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

Published 1885.  To the friends in Krefeld on January 28, 1885.

In terms of performance time (but not musical content), this is Brahms’s shortest separately numbered work.  It is also perhaps the most singular.  Although the vocal quartets have always been frequently sung by small choirs (a practice of which Brahms approved in most cases), this is the only published piece specifically written for full choir with piano (rather than organ or orchestral) accompaniment.  It is also perhaps unexpected that Brahms would write something so “frivolous” as a drinking glee, although the words are by one of the great German romantic poets.  It was written for the community choral society in Krefeld, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1885.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the little chorus transcends its genre and makes an extremely satisfying effect through careful planning and an extremely brilliant ending.  By using three basic forms of the verse and alternating between three-part men and three-part women, Brahms ensured that each group sang each verse form exactly twice.  The groups come together for the exciting final stanza.  Perhaps realizing that it was a slight work, but also that it was worthy of publication, Brahms decided to share the opus number 93 with the just-published unaccompanied part songs, Op. 93a (so “separately numbered” must be qualified).  The piece is, however, actually closer in character to the vocal quartets (such as the contemporary Op. 92), and could convincingly be presented by a sextet of solo voices.

Note: The link to the English translation of the text is from Emily Ezust's site at http://www.recmusic.org/lieder.  For the most part, the translation is line-by-line, except where the difference between German and English syntax requires slight alterations to the contents of certain lines.  The German text (included here) is also visible in the translation link.

(First Edition from Brahms-Institut Lübeck)

Tafellied--“Dank der Damen”
(“The Ladies’ Toast”).  
Text by Joseph Karl Benedikt von Eichendorff.  Allegretto grazioso.  Alternating strophic form.   B-FLAT MAJOR, 2/4 time.

German Text:
Die Frauen:
 Gleich wie Echo frohen Liedern
 Fröhlich Antwort geben muß,
 So auch nahn wir und erwidern
 Dankend den galanten Gruß.

Die Männer:
 Oh, ihr Güt'gen und Charmanten!
 Für des Echos holden Schwung
 Nehmt der lust'gen Musikanten
 Ganz ergebne Huldigung!

Die Frauen:
 Doch ihr huldigt, will's uns dünken,
 Andern Göttern nebenbei.
 Rot und golden sehn wir's blinken
 Sagt, wie das zu nehmen sei?

Die Männer:
 Teure! zierlich, mit drei Fingern,
 Sichrer, mit der ganzen Hand -
 Und so füllt man aus den Dingern 's
 Glas nicht halb, nein, bis zum Rand.

Die Frauen:
 Nun, wir sehen, ihr seid Meister.
 Doch wir sind heut liberal;
 Hoffentlich, als schöne Geister,
 Treibt ihr's etwas ideal.

Die Männer:
 Jeder nippt und denkt die Seine,
 Und wer nichts Besondres weiß:
 Nun - der trinkt ins Allgemeine
 Frisch zu aller Schönen Preis!

 Recht so! Klingt denn in die Runde
 An zu Dank und Gegendank!
 Sänger, Fraun, wo die im Bunde,
 Da gibt's einen hellen Klang!

