Recording: Jessye Norman, soprano (No. 4); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Daniel Barenboim, piano [DG 449 633-2]
Published 1886.

Op. 97 concludes the first group of song sets from the late period.  It continues the pattern where the even numbered groups, Opp. 94 and 96, are generally more serious and profound in nature while the odd-numbered groups, this set and Op. 95, consist of somewhat lighter songs.  While this is perhaps contradicted by the melancholy No. 1 and the dramatic No. 3, the charming tone-painting of the former and the balladic nature of the latter somewhat mitigate the contrast.  Nos. 1, 2, and 5 are genuine “art songs,” Nos. 4 and 6 are settings of folk or quasi-folk texts, and No. 3 is a stylized ballad, but the group somehow seems unified in character.  There is a sense of wistful, but accepting melancholy throughout.  Only No. 4 is truly joyous, but its quasi-folk source connects it to No. 6.  No. 2 is exuberant, but takes a longing turn at the end.   Nos. 1 and 2 are Brahms’s first settings of Christian Reinhold, a poet close to his circle.  No. 1 is a perfect gem of a song, and contains some of his most effective tone painting.  Incredibly, the melody was apparently originally intended for another Reinhold text, “Ein Wanderer,” which he would set to a completely different melody in Op. 106.  No. 2 also uses tone-painting effects, and is notable for its rapid tempo.  The quasi-balladic text for No. 3, to which Brahms and his circle often referred as “Lady Judith,” seems somewhat distasteful today, but was of a type beloved by nineteenth-century romantics.  The minor-key strophic setting is imaginative and exciting.  No. 5, which intervenes between the two folk songs, sets a salutary text by Klaus Groth, a man much admired by Brahms.  Its gentle character creates a smooth bridge to No. 6, which has a similar mood.  Nos. 4 and 6 both come from the Kretzschmer-Zuccalmaglio folk song collection.  Brahms provided piano accompaniments to the “original melodies” of both texts in his large collection of folk song arrangements from 1894 and also arranged them for chorus.  The settings of such texts to his own melodies can also be seen in examples from Op. 14 and Op. 84.  In both songs, Brahms’s composed melodies show some similarity to the “folk melodies,” and in the case of No. 6, he even used the same interlude music in both settings (the composition and the arrangement).  Sadly, his source was dubious, and both the text and the “original melody” to No. 4 were shown to be fabrications created by Zuccalmaglio (as were those of Op. 84, Nos. 4 and 5).  When made aware of this, Brahms did not seem too bothered by it.  No. 6 seems to be an authentic Swabian folksong.  The notable brevity of all six songs is unusual.  Brahms would typically balance a group of short songs with one or two longer ones, but not in this case.

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 and lower keys both included.  Lower keys match Peters middle-key edition [Nos. 1, 4-5] and low-key edition [Nos. 2-3].  The E-flat key given here for No. 6 was not included in Peters.)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (From Breitkopf & Härtel Sämtliche Werke--original keys)
ONLINE SCORE FROM IMSLP (Edition Peters, edited by Max Friedländer):
No. 1: Nachtigall (in original key, F minor/major)
No. 1: Nachtigall (in middle key, D minor/major)
No. 1: Nachtigall (in low key, C minor/major)
No. 2: Auf dem Schiffe (in original key, A major)
No. 2: Auf dem Schiffe (in low key, F major)
No. 3: Entführung (in original key, D minor)
No. 3: Entführung (in low key, C minor)
No. 4: Dort in den Weiden (in original key, D major)
No. 4: Dort in den Weiden (in middle key, B-flat major)
No. 4: Dort in den Weiden (in low key, A-flat major)
No. 5: Komm bald (in original key, A major)
No. 5: Komm bald (in middle key, G major)
No. 5: Komm bald (in low key, F major)
No. 6: Trennung (in original [middle] key, F major)
No. 6: Trennung (in high key, A-flat major)
No. 6: Trennung (in low key, D major--low key given as E-flat major in original Simrock edition linked above)

1. Nachtigall (Nightingale).  Text by Christian Reinhold.  Langsam (Slowly).  Through-composed form with partial return.  F MINOR/MAJOR, 2/4 time (Middle key D minor/major, low key C minor/major).

German Text:
O Nachtigall,
dein süßer Schall,
er dringet mir durch Mark und Bein.
Nein, trauter Vogel, nein!
was in mir schafft so süße Pein,
das ist nicht dein,
das ist von andern, himmelschönen,
nun längst für mich verklungenen Tönen
in deinem Lied ein leiser Widerhall!

