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Lars Rosager 04/27/11 Research and Analyze Johannes Brahmss Opus 33

No one has ever regretted mounting his steed to dash through the world in his lively youthful days.1 These words, the opening text to Brahmss first and last song cycle (Opus 33) represent typical Romantic sentiment and philosophy. No longer were artists confining themselves to the classical forms and rigidly enforced rules by which creativity was expected to take place in years past. Artists of the Romantic era existed as masters of a new mindset, a fresh and exciting worldview that pitted humans against their surroundings and the great beyond. Europes inspiration had changed, making the arts more accessible to the middle class. No longer was nobility the primary source of patronage, though some nobles continued to be central in composers lives. Part of the new generation of European composers goal was to express musics shift from elitist to popular mentality, from universal and philosophical to personal and emotional.2 The full title of Brahmss Opus 33 is Romanzen aus L. Tiecks Magelone (Romances from L. Tiecks Magelone)3. The work, dedicated to Julius Stockhausen and written specifically for his voice, took Brahms over seven years to complete after much turmoil and frustration. The first four songs were completed, at least in preliminary form, by summer 1861 just in time to be discovered by the unexpecting Lischen

Eusebius Mandyczewski, ed. and Stanley Appelbaum, trans., Johannes Brahms: Complete Songs for Solo Voice and Piano (Series I) (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1979), xvii. 2 Jan Swafford, Johannes Brahms a Biography (New York: Vintage Books, 1997), 36-40. 3 Mandyczewski, ed. and Stanley Appelbaum, trans., Johannes Brahms: Complete Songs, 107.

Giesemann.4 Giesemann, a friend and piano student of Brahms from his younger days in Winsen, was the perfect person to find the new works she and Brahms shared a strong appreciation for the cycles literary model, Love Story of the Beautiful Magelone and Count Peter of Provence by the great German Romantic author Ludwig Tieck (17731853). Tieck, though he was not widely revered by his peers nor generally proud of himself for his original compositions, contributed incredible works to the German Romantic literary tradition, a movement which, like musical Romanticism, boasted a renewed focus on medieval art, fairy tales and folk tradition.5 One could imagine how setting popular authors texts in songs could put music at the fingertips of a society evolving toward consumerism. Many working professionals were known to be capable amateur musicians who often attended concerts or played and sang at home. The genre of Tiecks tale is important in examining the effect it had on Brahms as a young man and, later, as a maturing composer. It is a romance, a medieval narration style that provided the title for the Romanic movement itself. The story is actually a modernization of the medieval style. Tieck expands the older form with fantastic settings, other worldly events and characters that might only exist in folklore and fairy tales. Such an approach to older literary tradition has its parallels in music, especially Brahms.2 At a time when new music by living composers was premiered and critiqued in periodicals as a mainstay in cultured life, Brahms often concerned himself with musical masters of the past. Conducting positions he held were put to good use. He tended to

4 5

Swafford, Johannes Brahms, 222. Ludwig Tieck, German Romantic Writer (1773-1853), Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed April 3, 2011,

perform works from the Baroque67 and Renaissance8, historical periods which were strong influences on his own compositions.9 Schne Magelone takes place in Europe (Provence [Peter of Provence] is a region in France). The story is built on fantasy and imagination. The work is actually a mixture of poetry and prose. Brahmss texts are taken from 15 of the 18 poems Tieck wrote as interludes to sections of prose. He did not set the introductory, antipenultimate, nor penultimate poem as they would have impeded the cycles progression and momentum.10 A brief synopsis of the text:

