Jessye Norman, soprano (No. 1); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Daniel Barenboim, piano [449 633-2]

Published 1877.

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.

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)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke--original keys)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by Max Friedländer):
No. 1: Alte Liebe (in original [middle] key, G minor)
No. 1: Alte Liebe (in high key, A minor)
No. 1: Alte Liebe (in low key, F minor)
No. 2: Sommerfäden (in original key, C minor)
No. 2: Sommerfäden (in low key, A minor)
No. 3: O kühler Wald (in original key, A-flat major)
No. 3: O kühler Wald (in high key, B-flat major)
No. 4: Verzagen (in original key, F-sharp minor)
No. 4:
Verzagen (in low key, E minor)
No. 5: Unüberwindlich (in original key, A major)
No. 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 minor).

German Text:
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.

English Translation

Part 1
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.
Part 2
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 arpeggios.
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 major.
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 “diminished sevenths.”
Part 3
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).

German Text:
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;
Hochselbsteigene Gewinste
Sehen wir darunter hangen.

English Translation

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 “dominant” chord.
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 song.
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).

German Text:
O kühler Wald,
Wo rauschest du,
In dem mein Liebchen geht?
O Widerhall,
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
Der Widerhall,
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, E-flat.
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).

German Text:
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?

English Translation

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 right.
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 stanzas.
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).

German Text:
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,
Allerliebste Delila!

English Translation

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 cadence there.
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 figure.
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 figure.
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 piano arpeggios.
1:34 [m. 66]--Line 3, first statement, as at 0:36 [m. 26].  The pauses are on “Scheer” (“scissors”) and “Haaren” (“hair”).
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 protagonist’s hair.
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 bass octave.
2:03--END OF SONG [81 mm.]