FOUR SONGS (GESÄNGE), OP. 70
One of the four groups published together at the
of the “high maturity” period, Op. 70 contrasts three songs of
brevity with one of unusual length. As is typical, the songs
the group share a similar theme, in this case a stoic, reserved
of regret or sadness for something lost in the past. Unlike
diverse and often virtuosic Op. 69, the four songs of Op. 70 are
noticeably restrained. Even the lengthy final song is rather
subdued in expression. The first and third songs are quite
using simple and direct means to illustrate their text. The
third, a setting of Goethe, has an especially elegant relationship
between the vocal and piano parts. The second song takes
step further with its very atmospheric and sparse accompaniment,
light dissonances, supple rhythm, and transparent texture make it
of Brahms’s most forward-looking songs. The last song, the
capstone of the group, has a large two-part form and is laid out
rather grand scale, despite its restrained nature. In both
Brahms’s own time and today, opinion on this song is very
Almost all commentators, from Clara Schumann to today’s Brahms
scholars, have seemed to dislike the poem because of its rather
pretentious and self-righteous moralizing. Brahms’s first
biographer noted a possible reason Brahms would have been
the text, an unpleasant affair involving an autograph Wagner score
mistakenly ended up in his possession. Although Brahms was
blameless, he felt that his personal honor was questioned in the
misunderstanding. Wagner himself was magnanimous in making
right with Brahms, and perhaps it is no accident that the setting
contains some Wagnerian harmonic idioms and expressive devices,
especially in the last two stanzas. Despite whatever flaws
have, including perhaps a too dramatic contrast between the two
sections, portions of the song are profoundly beautiful and
expressive. With its restrained melancholy ever present, Op.
as a whole contrasts rather starkly with the next set, the
joyous and optimistic Op. 71.
Recording: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Daniel Barenboim,
[DG 449 633-2]
Note: Links to English translations of the
are from Emily Ezust's
site at http://www.recmusic.org/lieder.
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
(included here) are also visible in the translation links.
IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel
Sämtliche Werke--original keys)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by
1: Im Garten am Seegestade (in original key, G minor)
1: Im Garten am Seegestade (in low key, E minor)
2: Lerchengesang (in original key, B major)
2: Lerchengesang (in low key, A-flat major)
3: Serenade (in original key, B major)
3: Serenade (in middle key, A-flat major)
3: Serenade (in low key, G major)
4: Abendregen (in original key, A minor--C major)
4: Abendregen (in low key, F-sharp minor--A major)
1. Im Garten am Seegestade
(In the Garden at the Seashore).
Karl Lemcke. Traurig, doch nicht zu langsam (Sad, but not
too slow). Ternary form (ABA’). G MINOR, 4/4 time (Low
key E minor).
Im Garten am Seegestade
Uralte Bäume stehn,
In ihren hohen Kronen
Sind kaum die Vögel zu sehn.
Die Bäume mit hohen Kronen,
Die rauschen Tag und Nacht,
Die Wellen schlagen zum Strande,
Die Vöglein singen sacht.
Das gibt ein Musizieren
So süß, so traurig bang,
Als wie verlorner Liebe
Und ewiger Sehnsucht Sang.
0:00 [m. 1]--The
has detached rising arpeggios in the left
hand against a descending arpeggio in the right hand that is twice
slow and smoother. This passage recurs as a bridge between
0:05 [m. 3]--Stanza 1 (A).
The accompaniment continues with the pattern established by the
hand, detached and moving up and down in broken chords. The
line is starkly in the minor key and generally descends with leaps
the beginning of each line. The last line is repeated,
out with longer note values and dramatic rests in both the voice
piano. As the stanza concludes, the introductory passage is
again at a higher pitch level and pivoting to D minor.
0:37 [m. 15]--Stanza 2 (B).
The vocal line begins as had stanza 1, but it quickly moves in a
different direction. Brahms illustrates the text here
bringing triplet rhythms into the left-hand arpeggios suggesting
waves and low notes with off-beat responses for the rustling
trees. The first two lines settle in D major, while the
fourth move to B-flat (both keys are closely related to G minor).
0:57 [m. 22]--The bridge
between the second and third stanzas is twice
as long as that between the first and second. As the second
stanza ends, the piano right hand adopts a pattern of syncopated
repeated notes illustrating the birds of the last line. This
extended for two bars before the introductory passage returns, at
original pitch level, but continuing the syncopated rhythm and the
triplet left-hand arpeggios.
1:09 [m. 26]--Stanza 3 (A’).
