FIVE SONGS (LIEDER) FOR FOUR-VOICE MEN’S CHORUS, OP.
These five songs represent the whole of Brahms’s
output for a cappella men’s chorus. There are two
other large works for men’s chorus and orchestra (in each of which
the chorus is joined by a highly extensive part for a
soloist). Of these, the cantata Rinaldo, Op. 50 is one of the least known of all
his compositions, while the so-called
Rhapsody, Op. 53, is one of his most popular. These a
cappella choruses preceded both, and are probably even less
known than Rinaldo or
most of the other smaller choral works. This has nothing to
do with Brahms’s skill in writing for men’s voices, which is
impeccable. Rather, the very dated militaristic German texts
of Nos. 2-5 are somewhat jarring for modern listeners. Nos.
2 and 5 are blatantly nationalistic, and even belligerent, while
No. 4 presents a rather silly stereotype of soldiers. But
these songs should not be condemned unfairly for their
texts. Brahms set these poems by Karl Lemcke at the height
of the nationalistic fervor surrounding Otto von Bismarck’s plans
to unite the German empire in the late 1860s. Brahms
idolized Bismarck as much as he did Beethoven, so it was natural
that he would set such patriotic texts at that time. Neither
Lemcke nor Brahms could have known anything about the course
German nationalism would take in the next century. If the
songs are enjoyed with the historical context in mind, they are
not offensive. Of them, the dirge-like No. 3 is probably the
best. Nos. 2 and 4 are extremely exuberant and must be great
fun to sing, while the simple strophic No. 5 is darker, but has a
wonderful low part for the second basses. Of a different
character entirely is No. 1, an utterly gorgeous setting of an old
German poem in an archaic style that is infinitely superior to its
arrangement for solo voice and piano in Op. 43. The timbre
of men’s voices in harmony is exploited to its fullest in this
fine piece, whose style is completely different from that of the
other four and whose text is timeless rather than dated.
Despite the differing voices, its character is much closer to that
“old German” setting for mixed chorus, Op. 62, No. 7, than to
the following four Lemcke songs.
Recording: North German Radio Chorus, conducted by Günter Jena [DG 449 646-2]
Note: Links to English translations of the
texts are from Emily Ezust’s site at http://www.recmusic.org/lieder.
the most part, the translations are line-by-line, except where the
difference between German and English syntax requires slight
alterations to the contents of certain lines. The German
texts (included here) are also visible in the translation links.
SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from
FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf &
Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
1. Ich schwing mein Horn ins
Jammertal (I Blow my
Horn into the Vale of Tears). Anonymous Old German
text from the famed collection Des
Knaben Wunderhorn. Andante. Durchaus nicht zu
langsam und ziemlich frei vorzutragen (To
be presented not too slowly and rather freely throughout).
Simple strophic form. B-flat major, Cut time or Alla breve
Ich schwing’ mein Horn ins Jammertal,
Mein Freud’ ist mir verschwunden,
Ich hab’ gejagt, muß abelahn,
Das Wild läuft vor den Hunden.
Ein edel Tier in diesem Feld
Hätt’ ich mir auserkoren,
Das schied von mir, als ich wohl spür’,
Mein Jagen ist verloren.
Fahr hin, Gewild, in Waldeslust!
Ich will dir nimmer schrecken
Mit Jagen dein’ schneeweiße Brust,
Ein ander muß dich wecken
Mit Jägers Schrei und Hundebiß,
Daß du nit magst entrinnen;
Halt dich in Hut, mein Tierlein gut!
Mit Leid scheid’ ich von hinnen.
Kein Hochgewild ich fahen kann,
Das muß ich oft entgelten,
Noch halt ich stät’ auf Jägers Bahn,
Wie wohl mir Glück kommt selten.
Mag mir nit g’bürn ein Hochwild schön,
So laß ich mich begnügen
An Hasenfleisch, nit mehr ich heisch,
Das mag mich nit betrügen.
Each eight-line stanza corresponds to four musical lines in each
verse. It is a simple strophic form with repeat signs.
The musical style is very archaic. The austere-sounding
harmony stems from the fact that the chords are all in “root
position” (meaning the keynote of the chord is always in the
lowest 2nd bass voices--a B-flat chord will have B-flat in the
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1. No introduction. The
first musical line (two lines of text), is exactly the same as the
second (at 0:20--here the line is marked with repeat signs in the
score, differing from the Op. 43 setting, which writes the second
line out). The rhythm of the poetry leads to unusual
11-measure phrases. The voices swell, rise, and fall in
volume as the rhythm of the text dictates. Brahms marks the
vocal parts mezza voce
(medium vocal strength). The lines reach a half-cadence in G
0:37 [m. 12]--Line 3 (5 and 6 of the poem) provides
contrast, with new harmonies (beginning in C minor) and a more
insistent melodic line. The volume swells slightly at the
end (louder, then softer), as well as slightly increasing, then
decreasing in speed as B-flat major returns. The phrase is
again 11 bars.
