FIVE SONGS (GESÄNGE), OP. 72
Brahms seems to have saved the highest quality songs
in this great outpouring published between the first two
symphonies for the last of the four sets. All five are of
excellent quality, among the best of his entire song output.
As in the other three sets, minor poets (Candidus and Lemcke, both
of whom appear in all four groups) are joined with great ones (in
this case Brentano and Goethe). “Alte Liebe” is a masterful,
sophisticated setting whose arpeggios seem to anticipate the
F-sharp-minor piano capriccio, Op. 76, No. 1. The second
song elevates the strained imagery of the poem. The word
painting describing the hanging gossamer, already in minor, is
appropriately darkened to express the mood of regret at the
end. One of the stillest, most introspective of all his
songs follows in “O kühler Wald.” Brahms decided to only
include two of Brentano’s four stanzas. The sentiments are
all still present, but the statement is concentrated. The
bridge between the stanzas, which comes to a virtual standstill in
an otherworldly harmonic realm, is especially memorable. The
fourth song, in its similar title, its mood, and its extremely
active accompaniment, harks back to the tenth song in the
“Magelone” cycle, Op. 33 (“Verzweiflung”). Brahms
effectively utilizes contrasting dynamic levels to convey the
sense of the poem. The strophic setting includes a crucial
alteration at the outset of the third verse. Finally,
Goethe’s witty comparison of the seductive appeal presented by
wine and women gave rise to one of Brahms’s wittiest, most
ecstatic songs. The direct quotation (even labeled as such)
from the baroque keyboard composer Domenico Scarlatti is both
singular and inspired. The beginning of the second half is
wonderfully contrasted, adding a bombastic canon between
the piano bass and the voice. The latter portion then
matches the first half.
Jessye Norman, soprano (No. 1); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,
baritone; Daniel Barenboim, piano [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.
IMSLP WORK PAGE
FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut
SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel
Sämtliche Werke--original keys)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by Max
1: Alte Liebe (in original [middle] key, G minor)
1: Alte Liebe (in high key, A minor)
1: Alte Liebe (in low key, F minor)
Sommerfäden (in original key, C minor)
2: Sommerfäden (in low key, A minor)
3: O kühler Wald (in original key, A-flat major)
3: O kühler Wald (in high key, B-flat major)
4: Verzagen (in original key, F-sharp minor)
(in low key, E minor)
5: Unüberwindlich (in original key, A major)
5: Unüberwindlich (in low key, G major)
1. Alte Liebe (Old Love). Text by Karl
Candidus. Bewegt, doch nicht zu sehr (With motion, but not
too animated). Three-part through-composed form with partial
return. G MINOR, 6/4 time (High key A minor, low key F
Es kehrt die dunkle Schwalbe
Aus fernem Land zurück,
Die frommen Störche kehren
Und bringen neues Glück.
An diesem Frühlingsmorgen,
So trüb’ verhängt und warm,
Ist mir, als fänd’ ich wieder
Den alten Liebesharm.
Es ist als ob mich leise
Wer auf die Schulter schlug,
Als ob ich säuseln hörte,
Wie einer Taube Flug.
Es klopft an meine Türe,
Und ist doch niemand draus;
Ich atme Jasmindüfte,
Und habe keinen Strauß.
Es ruft mir aus der Ferne,
Ein Auge sieht mich an,
Ein alter Traum erfaßt mich
Und führt mich seine Bahn.
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1, lines 1-2. The piano begins
in the low register with an octave, then a doubled third, each a
half-measure long. The voice enters on an eighth-note
upbeat. The vocal melody sways in its characteristic long
notes and half-upbeats. The piano remains in the low and
middle range with a constant accompaniment of arpeggios with
three notes in the left hand followed by two, the second longer,
in the right. Some notes are always held through the
arpeggios. The second line moves higher in the voice while
the piano bass descends by half-step, creating a
foreign-sounding “augmented” harmony under the apt word “fernem”
(“distant”). The voice pauses while two more piano
arpeggios bridge to the next line.
