Recording: North German Radio Chorus, conducted by Günter Jena [DG 449 646-2]

Published 1879.  Dedicated to Philipp Spitta.

In the period of his “high maturity,” around the time of the first two symphonies, Brahms returned after fifteen years to a cappella composition on a sacred text with his largest and most powerful unaccompanied choral work, the first motet of this pair.  Usually referred to by its first word, “Warum,” both the assembly of texts and the compositional virtuosity of the piece are breathtaking.  Brahms was quite proud of the clever selection of Bible verses, which rivals that of the German Requiem, particularly the strategic placement of the New Testament reference to Job, from whence the first section of the motet is set.  Of its four sections (which can be called “movements”), the first, itself in three parts, is the most substantial.  The motet, while full of romantic harmonies and sensibility, is clearly modeled on similar compositions by J. S. Bach, and like those works, it ends with a harmonization of a Lutheran chorale melody.  Brahms’s dedication of Op. 74 to the general editor of the Complete Bach Edition (which was published during Brahms’s lifetime and to which he subscribed) is highly symbolic.  The motet as a whole has a great emotional impact, whether it be the anguished cries of “Warum?” in the first section or the joyous six-voice counterpoint in the second and third sections.  Brahms published the piece with another motet thought to have been composed not long after the Op. 29 motets, to which it is somewhat similar in its application of Renaissance-style counterpoint.  It is a “verse motet,” meaning that each verse of the old hymn is given a different contrapuntal treatment, all of which are based on an existing Lutheran chorale melody (or cantus firmus).    There is canon (direct imitation) throughout the motet, but most impressive are the canons by inversion in Versus V and the final “Amen.”  The disciplined use of the Dorian mode is also notable.

Note: The texts below for No. 1 are the from German Luther Bible text used by Brahms.  The King James Version is used as a comparable Reformation-era English text.  Lines are matched as closely as possible.  Scriptural references are listed in both German and English.  The final Luther chorale is given in both German and in my own English translation.  A link to that translation on Emily Ezust’s site at is included.  The link to the English translation of the text for No. 2 (also by myself) is at the same site.  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 for the final Luther chorale in No. 1 and for all of No. 2 (included here) are also visible in the translation links.

ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck--Note that soprano, alto, and tenor clefs are used.)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke)
No. 1: Warum ist das Licht gegeben dem Mühseligen?
No. 2: O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf

1. Warum ist das Licht gegeben dem Mühseligen? (Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery?).  Four distinct sections that function as “movements.”

FIRST SECTION.  Langsam und ausdrucksvoll (Slowly and expressively).  Three-part form (ABA’) with refrain.  D MINOR, 4/4 and 3/4 time.  Four voices (SATB)

German Text:
--Warum ist das Licht gegeben dem Mühseligen,
und das Leben den betrübten Herzen,
--Die des Todes warten und kommt nicht,
und grüben ihn wohl aus dem Verborgenen,
--Die sich fast freuen und sind fröhlich,
daß sie das Grab bekommen,
--Und dem Manne, deß Weg verborgen ist,
und Gott vor ihm denselben bedecket?
                                --Hiob 3:20-23
English Text:
--Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery,
and life unto the bitter in soul;
--Which long for death, but it cometh not;
and dig for it more than for hid treasures;
--Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad,
when they can find the grave?
--Why is light given to a man whose way is hid,
and whom God hath hedged in?
                                --Job 3:20-23

