Recording: Jessye Norman, soprano (No. 5); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Daniel Barenboim, piano [DG 449 633-2]

Published 1868.

The aesthetic of Op. 46 is largely continued in this set, which again begins with two Daumer songs, this time adaptations of the medieval Persian poet Hafis.  Brahms follows these rather complex songs with two simple strophic ones, closing with an explicitly feminine sonnet by Goethe.  Three of the songs, Nos. 1, 3, and 4, are among the most popular in his output.  Both of the strophic songs (Nos. 3 and 4) are exceedingly beautiful.  The serenity of No. 3 (“Sonntag”) has lent it the character of a composed folk song.  No. 4, a setting of the baroque poet Paul Fleming, is joyous and breathless.  Of the two opening Daumer settings, No. 1 is the more successful, with an exuberance that seems to be answered later in the set by No. 4.  The second song (“Liebesglut”) has a virtuosic piano part that is surprisingly independent of the vocal line.  While artfully composed, with an impressive “metrical modulation” at the end, the song seems somewhat overwrought in comparison to the other four.  The closing Goethe setting, while rather subdued, shows a great understanding of the sonnet form, which is reflected exactly in the musical structure.  The exquisite craftsmanship is matched by a sensitive matching of the music to the restrained emotion of the text. 

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; does not include the repetition of the last line in No. 3)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke--original keys; includes the repetition of the last line in No. 3)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by Max Friedländer):
No. 1: Botschaft (in original key, B-flat minor/D-flat major)
No. 1: Botschaft (in middle key, G minor/B-flat major)
No. 1: Botschaft (in low key, F minor/A-flat major)
No. 2: Liebesglut (in original key, F minor/major)
No. 2: Liebesglut (in low key, E-flat minor/major)
No. 3: Sonntag (in original [middle] key, F major; includes the repetition of the last line)
No. 3: Sonntag (in high key, G major; includes the repetition of the last line)
No. 3: Sonntag (in low key, E-flat major; includes the repetition of the last line)
No. 4: O liebliche Wangen (in original key, D major)
No. 4: O liebliche Wangen (in middle key, C major)
No. 4: O liebliche Wangen (in low key, A major)
No. 5: Die Liebende schreibt (in original key, E-flat major)
No. 5: Die Liebende schreibt (in low key, D-flat major)

1. Botschaft (Message).  Text by Georg Friedrich Daumer, adapted from the Persian by Hafis.  Grazioso.  Ternary form (ABA’).  B-FLAT MINOR/D-FLAT MAJOR, 9/8 time (Middle key G minor/B-flat major, low key F minor/A-flat major).

German Text:
Wehe, Lüftchen, lind und lieblich
Um die Wange der Geliebten,
Spiele zart in ihrer Locke,
Eile nicht hinwegzufliehn!

Tut sie dann vielleicht die Frage,
Wie es um mich Armen stehe;
Sprich: »Unendlich war sein Wehe,
Höchst bedenklich seine Lage;

Aber jetzo kann er hoffen
Wieder herrlich aufzuleben,
Denn du, Holde,
Denkst an ihn.«