0:18 [m. 6]--Lines 3-4. The third line rises in an
arpeggio on the “dominant” harmony. The fourth line also
focuses on this harmony, but on the last word, “Glück,” there is
an unexpected shift to C major. In both lines, the rhythm
is straightened out, removing the short half-upbeats. The
last two words, “neues Glück,” are repeated on long notes as the
harmony moves back to a full cadence in the home key, moving
from major back to minor. At the cadence, the
accompaniment patterns change from five-note arpeggios to more
continuous six-note groups in a bridge to the next stanza.
0:41 [m. 13]--Stanza 2, lines 1-2. This stanza
begins on a full upbeat. The “spring morning” immediately
moves to the fresh key of E-flat major. The rhythms are
straight, and each line has a falling contour, culminating with
an octave leap up, then a descent of a seventh on the word
“warm.” The accompaniment again changes. Instead of
simple rising arpeggios, there is now a more arch-like contour,
and there are three-note groups alternating between the hands,
almost creating an implied 4/4 or 12/8 meter superimposed on the
prevailing 6/4. The left hand often holds its last note
and moves with the last right hand upbeat.
0:53 [m. 17]--Lines 3-4. Line 3 rises in the vocal
line, and then leaps down a fifth. The accompaniment goes
back to six-note rising arpeggios split between the hands.
The end of line 3 and the beginning of line 4 are mildly
chromatic, but still in E-flat. Line 4 descends, and then
leaps up, aborting a full cadence. Under line 4, the
accompaniment moves back to the arching lines with three-note
groups. After a brief pause, line 4 is repeated in its
entirety, replacing the final upward leap and its more dissonant
harmony with a full cadence in E-flat over a rising
arpeggio. After the vocal cadence, the piano repeats the
arpeggio, but changes it to minor, at the same time suddenly
diminishing from piano to pianissimo.
1:16 [m. 24]--Stanza 3, lines 1-2. The harmonies
throughout this section are unstable. Line 1 rises slowly
in the voice as the swaying long notes and half-upbeats
return. The sotto voce arpeggios under the line,
which highlight “diminished seventh” harmony, are rather static
except for the sustained bass notes, which descend by
step. The key center moves back home toward G minor.
This is confirmed in the second line, which simply oscillates on
the “dominant” note and its leading note a half-step
below. Under this line, the accompanying arpeggios take an
arching shape, and the bass harmonizes the voice’s
oscillation. The transitional measure has richer
harmonies, with the bass moving contrary to the rising
1:29 [m. 28]--Lines 3-4. These lines move the vocal
part from the first two lines down a minor third, and the key
moves accordingly to E minor. The accompaniment is also
directly transferred, but it is moved down an additional octave,
placing it in the bass register and adding weight. The
volume suddenly builds at the end of the fourth line. The
transitional measure is thus much heavier.
1:42 [m. 32]--Stanza 4, lines 1-2. Brahms indicates
that both the piano and singer should be more animated here,
building toward a climax. The key shifts back home again
to G minor. The third line uses rhythm and accompaniment
reminiscent of stanza 2. The singer’s line straightens out
the rhythm. It leaps down, then moves back up in an
arpeggio before another downward leap. The arpeggios in
the piano are in three-note groups alternating between the
hands, as heard in stanza 2. Line 4, however, suddenly and
unexpectedly quiets down and returns to the melody used for the
very first line of stanza 1, along with its accompaniment.
With great agitation, the bridge measure quickly changes to
1:53 [m. 36]--Lines 3-4. The vocal line is
basically shifted up a step from lines 1 and 2, with one small
change at the top of the arpeggio in line 3. The
accompaniment, however, is changed to create a smoother change
of key. The goal is A minor, but the harmonies in line 3
move through C major to get there. Line 4 is again the
familiar opening melodic line of the song, moved up a step to A
minor. The piano part is more active, with the right hand
entering earlier and both hands adding stepwise descents.
2:05 [m. 40]--Stanza 5, lines 1-2. This is the
climax of the song. The signer sweeps downward on the
first line. The piano accompaniment is completely
new. The bass, in octaves, strides downward in two-note
stepwise groups. The right hand plays continuous rising
arpeggios, but they are in three-note groups, strongly
suggesting a 4/4 cross-meter in triplets against the prevailing
6/4. The key again circles back to G, but it is now fully
major. The second line of the stanza, the ecstatic “climax
of the climax,” is another broad descent, but now with its
longer notes stretched out to almost a full measure, doubling
the length of the line. The rising arpeggios in the right
hand add harmonies to some notes, and the bass leaps up from an
octave G to a chord and back down. The key in this line
makes another shift, to C major.