0:53 [m. 23]--Line 4 (7 and 8 of the poem) begins as the
first two, but what had been the last two notes (at the “
-lo-” syllable of “verloren”) are expanded into a very
effective melisma, with seven notes on the syllable.
No other syllable in each verse has more than one note. The
melisma includes another loud-soft and faster-slower
swell. The music finally settles on the last syllable, “
-ren,” at the warm B-flat cadence. The melisma
lengthens the phrase to 14 bars.
1:17 [m. 1]--Stanza 2. Exact strophic repetition with
new text. Here sung somewhat faster than stanza 1.
1:45 [m. 12]--Line 3. Notice the singers’ rather
urgent presentation of this line.
2:00 [m. 23]--Line 4. Melisma on the
“hin-” of “hinnen.”
2:25 [m. 1]--Stanza 3. Strophic repetition with new
text. The verse is the “lament” and “acceptance” of the
singer’s sad hunting story. It is thus, appropriately, sung
more slowly than stanza 2.
2:57 [m. 12]--Line 3. The grammar of the line break
before line 4 suggests carrying the line through.
3:12 [m. 23]--Line 4. Melisma on the syllable
“-trü-” of “betrügen.” The singers end gently (unlike
Fischer-Dieskau in the Op. 43 version).
3:39--END OF SONG [36 (47) mm. (x3)]
2. Freiwillige her! (Volunteers, Join the Ranks!).
by Carl Lemcke. Allegro con fuoco. Modified strophic
form (AABB’). C MINOR, 3/4 time.
Von der Memel bis zum Rhein,
von den Alpen bis zum Meer,
Schwarz, Rot, Gold ist das Panier,
für dich, Deutschland, kämpfen wir!
Nehmt die Büchsen, zielet gut!
Auf zu Ross mit Schwert und Speer,
Schwarz, Rot, Gold ist bedroht.
Vaterland! Sieg oder Tod!
Duldet ihr der Feinde Spott?
Ist der Fluch noch nicht zu schwer?
Dänen, Welsche, wer es sei,
nieder fremde Tyrannei!
Durch das Volk da braust der Sturm:
Einig! Keine Trennung mehr!
Einig! ruft’s im Schlachtenrot!
Deutsches Volk, Sieg oder Tod!
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1 (A),
1-5. The music begins with a partial measure, starting on
the second half of beat 2. The text “Freiwillige her!” in
lines 1 and 4 is stated twice on each appearance. Here, it
is given in stark unison and triplet rhythm each time. The
responses in lines 2, 3, and 5 are given in strong, bold harmony
in straight rhythm. The first tenor line is quite
high. Notice the strong accents on the colors of the German
flag: “Schwarz, Rot, Gold.” Motion to E-flat, the relative
major key, in line 5.
0:22 [m. 11]--Stanza 1, lines 6-7. Imitation in
harmony, utilizing triplet
rhythm, with the two bass parts imitating the two tenor
parts on line 6. The bottom three parts reiterate the words
“kämpfen wir” as the first tenors again begin the double statement
of “Freiwillige her!” Second tenors and first basses also
state the line twice, faster, under the slower second statement of
the first tenors. Second basses only sing it once, in the
rhythm of the first tenors. The stanza
ends in E-flat.
0:34 [m. 1]--Stanza 2 (A),
1-5. Musically identical to stanza 1, with repeat
signs. Unison statements of “Freiwillige her!“ and the
emphasis of “Schwarz, Rot, Gold” are preserved in the text of this
0:54 [m. 11]--Stanza 2, lines 6-7. Again identical to
stanza 1. The text reiterated by the lower three parts under
the first “Freiwillige her!” from the first tenors is “oder Tod!”
1:05 [m. 16]--Stanza 3 (B),
1-3. This verse varies from the first two in several
ways. The initial cries of “Freiwillige her!” are the same,
and in unison. The strong responses of lines 2 and 3 are
replaced by a quieter, more ominous dialogue, with the first
tenors and basses following the second
parts. Line 3 briefly shifts the harmony to E-flat minor
over a crescendo.
