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.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.
FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by Max
1: Im Garten am Seegestade (original key)
2: Lerchengesang (original key)
3: Serenade (original key)
3: Serenade (in low key, G major)
4: Abendregen (original key)
1. Im Garten am Seegestade (In the Garden at the Seashore).
by Karl Lemcke. Traurig, doch nicht zu langsam (Sad, but not
too slow). Ternary form (ABA’). G MINOR, 4/4 time.
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 verses.
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 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 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 line.
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.
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
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 first
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
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
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.
(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's sagen,
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 (B minor).
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
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.
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
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 triplet figures.
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
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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