2:17 [m. 44]--As the vocal line reaches an incomplete
close in C major, the piano begins a two-measure
transition. The left hand joins the right in three-note
arpeggios, but those in the left hand use notes that are twice
as long, so that one left hand arpeggio is played against two in
the right hand. Brahms indicates that the volume and tempo
should gradually subside with the words allmählich wieder
ruhig (gradually calming). The second measure
makes the shift back home to G minor for the partial return by
changing the C-major arpeggios to mysterious and dissonant
2:23 [m. 46]--Stanza 5, lines 3-4. With the
exception of an opening half-step descent, line 3 matches the
first line of the song from stanza 1. Line 4, however,
changes course, not following the stanza 1 pattern. It
uses the straight rhythm of stanza 2 and, arching downward,
reaches a satisfying full cadence in G minor. The arpeggio
pattern from line 3 is used until the cadence, but the bridge
measure adds new half-upbeats.
2:38 [m. 50]--The final lines are repeated in a new
setting. Line 3 again uses the swaying motion with long
notes and half-upbeats, but it works further upward and has more
agitated accompaniment that also includes the half-upbeats (as
heard in the previous bridge). The intensity briefly
builds, and the harmony makes a brief hint at C minor as the
line breaks off and a piano arpeggio tumbles down.
2:45 [m. 52]--The repetition of line 4 is stretched out
to full four measures with a broad downward-arching arpeggio in
slower notes. The right hand of the piano shadows the
vocal motion, and the left hand plays rising arpeggios, with the
original faster notes, in the first half of each measure.
The volume rapidly diminishes. On the arpeggio’s upward
swing, G-minor is emphatically restored. The word “seine”
is given an internal repetition over another rising piano
arpeggio. It leaps down to the leading tone of the last
vocal cadence, which mirrors the previous one in the first
statement of the lines at 2:23 [m. 46].
3:02 [m. 55]--Postlude. The piano begins its
epilogue with the last note in the voice. It is marked dolce.
The right hand has long chords that harmonize a greatly
slowed-down, straightened version of the main melodic gesture
from the very first line, whose returns have helped to unify the
through-composed song. The left hand has the same rising
arpeggios just heard, but they begin off the downbeat, removing
the expected first note. The third measure of the
postlude, corresponding to the last two notes of the familiar
melodic gesture, is repeated an octave lower before the held
closing chord, which is also in the low register.
3:32--END OF SONG [59 mm.]
2. Sommerfäden (Gossamer Threads). Text by
Karl Candidus. Andante con moto. Modified strophic
form. C MINOR, 4/4 time (Low key A minor).
Sommerfäden hin und wieder
Fliegen von den Himmeln nieder;
Sind der Menschen Hirngespinste,
Fetzen goldner Liebesträume,
An die Stauden, an die Bäume
Haben sie sich dort verfangen;
Sehen wir darunter hangen.
0:00 [m. 1]--Introduction. The two hands are in
counterpoint here and throughout the song, almost always in
contrary motion and in a middle to low register. Here, the
left hand leads while the right hand breaks on the strong beats,
only entering after each one with a three-note group. The
opening left hand descent is used to mark key structural points in
the song. After two measures and an expressive buildup, a
new alternation begins between the hands using a short-long
rhythm. The left hand plays two-note harmonies here.
The introduction ends with a colorful rising arpeggio on the
0:14 [m. 6]--Strophe 1. Lines 1-2. The singer
enters with repeated notes and a leap from the “dominant” note to
the keynote. The vocal line then decorated with brief
arching figures. The second line begins with one of these
decorations, then leaps back down. The accompaniment is in
two-part counterpoint throughout, which perhaps is meant to depict
the winding threads floating downward. The opening left hand
figure from the introduction is heard an octave higher in the
right hand as the voice begins. The two hands are in
constant contrary motion, although the distance between notes is
not an exact reflection.