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Introduction.  The piano sets up the lilting 3x3 pattern typical of 9/8 time.  The harmonization and bass have a certain thickness countered by Brahms’s marking of leggiero (lightly).  The introduction is unambiguously in the minor key (B-flat minor) that is relative to the main D-flat major key of the song.  After two rising sequential phrases, the vocal entry is prepared by an accented and prolonged dissonance.
0:11 [m. 8]--Stanza 1 (A).  The vocal entry continues the minor mode, but it immediately begins to vacillate between B-flat minor and D-flat major.  The major mode does not take over completely until the third line.  The piano continues the pattern set up in the introduction, the voice matching the lilting rhythm.  The vocal line harmonizes in thirds below the top voice of the piano.
0:21 [m. 14]--At the last line of the stanza, the accompaniment changes.  Some of the thicker textures are thinned, but most notably, the left hand begins a smooth moving line, replacing the punctuating bass.  This moving line introduces a duple cross-rhythm against the prevailing triple meter.  The line itself is repeated in full, including an extra statement of “eile nicht” as the voice excitedly reaches its highest pitches.  The swelling in volume and intensity continues as the repetition reaches an emphatic cadence on D-flat major.
0:36 [m. 22]--The vocal cadence merges into a bridge passage similar to the second phrase of the introduction, but without the sharp dissonance.  A calmer motion is established.
0:43 [m. 26]--Stanza 2, lines 1 and 2 (B).  Both the voice and piano become rather static.  The lilting piano motion now oscillates.  The right hand is syncopated, with notes held over strong beats as the left hand plays on them.  The vocal line is also quite subdued, with reiterations of one note (A).  The second line becomes more animated, reaching higher on a syncopated extension of the word “Armen” as the music moves to another minor key (F minor).
0:54 [m. 35]--The words “mich Armen stehe” are repeated, avoiding a cadence in F minor.  The piano breaks into a rising arpeggio that leads back to the B-flat minor of the opening.
1:01 [m. 39]--Stanza 2, lines 3 and 4 (A’).  The same accented and prolonged dissonance heard at the end of the introduction is now presented under the singer’s first, sustained statement of the word “sprich.”  The singer then repeats the word, introducing the “message” of the title.  From here, the music is largely as in stanza 1, but Brahms includes a subtle and effective extension by repeating line 4.  This causes a stronger emphasis on the major key than occurred at this point in stanza 1.
1:14 [m. 47]--Stanza 3 (A’ continued).  The first line is set as was the third line of stanza 1.  The second line diverges with another extension.  Here, the singer introduces the duple cross rhythm instead of the piano.  The musical line is completely new, and the voice already reaches the highest pitch.
1:21 [m. 51]--The two short final lines, delivering the heart of the “message,” are treated as one line (the stanza actually functions metrically as a three-line group, the two halves of the last line being separated for emphasis).  The music is virtually identical to 0:21 [m. 14].  The piano introduces the duple cross rhythm.
1:27 [m. 54]--As at the end of stanza 1, the line (or two lines) is repeated in full, including an extra statement of the corresponding first part (“denn du, Holde”).  The difference occurs after the first (“extra”) repetition of those words, where an extra bar is added before the complete repetition and all voices of the piano joyously break into the duple rhythm in four unison octaves.  This increases the excitement and intensification from the end of stanza 1.  The complete repetition, after the added bar, begins with a syncopation on “denn,” returning to the triple rhythm on “Holde.”  The end is stretched out by longer notes and a reiteration of “denkst.”  A fermata (pause) further lengthens the cadence.
1:40 [m. 61]--A short, exuberant postlude (derived from the bridge at 0:36 [m. 22]), with rolled left hand chords and a strong upward motion in the prevalent 9/8 rhythm, brings the song to a major-key close.
1:50--END OF SONG [63 mm.]

2. Liebesglut (Glow of Love or Embers of Love).  Text by Georg Friedrich Daumer, adapted from the Persian by Hafis.  Appassionato.  Through-composed form.  F MINOR/MAJOR, 2/4 and 4/4 time (Low key E-flat minor/major).

German Text:
Die Flamme hier, die wilde, zu verhehlen,
Die Schmerzen alle, welche mich zerquälen,
Vermag ich es, da alle Winde ringsum
Die Gründe meiner Traurigkeit erzählen?

Daß ich ein Stäubchen deines Weges stäube,
Wie magst du doch, o sprich, wie darfst du schmählen?
Verklage dich, verklage das Verhängnis,
Das waltet über alle Menschenseelen!

Da selbiges verordnete, das ewige,
Wie alle sollten ihre Wege wählen,
Da wurde deinem Lockenhaar der Auftrag,
Mir Ehre, Glauben und Vernunft zu stehlen.

