Recording: Jessye Norman, soprano (No. 4); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Daniel Barenboim, piano [449 633-2]

Published 1862.

This set is the only instance of Brahms not using either of the words “Lieder” or “Gesänge” (essentially synonyms) in the heading to a set of solo songs.  The word “Gedichte” means “poems,” and it seems to be used here as a pointed contrast to the folk text settings of Op. 14, since the texts here are all by German romantic poets.  Ironically, some elements of folk song remain in the set, particularly in Nos. 2 and 4, songs of unusual brevity that both set poems by Ludwig Uhland, who coincidentally was known for his folksong collection.  These two songs, with their memorable melodies, are among Brahms’s most popular for both amateur and professional singers.  The onomatopoeic effects in the piano part of No. 4, which marvelously portray the sparks of the blacksmith’s anvil, combine with the widely leaping vocal melody to create a 50-second masterpiece.  No. 3 is also by Uhland.  While musically related to No. 2, even beginning as if it were a new stanza of that song, it is more substantial and formally complex.  The poems are consecutive in the collection in which they appear.  Framing the trio of Uhland songs are two that are harbingers of the style seen in the “first maturity.”  The opening song sets a text by Hölty, the eighteenth-century poet whose texts were the basis for several great songs in the Op. 40s from around 1868.  Though the version Brahms set is an adaptation, it retained Hölty’s asclepiadic ode form.  This same meter is found in Brahms’s finest Hölty setting, “Die Mainacht” (Op. 43, No. 2), and the musical language foreshadows that of the later settings of the poet.  Brahms established his most important precedents in the final song of the opus.  The long, through-composed setting of blank verse, complete with passages of recitative, is completely unlike any of the other early songs, and effectively places a closing bookend on the solo Lieder of the first compositional period.  Its unusual nature may also be behind the distinctive titular designation of the opus as a whole.  In several later sets, Brahms would include a final song that was much larger and more substantial than those preceding it in the group, and this is the first clear example of the practice.  Mörike, one of the great German lyricists, wrote the poem in memory of his deceased younger brother.

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 keys)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke--original keys)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by Max Friedländer):
No. 1: Der Kuß (in original key, B-flat major)
No. 1: Der Kuß (in low key, G major)
No. 2: Scheiden und Meiden (in original key, D minor)
No. 2: Scheiden und Meiden (in high key, F minor)
No. 3: In der Ferne (in original key, D minor/major)
No. 3: In der Ferne (in high key, F minor/major)
No. 4: Der Schmied (in original [middle] key, B-flat major)
No. 4: Der Schmied (in high key, C major)
No. 4: Der Schmied (in low key, G major)
No. 5: An eine Äolsharfe (in original key, A-flat major)
No. 5: An eine
Äolsharfe (in middle key, F-sharp major)
No. 5: An eine
Äolsharfe (in low key, E-flat major)
Nos. 1-3 (high keys [No. 1 original key]--higher resolution)

1. Der Kuß (The Kiss).  Text by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty, adapted by Johann Heinrich Voss.  Poco Adagio.  Abbreviated Ternary form (ABA’).  B-FLAT MAJOR, 3/8 time (Low key G major).

German Text:
Unter Blüten des Mais spielt’ ich mit ihrer Hand,
Koste liebend mit ihr, schaute mein schwebendes
Bild im Auge des Mädchens,
Raubt’ ihr bebend den ersten Kuß.

Zuckend fliegt nun der Kuß, wie ein versengend Feu’r,
Mir durch Mark und Gebein. Du, die Unsterblichkeit
Durch die Lippen mir sprühte,
Wehe, wehe mir Kühlung zu! 