0:00 [m. 1]--Part 1 (A).  Refrain #1.  The voices cry out on the question word “Warum?”  They do this on a D-major chord that moves to G minor, creating two illusions--first that the piece might be in major, then that it might be in G minor (D major leads naturally to G minor).  It is with the second, quieter statement of “Warum?” by the lower three voices that D minor is confirmed.  This motto of a loud cry, then an almost fearful, hushed reiteration of the word punctuates the three parts of this first main section of the motet.
0:15 [m. 4]--As the lower three parts finish the second “Warum?” the sopranos strongly enter with the first statement of the main melody, or “subject.”  They sing the first line of verse 20 to a melody that is initially narrow, then broadens to two prominent upward leaps.  The end of the “subject” moves toward the “dominant” area of A minor/major, where the next entry will take place in canon (direct imitation).
0:26 [m. 7]--The altos enter with the subject in imitation, presenting it in A minor (a fourth lower).  The sopranos continue with the rest of the verse on a “countersubject,” with syncopated repeated high notes, then a winding line on “betrübten.”  The alto subject makes the same harmonic motion as did the soprano, leading to E.  The alto statement is displaced, beginning in the middle rather than at the beginning of a bar.
0:40 [m. 11]--The tenors now enter with the “subject” in E minor.  The altos sing the continuation (or “countersubject”) just presented by the sopranos, with the winding line on “betrübten.”  The sopranos continue with a third line of counterpoint, repeating the words “den betrübten Herzen” twice more.  The second of these repetitions features a prominent wide rising leap.  The pattern of harmonic motion continues, to B.
0:51 [m. 14]--As with the alto entry of the “subject,” the bass entry is also on a half-measure, on B minor.  The tenors continue with the “countersubject,” the altos with the two repetitions of “den betrübten Herzen” just heard from the sopranos.  The sopranos themselves sing a continuation, which is a new version of the melody used for the second line of the verse, “und das Leben den betrübten Herzen.”  This new soprano melody features the same wide rising leap, but a quicker descent.  The canonic entries are now completed.
1:04 [m. 18]--The sopranos, after briefly pausing while the other voices continue, begin a fifth entry, following the expected pattern and beginning on F-sharp minor.  The other voices continue as they should, the altos taking the just-completed new version of the second line, the tenors the two repetitions of “den betrübten Herzen,” and the basses the “countersubject.”  This sequence is suddenly aborted, however, as all voices come to a stop.  The basses are allowed to complete their line by stating “Herzen” early (thus stating the entire verse).  The tenors cut off before their last “Herzen.”  The altos also place “Herzen” early, singing it on the quick descent.  The sopranos do not finish the first line, and they cut off after stating “gegeben” twice.  The cutoff chord is A major (significantly closely related to both F-sharp minor and D minor).
1:14 [m. 21]--The sudden “cutoff” is followed by all four voices singing together, with the inner parts (alto and tenor) leading the outer parts (soprano and bass) in arching lines.  The voices pivot back to the home key of D minor, quiet down dramatically, sing “den betrübten Herzen” once more (the basses stating the words twice with more compression), and come to an extremely dramatic and expectant half-cadence.
1:33 [m. 25]--Refrain #2.  The half-cadence is answered by the “Warum?” refrain, whose initial crying statement is almost terrifying, but adds a new rapid quieting within the first chord.  The quiet repetition from the lower parts is now completely closed, not merging with the succeeding music.  There is a brief pause before the next part.
1:51 [m. 29]--Part 2 (B).  The counterpoint is much less strict in this part, but there is heavy syncopation.  The tenors begin with a gentle syncopated phrase on the first line of verse 21.  The altos, then the basses follow in very close imitation.  This imitation is not strict, however, and the voices come together before the sopranos join them on “und kommt nicht.”  The soprano entry is a prominent leap.  The voices sing this line together, making a motion toward C with poignant dissonances and “dimnished sevenths.”
2:13 [m. 34]--Another statement of the same line follows (back in D minor), this time led by the altos.  The sopranos and tenors imitate them closely, but they sing in direct harmony with each other.  The basses are now the voices who join at “und kommt nicht.”  This time, the notes are shorter and there is a large swelling in volume on those words.  Each part repeats these three words in different ways.  The sopranos restate all three of them once, the altos only “kommt nicht.”  The tenors state “und kommt,” then “und kommt nicht,” then “kommt nicht.”  The basses sing all three words three times.  All voices come strongly together on the last, powerful “kommt nicht,” which has again moved toward C.
2:37 [m. 40]--The voices strongly begin to sing the second line of verse 21 in C minor/major.  The soprano line moves steadily downward.  The alto and tenor lines have some faster moving notes at “wohl aus dem Verborgenen.”  The volume diminishes rapidly over these words, and the music moves back toward D, ending the verse on a half cadence.
2:52 [m. 43]--The altos and tenors lead in a very gentle and serene phrase depicting verse 22.  The sopranos and basses follow them, all singing in D major, not minor.  Only the altos repeat any text (“sind fröhlich).  The voices move in subtle counterpoint to the end of the verse, slowing down in its second line with the word “Grab.”  There are also some mild chromatic notes here.  There is a full, quiet cadence in D major.
3:27 [m. 51]--Refrain #3.  The always-striking “Warum?” refrain banishes the previous serene cadence.  It is sung in its original form, without the diminishing in the first “Warum?”  The altos and basses hold the last note of the second “Warum?” just until the sopranos and tenors begin the next part.
3:43 [m. 55]--Part 3 (A’).  The material for verse 23 is quite similar to the canon in the first part, but it uses little counterpoint.  For variety, Brahms changes the meter to triple time (3/4), led in by the last two beats of the previous 4/4 bar from the “Warum?” refrain.  The sopranos and tenors sing the stark, hushed first line, which is again characterized by a large upward leap, in unison.  The altos and basses join them in harmony for the second line, and it is highly chromatic, with many half-steps in the upper three parts.  The altos and tenors trail off with moving lines, bringing the music, as expected, to the “dominant” chord, A.
4:15 [m. 64]--The sopranos and tenors hold a bare fifth as the altos and basses now sing the unison line in A minor.  An alteration at the end, which inserts a skip n the descending line, facilitates a return to D minor.  The response on the second line of the verse is more drawn out, with the tenors and basses beginning, followed by the altos, then the sopranos in quasi-imitation.  The bass line moves up by half-steps.  The sopranos actually sing their original chromatic line from the previous statement, but the lower parts are more florid.  There is also a large and dramatic crescendo, making the arrival at the final “Warum?” refrain more organic and less sudden.  Only the basses repeat any text, the word “bedecket.”  The basses have a large leap upward during their second statement of the word.
4:56 [m. 77]--Refrain #4.  It is essentially in its original form, but its arrival is more prepared, and it is notated in the triple meter (doubling the number of bars and thus making the actual statements of “Warum?” about one-third longer than before).  It also includes the diminishing in the first “Warum?” that was heard in the second refrain, but not the first and third.  The hushed second statement of the question word ends the first section of the motet.