0:24 [m. 10]--Lines 3-4. The singer pauses on the
downbeat, and the piano enters here with the same opening figure
from the introduction in the left hand, the right hand closely
matching its introduction lines as well, albeit including the
downbeat. The voice enters halfway through the measure with
a rather static, halting statement of line 3. There is a
pause in the voice between the lines, and the top right hand piano
note is held over the bar line. The vocal entry on “Fetzen”
is syncopated, a long note on the second beat of the
measure. The line gradually moves down to the “dominant”
note over three right hand scale descents and rising four-note
left hand arpeggios.
0:38 [m. 16]--Line 4 is repeated, beginning with an even
stronger syncopation that starts on the upbeat and is held over
the bar line. This note leaps up a dissonant “tritone”
before tumbling down to a chromatic half-close. Under this
descent, the left hand reaches the low bass and pauses on the
beats, leaving isolated notes on the off-beats.
0:44 [m. 18]--Interlude. It begins with the vocal
half-close, and is longer than the introduction. The opening
lines of counterpoint are stretched to three and a half measures,
and the right hand plays continuously. The opening left hand
figure from the introduction is concealed on the upbeat of the
first measure. The right hand has a long scale descent in
the third measure. Halfway through the fourth measure, the
alternating short-long rhythms are heard, and these match those
from the introduction, although they are displaced by half a
bar. To compensate for this, the closing arpeggio is
shortened, including only the original right hand notes and
cutting the preceding ones in the left hand.
1:01 [m. 24]--Strophe 2. Lines 5-6. These lines
are set to the same music as lines 1-2 at 0:14 [m. 6].
1:11 [m. 28]--Lines 7-8. The pause in the vocal line
and the piano entry are as at 0:24 [m. 10]. The vocal line
itself for line 7 begins like line 3, but suddenly, the halting
motion is replaced by a full scale descent, immediately darkening
the mood. The piano counterpoint comes to a standstill as
the line ends, and the harmony stalls on a “dominant seventh”
chord. The closing line is then set to a dramatic, slowly
rising chromatic scale. The volume builds rapidly and
powerfully from pianissimo to forte. The
first syllable of the last word, “hangen,” is lengthened to four
beats held over the bar line before resolving downward. The
piano bass descends to a low G in broken octaves. The right
hand harmony is thick.
1:29 [m. 34]--The last line is repeated to the same
chromatic ascent and rapid buildup. This time, the piano
accompaniment is more active, with fuller harmony in the right
hand and moving lines reminiscent of the earlier counterpoint in
the left. Now the word “darunter” is lengthened as well,
placing the first syllable of “hangen,” still held for four beats,
on the downbeat. Under the held note, the figures in the
right hand are reminiscent of the opening left hand figure form
the introduction, but with its first note removed.
1:40 [m. 37]--Postlude. As the vocal line resolves on
the “dominant” note, the piano figures stall for a measure before
the right hand softly floats upward, continuing an arpeggio that
begins in the left hand. The last left hand notes and all
the notes of the right hand arpeggio are sustained, perhaps
depicting the floating threads caught in the branches. The
resulting chord is held, and a quiet low bass octave closes the
2:04--END OF SONG [39 mm.]
3. O kühler Wald (O Cool Forest). Text by
Clemens Maria Wenzeslaus von Brentano. Langsam
(Slowly). Two-part through-composed form. A-FLAT
MAJOR, 3/2 time, closing with three measures of alla breve
time [4/2] (High key B-flat major).
O kühler Wald,
Wo rauschest du,
In dem mein Liebchen geht?
Wo lauschest du,
Der gern mein Lied versteht?
[Here a stanza not set by Brahms]
Im Herzen tief,
Da rauscht der Wald,
In dem mein Liebchen geht,
In Schmerzen schlief
Die Lieder sind verweht.