The young knight Peter is full of unformulated dreams until a wandering minstrel sings No. 1 [Keinen hat es noch gereut see page four for analysis]. Then Peter asks his parents to let him travel in search of adventure. His mother gives him three rings for his future bride. On leaving home, Peter sings No. 2, described as an old song. In Naples, he and Magelone, the kings daughter, fall in love at a distance as he wins tourneys in cognito. In his ardor he sings No. 3. He sends Magelone two of the rings, one with No. 4 and one with No. 5 in the form of written poems. Finally granted a personal meeting, he sings No. 6. At the tryst he presents the third ring and vows eternal fidelity; they kiss. Back in his lodging, he sings No. 7. Threatened with an unwanted bridegroom, Magelone asks Peter to run off with her to his homeland. Before meeting her he sings No. 8. In the course of their escape, they rest in a forest and he sings No. 9. A raven flies off with the three rings while Magelone sleeps and, trying to recover them when they fall into the sea, Peter is blown far from shore in a small boat; he sings No. 10. Magelone rides on sadly and goes to live in the hut of an old shepherd and his wife; she sings No. 11. Peter is found by Moors, who sell him to the Sultan; he sings No. 12. After nearly two years, Sulima, the Sultans daughter, asks him to run away with her and he agrees, merely on the chance of reaching home again. Repenting, he sets out alone in a small boat as Sulima sings No. 13 in the distance. As his voyage gets under way, he sings No. 14. Eventually, fishermen lead him to the shepherds hut, where he discovers Magelone. Back in Provence,

Walter Niemann, trans. Catherine Alison Phillips, Brahms (New York: Tudor Publishing Company 1945), 86-90. 7 Karl Geiringer, Brahms His Life and Work (London: Unwin Brothers Unlimited 1936), 112. 8 Swafford, Johannes Brahms, 277. 9 Daniel Beller-McKenna, Brahms and the German Spirit (Harvard 2004), 1-4. 10 Mandyczewski, ed. and Appelbaum, trans., Johannes Brahms Complete Songs, xvii.

the three rings have been found by the royal cook in a fishs stomach. On every anniversary of their reunion, Peter and Magelone sing No. 15.11 Thus, the connection between the 15 songs is clear. They depict a cornerstone in literature, one that Brahms had read as a teenager. Read is an understatement. Brahms lived stories like this. As an aspiring composer, such works were his sustenance, his life force.12 They made him wonder and dream, gave him inspiration beyond measure. For the rest of his life, Brahms would continue to develop literary knowledge he began during his youth.13 The song cycle was becoming an established form in composition shortly before Johannes Brahms. The 19th century saw the development of the lied as a mainstay in German compositional technique and, as a result, groups of lieder with unifying characteristics became known as song cycles: Song cycle (Ger.: Liederzyklus). A group of songs with a common theme, usually setting a single poet. The music may have coherence of key or form and be attached to a narrative, or may more generally serve to express a unifying mood or theme. In the latter case, the German term sometimes used is Liederkreis, though the distinction between the two is not clear-cut. There are antecedents in various national traditions, but the song cycle came to maturity with 19th-century German *lied.14 Though accompanied settings for solo voice can be traced back as far as the Middle Ages, the notion of the song cycle began with Beethovens An die ferne Geliebte (To the Distant Beloved).15 Now, Brahms does not follow the traditional idea of the song cycle according to
11 12

Mandyczewski, ed., Appelbaum, trans., Johannes Brahms Complete Songs, xvii. Swafford, Johannes Brahms, 36-45. 13 Niemann, Brahms, 9-18. 14 Alison Latham, Oxford Dictionary of Musical Terms (Oxford 2004), 173. 15 J. Peter Burkholder, Donald J. Grout, Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music Seventh Edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2006), 587.

Beethovens consecrating work. Whereas An die ferne Geliebten is meant to be performed as one coherent piece of music without pauses or separations16, individual Magelone romances, Brahms believed, could be extracted and heard one by one or in small groupings. In the case of the Magelone romances one does not need many at one go, and should not pay any attention to the narrative. It was only a touch of German thoroughness which led me to compose them through to the last number.17 Not only the performance practice and arrangement of these two sets of songs set them apart. In studying the texts of the music, one will find two very different schools of thought. Though neither Beethoven nor Brahms wrote the texts themselves, the personal connection each held to the words was strong. In the case of Beethoven, the text for his song cycle was written specially for the occasion of his composition. There is much speculation as to who the actual person could have been that inspired the music. One theory is that Beethovens friends (Franz Brentano) wife inspired the longing for a distant loved one, as the title describes. Many say that the impossible affair with Antonie Brentano was Beethovens one true love that would never cease to haunt the emotional and romantic sides of his existence.18 Therefore, this late work of Beethovens sets the stage for Romantic sentimentality and intimacy as well as musical style. Unlike classical era lieder, Beethovens new approach welcomed a more involved and florid style of accompaniment. This new technique was influential for great lieder composers of the Romantic era. Another groundbreaking aspect of An die ferne Geliebte is through composed style. The musical form does not rely on repeated sections for the most part.