SECOND SECTION.  Wenig bewegter (Slightly faster).  Two imitative statements, the first strictly canonic in four voices, the second with more free imitation in six voices.  F MAJOR, 6/4 time.  Six voices (SSATBB)

German Text:
--Lasset uns unser Herz
samt den Händen aufheben
zu Gott im Himmel.
                                --Klagelieder Jeremias 3:41
English Text:
--Let us lift up our heart
with our hands
unto God in the heavens.
                                --Lamentations 3:41

5:27 [m. 85]--Statement 1.  The first sopranos begin the joyous major-key canon, given exuberance and swing by the 6/4 meter.  The top four voices begin their imitations in descending order.  The second sopranos start a half-bar later on C (the “dominant” note), the altos a full bar later than the second sopranos on B-flat (the “subdominant”), and the tenors a half-bar after the altos on the home keynote of F, an octave lower than the first sopranos.  All four parts complete the statement as given by the sopranos, and all parts repeat “aufheben” and “zu Gott.”  They grow in volume to the highest pitch, then diminish and descend.
5:52 [m. 93]--Statement 2.  As the altos and tenors trail off with their completions of statement 1, the first and second sopranos begin statement 2 at a much quieter level than the beginning of statement 1.  Its opening, as well as the beginning pitches and distances of the top four parts are the same as in statement 1.  After the tenor entry, however, the counterpoint starts to diverge and the canon is no longer strict.  The top four voices grow in volume in preparation for the dramatic entry of the basses.
6:04 [m. 97]--The first basses enter at a distance of one and one-half bars from the tenors (the longest delay between entries).  The second basses come in a full bar after the first basses.  Both enter on the pitch D.  Only the first three notes of these bass entries are the same as the top four voices.  All voices then diverge and sing different lines.  The six-voice texture is full, rich, and exhilarating.  Each voice repeats different portions of the text.  The first sopranos have the most repetition, the second basses the least, and all voices in between them repeat progressively smaller portions of the text.  Mild syncopation and several instances of the chromatic note E-flat are heard as the counterpoint progresses.  The voices slow down at the end, and in the last bar, the tenors and second basses split to create a sonorous eight-voice texture at the final chord.