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1 (A).  A two-bar introduction beginning with an upbeat establishes the bass rhythm that will pervade the entire song--a short upbeat followed by a downbeat twice as long.  The voice also enters on an two-note upbeat, introducing the first of the four five-bar phrases that make up this stanza.  This first one follows the first line of the poem.  It is an expressive, flowing melody doubled by the piano with harmonies of sixths below.  The bass only moves from the steady opening pitches (F--B-flat) in the last bar under the lengthened, resolving word “Hand.”
0:17 [m. 8]--The second phrase reaches higher than the first.  Its opening three notes are harmonized with thirds instead of sixths.  The bass line follows the pattern of the first phase, only moving on the last word.  This phrase, however, only sets the first part of the second line, repeating “koste liebend.”
0:27 [m. 13]--The third phrase becomes more unstable.  It sets the last part of the second line and all of the third.  There are light dissonances under “mein” and on “des.”  The piano adds an active middle voice to the right hand, which now does not follow the voice as closely.  While retaining the same steady rhythm, the bass also ventures away from the steady pitches, changing in every bar.  The phrase gradually swells in intensity.
0:39 [m. 18]--The last phrase of the stanza also sets the last line.  It returns to the secretive calm of the opening as the stolen kiss is revealed.  The vocal line arches up and down, and the piano, now harmonized with full chords, follows it again.  The bass line remains steady on octave C’s.  The piano continues the voices descent after it finishes, completing the fourth five-bar phrase.
0:50 [m. 23]--Stanza 2, lines 1 and 2, first half (B).  For the middle section, Brahms takes the two halves of the first line of stanza 2 and the first half of the second line and sets them as three-bar phrases with unstable harmony.  It begins with a sudden high outburst.  The second three-bar phrase reverses the direction of the first.  The steadily flowing piano right hand, harmonized with octaves and thirds, follows the vocal line somewhat in these first two phrases, and the bass line is quite active.  The first phrase moves to C minor, the second to G minor.
1:02 [m. 29]--The third three-bar phrase, on the first half of the second line, begins with the highest vocal note of the song and reverts to the downward arching direction of the first phrase.  This is the climax of the song.  The piano right hand now deviates from the voice with a steady ascent.  The phrase moves to D minor, continuing the progression of the first two phrases.  The last piano bar under the voice is repeated without the voice and with a different opening bass note as a bridge.
1:10 [m. 33]--Stanza 2, lines 2, second half, 3, and 4 (A’).  The two five-bar phrases in the closing section use the same material as the last two phrases of the first part.  The home key is restored immediately.  The second half of the second line, along with the third line, are set to the phrase from 0:27 [m. 13].  It is louder than on its first appearance and more richly harmonized.  The chords are full and the active middle voice is doubled an octave below, giving the left hand more than the bass line for the only passage in the song.  There is also a new dissonance under the third syllable of “Unsterblichkeit.”
1:20 [m. 38]--The last vocal phrase, setting the fourth and last line, is set to the phrase from 0:39 [m. 18].  It again returns to a calm level, but the accompaniment is again richer.  Rather than doubling the voice, the right hand, now in full chords, descends from the heights to match the voice at the end, still with different, more colorful harmonies than at the end of Stanza 1.  The steady bass line on octave C’s is retained.  The piano’s continuation is different, bridging to the brief closing repetition.
1:31 [m. 43]--The words “Kühlung zu” are repeated in a gentle closing.  The last word, “zu” leaps up to the note F (the “dominant”) and holds it for over two bars, making yet another five-bar phrase.  The lack of vocal resolution to the keynote lends a sense of timelessness, as do the piano chords, whose final motion reverses that of the voice.  The bass line moves to its original pitches, F and B-flat, providing the final resolution at the end in a two-bar extension with a reiteration of the last right hand chord.
1:55--END OF SONG [49 mm.]

2. Scheiden und Meiden (Parting and Separation).  Text by Johann Ludwig Uhland.  Nicht zu langsam und mit starkem Ausdruck (Not too slowly and with strong expression).  Simple strophic form.  The following song, In der Ferne, uses similar material, and the songs can be performed together without interruption.  D MINOR, 3/4 time (High key F minor).

German Text:
So soll ich dich nun meiden,
Du meines Lebens Lust!
Du küssest mich zum Scheiden,
Ich drücke dich an die Brust!

Ach, Liebchen, heißt das meiden,
Wenn man sich herzt und küßt?
Ach, Liebchen, heißt das scheiden,
Wenn man sich fest umschließt?