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Beginning with an upbeat, the piano, with both hands playing above middle C throughout, presents a plaintive, evocative introduction in F minor.  As he had done before in such songs as “Lerchengesang” (Op. 70, No. 2), Brahms imitates birdsong in his piano introduction to a song about that topic.  Biting dissonances and grace notes (appogiaturas) characterize the three-note figures.  Two statements of the opening pattern are followed by a sequence of two patterns that begin with a rising octave.
0:14 [m. 5]--Lines 1-3.  The voice enters singing the piano melody from the introduction.  The piano also plays that melody again, but both hands are moved down an octave, and the rhythm is altered to a halting pattern with the right hand entering off the beats.  The grace notes are retained in the piano.  Lines 1-2 are sung to the opening pattern, line 3 to the rising octaves.
0:26 [m. 9]--A piano interlude with four more bird calls and new harmonies (including the distinctive “Neapolitan” chord on the second three-note group) leads, through a lower echo of the last bird call and a reiterated single note, to the new section and to the major key.
0:37 [m. 12]--Lines 4-6.  In the major key, the next lines are set to more gently flowing music with a slight increase in volume toward the highest note on the word “dein.”  The piano plays steady chords.  The singer adds a somewhat hesitant rest before the second statement of the word “nein” in line 4.
0:51 [m. 18]--Lines 7-8.  The piano chords slow to twice their length, as do the notes in the voice.  At the word “andern,” the piano breaks into rising arpeggios.  Further steady building leads to the climax in line 8, with the word “längst” set to the song’s highest note.  The piano is arrested at this moment, and the music slows.  At the end of the line, the singer makes a strong turn back toward the minor.
1:17 [m. 25]--Line 9.  After a break, the piano enters with the songs’s opening gesture, while the voice sings a new, more melancholy line.  As the singer continues, the piano repeats the pattern in the “halting” version heard at 0:14 [m. 5].  As the line ends, the piano plays three more bird calls, the second an octave lower than the first and third, and the second and third again using the “Neapolitan” chord heard at 0:26 [m. 9].
1:36 [m. 30]--Unexpectedly, the music shifts to major again for a repetition of the last three words.  The piano is especially colorful here, entering with a two-note descending figure (derived from the grace notes of the bird calls) that is heard in the middle and high registers and then, after the singer ends, in the low bass.  The vocal line itself is embellished, but very gentle.  A quiet rolled chord ends the song.
2:11--END OF SONG [33 mm.]

2. Auf dem Schiffe (On the Ship).  Text by Christian Reinhold.  Lebhaft und rasch (Lively and brisk).  Free form--Two strophes, then through-composed.  A MAJOR, 3/8 time (Low key F major).

German Text:
Ein Vögelein
Fliegt über den Rhein
Und wiegt die Flügel
Im Sonnenschein,
Sieht Rebenhügel
Und grüne Flut
In goldner Glut. -
Wie wohl das tut,
So hoch erhoben
Im Morgenhauch!
Beim Vöglein droben,
O, wär’ ich auch!

English Translation
0:00 [m. 1]--Piano introduction.  The rapid figures (triplets with their last notes “cut off”) illustrating the flapping of the bird’s wings are introduced.  They are in an inner piano line.  The left hand and the top line of the right hand punctuate the rhythm with slower chords.  The boisterous introduction culminates in a downward cascading series of the “flapping figures.” 
0:07 [m. 9]--Lines 1-4 (“Strophe 1”).  The singer enters to a soaring, joyous line over the continued “flapping” figures in the piano.  The left hand continues to play isolated chords.  An echo of “flapping” figures creates a bridge to the next lines.
0:14 [m. 19]--Lines 5-7 (“Strophe 2”).  These lines are set to the same music as the first four, with the seventh line repeated to the music of the fourth.  The differences in declamation are minor, with one “split” note, one “joined” repeated note, and the setting of the first “Glut” to two previously syllabic notes.
0:22 [m. 29]--From here, the song is through-composed.  The eighth line is set twice as the “flapping” figures are abandoned in favor of sweeping arpeggios.  The second statement of the line, which is twice as long, shifts the harmony to C major as the right hand holds a chord.
0:27 [m. 35]--Lines 9-10 are set to a passage of downward swaying two-note figures.  The piano plays rising arpeggios split between the hands.  Line 10, which is more widely spaced, moves back to A major.  Three more rising piano arpeggios bridge to the final lines.
0:35 [m. 45]--The “flapping” figures make a joyous return for the last two lines (11-12).  Under the word “droben,” the harmony moves suddenly to a surprising D major instead of the expected E, toward which the similar music from the two “strophes” had led.  The “flapping” figures are abandoned for the last line, which reaches a full cadence in D and is followed by a flowing piano bridge.
0:42 [m. 54]--The last line is repeated, with an extra statement of the words “wär’ ich.”  The piano takes its only brief break under “O.”  Smoother versions of the “flapping” figures accompany the line, which pivots back to the cadence in the home key of A.  Two downward arching piano arpeggios lead to one soft chord, then a loud rolled chord and an octave A to end the song.
0:56--END OF SONG [63 mm.]