THIRD SECTION.  Langsam und sanft (Slowly and gently)--Im vorigen Zeitmaß (In the previous tempo).  Two parts, the second of which makes a partial return to the second section.  C MAJOR--F MAJOR, 4/4 and 6/4 time.  Six voices (SSATBB)

German Text:
--Siehe, wir preisen selig,
die erduldet haben.
Die Geduld Hiob habt ihr gehöret,
und das Ende des Herrn habt ihr gesehen;
denn der Herr ist barmherzig,
und ein Erbarmer.
                                --Jakobus 5:11
English Text:
--Behold, we count them happy
which endure.
Ye have heard of the patience of Job,
and have seen the end of the Lord;
that the Lord is very pitiful,
and of tender mercy.
                                --James 5:11

6:35 [m. 104]--Part 1.  In a very quiet and expressive counterpoint, the first sopranos lead the other voices, singing the first four words of the verse from James.  The counterpoint does not include any imitation, although a rising figure in faster notes is initially passed among the inner voices.  The harmony is major (C major), but it is darkened by a consistently lowered leading note (a B-flat), creating ambivalence between C and F major.  Text repetitions include “selig” in the second sopranos, “siehe” in the altos, and “preisen” in the tenors.  The tenors have a prominent rising syncopated line toward the end of the phrase.
6:57 [m. 107]--Overlapping only the second sopranos’ completion of the last phrase, the first sopranos and altos lead the completion of the first sentence in the verse.  A descending line first heard in the tenors is prominent.  It is passed to other voices, most prominently the trailing second sopranos.  A B-natural is finally heard in the first basses, helping, however tenuously, to establish C as the key center.
7:11 [m. 109]--The second sopranos, tenors, and first basses have still to complete the words “die erduldet haben,” the tenor presenting the descending line again.  But the second basses here begin a repetition of the sentence (without “siehe”).  They are followed by the altos, then the first basses and first sopranos.  The trailing voices take up the repetition as well.  The descending line is still prominent.  There is a swell in volume, and more B-flats continue to darken the harmony and pull strongly toward F.  All parts except the second sopranos repeat either all or part of “wir preisen selig,”  The second basses have the most repetition, including three full statements of the words.  The volume level becomes quiet again after the high point.
7:44 [m. 114]--The altos and both bass parts are still trailing on “selig,” the altos with a late rising line, when the second sopranos, who did not repeat any of the previous text, make a syncopated entry to lead a final presentation of “die erduldet haben.”  The other voices follow, but the leading second sopranos are the only voices to repeat a word (“erduldet,” in a long, syncopated line).  After some hints of the minor key, the voices finally reach a hard-earned cadence in C major.  The second sopranos, who led the line, also trail the cadence, being the last voice to resolve to the chord (a so-called “suspension”).
8:19 [m. 118]--Part 2.  The second sentence of the James verse returns to the bright tempo, rocking 6/4 meter, and pure F-major harmonies of the second main section.  In harmonized call-and-response with a skipping dotted (long-short) rhythm, the second sopranos, tenors, and first basses are followed by the first sopranos, altos, and second basses, first on “Die Geduld Hiob,” then on “habt ihr gehöret.”  Brahms makes the reference to Job musically striking to emphasize the textual connection to the first part of the motet.
8:27 [m. 120]--There is another call-and-response on the next phrase, but now the altos enter between the leading and following voices (now only the outer voices, first sopranos and second basses).  There is more motion in this phrase, mostly upward and downward scale patterns.  The first basses repeat “das Ende,” and the second basses omit “des Herrn.”  There is a rise in volume, and the inner voices lead the two outer voices with mild syncopation on “habt ihr gesehen.”  The inner voices sing the words twice, the altos and tenors three times.  The dynamic level diminishes again.
8:45 [m. 125]--Very surreptitiously, the first sopranos start a new phrase as the inner voices complete their last statements of “habt ihr gesehen.”  The phrase sets the last part of the James verse, beginning with “denn der Herr ist barmherzig.”  It is quickly apparent that the music is identical to the second statement in the second main section (from 5:52 [m. 93]).  The voices enter from top to bottom, as before.  The bass parts, having more time before their imitative entries, insert another “habt ihr gesehen” under the top voices, thus maintaining the full six-voice harmony almost continuously.  There is a swell in volume, as in section 2.
8:58 [m. 129]--The bass parts make their entries, and from here the music is as at 6:04 [m. 97].  There are some slight differences in declamation due to the new text.  The text repetition varies from top to bottom, but the fourfold reiteration of “und ein Erbarmer” in the second sopranos at the end is quite notable.  Again, the tenors and second basses split at the end to create an eight-voice texture for the last chord.  The reappearance of this music in such an organic manner is one of the most notable moments of the motet.