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza (strophe) 1.  The voice begins alone on an upbeat.  The piano joins on the second note with continuous rising arpeggios, one per bar.  The voice reaches upward, than leaps twice from a long note to a short note in the first line.  The second line arches downward twice.  The vocal line retains a passionate, dramatic intensity.  The piano bridges to the next two lines with a descent in thirds, harmonized in thirds, briefly breaking the continuous arpeggios and landing on F major.
0:11 [m. 9]--The third line, beginning with an echo of the preceding piano descent, returns to the long-short leaps of the first, with a lengthened dissonance and resolution on “Scheiden.”  The last line descends strongly to the note D and the chord of D minor.  Both of these lines are doubled and harmonized in the right hand, the arpeggios only being played on the first two beats of each bar in the left hand.
0:18 [m. 15]--The cadence overlaps a six-bar piano postlude in the main rhythm of the third and fourth lines that emphatically reiterates the closing harmonies.  A decorated note on the leading top voice of the “dominant” chord in m. 18 is worth mentioning.  The postlude ends with another descent in thirds, this time confirming D minor.  A full arpeggio over a complete bar bridges to the second strophe.
0:25 [m. 1 (21)]--Stanza (strophe) 2.  Other than the initial upbeat, which is sung over the ending of the bridging arpeggio, the music is as at the beginning.  Notice the word “meiden” at the end of the first line in both strophes, and the similar sounds “Lust” and “küßt” at the end of the second line.
0:35 [m. 9]--Lines 3 and 4, as at 0:11.  Note that the word “scheiden” is used (first as a noun, then a verb) for the lengthened dissonance and resolution in both strophes.
0:43 [m. 15]--Piano postlude, as at 0:18.  A reiteration of the closing descent in thirds breaks the last arpeggio, replacing the bridge.  The partial arpeggio itself is then repeated in an added bar.  Given the emphatic close of the vocal line, this ending is strangely open, despite a slowing.  This perhaps allows for an immediate segue into the next song, which begins like a third strophe of this one.
0:55--END OF SONG [21 mm.]

3. In der Ferne (In the Distance).  Text by Johann Ludwig Uhland.  L’istesso tempo (same tempo as Scheiden und Meiden).  Modified strophic form.  D MAJOR, with a brief opening in D minor, 3/4 time (High key F minor/major).

German Text:
Will ruhen unter den Bäumen hier,
Die Vögelein hör’ ich so gerne,
Wie singet ihr so zum Herzen mir?
Von unsrer Liebe was wisset ihr
In dieser weiten Ferne?

Will ruhen hier an des Baches Rand,
Wo duftige Blümlein sprießen.
Wer hat euch Blümlein hierher gesandt?
Seid ihr ein herzliches Liebespfand
Aus der Ferne von meiner Süßen? 

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1.  The opening is exactly like that of Scheiden und Meiden.  At the end of the first line and into the second, however, the music diverges, moving from D minor to the “relative” key of F major in a descent above the continuing arpeggios.  There is then a five-bar interlude, the first bar of which completes the vocal phrase.  There are yearning harmonized leaps, reversing the direction of the similar descents in the previous song.  This interlude redirects the key to D major, where the song will remain.
0:19 [m. 13]--The third line begins firmly in D major.  A new accompaniment begins, with slow, wide left hand arpeggios and syncopated right hand after-beat responses in thirds and sixths.  The vocal line, descending in groups of three and gradually working upward, works to a climax as the line is repeated, condensing “singet” to “singt” (“singet” is an older poetic form), and omitting “so.”  The piano repeats the last bar as a bridge to the next line, completing the phrase after the condensed repetition of the line.
0:31 [m. 21]--The fourth line settles the music back down with a large descent.  The accompaniment pattern continues, introducing a fourth and fifth under “wisset.”  The fifth and last line is a fairly direct echo of the second line in each verse of Scheiden und Meiden.  The line is repeated, beginning a step higher and with slightly altered contour to lead to the somewhat open cadence.  A four-bar postlude follows in which the accompaniment patterns slow down, including the after-beat responses, which use fifths evocative of horn calls.  The bass slows down to a drone under this postlude.
0:56 [m. 37]--Stanza 2.  The first two lines are set to similar music as in Stanza 1, derived from Scheiden und Meiden and preserving the characteristic piano arpeggios.  In fact, the music is essentially the same except for being in a major instead of a minor key.  There is a slight alteration at the end, which is extended by a bar in the vocal line on the word “sprießen.”  The motion to F is also avoided.  The interlude, while similar, is half as long since there is no need to change keys.
1:13 [m. 47]--Line 3 is set to the music of 0:19 [m. 13], at least in the vocal line.  The accompaniment replaces the right hand after-beat responses with an undulating background in fast triplet rhythm, suggesting the murmuring of the brook.  Broken sixths and thirds in the triplets preserve the harmony.  The left hand arpeggios remain the same.  The repetition of the line omits the word “Blümlein,” resulting again in a two-syllable deficit.  There is a buildup to a climax, as before, and repetition of the piano’s last bar as a bridge.
1:25 [m. 55]--Lines four and five, including the repetition of line 5, are set as at 0:31 [m. 21].  The undulating triplets continue, introducing broken fourths and fifths in the same places where these harmonies were found in the first stanza.  The postlude preserves the harmonies as well, still using the triplets until the end, where the horn call evocations slow to a swinging undulation  The postlude is extended by two bars so that it can move to the chord of the home key (which it did not do between verses).  Like the vocal cadence, this postlude still has a somewhat “open” feeling, just as did the ending of Scheiden und Meiden.
2:02--END OF SONG [72 mm.]