[Here a stanza not set by Brahms]
English Translation (Includes all four stanzas; Brahms only
set stanzas 1 and 3)
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1, lines 1-3. The tempo and meter
are very broad and solemn. The piano takes one measure to
set up the pulsating accompaniment. The right hand plays
repeated chords in the tenor range over a slower bass. The
voice enters in the second measure with a slow, but lilting
line. The bass joins the right hand pulsations, and the
harmony begins to move. The second line gently falls
downward. The third line leaps up to a long note, then
descends. Under the third line, the piano right hand leaves
the pulsations to the bass and becomes melodic, trailing after the
end of the vocal line as the singer pauses.
0:21 [m. 6]--Stanza 1, lines 4-6. Lines 4 and 5 are
intensified versions of lines 1 and 2. Line 4 makes a new
leap upward, and line 5 descends from a higher level. Both
hands participate in the pulsations, the right hand higher than
before. The harmony begins to move toward the “dominant” key
(E-flat major). Line 6 is expanded through text repetition
and a slow cross-rhythm. The word “Lied” is held
over a bar line, then “mein Lied” is repeated. The right
hand chord under the first “Lied” is also held. The effect
is of three 2/2 measures being superimposed upon two 3/2
bars. There is a slight intensification and some chromatic
motion as well. Finally, the question is completed with
“versteht, which arrives with a weak cadence on the
“dominant.” After a held piano chord, the bass pulsations
cease, and everything pauses.
0:48 [m. 12]--Stanza 2, line 1. On the upbeat, the
voice comes out of the pause with a very slow statement of the
line “Im Herzen tief.” This is the crux of the song.
It is marked pianissimo, and the line, as well as the
piano harmonies underneath it, are in the almost otherworldly key
of E major (notated as F-flat major). A “deceptive” motion
in the bass shifts things to D-flat minor.
0:59 [m. 14]--Stanza 2, lines 2-3. Again on the
upbeat, Brahms deftly emerges from the mists, sliding back home to
A-flat. Line 2 is sung twice, to the same melody used for
lines 1 and 2 in stanza 1. The accompaniment is more active,
with an undulating right hand (broken fifths and octaves) over the
resuming bass pulsations. Line 3 resembles the corresponding
line in the first stanza, but the descent after the upward
leap makes an unexpected plunge that includes a biting
dissonance. Under this line, the bass takes over the
undulation and the right hand becomes melodic, again trailing
after the voice.
1:17 [m. 18]--Stanza 2, lines 4-6. Line 4 leaps up an
octave. The piano harmony under it makes a sudden turn to
the minor, with a tolling bass added to the pulsations and
undulations. The voice remains static, then descends
gradually for line 5. Here, the key makes another turn, to
C-flat major (relative to the home minor key just heard).
Finally, the last line restores the home key as the undulations
move to the low bass, beginning on the “dominant.” An inner
voice of the right hand doubles the vocal line. The voice
fails to reach melodic closure, and as the line ends, the right
hand echoes it over continuing “dominant” harmony.
1:34 [m. 22]--The last line is repeated. The voice
leaps upward, than leisurely sways as the undulating bass
continues. The right hand harmonies no longer contain a
doubling voice, and they are syncopated. This repetition
turns out to be the last 3/2 measure (m. 22). The final
three bars are notated in alla breve [4/2]. This
further broadens the tempo. At the last word, “verweht,” the
piano suddenly stops, and the voice leaps down to a held note on
the first alla breve bar. The last words, “sind
verweht,” are given an extra internal repetition. The singer
slowly climbs up by half-steps, with piano chords entering on the
two weak beats.
1:50 [m. 24]--The last vocal note is a suspended C (the
third in the chord of A-flat). Under it, the piano states
the introductory bar from the very beginning of the first stanza
(on the last three beats of the alla breve measure), with
slightly fuller harmonies than before. The voice drops out
halfway through this restatement. The final piano chord is
rolled and held. Its top note is not A-flat, but the fifth,
2:16--END OF SONG [25 mm.]
4. Verzagen (Despondency). Text by Karl
Lemcke. Mäßig bewegt (Moderately--voice); Andante con moto
(piano part). Modified strophic form. F-SHARP MINOR,
3/4 time (Low key E minor).
Ich sitz’ am Strande der rauschenden See
Und suche dort nach Ruh’,
Ich schaue dem Treiben der Wogen
Mit dumpfer Ergebung zu.