FOURTH SECTION.  Choral--Adagio.  Harmonized Lutheran chorale melody in six phrases, in the style of Bach.  D DORIAN/MAJOR, 4/4 time.  Four voices (SATB)

German Text:
Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin,
in Gottes Willen,
getrost ist mir mein Herz und Sinn,
sanft und stille.
Wie Gott mir verheissen hat:
der Tod ist mir Schlaf worden.
                                --Lutheran Nunc Dimittis
English Text:
With peace and joy I travel to that place,
according to God's will;
my heart and soul are comforted,
gently and quietly.
As god has promised me,
death has become sleep to me.
                        --Translation by Kelly Dean Hansen

9:34 [m. 136]--The presentation of the first two phrases is strong.  The existing chorale melody is in the Dorian mode with its natural central pitch of D.  It is more minor than major, but vacillates between them.  There is much motion in the three lower voices, particularly in the altos.  The second phrase reaches a half cadence with trailing motion in the inner two parts.
9:56 [m. 140]--The third phrase is somewhat quieter.  The altos have an oscillating motion within the block harmonies.  The tenors have a downward-turning line on “Herz.”  The very quiet fourth phrase descends gently to a pure cadence in C major (a key also heavily implied by the Dorian mode on D).
10:26 [m. 144]--The suddenly bright fifth phrase makes a motion to F major, which, with its B-flats, should banish the Dorian mode.  There is mild syncopation in the inner parts.  Unexpectedly, the last phrase reintroduces the Dorian B-natural and a center on D.  Brahms marks it “Adagio,” and it slowly trails toward the final cadence.  Although the entire phrase suggests either the Dorian mode or the D-minor key, the final chord is a hopeful, warm, and comforting D major.
11:07--END OF MOTET [147 mm.]

2. O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf (O Savior, tear open the heavens).  Text by Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld.  Tempo giusto--Adagio--Allegro.  Varied strophic form (Chorale Verse motet).  F DORIAN--C MINOR--F MINOR, 3/2, 4/2 [alla breve], and 4/4 time.  Four voices (SATB) throughout.

German Text:
O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf,
Herab, herauf, vom Himmel lauf !
Reiß ab vom Himmel Tor und Tür,
Reiß ab, was Schloß und Riegel für !

O Gott, ein’ Tau vom Himmel gieß;
Im Tau herab, o Heiland, fließ.
Ihr Wolken, brecht und regnet aus
Den König über Jakobs Haus.

O Erd’, schlag aus, schlag aus, o Erd’,
Daß Berg und Tal grün alles werd’
O Erd’, herfür dies Blümlein bring,
O Heiland, aus der Erden spring.

[Here two verses omitted by Brahms]

Hie leiden wir die größte Not,
Vor Augen steht der bittre Tod;
Ach komm, führ uns mit starker Hand
Vom Elend zu dem Vaterland.

Da wollen wir all’ danken dir,
Unserm Erlöser, für und für.
Da wollen wir all’ loben dich
Je allzeit immer und ewiglich.  Amen.

English Translation  Note that the two verses Brahms omitted are included here.  Brahms replaced the second “herab” (“downward”) with “herauf” (“upward”) in line 2 of verse 1.  He also replaced “ewig” (“eternal”) with “bittre” (“bitter”) in line 2 of verse 4 (verse 6 of the poem), before “Tod” (“death”).

