Saturday, February 10, 2018

Lieder und Gesänge: The Beating Heart of Johannes Brahms

Lieder und Gesänge: The Beating Heart of Johannes Brahms
Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

Brahms' output of vocal music was greater than that of the instrumental music he composed. He wrote numerous Lieder (German Art Songs) and Gesänge (Songs) throughout his life, from early gems at age 19, to the succinct and powerful Four Serious Songs (Vier ernste Gesänge) a few months before he died, at the age of 64 in 1897.

A third of Brahms' songs were in simple strophic form (each verse the same), a third were through-composed (each verse set differently), and a third were in what could be called "variable strophic" form, a style which Brahms perfected, taking the genre farther than Schubert had done. The through-composed pieces Brahms tended to label as Gesänge, indicating compositions of a larger scale than those he called Lieder.

A number of these musical jewels burst from Brahms' beating heart, as much as his fertile mind, passionate outbursts of love, wondrous songs, songs to commemorate his deep and abiding love for his brilliant friend and intimate confidant, the pianist Clara Schumann, but also, at different moments in his life, his infatuation with Hermine Spies, his passion (almost to marry) Agathe von Siebold, his ardor for Rosa Girzick, and his yearning, his Sehnsucht, for the magnificent Elisabeth von Herzogenberg.

It has been said that one need only listen to Brahms' vocal chamber music to fully understand his complex genius in his symphonic and concerto masterpieces.

After listening to the peerless soprano Lucia Popp with the estimable Geoffrey Parsons, piano, in a sublime set of Brahms Lieder und Gesange, I would agree.

No comments:

Post a Comment