1:16 [m. 22]--Stanza 3, lines 4-5. The “Freiwillige
her!” of line 4 is given twice again, but now in C-minor harmony
rather than unison. Line 5 is as in the first two stanzas,
with the accents on a new text identifying potential adversaries
(Danes or French). They key again moves to E-flat.
1:24 [m. 26]--Stanza 3, lines 6-7. Essentially
identical musically to the corresponding lines in the first two
stanzas. The slight difference in line 6 is that the first
words of the line (“nieder fremde”) are repeated in the lower
parts instead of the last syllables, so the word “Tyrannei!” is
first heard in those parts under the initial “Freiwillige her!” of
the first tenors. The stanza again
ends in E-flat.
1:34 [m. 31]--Stanza 4 (B’),
1-3. Musically identical to corresponding lines in Stanza 3,
but Brahms indicates a noticeable increase in speed (animato). Also, lines 2
and 3 do not begin quietly.
1:43 [m. 37]--Stanza 4, lines 4-5. The “Freiwillige
her!” cries of line 4 are as in stanza 3, but line 5 does not
correspond to the first three stanzas. It shifts the music
upward and increases the tension. It sounds similar to line
2 of the first two stanzas and remains in C minor.
1:49 [m. 41]--Stanza 4, lines 6-7. The first
statement of the climactic line 6 is strong and emphatic,
including the only ties across a bar line (on the word “Sieg”) of
the entire song. The line is then given in imitation, first
tenors, then second tenors, then second basses, and finally first
basses. The first parts to sing the line hold certain notes
longer. The mode brightly and strikingly shifts to C major
here (later than the motion to E-flat in previous stanzas).
All four parts reach a dramatic pause on the word “Tod!” The
final “Freiwillige her!” is stated only once (the second tenors
alone repeat “Freiwillige”), with all parts together in a bright C
major. This is the only stanza to end in the “home” major
2:09--END OF SONG [48 (63) mm.]
3. Geleit (Procession or Last Respects). Text by
Carl Lemcke. Tempo di Marcia moderato. Simple strophic
form. E-FLAT MAJOR, 4/4 time.
Was freut einen alten Soldaten?
Drei Salven über sein Grab.
Die geben die Kameraden,
die Musketen werden geladen,
senkt man den Sarg hinab.
Du Bruderherz, den wir tragen,
du freust dich wohl zur Stund;
dass tapfer du einst geschlagen,
die lauten Musketen es sagen
mit ihrem Eisenmund.
Du Bruderherz, den wir tragen,
bestell mir nun Quartier;
wir haben zusammen geschlagen,
bald werden sie mich auch tragen,
Kamerad, bald folg ich dir.
Translation (Note: this translation and the parallel German
text group lines 3-4 of each stanza as one line.)
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1, lines 1-4. A warm major-key
march, rather than a somber dirge, leads this soldier to his
grave. Line 1 is in rich harmony, followed by line 2 in
striking unison. Lines 3 and 4 introduce chromatic color
notes with a brief suggestion of F minor.
0:24 [m. 9]--Stanza 1, line 5. The setting of this
line is imaginative. Second basses begin with an
anticipatory syncopation, and the two tenor lines sing with
them. The first basses enter before the line is
finished. As the second basses continue with text
repetition, the two tenor parts, having finished their first
statement, enter again in succession (second, then first).
The first tenors actually imitate the “overlapping” first bass
entry. First tenors and first basses state the line twice in
full, second tenors nearly complete a third statement, and second
basses have the most repetition, stating some words four times,
but one (“senkt”) only twice. More “color” notes are heard
during the successive entries
0:36 [m. 13]--The last three words (four syllables) are
gently repeated, completing a cadence that the voices evaded as
they came together. Second basses end on a very low,
0:42 [m. 15]--Stanza 2, lines 1-4. Strophic
repetition, with some rhythmic variation in lines 1 and 4 dictated
by text declamation. There is a textual parallel to stanza 1
in line 4.
1:04 [m. 23]--Stanza 2, line 5. The varying text
declamation of the poem allows for subtle changes in the otherwise
simple strophic repetition. In this line, the text
repetition is altered slightly, with the second basses stating the
line a full three times. A single word, rather than two, on
the second and third syllables, effects the subtle, skillful
1:16 [m. 27]--Gentle repetition, as before, but two words
instead of three and five syllables instead of four.