0:00 [m. 1]--VERSUS I, line 1 (3/2, Tempo giusto).  The verse is presented in dense quasi-imitation at a close distance, with all voices nearly, but not quite coming together at the end of each line.  The tenors lead on an upbeat, followed by basses on a downbeat, then sopranos on an upbeat (all in unison), and finally altos (who enter on C instead of F) on a downbeat.  The sopranos sing the original chorale melody.  The other three voices sing its first three notes, then diverge.  The Dorian mode on F has a strong pull toward both C minor and E-flat major, and Brahms must overly emphasize F as the central pitch. 
0:13 [m. 6]--VERSUS I, line 2.  At the second line, the men begin as the women finish the first line.  The altos, then the sopranos, follow the men on the line.  The end of line 2 pulls toward another related major key, A-flat.  The men finish the line earlier than the women.
0:20 [m. 10]--VERSUS I, line 3.  As the women finish, the men begin the third line, stating “reiß ab” twice.  The altos begin one beat after the men, the sopranos a full bar later.  The text is thus staggered at a very close distance between the parts.  Line 3 is set in A-flat major, briefly abandoning
the Dorian mode. 
0:27 [m. 14]--VERSUS I, line 4.  At line 4, the voices are almost together.  The altos and tenors begin early, however, the tenors a beat behind the altos.  Both repeat “reiß ab.”  The sopranos and basses enter, restore the Dorian mode with the note D-natural, and bring the voices together for the cadence on “für,” the sopranos descending toward it with the original melody.
0:37 [m. 19]--VERSUS II, line 1 (3/2, Tempo giusto).  The sopranos again have the original chorale melody, and they enter at the same point and in the same rhythm as in Versus I.  The lower parts, however sing in much faster notes.  The verse begins with the basses singing the first line of the chorale melody in diminution (notes half as long).  The altos imitate them on C.  Then the sopranos enter with the slower line.  Finally, the tenors enter, also on C.  After their initial presentations, the lower parts diverge from the melody and add more fast counterpoint.  The basses repeat the text three times, the altos twice. 
0:49 [m. 24]--VERSUS II, line 2.  None of the lower voices sings the chorale melody for line 2.  The tenors lead it, beginning before the sopranos and basses conclude line 1.  The altos follow, then the basses.  The sopranos sing their longer melody for line 2 as the altos and basses enter.  The lower parts have descending lines separated by large leaps.  The tenors repeat the text three times, the basses twice, and the altos repeat “im Tau herab.”  Their second statement of “Tau” is a long “melisma,” with five notes on “Tau.”  Motion to A-flat, as in line 2 of Versus I.   
1:01 [m. 29]--VERSUS II, line 3.  The voices are almost together at line 3, only the basses trailing.  This line begins with the sopranos on the longer chorale melody.  The altos, then the tenors, then the basses (after completing line 2) follow in succession, with falling lines depicting the rain.  The altos and tenors sing the line twice.  As in Versus I, the line is in A-flat.
1:09 [m. 33]--VERSUS II, line 4.  The basses are one note ahead of the sopranos as line 4 begins, but the voices come nicely together, the altos and tenors following the soprano chorale melody.  As in Versus I, they sing the last chord on “Haus” together and conclude in F Dorian.  The entire verse has been characterized by the lower voices singing faster than the soprano chorale melody.
1:20 [m. 37]--VERSUS III, line 1 (3/2, Tempo giusto).  The chorale melody moves from the sopranos to the tenors.  The tenors begin the verse.  This time, instead of counterpoint, the three other voices shout out in two short energetic responses in block chords to the tenors’ line on “O Erd schlag aus.”  After this, the tenor chorale melody begins to be decorated with turning triplet rhythm.  The other voices follow suit with an upward leap of a fourth, altos, then basses, then sopranos.  Their triplets, however, are much more florid than those of the tenors, who still stay close to the original melody.  The altos sing “schlag aus” three times, the others twice.  The voices end the line together, the sopranos even briefly turning from Dorian to the standard minor key.
1:31 [m. 41]--VERSUS III, line 2.  The basses lead the line with an arpeggio in faster notes.  They are followed by the sopranos, then the altos on the same gesture.  The tenor chorale melody enters last.  When the tenors come to “alles,” they again set triplet rhythm in motion, this time decorating the chorale melody more and singing lines as florid as the others.  Again, the others begin with the leap of a fourth, altos, then sopranos, then basses. The voices all repeat portions of “grün alles werd” in varying combinations.  Most strikingly, the tenors sing “alles” three times in a row.  At the end of the line, the voices transition from triplets to straight rhythm in preparation for line 3.  The motion to A-flat is not as strong.