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1 (a).  The piano plays the gentle refrain that will provide its interludes as well.  The left hand plays detached broken octaves while the right hand presents the lilting ascending line with three similar gestures.  The women begin with the jaunty main verse, a bright melody harmonized in three parts.  The piano is reduced to broken octaves until the last line, where right hand chords are played above bass octaves.  The third line introduces a dotted (long-short) rhythm also heard at the end of the piano refrain.  The last line, with its joyous ascent, is repeated after a piano bridge on the harmonized dotted rhythm.
0:25 [m. 17]--Stanza 2 (b).  The piano refrain moves at the last minute to the “dominant” key of F major.  The first half of the men’s verse (also in three-part harmony) is set in that key.  It emphasizes the dotted rhythm more than did the main verse.  The piano bass plays low, detached octaves while the right hand plays ascending, often harmonized three-note figures beginning off the beat.  The second line is repeated with a broader, higher-reaching range and a leaping bass part.
0:40 [m. 26]--The last two lines of stanza 2 move abruptly back to B-flat, and the setting resembles the main verse (a).  The piano now has rolled chords after the beats, the left hand leaping from its bass octaves.  The first statement of the last line is quite chromatic (half-steps and notes outside the key), but its repetition comes to another full cadence in B-flat, as had stanza 1.
0:49 [m. 32]--Stanza 3 (c).  The piano refrain is reduced to a single ascending gesture.  The women enter with the third form of the verse.  This sets the first line to short phrases with breaks between them.  The first line seems to move to D major in its first short phrase, but the second short phrase is back in B-flat.  These short phrases are each followed by a piano refrain gesture.  The second line moves more strongly away from B-flat to D, first suggesting D minor, then decisively to D major.  The piano right hand is slightly syncopated.  The repetition of line 2 swells to a notated hold (fermata) on the “dominant” chord of D major.
1:06 [m. 41]--The last two lines, as in stanza 2, are more similar to the main verse.  They are sung in D major, with the two lower parts (Alto 1 and Alto 2) providing a gently propelling oscillation.  The music has reached a loud (forte) level for the first time.  The piano accompaniment is similar to that in the first two lines of stanza 2, with right hand ascents off the beat, but the left hand now leaps down to low notes from chords.  The last line is again repeated, suddenly quietly, with a hint of the minor key at the cadence (in D).
1:16 [m. 47]--Stanza 4 (a).  The piano interlude, rather than using the refrain, now uses downward leaping octaves and chords in both hands to move back to B-flat and further settle down in volume.  Because the verses alternate between men and women and because there are three different forms, the women and men now sing on the verse forms they did not use in the first three stanzas.  The men stretch out the opening upbeat, but the verse is essentially as it was in stanza 1, with minor changes in the part writing.  The piano part is different, with chords alternating between the right and left hands.  The accompaniment in the last two lines is as in stanza 1, with the dotted-rhythm bridge between the repetitions of the last line.
1:40 [m. 62]--Stanza 5 (b).  The piano refrain leads to F major, as before stanza 2.  The stanza is sung by the women in a very similar manner to the men in stanza 2, again with some small changes in part writing.  The piano part is slightly altered to avoid the lower bass octaves under the women and make the left hand generally lighter.  Motion back to B-flat for the third and fourth lines, and rolled piano chords after the beat, as at 0:40 [m. 26].  The piano left hand is still lighter than it was under the men in stanza 2.
2:05 [m. 78]--Stanza 6 (c).  The piano left hand suddenly becomes heavy again, and adds lower octaves not present in stanza 3 to add more support to the men.  This is the opposite process to that in stanzas 2 and 5.  The part writing is very different in the two short phrases in the first line, with some actual part inversion.  The differences are not as great in the second line.  As in stanza 3, there is motion to D major and a swell to the fermata or hold.
2:21 [m. 87]--The last two lines begin as in stanza 3 at 1:06 [0:41], with the two bass parts providing the “propelling oscillation.”  The piano part is also the same here as in stanza 3.  The repetition of the last line, however, is extended.  Brahms marks it animato, and there is a palpable speeding.  The men draw out the excitement for the D-major cadence by stretching out the word “Schönen” (“beautiful ones”), the tenors reaching their highest note in the song (a high A).  The piano adds strongly descending right hand chords.
2:32 [m. 94]--Stanza 7 (a’).  As the men reach their powerful D-major arrival, the women immediately overlap with the beginning of the last verse.  They sing descending octave leaps on “Recht so!.”  These generally move down the voices, the men joining in their turn.  The second altos do not sing octaves in their first two statements.  The first altos and first basses sing shorter notes on their octaves.  The descending octaves and overlapping voices lead from D back home to B-flat.  All parts sing “Recht so!” four times except for the second basses (who sing it three times).  These repetitions merge directly into the first two lines of the verse, which are now more full and rich with all parts singing.  The piano’s double octave leaps in the “bridge” break into large “outward” leaps on rolled chords and octaves under the actual lines.
2:41 [m. 102]--The piano drops out under the last two lines, the voices continuing in their exuberant block harmony.  The lines diverge from their expected direction, however, and the voices change key again, to a completely surprising G minor (the relative minor key).  The piano joins with a punctuating bridge, and the voices repeat “einen hellen Klang,” holding the last chord a bar and a half (a D-major chord that works as the tension-filled “dominant“ of G minor).
2:51 [m. 109]--The piano again briefly drops out, and the voices begin their only real passage of counterpoint in the song for a restatement of the last two lines, the lower parts leading the upper parts, and the first sopranos entering last.  The music is now in G minor.  The piano enters with the first sopranos, playing thumping bass octaves and right hand chords after each half-beat.  The counterpoint is on a variant of the stanza 1 music with the “joyous ascents” from the original last line, now also sung on the last line of the verse.  All parts except the first sopranos (who enter later) and the tenors (who sing longer notes) repeat “die im Bunde.”  The last line is repeated in all parts except for the tenors, who finish their slow statement of line 3 under the first statement of the last line in the other parts.   The last line transitions back to B-flat.
3:01 [m. 116]--The home key of B-flat is finally reached again, and the voices come strongly back together for a final brilliant statement of the last line in block harmony.  The words “einen hellen Klang” are again repeated to stretch out the cadence.  The piano abandons its previous pattern of thumping bass octaves and after-beat chords to more closely follow the voices with block chords.  The piano actually imitates the vocal lines leading into the repetition of “einen hellen Klang.”  The piano continues its block chords (all of them B-flat major chords), with leaps down to bass octave B-flats in the short, punctuating postlude.
3:21--END OF WORK [124 mm.]