4. Der Schmied (The Blacksmith).  Text by Johann Ludwig Uhland.  Allegro.  Simple strophic form.  B-FLAT MAJOR, 3/4 time (High key C major, low key G major).

German Text:
Ich hör’ meinen Schatz,
Den Hammer er schwinget,
Das rauschet, das klinget,
Das dringt in die Weite,
Wie Glockengeläute,
Durch Gassen und Platz.

Am schwarzen Kamin,
Da sitzet mein Lieber,
Doch geh’ ich vorüber,
Die Bälge dann sausen,
Die Flammen aufbrausen
Und lodern um ihn.

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza (strophe) 1.  The vocal line is extremely exuberant and joyful.  It begins on an upbeat and contains wide leaps.  Each of the first four lines is set to a two-bar phrase.  The second line echoes the first in its leaps and directions, with static harmony.  The third and fourth lines are new, with two leaping descents for the third and a stepwise rise for the fourth.  The harmonies also move to F major.  The piano part is highly distinctive.  Two-note “snaps” in short-long rhythm evoke the sparks of the hammer on the anvil.  The direction is downward on the first and third beats, upward on the second beats of each bar.  The second beat usually dips lower for its first note.  The left hand plays leaping, drone-like chords.
0:09 [m. 9]--The fifth line is also set to a two-bar phrase.  After a downward leap at the end of the fourth line, the fifth line rises by step again, also with active harmony (suggesting another related key, E-flat).  It has a large leap at the end.  The sixth line is extended by a bar through a long dissonant note that resolves upward on “Gassen.”  This dissonance and resolution move back to the home key.  There is a final descent.  The two-note short-long “snaps” continue as before, as do the leaping left-hand chords.
0:14 [m. 14]--A seven-bar piano postlude continues the short-long snaps, but the left hand is more active, replacing the long-short drone-like chords with leaping octaves on each beat.  The cadence is emphatic.
0:22 [m. 1]--Stanza (strophe) 2.  Lines 1-4, as at the beginning.
0:31 [m. 9]--Lines 5-6, as at 0:09.  The extended word on the dissonant note is “lodern.”
0:37 [m. 14]--Piano postlude and close, as at 0:14.
0:49--END OF SONG [20 mm.]

5. An eine Äolsharfe (To an Aeolian Harp).  Text by Eduard Mörike.  Poco lento.  Through-composed form with partial return.  A-FLAT MAJOR, Cut time [2/2] (Middle key F-sharp major, low key E-flat major).

German Text:
Angelehnt an die Efeuwand
Dieser alten Terrasse,
Du, einer luftgebor’nen Muse
Geheimnisvolles Saitenspiel,
Fang’ an,
Fange wieder an
Deine melodische Klage!

Ihr kommet, Winde, fern herüber,
Ach! von des Knaben,
Der mir so lieb war,
Frisch grünendem Hügel.
Und Frühlingsblüten unterweges streifend,
Übersättigt mit Wohlgerüchen,
Wie süß, wie süß bedrängt ihr dies Herz!
Und säuselt her in die Saiten,
Angezogen von wohllautender Wehmut,
Wachsend im Zug meiner Sehnsucht
Und hinsterbend wieder.

Aber auf einmal,
Wie der Wind heftiger herstößt,
Ein holder Schrei der Harfe
Wiederholt mir zu süßem Erschrecken,
Meiner Seele plötzliche Regung;
Und hier, die volle Rose streut, geschüttelt,
All’ ihre Blätter vor meine Füße!