1:42 [m. 46]--VERSUS III, line 3.  In this line, the basses begin just as the upper voices conclude line 2.  They sing a jaunty leaping line in straight rhythm.  The sopranos follow them, then the tenors enter with the chorale melody, followed immediately by the altos.  When the tenors reach “Blümlein,” they decorate the word (and vary the chorale melody) with a large descent in triplets.  Only the sopranos respond with a descending triplet line, the others remaining in straight rhythm.  The sopranos and altos state the line twice, the basses three times.  The last of the alto and bass repetitions cut off “O Erd.”  The sopranos add an extra “O Erd herfür.”  The voices end the line together, singing it in A-flat as in the previous verses.
1:54 [m. 51]--VERSUS III, line 4.  This line is the most florid of all, and is extended.  The altos begin it immediately after line 3, again with a rising arpeggio.  The sopranos and basses imitate together in contrary motion.  As the tenors enter with the chorale melody, the altos immediately begin the decorations in a mixture of triplets and straight rhythms.    The tenors follow with an long decoration of the chorale melody in triplets on “Erden.”  As the line is extended, the basses and sopranos start singing the triplets as well, and the sopranos soar upward, creating a strong conclusion to the verse.  The tenors repeat no text, but the other three voices all repeat various combinations of “aus der Erden spring.”  Brahms marks that the final flourish should slow down noticeably.
2:11 [m. 57]--VERSUS IV, line 1 (4/2 [alla breve], Adagio, C MINOR).  There is a dramatic change for this verse.  The triple meter is abandoned in favor of the archaic slow 4/2.  The tempo is slowed down greatly.  The chorale melody moves down to the basses.  The Dorian mode is abandoned, and the verse is in C minor.  The tenors begin the expressive, searching verse with two-note groups that plod slowly upward.  The basses follow with the highly varied chorale melody, moving in long, slow notes.  Right after this, the sopranos and altos enter together, singing in harmony with each other.  It is soon clear that the sopranos are singing in an exact imitation by inversion (turning the line upside down) of the tenors.  The tenors have an upward octave leap on “größte,” and the sopranos turn that leap upside down.  The altos continue in free counterpoint.  After the tenors complete the line, they repeat it with several internal word repetitions.  The altos and sopranos do this too, placing emphasis on the plodding two-note groups, which now move mostly downward.  The counterpoint is free here as the voices “wait” for the basses to finish the chorale line.  The repetitions have a brief swell and diminishing in volume.
2:46 [m. 62]--VERSUS IV, line 2.  The top three voices continue to trail downward on “größte Not.”  The basses begin the second line of the verse in a variant of the chorale melody with chromatic half-steps.  The tenors take the text of this line next, bridging right into it from their two-note groups of the previous line.  The tenor line reaches to a high pitch as the sopranos and altos enter.  The altos begin slower than the sopranos, and it seems that they are singing in imitation by inversion to the basses, but this is soon abandoned.  The tenors sing a rising chromatic line on “bittre” right after the sopranos sing it on “Augen.”  There are no line repetitions in this verse, although the sopranos repeat “bittre.”  The line moves to E-flat minor (not to a major key, as in the other verses).
3:08 [m. 66]--VERSUS IV, line 3.  The altos begin as the sopranos and tenors end the word “Tod.”  They are briefly exposed on repeated notes.  The sopranos enter, also on repeated notes, as do the basses, but since the basses’ repeated notes are those of the chorale melody, they move much slower.  Finally, the tenors enter with the repeated notes.  All four parts repeat notes on different pitches.  The line swells greatly in volume as the tenors and sopranos reach high points on “starker.”  The word “starker” is repeated in all parts.  The sopranos and altos repeat the entire clause “mit starker Hand.”  The line is centered on B-flat and E-flat major.  The chord on which all parts arrive on “Hand” is very dissonant (an “augmented” chord).
