FOUR SONGS (GESÄNGE), OP. 70
One of the four groups
published together at the peak of the “high maturity” period, Op.
70 contrasts three songs of unusual brevity with one of unusual
length. As is typical, the songs in the group share a
similar theme, in this case a stoic, reserved sense of regret or
sadness for something lost in the past. Unlike the 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 short, 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 things a step further with its
very atmospheric and sparse accompaniment, whose light
dissonances, supple rhythm, and transparent texture make it one 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
on a rather grand scale, despite its restrained nature. In
both Brahms’s own time and today, opinion on this song is very
mixed. 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 attracted to the text, an unpleasant affair involving an
autograph Wagner score that 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 things 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 it may 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.
70 as a whole contrasts rather starkly with the next set, the
generally joyous and optimistic Op. 71.
Recording: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Daniel Barenboim,
piano [DG 449 633-2]
Note: Links to English translations of the
texts are from Emily Ezust’s site at http://www.lieder.net.
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.
IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck--original
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel
Sämtliche Werke--original keys)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by
Im Garten am Seegestade (in original key, G minor)
1: Im Garten am Seegestade (in low key, E minor)
Lerchengesang (in original key, B major)
2: Lerchengesang (in low key, A-flat major)
Serenade (in original key, B major)
3: Serenade (in middle key, A-flat major)
Serenade (in low key, G major)
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
introduction has detached rising arpeggios in the left hand
against a descending arpeggio in the right hand that is twice as
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 left hand, detached
and moving up and down in broken chords. The vocal line is
starkly in the minor key and generally descends with leaps at the
beginning of each line. The last line is repeated, stretched
out with longer note values and dramatic rests in both the voice
and piano. As the stanza concludes, the introductory passage
is heard 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 vividly,
bringing triplet rhythms into the left-hand arpeggios suggesting
the waves and low notes with off-beat responses for the rustling
trees. The first two lines settle in D major, while the
third and fourth move to B-flat (both keys are closely related to
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 is extended
for two bars before the introductory passage returns, at the
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 stanza begins
as had the first, but with slightly fuller accompaniment, for the
first three lines. The last line is not radically changed in
the voice, but the harmony is very different, suddenly suggesting
the key of C minor, the new harmony perhaps reflecting the text’s
“longing.” The repetition of the last line is still in
longer note values, but the rests are omitted, and the piano’s
chords are now very solemn. This sudden hymn-like character
continues through the postlude, which echoes the end of the vocal
1:49--END OF SONG [38 mm.]
2. Lerchengesang (The Lark’s Song). Text
by 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
introduction is a direct illustration of the text. Both
hands are set in a high register, and the right hand figures, with
their light dissonances, are obvious imitations of bird calls.
0:18 [m. 5]--Part 1 sets
the first four lines. Slow triplet rhythms are
characteristic. These go against the “flow” of the bird
calls in the accompaniment. The first two lines are set
somewhat in isolation from the accompaniment, the mostly a
cappella lines alternating with pairs of bird calls.
0:45 [m. 11]--The third
and fourth lines flow together, without the a cappella passages or
the alternations. The accompaniment remains quite
sparse. The slow triplet rhythms in the voice continue to go
against the flow of the piano. The fourth line is repeated,
with much longer notes stretching it to twice the length of the
1:12 [m. 18]--As the voice
ends its repetition of the fourth line, the bird calls from the
introduction return with slightly different harmony.
1:30 [m. 22]--The setting
of 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 voice now abandons the slow triplet
rhythms, now conforming more closely to the flow of the bird
calls. Also, the incorporation of an extra line results in
the addition of two isolated bird calls between the two pairs.
2:09 [m. 30]--As the text
has spoken of “memories,” the sixth and seventh lines are
repeated. In a very satisfying manner, the slow triplets
return. While the contour of the vocal lines is somewhat
varied, the accompaniment is virtually identical to the setting of
the third and fourth lines at 0:45 [m. 11]. Completing the
effect of rounding off the song, the eighth and final line is set
to the music used for the repetition of the fourth line, with the
longer notes and doubled length, but adding an extra note to the
right hand chords.