1:22 [m. 29]--Stanza 3, lines 1-4. Similar
declamation to stanza 2, but with subtle syllabic changes in lines
3 and 4. The text has parallels with stanza 2, especially in
1:45 [m. 37]--Stanza 3, line 5. The addition of an
extra syllable allows even more variation in rhythm and text
repetition, especially in the first bass line, which avoids a full
second statement. The second basses still effectively state
the line three times, but the second and third statements are
broken up, with the first word, then the remaining words each
1:59 [m. 41]--Gentle text repetition of four
2:08--END OF SONG [42 mm.]
4. Marschieren (Marching). Text by Carl
Lemcke. Im Marschtempo (In March Tempo). Modified
strophic form with refrain (AA’A’AA). C MINOR/MAJOR, 4/4
Jetzt hab ich schon zwei Jahre lang
in der verdammten Ki, Ko, Ka, in der Kasern gelegen.
Nun schlage doch der Teufel drein,
Kasernsoldat will ich nicht sein!
Korporal, Sergeant, Hauptmann, Oberstleutenant,
wir Soldaten wollen marschieren.
Es wird uns ja die Zeit so lang
in der verdammten Ki, Ko, Ka, in der Kasern zu liegen.
Des Abends, schon um halber neuen,
da ist mein Mädel ganz allein.
Ich stieg wohl aus dem Fenster naus,
aus der verdammten Ki, Ko, Ka, aus der Kasern zu kommen.
Zu meinem Schatz wollt ich die Nacht,
sie haben mich auf die Wach gebracht.
Die Trommeln drummen: Kamrad, kumm!
aus der verdammten Ki, Ko, Ka, aus der Kasern zu ziehen.
Hurra! Soldaten ziehn ins Feld,
Soldaten gehört die ganze Welt!
Nun lebe wohl, du Teufelshaus,
ei du verdammte Ki, Ko, Ka, Kasern, die Fahnen wehen.
Wir ziehn zur Schlacht mit frohem Sinn,
mein Schatz ist Marketenderin.
Translation (Note: the translator has here used an analogy
of alliteration on the nonsense syllables “Ki, Ko, Ka,” rendering
them as “Bi, Bo, Ba.” The original alliteration with the
German word “Kasern” is transposed to its English equivalent,
“barracks.” Also, lines 3 and 4 of stanzas 1 and 4 are
grouped together as one line in the layout of both the English and
Verses are in minor, while refrains are in major. Stanzas 2
and 3 are musically slightly different from Stanzas 1, 4, and 5.
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1, lines 1-2. Strong four-part
C-minor harmony with punctuated, detached attacks on each
note. The verse begins on a short
0:12 [m. 6]--Stanza 1, lines 3-4. Line 3 is in a
stark, detached unison, and line 4 returns
to harmony and slightly more active rhythm.
0:21 [m. 10]--Refrain, line 1 in bright, but hushed C major
in distinct, detached notes.
The two bass parts start before the two tenor parts and alternate
on the word “Korporal,” basses stating it three times and tenors
twice, with the four parts coming together on “Sergeant.”
“Hauptmann” is set differently in each part, with first tenors
singing it twice in long notes, second tenors three times in long,
then short notes, first basses three times in short, then long
notes, and second basses entering later and singing it twice in
short notes. Second basses also begin “Oberstleutenant”
before the other three parts, with longer notes on the last three
0:29 [m. 14]--Refrain, line 2. The voices also
diverge slightly on this line, with first tenors and first basses
singing long notes against shorter notes from second tenors and
second basses, and vice versa. All voices come together on
the last “wollen marschieren.” First tenors and basses state
the entire line twice in succession, while second tenors and
basses state “wir Soldaten” twice and then “wollen marschieren”
twice. The volume builds in the first statements, reaching a
forceful level as the voices come together to end
0:39 [m. 18]--Stanza 2, lines 1-2. This is the
“second” version of the basic stanza, but lines 1 and 2 are
musically identical to those of Stanza 1 (and Stanzas 4-5).
Notice the identical position of “verdammten Ki, Ko, Ka” in each
0:49 [m. 23]--Stanza 2, lines 3-4. Line 3 is where
the “second” version differs, replacing the stark unison with a
smooth harmony and a moving first bass line. Line 4 returns
to the music of the “first” version.
0:58 [m. 27]--Refrain, line 1. The refrain does not
change in any of the verses.
1:07 [m. 31]--Refrain, line 2.
1:16 [m. 18]--Stanza 3, lines 1-2. Text in the same
bars as Stanza 2. “Second” version of the stanza.
1:26 [m. 23]--Stanza 3, lines 3-4, with smooth harmony and
moving first bass on line 3. Line 4 adds an extra syllable,
altering the rhythm and making it more “straight.”