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Introduction.  The piano immediately sets up the two-against-three cross rhythms that will pervade much of the song, as well as the passionate intensity.  The right hand plays cascading octaves in straight rhythm while the left plays rising accompaniment figures in triplet rhythm beginning off the beats.
0:06 [m. 5]--Stanza 1.  The vocal line begins low, then leaps to a descent.  It is in straight (duple) rhythm.  The piano is in triplet rhythm, passing the figures between the hands in opposite directions.  The second line repeats the pattern of the first line a third higher.
0:17 [m. 15]--The last two lines begin more quietly and remain in a rather high vocal register, hinting at the related major key (A-flat).  The right hand now plays the triplet rhythm alone, the left providing a slower, solid bass.  The stanza ends on a highly anticipatory, questioning half cadence.
0:27 [m. 24]--Repetition of the introduction.
0:32 [m. 28]--Stanza 2.  The first line introduces broken octaves in the piano, still in triplet rhythm, but creating the effect of a different grouping (3x2 instead of 2x3).  The voice continues in a subdued straight rhythm.  The broken octaves illustrate the rising dust.  The German wordplay (“Stäubchen”--speck of dust and “stäube”--shove or raise) already sets this line apart.
0:37 [m. 32]--The second line rises in volume and pitch, and the piano resumes its previous 2x3 triplet grouping.  The bass begins to slip down by half-steps here, and the voice follows.  In the second line, the bass moves from A-flat to G.  The third line rests on F-sharp.  The third and fourth lines are identical, but the fourth is a half-step lower, on F (the main keynote).  Brahms then changes the key indication from F minor to F major before the next passage.
0:56 [m. 42]--Stanza 3, lines 1-2.  The piano bridges to the next verse with oscillating triplet octaves.  These descend yet another half-step, to E, then move down (via B) to a lower oscillation on E.  On that note, the voice enters with the first line of stanza 3, and harmony is added to create the chord of E major, which the voice and piano outline.  The bass remains steady on the low E.  To add emphasis to this, the voice leaps down in octave E’s on “das ewige.”  The oscillating octaves respond by becoming static on the E as well.
1:11 [m. 59]--The second line is sung to longer, more sustained notes.  The piano finally abandons the triplet rhythm, playing harmonized rising arpeggios in straight rhythm.  Through a further descending bass (this time by whole steps), the “dominant” note and chord of F major, C, is reached.  This harmony has a strong pull back to the home key.  While Brahms explicitly notes major here with the key signature, the line is still sung in the minor key.  The major mode is only gradually emerging.  A short bridge with syncopation in the right hand leads to the final section in 4/4.
1:27 [m. 71]--Stanza 3, lines 3-4.  Brahms changes the time signature to 4/4, making the bars twice as long.  There is no actual change in tempo, although the effect is created by the longer bars and the absence of the agitated triplets.  The motion to the major mode is also now complete.  The contour of line 3, the first sung in the new meter, is very similar to the first two lines of stanza 1, but sung in notes twice as long.  The music is now quiet and expressive, the piano moving in a flowing line with some syncopation in the lower notes of the right hand oscillations.
1:38 [m. 75]--The last line moves down chromatically (by half-step) in sighing figures illustrating the loss of “honor, faith, and sense.”  The harmony, following the voice, also becomes richly chromatic.  Both hands of the piano now have some syncopation.
1:48 [m. 79]--The last line is repeated, beginning a third lower.  After the two “sighing” figures, it diverges from the first statement, with the words “und Vernunft zu stehlen” outlining an arpeggio on the foreign chord of G-flat major, then descending to a full cadence in F major as the word “stehlen” is stretched out.
2:02 [m. 83]--A piano postlude continues the mild syncopation in both hands, reaching high then resolving into a serene final chord.  The top voice is the third, not the keynote, of the chord, creating a lingering sense of uncertainty.
2:25--END OF SONG [86 mm.]

3. Sonntag (Sunday).  Text from Johann Ludwig Uhland’s collection of folksongs.  Nicht zu langsam (Not too slowly).  Simple strophic form.  F MAJOR, 3/4 time (High key G major, low key E-flat major).

German Text:
So hab’ ich doch die ganze Woche
Mein feines Liebchen nicht geseh’n,
Ich sah es an einem Sonntag
Wohl vor der Türe steh’n:
  Das tausendschöne Jungfräulein,
  Das tausendschöne Herzelein,
  Wollte Gott, wollte Gott, ich wär’ heute bei ihr!

So will mir doch die ganze Woche
Das Lachen nicht vergeh’n,
Ich sah es an einem Sonntag
Wohl in die Kirche geh’n:
  Das tausendschöne Jungfräulein,
  Das tausendschöne Herzelein,
  Wollte Gott, wollte Gott, ich wär’ heute bei ihr!

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza (Strophe) 1.  Beginning with a three-note upbeat, the gentle, beautiful, simple melody begins.  The piano accompaniment is highly distinctive, with five-note arching phrases beginning off the beat in every bar.  At the third line, the piano bass descends and the music makes a very slight hint at the minor key.  Each pair of lines occupies a regular four-bar phrase.
0:15 [m. 9]--Refrain.  The refrain adds some new harmonies to the five-note piano groups.  The voice moves steadily upward.  At the high point, the descending words “wollte Gott,” the music sounds ecstatic, but restrained.  The accompaniment changes, adding isolated off-beat chords.  The refrain avoids a full cadence.
0:30 [m. 17]--The last line (beginning with the “wollte Gott” descents) is repeated, this time reaching a satisfying close.  This repetition was not in the song as originally published.  Brahms added it later in a moment of great inspiration, as the repetition greatly increases the warmth and beauty of the song.
0:37 [m. 20]--The vocal cadence merges with the piano postlude/interlude.  This has a total of seven bars.  The first four (beginning with the vocal cadence) are a regular phrase with the five-note groups passed between the hands (only harmonized in the right).  The last three introduce fuller harmonies and slight syncopation.  The final bar leads into the three-note upbeat to the second strophe.
0:50 [m. 1 (m. 26)]--Stanza (Strophe 2).  Music as at the beginning.  Note the very slight differences between the strophe texts, including the preservation of the rhyme on “-eh’n.”  In the second line, the three syllables “mein feines” are condensed to one, “das,” by the omission of a repeated note and the placement of the word on the two notes heard on “feines” in the first strophe.
1:05 [m. 9]--Refrain, as at 0:15.
1:21 [m. 17]--Repetition of the last line, as at 0:30.
1:27 [m. 20]--Piano postlude emerging from the vocal cadence, as at 0:37.  Now the last bar is changed to end with a final, closed cadence.
1:46--END OF SONG [26 mm.]