The preceding bridge having moved back to the home key, the last
begins as had the first, but with slightly fuller accompaniment,
the first three lines. The last line is not radically
the voice, but the harmony is very different, suddenly suggesting
key of C minor, the new harmony perhaps reflecting the text’s
“longing.” The repetition of the last line is still in
note values, but the rests are omitted, and the piano’s chords are
very solemn. This sudden hymn-like character continues
the postlude, which echoes the end of the vocal line.
1:49--END OF SONG [38 mm.]
2. Lerchengesang (The Lark’s Song). Text
Karl August Candidus. Andante espressivo. Two-part,
one-verse form. B MAJOR, Cut (2/2) time (Low key A-flat
Ätherische ferne Stimmen,
Der Lerchen himmlische Grüße,
Wie regt ihr mir so süße
Die Brust, ihr lieblichen Stimmen!
Ich schließe leis mein Auge,
Da ziehn Erinnerungen
In sanften Dämmerungen
Durchweht vom Frühlingshauche.
0:00 [m. 1]--The
is a direct illustration of the
text. Both hands are set in a high register, and the right
figures, with their light dissonances, are obvious imitations of
0:18 [m. 5]--Part 1 sets
first four lines. Slow triplet
rhythms are characteristic. These go against the “flow” of
bird calls in the accompaniment. The first two lines are set
somewhat in isolation from the accompaniment, the mostly a
lines alternating with pairs of bird calls.
0:45 [m. 11]--The third
fourth lines flow together, without the a
cappella passages or the alternations. The accompaniment
quite sparse. The slow triplet rhythms in the voice continue
go against the flow of the piano. The fourth line is
with much longer notes stretching it to twice the length of the
1:12 [m. 18]--As the voice
its repetition of the fourth line, the
bird calls from the introduction return with slightly different
1:30 [m. 22]--The setting
the next three lines (5-7) is similar to
that of the first two, with mostly a
cappella vocal phrases alternating
with the bird calls. The important distinction is that the
now abandons the slow triplet rhythms, now conforming more closely
the flow of the bird calls. Also, the incorporation of an
line results in the addition of two isolated bird calls between
2:09 [m. 30]--As the text
spoken of “memories,” the sixth and
seventh lines are repeated. In a very satisfying manner, the
triplets return. While the contour of the vocal lines is
varied, the accompaniment is virtually identical to the setting of
third and fourth lines at 0:45 [m. 11]. Completing the
rounding off the song, the eighth and final line is set to the
used for the repetition of the fourth line, with the longer notes
doubled length, but adding an extra note to the right hand chords.
2:40 [m. 37]--The postlude
essentially a repetition of the bird
calls from the introduction and the interlude, adding a couple of
closing bars and a final chord.
3:23--END OF SONG [42 mm.]
3. Serenade (Serenade). Text by
Wolfgang von Goethe, from the play Claudine
Villa Bella. Fourth and fifth lines reversed by
Brahms. Brahms also changed the word “betrügen” (“deceive”)
to “betrüben” (“torture” or “plague”). Grazioso.
Through-composed form. B MAJOR, 6/8 time (Middle key A-flat
major, low key G major).
(The title Serenade [a
non-German word] is also used for Op. 58, No. 8.)
Kannst du mir sagen,
Einsam und stumm
Immer sich quälen,
Selbst sich betrüben,
Und ihr Vergnügen
Immer nur ahnen,
Da, wo sie nicht sind;
Kannst du mir’
0:00 [m. 1]--After two
chords, the pattern of the song for the
first eight lines is established. One line is set per bar in
flowing rhythm with the left hand in the first half of the bar and
right hand in the second half. The beginnings of the right
lines imitate the vocal lines at a faster speed (diminution).
0:18 [m. 6]--The pattern
continues, but the fifth through eighth lines
are set to more colorful harmonies and move toward the minor mode
the home key (B minor).
0:30 [m. 10]--As the ninth
enters, the music becomes louder and
more agitated, but the pattern attempts to continue. The
line is repeated. With the tenth line, the pattern breaks
longer notes in the vocal line. It is set twice, the first
to two bars (twice as long a the other lines) and the second time
adding still another bar. The accompaniment, while breaking
pattern of imitating the voice with the right hand, continues the
flowing motion. This entire passage moves to the “relative”
key of G-sharp.
0:50 [m. 17]--The last two
lines, which are essentially a reversal of
the first two, are given extensive treatment to emphasize the
of the song. The eleventh line is set twice, each time to a
and a half, and back in the home major key. The imitation of
voice in the piano right hand resumes, but this time it is more
literal, at the same speed.
1:01 [m. 20]--The final
stretched out even more. It is
first sung to two full bars, with light syncopation in the first
bar. The imitation continues in the right hand, but it is
lengthened as the vocal line is. The second statement of the
is almost a double statement, leaving only the one-syllable word
out of a third repetition. It is stretched to three
The chords of the postlude move downward, in a reversal of the
opening chords. The left hand of the postlude gradually
1:40--END OF SONG [26 mm.]