Beethoven Analysis: Geert Wolter, Geert Woltjer, accessed April 15th, 2011, last updated March 23rd, 2006, 17 Swafford, Johannes Brahms, 348. 18 Beethoven Analysis: Geert Wolter, Geert Woltjer, accessed April 15th, 2011, last updated March 23rd, 2006,

The structure is built by thematic similarity between songs and piano interludes, but new musical ideas conform to the text. Contrasting moods of despair and joyful acceptance are illustrated beautifully over the course of the song cycle, sometimes juxtaposed within the same song. Beethoven presents a version of the cycles opening material to close.19 Brahms exhibits a unique attitude toward the genre of the song cycle. Tiecks texts are used in an original way, and to think Brahms has said that one should not even pay attention to them! The actual literary model is a German Romantic cultural cornerstone, and Brahms also has been remembered as such. The work effectively conveys Tiecks story through Brahmss incomplete usage of the text due to the popularity of the literature. It was assumed that audiences would be more or less familiar with Schne Magelone if not through Tieck himself, then by way of the older folk version of the story. In modern times, the folktale is not so commonplace, hence the inclusion of an explanatory synopsis of the plot or maybe Tiecks version word for word.20 Adding narratives was a debatable issue between Brahms and his peers.21 The fact that Brahms uses only fragments of the complete literature is a testament to his artistry. Known for his tendency to insinuate moods and musical codes, Brahms hardly ever offered a work that was not left open for interpretation by the listener, reader or musician. I always write only half-sentences, and the reader himself must supply the other half, 22 Brahms wrote in a letter to Clara Schumann. He refers here to the writing of words, but it is also true of his musical compositions. Many of Brahmss vocal works are

Ludwig van Beethoven An die ferne Geliebte (song cycle), Op. 98, Classical Archives, accessed April 15th, 2011, last updated April 15th, 2011, 20 Geiringer, Brahms, 277. 21 Swafford, Johannes Brahms, 346. 22 Swafford, Johannes Brahms, 375.

not particularly extroverted, though powerful emotions and true feeling can be obvious to the listener. One feels the grandiose and operatic mood of the opening song from the set of fifteen, but the incomplete text may leave something to be desired. The text is depicted as effectively in overall musical style as it could be with smaller scale word painting and musically symbolic cells. Each poetic stanza is illustrated beautifully as vocal phrases alternate with accompaniment alone. Accordingly, the pianist will have little time to rest without a single non-terminal fermata or extended pause. A constant stream of music from the piano was nothing innovative, but the technically demanding piano part integrates the accompanists role with the soloists.23 Compared to many other songs by Brahms, the Magelone romances are quite involved pianistically. Perhaps the implied separation of the songs will make up for the essentially constant accompaniment. In fact, this persistent musical density can be viewed as a unifying characteristic present in all fifteen romances. Considering Brahmss thoughts on Opus 33 as well as the opinions of many music critics, one will have to look hard for unity from song to song. One of the connecting elements is the variety itself. The songs contrasts to other Brahms lieder can strengthen the argument for calling them a song cycle. Jan Swafford calls them, lush, expansive, passionatealmost operatic.24 Eric Sams reports a valuable insight into Brahmss inspiration for the work, The Schubert Ballad, which builds a coherent musical structure from successive episodes of poetic action or description.25 With all literature, but especially poetry, the readers interpretation is necessary to attribute real meaning to what the author has created. Consciously or not, Brahms has extended Tiecks original concept of the Magelone story faithfully to the original
23 24