4. O liebliche Wangen (O Lovely Cheeks).  Text by Paul Fleming.  Lebhaft (Lively).  Simple strophic form.  D MAJOR, 6/8 time (Middle key C major, low key A major).

German Text:
O liebliche Wangen,
Ihr macht mir Verlangen,
Dies rote, dies weiße
Zu schauen mit Fleiße.
Und dies nur alleine
Ist’s nicht, was ich meine;
Zu schauen, zu grüssen,
Zu rühren, zu küssen!
Ihr macht mir Verlangen,
O liebliche Wangen!

O Sonne der Wonne!
O Wonne der Sonne!
O Augen, so saugen
Das Licht meiner Augen.
O englische Sinnen!
O himmlisch Beginnen!
O Himmel auf Erden,
Magst du mir nicht werden,
O Wonne der Sonne!
O Sonne der Wonne!

O Schönste der Schönen!
Benimm mir dies Sehnen,
Komm, eile, komm, komme,
Du süße, du fromme!
Ach, Schwester, ich sterbe,
Ich sterb’, ich verderbe,
Komm, komme, komm, eile,
Komm, komme, komm eile,
Benimm mir dies Sehnen,
O Schönste der Schönen!

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza (strophe) 1.  With no introduction, the song begins at a breathless pace on a quick vocal upbeat.  The lilting 6/8 rhythm is consistent in both the voice and piano.  The latter has consistent off-beat figures in the right hand after solid bass notes and chords on the main beats.  The first six lines are set to three four-bar phrases, with two rhyming lines in each.  The third phrase moves to the relative B minor.
0:11 [m. 13]--The last four lines are condensed into a six-bar phrase.  This achieves a “hurried” effect, made more exaggerated by the changes in the vocal line, including sudden pauses at the poem’s commas as well as a quick and powerful crescendo.  The piano also changes, with thumping chords in the right hand and increasingly rapid and frequent notes in the left.  After the climax, the last pair of lines slows and quiets slightly to a pause.  Note that this last couplet (lines 9-10) is simply an inversion of the first one.
0:21 [m. 19]--The last couplet is emphatically repeated after the pause in a four-bar phrase with rapid broken octaves in the piano left hand.  The last line hints at minor (at “liebliche”) before again slowing and quieting, re-establishing major, and reaching a weak, questioning close that anticipates the next strophe.
0:29 [m. 1]--Stanza (strophe) 2.  Lines 1-6, as at the beginning.  The first four lines of the stanza have much wordplay, such as the inversion in the first two and the double use of “Augen” to refer to the beloved’s, then the protagonist’s eyes in the third and fourth.
0:40 [m. 13]--Lines 7-8 set to the six-bar phrase, as at 0:11.  The piano part is identical, but Brahms artfully varies the vocal line in this verse by eliminating the pause in line 7 (since there is no comma).  The vocalist simply sings to notes that match the piano’s rising line (lower than “zu grüßen” in strophe 1), then inserts a longer pause thereafter.  At line 8, the vocal line again matches strophe 1, but Brahms changes the text setting by repeating lines 7 and 8 rather than moving to the last couplet, saving that for after the pause.
0:50 [m. 19]--After the pause, the last two lines (again an inversion of the first two) are sung to the closing phrase heard at 0:21.
0:58 [m. 23]--Stanza (strophe) 3.  This last stanza is set without repeat signs in the score because of the lengthened and intensified closing.  The first six lines, however, are set to the same music as the first two strophes.
1:09 [m. 35]--Lines 7-10, set to the six-bar phrase.  Note that line 7 is a rearrangement of line 3.  Line 8 in the original poem was new (“Komm, tröste, komm, heile”--“Come, comfort, come heal”) but Brahms opted to repeat line 7, perhaps to give more emphasis to “eile” (“hurry”).  The last couplet is again an inversion of the first.  The musical setting of the text is as in stanza 1, with the “comma” pause inside of line 7.
1:19 [m. 41]--Repetition of the last two lines.  This final phrase is extended to six bars in the last strophe, eliminating the slowing and quieting (but still including the minor hint on “Schönste“).  The last two words, “der Schönen,” are repeated in an intensification leaping to the song’s highest vocal pitch.  The rapid piano flourishes are then extended, providing the strong closing that was absent in the first two verses.
1:32--END OF SONG [46 mm.]