4. Abendregen (Evening Rain). Text by
Gottfried Keller. Last two lines somewhat altered by
Brahms. Ruhig (Peacefully)--Langsamer. Leise und feierlich
(Slower. Soft and solemn). Through-composed form in two
contrasting sections. A MINOR--C MAJOR, 4/4 time (Low key
F-sharp minor--A major).
Langsam und schimmernd fiel ein Regen,
In den die Abendsonne schien;
Der Wandrer schritt auf engen Wegen
Mit düstrer Seele drunter hin.
Er sah die großen Tropfen blinken
Im Fallen durch den goldnen Strahl;
Er fühlt’ es kühl aufs Haupt ihm sinken
Und sprach mit schauernd süßer Qual:
Nun weiß ich, daß ein Regenbogen
Sich hoch um meine Stirne zieht,
Den auf dem Pfad, den ich gezogen,
Die heitre Ferne spielen sieht.
Und die mir hier am nächsten stehen,
Und wer mich scharf zu kennen meint,
Sie können selber doch nicht sehen,
Wie er versöhnend ob mir scheint.
So wird, wenn andre Tage kommen,
Die sonnig auf dies Heute sehn,
Ob meinem fernen, bleichen Namen
Der Ehre Regenbogen stehn.
SECTION 1 (Ruhig--A
minor). Stanzas 1-2
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza
two-bar introduction introduces the
detached broken chords passed between the hands that represent the
falling rain. When the singer enters, the voice imitates the
“melody” of the introduction for the first line. The same
music continues through the second line. The introduction
first line have hints of major/minor mixture, but minor is firmly
established in the second line.
0:22 [m. 7]--The
becomes more smooth, with scale motion
harmonized between the hands, and the vocal line is more static
narrow for the third and fourth lines. After the stanza
rising broken chord in the piano leads to the next verse.
0:39 [m. 12]--Stanza
The first two lines have identical
accompaniment to those of stanza 1, but the vocal contour of the
line is different, replacing the “rainfall” music with a broader
arching line. The harmony and the notes used are the same,
however, and the second line only makes a minor alternation to the
0:53 [m. 16]--The
the stanza begins as at 0:22 [m. 7],
with the smoother scale accompaniment, but the vocal line suddenly
reaches higher and the harmonies become more colorful. A
avoided in stanza 1, again mixes major and minor.
1:11 [m. 20]--The piano
an elegant transition to the next
section, using the mixture of A major and minor to pivot to the
closely related (“relative major”) key of C major. Bare
reach upward, the bass descending chromatically and the music
slower and softer before a long-held pause on the expectant
chord of the new key.
SECTION 2 (Langsamer.
feierlich--C major). Stanzas 3-5
1:31 [m. 25]--Stanza
The new section has a very warm and noble
vocal melody. The accompaniment is solemn and simple, with
ascending chords in triplet rhythm introducing block chords in the
right hand. The stanza makes a large key change to G major
last line. In an extended repetition of that line, the
accompaniment becomes more active and even somewhat
bridge to the next stanza is subdued, but retains a more active,
dynamic rhythm, abandoning the ascending triplet figures.
2:39 [m. 38]--Stanza
This stanza, in addition to having a more
active and syncopated accompaniment, also introduces very rich
chromatic harmonies and delayed resolutions The music seems
become unstable as the protagonist recognizes that those closest
may also fail to give him the proper recognition. The words
“scharf zu kennen” (“deeply to know”) in the second line are
for emphasis, and the music moves toward E-flat major at this
3:06 [m. 44]--The third
introduces imitation in the piano of the
vocal line. The opening of this line resembles the third
stanza 3. The descending pattern that imitated the voice
continues in the piano through the fourth line, which slows,
the word “versöhnend” (“redeeming” or “propitious”) as the music
moves back to the home key and reaches a very expectant pause.
3:41 [m. 50]--Stanza
The first line is as in stanza 3.
From there, the strophe is highly varied, introducing new
harmonies and making another detour to the “flat” keys as in
(in this case as far as A-flat in the third line). The vocal
is quite different from stanza 3, extending each of the last two
by a bar, but the accompaniment provides a constant, sticking to
ascending left-hand triplets throughout. The home key is
established in the last line, which is repeated in a very broad
4:52 [m. 63]--Piano
based on the opening figure of stanzas 3
and 5. The melody moves to an inner voice in the second
bar. Then the two bars are repeated an octave higher before
final chords. The ascending left-hand triplets continue to
end. This postlude is perhaps the most beautiful and
part of the song.
5:37--END OF SONG [68 mm.]
END OF SET
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