3. Entführung (Abduction).  Text by Willibald Alexis.  Schnell (Fast).  Simple strophic form with slightly elongated third strophe.  D MINOR, 4/4 time, but the accompaniment is mostly in triplets, suggesting 12/8 (Low key C minor).

German Text:
O Lady Judith, spröder Schatz,
Drückt dich zu fest mein Arm?
Je zwei zu Pferd haben schlechten Platz
Und Winternacht weht nicht warm.

Hart ist der Sitz und knapp und schmal,
Und kalt mein Kleid von Erz,
Doch kälter und härter als Sattel und Stahl
War gegen mich dein Herz.

Sechs Nächte lag ich in Sumpf und Moor
Und hab’ um dich gewacht,
Doch weicher, bei Sankt Görg ich’s schwor,
Schlaf’ ich die siebente Nacht!

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--A fanfare-like passage in octaves, followed by two soft mid-range chords, serves as an introduction and will also bridge between stanzas and close the song.  It begins with an upbeat.
0:04 [m. 3]--Stanza 1, lines 1-2.  The vocal line is mostly in straight duple division, going against the triplets of the accompaniment.  The accompaniment establishes a galloping effect with the triplets, a low bass octave placed on the second part of each one.  Only on the second syllable of “Lady” does the singer include a triplet figure.  The huge leap (a tenth) between “fest” and “mein” in the second line is remarkable.
0:11 [m. 7]--Stanza 1, lines 3-4.  The third line twice repeats the same narrow figure.  The accompaniment pattern continues until the end of the descending fourth line, where a distinctive downward motion in the bass briefly breaks the triplets.  The last word of the fourth line is elongated over this.  The entire line is then emphatically repeated at a higher level as the piano right hand also reaches its highest level in both pitch and volume.  The piano merges into a reprise of the fanfare, completing a strophe of 12 bars.
0:24 [m. 3]--Stanza 2, lines 1-2.  Musical repetition of stanza 1, with identical declamation.  The vocal triplet is on “der” and the huge leap is between “Kleid” and “von.”
0:31 [m. 7]--Stanza 2, lines 3-4.  Some changes in declamation, with two notes split to accommodate the extra syllables in line three.  Two repeated notes are joined for the first syllable of “gegen,” as line four has one less syllable.  Repeat of line 4 and reprise of fanfare, as before.
0:45 [m. 15]--Stanza 3, lines 1-2.  Brahms writes out the third stanza rather than using repeat signs.  The music for the first two lines is the same, apart from splitting one note for an extra syllable in line one.  The vocal triplet is on the second syllable of “Nächte,” and the leap is between “dich” and “gewacht.”
0:51 [m. 19]--Stanza 3, lines 3-4.  Line three has fewer syllables (8) than in the first two stanzas (9 and 11), so there are fewer short repeated notes.  Line four has the same number of syllables as in stanza 1, but the accentuation is different, so the short repeated notes are on the last two syllables of “siebente,” the only time this note is “split.”  The repetition of the line is elongated by one bar, lengthening the notes on “ich” and the first syllable of “siebente.”  This requires an alteration and intensification of the accompaniment.  The fanfare is repeated at the end, but two final loud chords are added to close off the song.
1:14--END OF SONG [28 mm.]

4. Dort in den Weiden (There in the Willows).  Allegedly a folk text from the lower Rhine, but really written by the compiler, Anton Wilhelm Florentin von Zuccalmaglio.  Lebhaft und anmutig (Lively and gracefully).  Simple strophic form, with slight alterations to the piano part of the last strophe.  D MAJOR, 2/4 time, with two inserted 3/4 bars in each strophe (Middle key B-flat major, low key A-flat major).

German Text:
Dort in den Weiden steht ein Haus,
da schaut die Magd zum Fenster ’naus!
Sie schaut stromauf, sie schaut stromab:
ist noch nicht da mein Herzensknab’?
Der schönste Bursch am ganzen Rhein,
den nenn’ ich mein, den nenn’ ich mein!