English Translation

PART 1 (Stanza 1)--Recitative
0:00 [m. 1]--“Recit.” is a rare marking for Brahms.  It refers to the operatic style of “sung speech,” usually set in opposition to “aria” or “arioso.”  The recitative begins in A-flat minor, but it turns out to be a very unstable minor.  The first two lines, however, are unambiguous, starkly set against low block piano chords with prominently accented stepwise falling figures with delayed resolutions (“appogiaturas”).
0:16 [m. 7]--With striking harmonies, the third and fourth lines begin the inevitable march to the major key.  Under the fourth line, a very high murmuring in triplet rhythm with repeated chords surreptitiously begins.  These continue for three bars, gradually descending, before the entry of “Fang’ an.”
0:39 [m. 17]--The recitative comes to an end with an almost achingly delayed confirmation of the major key, as vestiges of the minor continue.  Tension is built over “Fang’ an, Fange wieder an.”  The last line slows down , stretching out the word “melodische” before coming to an anticipatory arrival on the “dominant” chord of the major key on the extended word “Klage.”  The top of the high chords now doubles the voice.  Note the conflict between the slow triplets of the high repeated chords and the “straight” rhythm of the vocal line from “Fange wieder an.”
PART 2 (Stanza 2)--First section of main material (“arioso”)
1:04 [m. 25]--The high long-short chords of the piano right hand are set against an undulating left hand that consistently sets a rising arpeggio in triplet rhythm followed by a falling leap in straight rhythm.  The rising arpeggio is on the first beat, the falling leap on the second.  The voice enters, ascending up to meet the rhythm and pitch of the high chords.  The melody floats beautifully in both voice and piano.  Note the gradual descent of the left hand bass.
1:17 [m. 31]--The second and third lines introduce darker harmonies borrowed from the minor.  They are set to two parallel musical lines, the second higher than the first, with a smaller leap down to the last descent in long notes.  The bass begins to move back up.  The right hand chords abandon the long-short patterns in favor of long chords lasting full bars.  The fourth line introduces a characteristic descent that will return in the last section.  It contains a very brief motion to the “dominant” key of E-flat major.
1:32 [m. 38]--The piano left hand leaps down an octave.  The fifth line is set similarly to the first.  The long-short patterns of the right hand resume.  The sixth line makes a harmonic detour that is atmospheric, intensifying and veering toward the key a half-step higher, A major and again abandoning the long-short patterns.  The seventh line emphasizes the repeated “wie süß” of the text, the voice making the downward leap of a third, first in A major, then immediately a half-step lower, in the home key.  The completion of the line touches on minor.  Both the voice and piano move down, the voice touching its lowest note on “Herz.”
2:08 [m. 55]--The eighth and ninth lines have very colorful harmonies reminiscent of the recitative.  The music becomes rapturous at “wohllautender Wehmut,” landing on B major (which had been heard in the recitative, spelled as “C-flat major”).  A series of accented stepwise falling figures begins.
2:27 [m. 63]--The resolving falling figures immediately shift up a half-step to C major with the tenth line.  Then the music begins to collapse with the last line of the section, moving back to dominant (anticipatory) chord of the home key.  The vocal line trails off with “hinsterbend wieder.”  The piano right hand begins downward leaps.  There is a three-bar interlude, the last two bars of which have octave leaps.
PART 3 (Stanza 3)--Brief recitative and arioso
2:54 [m. 74]--The expected arrival on the home key is starkly interrupted by a dissonant chord (a “diminished seventh”).  The first two lines of this section are then sung to a brief recitative in the minor.  “Aber auf einmal” is sung without the piano.  The last falling figure in the voice is echoed by the piano, leading back to major and the main material.
3:06 [m. 79]--The harmonies and basic melodic material for this third line making reference to the harp are essentially the same as the first line of Part 2 at 1:04 [m. 25], without the introductory bars and with the vocal line adapted to the shorter text.
3:15 [m. 83]--The fourth line uses the same basic material as the second and third lines of Part 2 from 1:17 [m. 31], but the vocal line is greatly adapted.  The fifth line, however, is virtually identical to the fourth line of Part 2, with an added leap and an additional note on the second syllable of “Seele.”  The next bar contains the downward leap in the bass heard at 1:32 [m. 38], but the music diverges from there.
3:34 [m. 91]--The last two lines are set to new music that diverges both from Part 2 and from the established rhythms.  Brahms directs that it should be slightly slower (“Poco più lento”).  The left hand abandons the straight-rhythm falling leap on the second beats of bars, instead adding a descending arpeggio in triplet rhythm, creating an arching motion in consistently flowing rhythm.  Against this, the right hand becomes much more active, playing straight rhythms that clash directly with the left hand triplets.  The vocal line is quite halting, and harmonies from the minor key (or the related key of D-flat) are introduced for color.  The last line flows more in an upward motion before its final descent.  The cadence sounds strangely inconclusive because of the preceding “borrowed” harmonies.
3:59 [m. 100]--The piano postlude continues with motion begun under the vocal cadence, still with the clashing rhythms and arching left-hand triplets.  It slows down with longer notes before its conclusion, which in spite of the slowing also sounds somewhat open and not completely conclusive.
4:24--END OF SONG [104 mm.]