are completing the last measure of line 3.  The piano here has leaping bass octaves and right-hand chords after the beats, all supporting the chromatic harmony, which ends with a “diminished seventh” chord leading to the “relative” A-flat major harmony.
0:26 [m. 16]--Line 4 is set to two four-bar phrases with text repetition, moving from A-flat to “dominant” harmony on C with a full shift from minor to major.  The six-note rising triplet arpeggios and the eighth-note groups (now alternating) return in the piano.  The bass, having begun earlier, sings the full line twice in slower notes.  The soprano also repeats the full line except for “Doch.”  The tenor and alto begin later, having reached their line 3 arrival later, singing shorter notes.  The alto begins later and repeats the line in segments, “doch das bringt” and “mir keine Not.”  The tenor adds an extra “das bringt.”  All voices are together on the final “mir keine Not,” and the piano loudly recalls the opening vocal melody in major, reducing its left-hand arpeggios to four and five notes, omitting the first note in its own bridge measure.
0:35 [m. 24]--Lines 5-6 (B).  The key signature changes to F major.  The tenor tenderly sings the full text of both lines, including a repetition of line 6, as a solo in a continuous espressivo, mildly chromatic flowing motion, with no notes or syllables on the downbeat.  There are three four-measure groups.  The piano moves its main figures to the right hand, with regular four-note arpeggios beginning off the beat, the first one replaced by a rest.  The left hand has bass notes followed by higher harmonies.  The vocal line swells to forte at the repetition, then recedes.  The piano changes at the cadence to a straight downward motion.  The cadence merges with the next statement in the 13th bar, the last word finally on a downbeat.
0:50 [m. 36]--Lines 5-6 repeated (B’).  All four voices now sing the flowing phrase in harmony, the soprano taking the melodic line.  The bass begins earlier, with the tenor solo’s arrival, and remains ahead of the rest of the voices on the text throughout the statement.  Only he sings on the downbeats, the others strictly following the rhythm of the melody.  The piano, marked molto dolce, now has full four-note arpeggios in the left hand beginning on the beat.  The right hand doubles the harmonies of the melodic line in a high register.  The volume swells at the repetition, as expected, and there is straight motion approaching the cadence, the voices singing the last note on a downbeat and merging with the piano postlude.
1:03 [m. 48]--The piano postlude begins with the vocal cadence.  It continues its established patterns, effectively extending the melody for two more measures.  Then the left hand suddenly returns to the faster six-note arpeggio from the earlier section, but only once, and it is followed by two strong closing F-major chords, the second one reaching lower with a bass octave.
1:13--END OF QUARTET [51 mm.]

6. No. 4: “Liebe Schwalbe, kleine Schwalbe” (“Dear swallow, little swallow”).  Presto.  Strophic form.  D MINOR/MAJOR, 2/4 time.

German Text:
Liebe Schwalbe, kleine Schwalbe,
Trage fort mein kleines Briefchen!
Flieg zur Höhe, fliege schnell aus,
Flieg hinein in Liebchens Haus!

Fragt man dich, woher du kommest,
Wessen Bote du geworden,
Sag, du kommst vom treusten Herzen,
Das vergeht in Trennnungsschmerzen.

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]
--Stanza (strophe) 1.  There is a tiny introduction of two two-bar pianissimo chords.  These are the minor-key version of the two chords that begin Op. 112, No. 3 and Op. 103, No. 11, a “pre-dominant” chord on E and a “dominant” chord on A.  The entire first verse is then given by the alto as a breathlessly fast solo in a constant long-short rhythm without any breaks, mezza voce.  The piano accompaniment largely follows the vocal line, but it adds distinctive downward turning figures harmonized in thirds or sixths under the second and fourth lines.  The left hand has bass notes and harmonies on the beats.  The verse concludes with an upward octave leap over the “dominant” harmony before the shift to major.
0:15 [m. 21]--The last two lines are sung again as a major-key refrain for all the voices.  The melody is nearly identical to the undulating patterns in the refrain used for the recurring text in the second half of each verse from the first of these four Zigeunerlieder, “Himmel strahlt so helle und klar.”  It is given by the soprano and tenor in harmony.  The entire third line is sung twice.  The alto and bass, meanwhile, sing a constantly repeated A as a “pedal point” in longer half notes, only singing the text once, ending it as the soprano and tenor end their second statement.  Everything remains very quiet, sotto voce.  The piano mostly doubles the soprano/tenor harmony, but reiterates the A pedal in the right hand and broken bass octaves.
0:20 [m. 29]--For the reprise of the fourth line, the alto joins the soprano and tenor motion, harmonizing with them, leaving the bass alone on the A “pedal point.”  The line begins with colorful “diminished” harmonies.  Only the words “Flieg hinein” are repeated.  The bass, on its longer notes, only sings those words once, but comes together with the other voices, who slow down on “Liebchens Haus.”  The bass moves off its constantly repeated A for one note in a cadence motion toward a sustained half-close on “dominant” harmony.  The soprano rises on the word “Haus,” and it is sustained with a fermata.  The piano again doubles the vocal harmonies and helps reiterate the “pedal point” A in both hands as before.
0:27 [m. 37]--Stanza (strophe) 2.  The two introductory chords are not repeated.  The entire verse is presented again in minor, as in stanza 1.  This time, the solo alto melody is joined and harmonized by the tenor in the typical thirds or sixths as a duet.  Still very quiet, the verse is marked molto piano e sempre dolce.  The piano’s right hand is as before, but the left hand is now much more active.  It is in constant motion, playing ascending or descending arpeggios, wide leaps, and downward-arching lines.  At the end of the verse, the soprano and bass join the harmony on the word “Sag,” leading into the major-key refrain.
0:37 [m. 53]--The major-key refrain beginning with the repeated line 3 is presented as in stanza 1 at 0:15 [m. 21], with the same patterns of text repetition and the “pedal point” A in the alto and bass.  The only difference is in the piano’s left hand, which still reiterates the “pedal point” A in broken octaves but heightens their activity by adding reiterations off the beat for an after-beat effect.
0:42 [m. 61]--Refrain continuing on line 4, as at 0:20 [m. 29] in stanza 1.  The alto joins the harmony, and the bass continues on the “pedal point” A, as before.  The words “Das vergeht” are repeated in the upper three voices.  The left hand of the piano continues to add the off-beat or after-beat reiterations.  This time the “dominant” harmony moves toward a full closure in the home D-major key, an extension happily facilitated by an extra syllable in the line. 
0:47 [m. 69]--As the voices extend their line to the cadence, the piano continues the predominant long-short harmonies as a brief postlude, reaching high in the right hand with left-hand chords on the weak second beats.  The final piano cadence is unusual, moving from the “pre-dominant” chord on E directly to the rolled and held home-key “tonic” chord, a nod to the opening progression of this song and the first one of this Zigeunerlieder group (Op. 112, No. 3), providing another connecting link between the two songs.
1:03--END OF QUARTET [74 mm.]