5. Die Liebende schreibt (The Loving Woman Writes).  Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Non troppo lento.  Two varied strophes followed by a closing sestet, the musical setting matching the sonnet form.  E-FLAT MAJOR, 6/8 time (Low key D-flat major).

German Text:
Ein Blick von deinen Augen in die meinen,
Ein Kuß von deinem Mund auf meinem Munde,
Wer davon hat, wie ich, gewisse Kunde,
Mag dem was anders wohl erfreulich scheinen?

Entfernt von dir, entfremdet von den Meinen,
Führ’ ich stets die Gedanken in die Runde
Und immer treffen sie auf jene Stunde,
Die einzige: da fang’ ich an zu weinen.

Die Träne trocknet wieder unversehens:
Er liebt ja, denk’ ich, her, in diese Stille,
Und solltest du nicht in die Ferne reichen?

Vernimm das Lispeln dieses Liebewehens;
Mein einzig Glück auf Erden ist dein Wille,
Dein freundlicher zu mir; gib mir ein Zeichen!

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1.  Beginning on a half-measure, the piano plays a sighing, dissonant chord (a half-diminished seventh) leading to the simply stated rise and fall of the first line on a broken E-flat chord.  A two-note group off the beat is introduced in the piano left hand.  The right hand decorates the melody.  The second line is a sequential repetition a step higher than the first (on F minor), also introduced by a dissonant chord (this time a “fully” diminished seventh).  The long-short rhythm of the vocal line remains consistent.
0:11 [m. 7]--The third and fourth lines of the stanza break from the sequence and freely flow in the continuous long-short rhythm.  The smooth two-note groups in the left hand are now constant.  The right hand harmonies more closely follow the vocal line.  The music moves toward the related key of C minor, and the stanza ends on the questioning “dominant” chord of that key.  There is a one-bar piano bridge.
0:24 [m. 14]--Stanza 2.  The vocal melody of the first two lines is the same as in stanza 1, but the piano harmony adds a persistent dissonant note (D-flat), intensifying the pathos in the first line.  The piano part of the second line is virtually identical to stanza 1.
0:34 [m. 20]--The third line is essentially sung as in stanza 1, but it breaks free at “Stunde,” rising in pitch and volume and reaching a high point on “einzige.”  The music again moves to C, but this time it is C major and the motion is complete.  The last line descends from the high point and shifts to minor as it trails off.  The two-note off-beat phrases move to the right hand, echoing the voice and suggesting the sighing tears.  These sighs continue in the bridge, which moves back to C major and introduces the sonnet’s closing sestet.
0:47 [m. 27]--Stanza 3 (lines 1-3 of six-line group).  The first line is in pure C major, the quietest moment of the song.  The two-note sighs are in double notes here.  For the second and third lines, the piano accompaniment introduces a continuous, winding line in the right hand.  This includes many chromatic half-steps.  In the third line, there is a large swelling of volume and a motion back to the home key of E-flat.  The voice reaches the song’s highest pitch on “Ferne.” 
1:05 [m. 36]--At the song’s high point, the piano has an interlude in a full four-voice texture with some syncopation and a general descending motion.  It quiets down before the vocal entry of stanza 4.
1:12 [m. 40]--Stanza 4 (lines 4-6 of six-line group).  The contour of the vocal line is similar to that of stanza 3, but now in the home key.  The two-note sighs are now in very prominent high octaves, while the left hand adopts the rhythm of the vocal line in double notes, creating full harmonies with the voice.  The second line becomes highly chromatic in the voice and both hands of the piano. 
1:23 [m. 46]--The third line breaks off in the middle after turning briefly to the related (subdominant) key of A-flat.  After one bar of piano sighs, the line, stanza, and poem are completed in a questioning manner (“gib mir ein Zeichen”).  The piano continues its sighs in a postlude.  There are eight total, the first four repeated an octave lower.  The last “sigh” is lengthened into a final full cadence, not as questioning as the end of the vocal line.
1:46--END OF SONG [53 mm.]