Des Morgens fährt er auf dem Fluß,
und singt herüber seinen Gruß,
des Abends, wenn’s Glühwürmchen fliegt,
sein Nachen an das Ufer wiegt,
da kann ich mit dem Burschen mein
beisammen sein, beisammen sein!

Die Nachtigall im Fliederstrauch,
was sie da singt, versteh’ ich auch;
sie saget: übers Jahr ist Fest,
hab’ ich, mein Lieber, auch ein Nest,
wo ich dann mit dem Burschen mein
die Froh’st’ am Rhein, die Froh’st’ am Rhein!

English Translation

0:00 [m. 1]--Stanza 1.  The voice and piano begin together.  The graceful, happy melody is mostly doubled in the top line of the simple accompaniment.  The end of the second line is elongated through Brahms’s insertion of a 3/4 bar (m. 4) that includes light syncopation.  The third and fourth lines are set to the same music as the first two, but with different harmonies in the 3/4 bar (m. 8) to lead into the last two lines.
0:15 [m. 9]--For the last two lines of the stanza, Brahms adds activity and excitement to both the voice and piano parts.  The last line of the poem already includes two statements of the same phrase, but the joyous leaps of the singer spill into a third emphatic and elongated statement added by Brahms.  The piano part has rolling arpeggios in the fifth line, with a marching bass line and after-beat chords in the sixth.  An exuberant interlude has the left hand leaping widely between low bass notes and punctuating chords.  The interlude suggests the opening melody.  A quiet rolled chord leads to the next strophe.  The strophe with interlude is 18 total bars long.
0:31 [m. 1]--Stanza 2, lines 1-4.  Musically identical to stanza 1, including text declamation, and marked with repeat signs.
0:45 [m. 9]--The last two lines are also as in stanza 1, with the added third repetition of the last phrase.  Interlude, as before, leading to the last strophe.
1:00 [m. 19]--Stanza 3, lines 1-4.  Brahms writes out this stanza, but the first four lines are only altered by the rolling of a piano octave between the two lines of each pair.  The 3/4 bars are m. 22 and m. 26.
1:15 [m. 27]--While the voice part is unaltered for the last two lines, including the added third statement of the final phrase, the accompaniment is changed, with the arpeggios continuing through line six in the right hand, replacing the after-beat chords to the marching bass line.  Brahms also indicates a pause on the last statement of the word “Froh’st’,” where chords are added to the piano left hand.  The interlude is now altered to create a postlude.  The chords move higher and the ending is more emphatic.  The omission of the transitional chord makes it one bar shorter.
1:33--END OF SONG [35 mm.]

5. Komm bald (Come Soon).  Text by Klaus Groth.  Zart bewegt (With gentle motion).  Varied strophic form (AABA’).  A MAJOR, 3/4 time (Middle key G major, low key F major).

German Text:
Warum denn warten
von Tag zu Tag?
Es blüht im Garten,
was blühen mag.

Wer kommt und zählt es,
was blüht so schön?
An Augen fehlt es,
es anzuseh’n.

Die meinen wandern
vom Strauch zum Baum;
mir scheint, auch andern
wär’s wie ein Traum.

Und von den Lieben,
die mir getreu
und mir geblieben,
wär’st du dabei!

English Translation (the four stanzas are here combined into two)