Die Wogen rauschen zum Strande hin,
Sie schäumen und vergehn,
Die Wolken, die Winde darüber,
Die kommen und verwehn.
Du ungestümes Herz sei still
Und gib dich doch zur Ruh’,
Du sollst mit Winden und Wogen
Dich trösten, - was weinest du?
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1. The song is known for its
surging, unrelenting accompaniment, with constant motion in 32nd
notes. In a brief introduction, the rushing water is invoked
with quietly intense rising arpeggios. Above them, a melody
with breathless double-dotted rhythm (long-short with a short note
half as long as usual) is heard. After the arpeggios, the
surging motion tumbles downward in tremolo-like
figures. The pattern is repeated with new harmonies and a
more final descent of the top melody.
0:10 [m. 5]--Lines 1-2. The singer enters on the
upbeat of the last downward tremolo figures. The
first line is set to a restrained, but seething melody that uses
triplet rhythm. The piano motion underneath consists of one
ascending and two descending arpeggios in each measure. Line
2 is similar, but higher and more driven, with a powerful crescendo.
The accompaniment pattern from line 1 continues. Line 2 is
then repeated as the intensity builds to forte level
volume. The notes are longer, and the piano arpeggios, with
added harmony at the top, all cascade downward under the
repetition. It ends on the “dominant” note and
harmony. The arpeggios trail after this half-close, and the
volume very rapidly diminishes back to piano.
0:24 [m. 11]--Lines 3-4. In a contrast, line 3 is
hesitant and even fearful, indecisively circling around the home
keynote. The piano texture changes to tremolo
figures passed between the hands and supported by chords.
Line 4 is set to a despairing downward scale, still over the tremolo
motion. The volume now diminishes to pianissimo.
After a brief pause, the line is repeated to a broadly swaying,
melancholy line that ends uncertainly on the “dominant” note as
the piano settles to a cadence. Under the repetition,
arpeggios in the left hand alternate with tremolos in the
0:42 [m. 19(1)]--Stanza 2. The first measure of the
introduction is notated before the repeat sign to accommodate the
trailing of the voice. The repeat leads back to m. 2.
Introduction as at the beginning.
0:52 [m. 5]--Lines 1-2, set as in stanza 1 at 0:10, with
the repetition of line 2. In line 1, the first syllable of
“Strande” is set to two notes previously used for the first two
syllables of “rauschenden.”
1:05 [m. 11]--Lines 3-4, set as in stanza 1 at 0:24, with
the repetition of line 4. The last syllable of “kommen” in
line 4 is set to two notes used for two syllables in stanza 1.
1:24 [m. 19]--Stanza 3. Line 1. The first two
lines are varied, so the whole stanza is written out in the
score. The introduction begins as expected, but as the
second pattern begins (on the other side of the repeat sign), the
voice unexpectedly enters with line 1, following the double-dotted
upper melody and suddenly building. After that measure, the
music is substantially changed. The upper melody of the
introduction attempts to assert itself after being hijacked by the
voice, but it trails off.
1:33 [m. 23]--Line 2. It is set to a very broad
phrase that takes as long as the two statements in the other
stanzas, and is marked by an octave leap on “dich.” The
harmony has made a much stronger shift to the “dominant”
key. The accompaniment under this expanded line resembles
that used for the repetition of line 4, with left hand arpeggios
and right hand tremolos. At the end, the right hand
tremolos are extended, and an upper voice settles down for
the last two lines, which return to the music of the previous
1:42 [m. 27]--Lines 3-4, set as in the first two stanzas at
0:24 and 1:05 [m. 11]. The music for line 3 incorporates the
first two words of line 4, resulting in two added syllables.
This is accommodated at the beginning by twice using two notes
previously used for one syllable. The music of line 4 and
its repetition include a reiteration added by Brahms. In the
first statement, “was weinest” is reiterated, and the declamation
is as in stanza 1. In the repetition, only “weinest” is
repeated, and the declamation is as in stanza 2.
2:00 [m. 35]--The introduction is converted into a
postlude. It is unchanged until the end of the second
pattern, at which point the harmony that had preceded the vocal
entry is slightly altered. A diminuendo to pianissimo
is added over three new measures. The first is a repetition
of the slightly changed last measure of the second pattern.