1:35 [m. 27]--Refrain, line 1.
1:43 [m. 31]--Refrain, line 2.
1:52 [m. 1]--Stanza 4, lines 1-2. Text in the same
bars as Stanza 1. “First” version of the stanza.
2:02 [m. 6]--Stanza 4, lines 3-4, with stark unison on line
3. Line 4 adds an extra syllable, as in Stanza 3, but the
differing declamation “straightens” out an earlier, faster rhythm
(removing a long-short dotted rhythm),
whereas the “straightening” in Stanza 3 was later and slower.
2:11 [m. 10]--Refrain, line 1.
2:19 [m. 14]--Refrain, line 2.
2:29 [m. 1]--Stanza 5, lines 1-2. Text in the same
bars as Stanza 1. “First” version of the stanza.
2:39 [m. 6]--Stanza 5, lines 3-4, with stark unison on line
3. Line 4 is sung a bit more gently.
2:48 [m. 10]--Refrain, line 1.
2:56 [m. 14]--Refrain, line 2.
3:07--END OF SONG [34 (85) mm.]
5. Gebt acht! (Beware!). Text by Carl
Lemcke. Etwas gehalten (Somewhat restrained). Simple
strophic form. C MINOR, 4/4 time.
Gebt acht! Gebt acht!
Es harrt der Feind,
der schlimm es meint,
ihr Brüder wacht!
Im Westen, Süden, im Osten, Nord
sind wir uns selbst der einz’ge Hort,
Gebt acht! Und baut
auf Gott und auf
des Schwertes Streich,
sonst niemand traut!
Man triebe gern ein schnödes Spiel,
nur unsre Schwäche ist ihr Ziel,
Gebt acht! Seid fest
in aller Not
bis in den Tod!
Gott nicht verlässt,
Wer treu für Recht und Wahrheit ficht,
In Ehr und Vaterlandes Pflicht.
Gebt acht! Es tagt,
zum Kampf bereit
mit Schwert und Kleid
Und ob der Feind wie Meeressand,
wir retten doch das Vaterland!
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1, lines 1-4. The rhythm begins
on an upbeat with first tenors and first basses in unison on a
rising fifth singing “Gebt acht!” The second tenors and
second basses imitate this four notes lower, but on a rising
fourth. From that point, the second tenors “catch up” to the
first tenors, and both tenor parts present the rest of the text in
a march rhythm, with the second tenors incorporating one small
syncopation in line 4. Meanwhile, the first and second
basses simply alternate statements of “Gebt acht!” on rising
fifths and fourths, respectively. First basses state it five times, second basses four.
0:13 [m. 5]--Stanza 1, lines 5-6. The lines begin
quietly and build to a climax before the
final “Gebt acht!” Second basses begin before the others in
steady, undulating half-steps,
overlapping with line four. The other parts enter two beats
later. The first basses continue in the same rhythm as the
second basses an octave higher, while the tenors present line 5 in
two broken statements of harmony, the second of
which briefly moves to E minor (along with the bass notes, which
shift up). A continuous
statement of line 6 follows in the tenors.
The four voice parts do not come together
textually until midway through this line. Text
repetition is necessitated in both bass parts, which have more
notes than the tenor parts. The second basses repeat more than the
firsts. Even though the two bass parts are singing the same
notes an octave apart, their texts do not “match” until the end of line 6.
0:25 [m. 11]--Stanza 1, line 7. The final “Gebt
acht!” is repeated twice. The second tenors divide on the
last three notes, and the first basses divide for
the single note right before them (fourth from the
end). Because of unison in certain parts, there is no real
five-part harmony. The first tenors hold the initial “acht!”
longer than the other parts, and their second “Gebt” is later and
0:31 [m. 1]--Stanza 2, lines 1-4.
0:41 [m. 5]--Stanza 2, lines 5-6.
0:53 [m. 11]--Stanza 2, line 7 (“Gebt acht!”)
0:59 [m. 1]--Stanza 3, lines 1-4.
1:09 [m. 5]--Stanza 3, lines 5-6.
1:22 [m. 11]--Stanza 3, line 7 (“Gebt acht!”)
1:27 [m. 1]--Stanza 4, lines 1-4.
1:38 [m. 5]--Stanza 4, lines 5-6.
1:50 [m. 11]--Stanza 4, line 7 (“Gebt acht!”)
2:02--END OF SONG [12 mm. (x4)]
END OF SET
BRAHMS LISTENING GUIDES HOME