Eric Sams, The Songs of Johannes Brahms (Great Britain: Biddles, Ltd., 2000), 90. Swafford, Johannes Brahms, 348. 25 Sams, The Songs, 92.

intention: to portray the adventures of an individual, but to shape the story as an offering to people of all nations and classes in search of not only art but also morality and ethics. The somewhat ambiguous, vague nature of the Magelone songs allows for universality through originality of interpretation.26 Musical analysis will make the discussion more clear. Formal and structural breakdown as well as a more minute study of rhythms, motives and word painting can provide a better basis on which one may get to know the first song from Opus 33, Keinen hat es noch gereut. It begins in Eb Major. The prelude imitates a horn by alternating between Eb-G thirds and sixths and F#-B fifths and fourths. Imagine a hunting call, or the epic heros call to action. It soon gives way to the galloping rhythm of a horse (See figure 1* of the score). Being an allegro in a triple meter (fig. 1*), the song is bound to nicely portray the adventurous, grandiose and triumphant text:

No one has ever regretted mounting his steed to dash through the world in his lively youthful days. Mountains and meadows, lonely forest, maidens and ladies splendid in dress, golden jewelry everything delights him with its beautiful form. Forms flee miraculously by, desires glow dreamily in his dazzled young mind, in his dazzled young mind. Fame swiftly strews roses in his path, love and caresses; laurels and roses lead him upward, lead him higher and higher upward. Round about him, joys, joys; succumbing, his enemies envy the hero, succumbing, envy the hero; then modestly he chooses the young woman who alone pleases him above all others. And he wends his way back over mountains and fields and through lonely forests. His parents in tears, ah, all their longing they are all united in charming happiness. After years have slipped

Sams, The Songs, 90-92.

by, he relates his adventures to his son in confidential moments, and shows him his wounds, the reward of bravery, of bravery. Thus even his old age remains young, even his old age, a beam of light, a beam of light in the dusk, a beam of light in the dusk.27

The short piano introduction is indicative of the pieces overall compositional style. In the left hand, the alternating half-note/quarter-note motive of the first theme is expanded under the right hands preparation of the primary vocal material (halfnote/quarter-note). In the voice, augmented notes are placed strategically on suitable words. In fact, during the entirety of the first exposition of thematic material involving the half-note/quarter-note motive, only nouns are placed on notes longer than two beats with the exception of Jugend (youth). Keinen (nobody), Ro (steed) and Welt (world) are all sung on long notes. Moreover, they happen on the highest pitch occurring between rests. Arguably, there are three different phrases for the three accented nouns, but it is logical to say that the first two long notes happen in the same single phrase (see fig 2*). The texts first complete idea can help demarcate the first musical phrase. During the first vocal entrance, the piano has music unlike any other measure in the first song. Op. 33 has been considered a Brahmsian experiment in opera, so one could detect a recitative style during the first vocal phrase. For the remainder, there is a much more dialogical effect between the voice and piano. Suffice it to say that the music undergoes blending and building not only between piano and voice, but also between different melodic moods and rhythmic cells. There are two motivic devices Brahms uses for constructing the vocal melody: a half-note/quarter-note rhythm and a dotted27

Mandyczewski, ed., Appelbaum, trans., Johannes Brahms Complete Songs, xvii.