The second finally brings the constant 32nd-note motion to an end
with low thumping keynote F-sharps punctuated by a single third
above to complete the chord. In the final measure, the full
F-sharp chord in the low register is held.
2:23--END OF SONG [41 mm.]
5. Unüberwindlich (Unconquerable). Text by
Johann Ludwig von Goethe. Vivace. Varied strophic form
(ABA’B’). A MAJOR, Cut time [2/2] (Low key G major).
Hab’ ich tausendmal geschworen
Dieser Flasche nicht zu trauen,
Bin ich doch wie neugeboren,
Läßt mein Schenke fern sie schauen.
Alles ist an ihr zu loben,
Glaskristall und Purpurwein;
Wird der Propf herausgehoben,
Sie ist leer und ich nicht mein.
Hab’ ich tausendmal geschworen,
Dieser Falschen nicht zu trauen,
Und doch bin ich neugeboren,
Läßt sie sich ins Auge schauen.
Mag sie doch mit mir verfahren,
Wie’s dem stärksten Mann geschah.
Deine Scher’ in meinen Haaren,
0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1 (A). The brief
introduction is a direct quotation from a keyboard sonata by
Domenico Scarlatti (L. 214 K. 223). Brahms even labels and
brackets the quotation “D. Scarlatti.” The half-measure
upbeat leading to an exuberant upward leap of a fifth is
characteristic. The motive then tumbles down, incorporating
a baroque ornament. A statement in octaves is followed by
one in the left hand alone, an octave lower than before, supported
by right hand harmonies.
0:06 [m. 5]--Lines 1-2. On another half-measure
upbeat, and with a smaller upward leap of a fourth, the singer
enters with a jovial, bouncy melody. The piano part is also
jovial, emerging from the Scarlatti introduction into pompously
striding low bass octaves and right hand harmonies after the
beat. The motion of the bass runs both parallel and contrary
to the voice. At the end of the second line, the harmony
shifts from A major to C-sharp minor, and the second line is
repeated to a more solemn descent. This culminates in a huge
downward octave leap on that key’s “dominant” note. Both
hands of the piano (with the right hand still after the beat)
double the vocal line of this repetition in three octaves.
0:15 [m. 11]--Lines 3-4. The accompaniment changes to
quietly pulsing three-note figures beginning off the beat in the
right hand (starting with broken octaves) with longer, sustained
low octaves in the left. After a brief pause, the singer
presents the two lines to a pair of sequential rising
gestures. These are mostly stepwise, but include a leap up
and back down. The right hand figures move about, still
using broken octaves, but including some shorter leaps on the
upswing. Line 4 is repeated, swaying downward in a swinging
long-short rhythm. The repetition moves the key from C-sharp
minor to its “relative” key of E major (also the preparatory
“dominant” of the home key), and the voice descends to a full
0:26 [m. 19]--After the cadence, the piano presents the
melody used for the repetition of line 4 as an echo and a
bridge. It is on the first and last notes of the continuing
off-beat right hand figures, and is therefore syncopated.
The left hand plays single notes on the beats, marching
downward. The brief interlude reiterates the full cadence on
E major, stretching out the arrival.
0:31 [m. 22]--Stanza 2 (B). Lines 1-2.
Brahms moves back home to A for line 1. The voice has two
bouncing descents, punctuated in the middle by three faster
descending piano arpeggios in the right hand. Against these,
the left hand begins to invoke the opening leap of the Scarlatti
figure in low octaves, still only a fourth, not the original
fifth. Line 2 moves the whole pattern up a step, to B
minor. The second vocal descent stalls, however, with only a
half-step on “Purpurwein.”
0:36 [m. 26]--Line 3, first statement. A major is
definitively re-established from here to the end of the
strophe. The phrases still begin on half-measure
upbeats. The voice slowly moves up by thirds, pausing on the
highly illustrative word “Propf” (“stopper” or “cork”), and on
“gehoben” (“removed”). On each of these pauses, the piano
plays the patterns from the first two lines, with the rapidly
descending arpeggios, but the bass octaves now leap up the full
fifth, more explicitly referring to the opening of the Scarlatti
0:40 [m. 29]--Line 3 repeated; first statement of line
4. At this point, Brahms finally directly quotes the
Scarlatti figure from the introduction in the voice part.