2:40 [m. 37]--The postlude
is 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
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, from the play Claudine von 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,
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
rising chords, the pattern of the song for the first eight lines
is established. One line is set per bar in a flowing rhythm
with the left hand in the first half of the bar and the right hand
in the second half. The beginnings of the right hand 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 of the home key
0:30 [m. 10]--As the ninth
line enters, the music becomes louder and more agitated, but the
pattern attempts to continue. The ninth line is
repeated. With the tenth line, the pattern breaks with
longer notes in the vocal line. It is set twice, the first
time to two bars (twice as long a the other lines) and the second
time adding still another bar. The accompaniment, while
breaking the pattern of imitating the voice with the right hand,
continues the flowing motion. This entire passage moves to
the “relative” minor 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 message of the
song. The eleventh line is set twice, each time to a bar and
a half, and back in the home major key. The imitation of the
voice in the piano right hand resumes, but this time it is more
literal, at the same speed.
1:01 [m. 20]--The final
line is 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 not lengthened as
the vocal line is. The second statement of the line is
almost a double statement, leaving only the one-syllable word
“Kind” out of a third repetition. It is stretched to three
bars. The chords of the postlude move downward, in a
reversal of the rising opening chords. The left hand of the
postlude gradually slows to the close.
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
large, 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
1. A 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
type of music continues through the second line. The
introduction and the first line have hints of major/minor mixture,
but minor is firmly established in the second line.
0:22 [m. 7]--The
accompaniment becomes more smooth, with scale motion harmonized
between the hands, and the vocal line is more static and narrow
for the third and fourth lines. After the stanza ends, a
rising broken chord in the piano leads to the next verse.
0:39 [m. 12]--Stanza
2. The first two lines have identical accompaniment to those
of stanza 1, but the vocal contour of the first 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 rhythm.
0:53 [m. 16]--The
remainder of 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 cadence,
avoided in stanza 1, again mixes major and minor.
1:11 [m. 20]--The piano
makes an elegant transition to the next section, using the mixture
of A major and minor to pivot to the new, closely related
(“relative major”) key of C major. Bare arpeggios reach
upward, the bass descending chromatically and the music becoming
slower and softer before a long-held pause on the expectant
“dominant” chord of the new key.
SECTION 2 (Langsamer.
Leise und feierlich--C major). Stanzas 3-5
1:31 [m. 25]--Stanza
3. The new section has a very warm and noble vocal
melody. The accompaniment is solemn and simple, with slowly
ascending chords in triplet rhythm introducing block chords in the
right hand. The stanza makes a large key change to G major
in the last line. In an extended repetition of that line,
the accompaniment becomes more active and even somewhat
syncopated. A bridge to the next stanza is subdued, but
retains a more active, dynamic rhythm, abandoning the ascending
2:39 [m. 38]--Stanza
4. This stanza, in addition to having a more active and
syncopated accompaniment, also introduces very rich chromatic
harmonies and delayed resolutions The music seems to become
unstable as the protagonist recognizes that those closest to him
may also fail to give him the proper recognition. The words
“scharf zu kennen” (“deeply to know”) in the second line are
repeated for emphasis, and the music moves toward E-flat major at
this small climax.
3:06 [m. 44]--The third
line introduces imitation in the piano of the vocal line.
The opening of this line resembles the third line of stanza
3. The descending pattern that imitated the voice continues
in the piano through the fourth line, which slows, repeating 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
5. The first line is as in stanza 3. From there, the
strophe is highly varied, introducing new chromatic harmonies and
making another detour to the “flat” keys as in stanza 4 (in this
case as far as A-flat in the third line). The vocal line is
quite different from stanza 3, extending each of the last two
lines by a bar, but the accompaniment provides a constant,
sticking to the ascending left-hand triplets throughout. The
home key is firmly established in the last line, which is repeated
in a very broad manner.
4:52 [m. 63]--Piano
postlude 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 the final
chords. The ascending left-hand triplets continue to the
end. This postlude is perhaps the most beautiful and
soothing part of the song.
5:37--END OF SONG [68 mm.]
END OF SET
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