0:00 [m. 1]--Introduction.  It sets up the mood of the song, and will serve as an interlude between the stanzas.  It is characterized by wide-spaced chords with an interior melody in the piano’s middle range.
0:09 [m. 5]--Stanza 1 (A).  Two elegant, but widely spaced four-bar phrases, one for each two lines of text.  The rhythm is the same for both phrases, with the second moving to the “dominant” key of E.  The rhythm of the interior melody from the introduction pervades the accompaniment.  The cadence of the second phrase (on “mag”) merges with a reprise of the introduction.  Since the last bar of the second phrase is the first of the reprised introduction, the strophe, with the introduction reprise, is 11 bars long.
0:30 [m. 5]--Stanza 2 (A).  Musically identical to stanza 1, with introduction reprise.  Marked with repeat signs from m. 14 back to m. 4
0:51 [m. 16]--Stanza 3 (B).  The “lead-in” bar, m. 15, is a slightly altered version of m. 4  This varied strophe, unlike the first two, begins on an upbeat.  The interior melody from the introduction now moves from the accompaniment to the vocal line.  The accompaniment is reduced to largely off-beat chords.  The vocal melody is not entirely unlike that of the A verses, and has the same basic contour.  It is more active, however, moving toward C major for the second phrase by a higher statement of the line.
1:06 [m. 24]--The last two lines are repeated to a new, but derivative vocal phrase.  Very slight alterations to the previous (C major) phrase serve to further move the harmony to a clear F major.  The words “wär’s wie ein Traum” are expanded through a hemiola (doubling note lengths to carry the second one over a bar line and superimposing a longer metrical structure).  As a result, the phrase is expanded to five bars.  Under the lengthened notes, the harmony effortlessly moves back to the home key for the introduction reprise.
1:25 [m. 32]--Stanza 4 (A’). Begins as had the first two stanzas, but the second phrase immediately reaches for a higher note at the third line, generating new harmonies suggesting D major.  The fourth line is rhythmically altered (still within the second phrase) to begin on the second beat of the bar and is lengthened by one bar.  The phrase ends inconclusively, and the piano follows with a repetition of the high-reaching melody from the third line, extending the phrase yet one more bar for a total of six.
1:46 [m. 42]--The last line is repeated, with a further reiteration of “wär’st du.”  The piano becomes active under this closing phrase, with sonorous thirds in the right hand.  An upward arpeggio in thirds after the final vocal cadence brings the song to a close.
2:08--END OF SONG [46 mm.]

6. Trennung (Separation).  Swabian folk song from the Kretzschmer-Zuccalmaglio collection.  Anmutig bewegt (With graceful motion).  Simple strophic form.  F MAJOR, 3/4 time (High key A-flat major, low key D major [Peters] or E-flat major [Simrock]).
(The title Trennung is also used for Op. 14, No. 5, another text stemming from the Kretzschmer-Zuccalmaglio source.)

German Text (Swabian dialect):
Da unten im Tale
Läuft’s Wasser so trüb,
Und i kann dir’s net sagen,
I hab’ di so lieb.

Sprichst allweil von Liebe,
Sprichst allweil von Treu’,
Und a bissele Falschheit
Is auch wohl dabei.

Und wenn i dir’s zehnmal sag,
Daß i di lieb und mag,
Und du willst nit verstehn,
Muß i halt weitergehn.

Für die Zeit, wo du gliebt mi hast,
Da dank i dir schön,
Und i wünsch, daß dir’s anderswo
Besser mag gehn.

English Translation

The interlude heard between verses (strophes) is the same as that used for Brahms’s arrangement of the original folk melody associated with this text (found in the large 1894 collection of folk song arrangements).
0:00 [m. 1]--Introduction.  Beginning with an upbeat, it establishes the gentle, wistful mood of the song.
0:08 [m. 5]--Stanza (strophe) 1.  Also beginning on an upbeat, the melody establishes its mood through dotted (long-short) rhythms on the first two beats of most bars.  The piano provides an undulating, but very harmonious accompaniment.  The strophe is expanded by the repetition of both the second and the fourth lines, the former as a dark, subdued echo, the latter as an emphatic closing phrase reaching the highest vocal pitch.  An interlude clearly based on the introduction, but with more motion, begins in overlap as the last vocal phrase ends.  The 12-bar strophe thus has three bars added through the interlude for a total of 15.
0:32 [m. 5]--Stanza (strophe) 2.  Brahms indicates a repetition back to measure 4 from measure 18.  Measure 4 is the last bar of both the introduction and the interlude.  The music of stanza 2 is the same as that of stanza 1, including identical declamation.
0:57 [m. 20]--Stanza (strophe) 3.  Although the music is the same for stanzas 3 and 4 as for the first two verses, Brahms notates them separately because of differences in declamation.  Thus, bar 4 is reprinted as bar 19 and the stanza begins with the upbeat to bar 20.  The extra syllables in lines 1, 2, and 4 in this third verse are accommodated by adding shorter dotted rhythms to the melody on new repeated notes.  The repetition of line 2 cuts off the first two words and stretches “lieb” to two notes to avoid complications.
1:22 [m. 20]--Stanza (strophe) 4.  Indicated with repeat signs to stanza 3 (from m. 33 back to m. 19).  Line 1 adds an extra dotted-rhythm repeated note, as in stanza 3, but also splits the first upbeat note since the line has two extra syllables.  Lines 2, 3, and 4 are set as in the first two stanzas.  The extra syllable in line 3 is compensated by the missing syllable in line 4.  The repetition of line 4 adds the intensifying interjection “ja” to compensate for the missing syllable.  The interlude is extended to a postlude through a wistful cadence.
1:59--END OF SONG [36 mm.]