3:33 [m. 69]--VERSUS IV, line 4.  The top three parts resolve the previous dissonance with their next chord.  The basses trail the top parts with the long chorale melody, but the top three parts move mostly together on long, chromatic lines, returning to the drooping two-note groups of line 1.  The volume diminishes gradually.  The top three parts state the whole line twice, the sopranos and tenors adding an extra statement of “von Elend.”  The music slows even more, and Brahms marks the last bar Lento.  The final cadence is an unexpectedly soothing C major chord, as the upper parts resolve over the last bass note.
4:12 [m. 74]--VERSUS V, line 1 (4/4, Allegro, F MINOR).  For the exuberant final verse, there are still traces of the Dorian mode, but standard F minor gradually takes over completely.  The altos begin with what sounds like a variant of the chorale melody.  The tenors enter next, with free inversion of the altos.  When the sopranos, then the basses, come in, the decorative alto and tenor parts conceal that the two outer parts are singing a canon by inversion on a fast version of the chorale melody.  The sopranos sing in the original form and the trailing basses turn it upside down.  The inner parts add repetitions of “all danken dir” in their lines.
4:23 [m. 80]--VERSUS V, line 2.  The tenors begin the next line before the basses complete their imitation, dovetailing with the sopranos and altos.  The altos then enter in near inversion of the tenors.  Entering much sooner than before, and at a half-bar closer distance to each other, the sopranos and basses continue their canon by inversion on the chorale melody.  There is no repetition except for “für und für” in the altos.  As in the first three verses, there is a motion to A-flat.
4:31 [m. 86]--VERSUS V, line 3.  Again, the tenors begin, overlapping with the completion of the basses’ imitation, followed very closely by the altos.  The lines of the two inner parts are not as closely related.  The sopranos enter quickly with their fast chorale melody, but the bass imitation by inversion is now delayed for two bars (twice as long as in line 1).  Because of this, the top three parts begin line 4 well before the basses end line 3, and line 3 is quite compressed in the upper parts, the only repetition being “all loben dich” in the tenors, whose line is extended to keep the basses from being “left behind.”
4:38 [m. 90]--VERSUS V, line 4.  This time, the altos lead the line, overlapping the ending of the tenors, and especially the basses, on line 3.  They are followed in quick succession by the sopranos, then tenors and basses, who enter immediately after completing line 3.  The alto and soprano lines are very similar, the tenor line more free.  The basses still imitate the sopranos in inversion, this time at a distance of one and a half bars (so the distance of imitation has been different in all four lines).  This line is more syncopated than the others.  The soprano/bass canon breaks, with the basses holding “ewiglich” on longer notes.  The sopranos drop out as the other voices complete the verse, with much syncopation in the altos and tenors.  The altos repeat “ewiglich,” the tenors “je allzeit immer.”  The lower parts end on a half-cadence in preparation for the final “Amen.”
4:51 [m. 98]--AMEN.  The “Amen” is a trademark Brahmsian canonic tour de force.  Now completely in F minor, it begins as soon as Versus V ends.  The sopranos, altos, basses, and tenors enter, in that order, at a distance of half a bar.  For the first “Amen,” the altos imitate the sopranos exactly, one step higher.  The tenors imitate the basses, also a step higher.  The tenor/bass line is itself a canon by inversion (opposite vertical direction) of the soprano/alto line.  All voices sing fast sequences of four-note groups.
4:55 [m. 100]--Before the first “Amen” ends in the tenors and basses, the sopranos begin a second “Amen” statement that is much longer and has more syncopation with less uniform motion.  The voices enter in the same order (soprano, alto, bass, tenor), but the imitation is arranged differently.  Now the basses imitate the sopranos two octaves and one step lower.  They also turn the soprano line upside down.  The tenors imitate the altos a fifth lower, also by inversion.  This “double canon” by inversion is more complex than the “paired inversion” of the first “Amen.”  All voices complete this “Amen” in strict inversion.  Each takes a short break, then the pattern continues with more short “Amen” statements (three in the tenors, four in all other voices).  The imitation finally breaks after the sopranos reach their highest note on a strong syncopation right before the penultimate bar, which is an inserted 3/2 measure before the final cadence.  The last chord is a bright major chord, although the “Amen” is otherwise completely in minor.
5:23--END OF MOTET [108 mm.]