This is done to a repetition of line 3. The piano moves back
to the accompaniment pattern from the beginning of stanza 1, with
marching low bass octaves and right hand after-beat
harmonies. The “Scarlatti leap” perfectly illustrates the
popping of the cork, and the rapid vocal arpeggios (among the most
athletic passages in all the Brahms songs) depict the growing
intoxication of the narrator. The fast arpeggios continue
for the first statement of line 4, twice arching up and back down,
essentially expanding the descending arpeggio from the Scarlatti
0:45 [m. 33]--Line 4 is joyously repeated two times in the
high register. The two repetitions are nearly identical, but
the first one is briefly diverted to D, while the second makes a
full, emphatic cadence on A major, the home key. The
accompaniment here resembles that used for the last two lines of
stanza 1, with long bass octaves and three-note figures beginning
off the beat. But these now arch upward and are
harmonized. At the cadence, the piano almost wildly
continues upward with a brief postlude directly derived from the
Scarlatti motive. It is rudely cut off right before its
cadence, though, and there is a full measure pause.
0:55 [m. 40]--Stanza 3 (A’). Lines 1-2.
In a comically bombastic way, the isolated piano bass, in low
double octaves, starts a line that is also derived from the
Scarlatti figure, but with the note values doubled, and beginning
with a full measure. The bass line begins with an octave
leap and then a smaller one of a sixth. The singer,
harmonized by the right hand, directly imitates the piano bass
octaves in canon. The first line is set to the
leaps. At the second line, the singer takes a melancholy,
arching turn to the home minor key (A minor). This has
already been anticipated by the piano bass. As the voice
descends to a half-close on the “dominant” note, the imitation
breaks and both hands of the piano double the voice in
octaves. Note the German wordplay between “Flasche” (bottle)
in stanza 1 and “Falschen” (false woman) in stanza 2.
1:11 [m. 50]--Lines 3-4. The setting of these lines
is very similar to the corresponding lines of stanza 1 from 0:15
[m. 11]. The key, however, is shifted down a half-step and
the mode is also changed, from C-sharp minor to C major (relative
to A minor). The opening pulsations are extended by a
measure, adding brief harmony. Under the vocal line, the
right hand figures are again similar to the passage in stanza 1,
but not all the downward leaps are octaves. The pattern of
sustained bass octaves is also not an exact correspondence.
The repetition of line 4 is adjusted so that it again moves to E
major, a striking motion from C major. The motion to E is
emphasized by fuller harmonies and a vocal leading tone.
1:23 [m. 59]--With the key now corresponding to stanza 1,
the piano bridge with the melody from the line 4 repetition is
almost the same as at 0:26 [m. 19]. The approach to the
cadence is a bit fuller, repeating the richer harmonies under the
preceding vocal cadence.
1:28 [m. 62]--Stanza 4 (B’). This music for
this stanza is mostly unchanged from stanza 2 until the
lengthening of the final vocal cadence. Here, lines 1-2 are
given as at 0:31 [m. 22], with bouncing descents and punctuating
1:34 [m. 66]--Line 3, first statement, as at 0:36 [m.
26]. The pauses are on “Scheer” (“scissors”) and “Haaren”
1:38 [m. 69]--Line 3 repeated and first statement of line
4, as at 0:40 [m. 29]. The Scarlatti motive illustrates
“Delilah’s” metaphorical scissors (analogous to the wine) in the
1:43 [m. 73]--Repetitions of line 4, as at 0:45 [m.
33]. The approach to the cadence is stretched out, doubling
the note values of the penultimate vocal measure (in the second
repetition) and expanding it to two measures, making the arrival
more emphatic. The piano continuation/postlude follows as
before, but at the previous “cutoff” point, the cadence on the
A-major chord arrives. It is reiterated in a rolled chord,
and then a leap down an octave to the final held chord over a low
2:03--END OF SONG [81 mm.]
END OF SET
BRAHMS LISTENING GUIDES HOME