quarter/eighth/quarter rhythm. As the first vocal phrase comes to a close at measure fourteen, the piano introduces the second rhythmic cell in the right hand, though it soon switches to the left. This galloping rhythm is pertinent to the texts reference to the mounting of a steed dashing through the world, but here the way in which Brahms employs the two motives together and separately is characteristic of his regular use of developing variation, a term coined by Arnold Schoenberg.28 Brahms was committed to traditional forms and musical discipline such as counterpoint and voice leading. However, he was a groundbreaking composer in terms of his ability to create more expansive arrangements of musical ideas. Often, his pieces show a blending of formal elements or innovative extensions of phrases and motives. The first Magelone song is no exception. Instead of finding an easily traceable form, much of the song poses more questions than answers. Is the cadence at measure fourteen a half cadence or a modulation to Bb Major? There is transitional material with less clear key centers after this point, though Eb Major can still be implied at measure seventeen. The best approach is to distinguish themes in the voice and examine the harmony to discover if the material is expository, transitory, developmental or terminative. The overall structure of the vocal melody, according to which of the two rhythmic cells pervades, is ABA. Nevertheless, to analyze the form of this composition with something as simple as ABA is not sufficient. There are elements of various structures including compound form, through composition and aria. After the first expository section involving the first rhythmic motive (half-note/quarter-note), the previous pattern in the accompaniment appears in the voice (4*). This dotted-quarter/eigth/quarter idea is developed with an imbedded ABA form.

Swafford, Johannes Brahms, 94.

Here, the compound aspect of the overall ABA motivic organization takes shape. The B of the overall form is actually divided into its own ABA form. Following the imbedded rounded binary section (an ABA development of the dottedquarter/eighth/quarter motive) there is a developmental section on the first rhythmic motive (half/quarter). By now one begins to notice Brahmss new use of traditional technique. If at first glance the song seemed sporadic and scattered, the formal structure now becomes more apparent. Brahmss organization of musical phrasing is interesting. Expanding on the idea of Magelones operatic nature, the late eighteenth century form of the grand aria appears with the usual Brahmsian Romantic makeover found in many of his keyboard and instrumental works. The order of a grand aria: recitative, arioso, cavatina, cabaletta; now, depending on the composer, time period, and geopolitical region, this forms order may be altered.29 However, the da capo (ABA) factor usually remained intact. Here is how grand aria pertains to Keinen hat es noch geruet: mm. 1-14 recitative, mm. 15-41 arioso, mm. 42-101 cabaletta [notice this differs from the classically established grand aria structure. Brahms places the faster, more spirited aria first. Also, there is no official change of tempo to separate the double aria. However, the accompaniment gradually leaves the galloping figure behind, evolving into a more subdued, lyrical style a la classical cavatina.], mm. 102-120 arioso [again breaking with the more classically established form, Brahms interjects with a transitory section blending the two primary rhythmic motives. There was a similar practice in nineteenth century Italian opera called Tempo de mezzo in which other characters or the chorus would enter

Don Michael Randel, The Harvard Dictionary of Music Fourth Edition (Cambridge, Mass.: President and Fellows of Harvard College: 2003), 54-55.

into the scene to alter the mood.29 Brahms also blends the galloping, adventurous character with what is to come, a softer, lyrically arpeggiated accompaniment and a vocal part built from augmented rhythms that give rise to more melodious, liberated phrases.], mm. 121-242 cavatina [the A section is drastically smaller than the B if one considers the accompaniment a defining factor of the sections. In fact the return of the original material occurs in the accompaniment as the vocal part comes to close before the short postlude. Brahmss alternative to strict da capo form is to develop the A sections rhythmic and melodic material, creating an extended developmental section. While this example of cavatina is not clearly ABA, it does exemplifiy Brahmss tendency to blur formal boundaries and blend sections into each other. Similar practices are found in his Symphony No. 3.], mm. 243-258 postlude [reiteration of opening material]. Following the second arioso section, there is a new accompaniment. Having modulated during the ariosos development to G Minor, the voice enters in G Major and moves into Eb Major with the same melody from a different scale degree (5*). Still in Eb Major, an elaborate vocal melody is stated over yet another accompaniment style (this can be seen as the move from A to B in what would traditionally be the second aria). The melody showcases many major-minor shifts and elaborate modulations until the end of the piece, which ends in Eb Major. The last sixty measures of the song indicate it has truly been transformed since the beginning. This harmonic journey is owed in large part to the text. By the end of the poem, the adventurous hero is old but still young at heart. He tells his story to his son and shows his battle scars. Now, once the lyrical transformation has ended, the postlude plays the two primary motives at a tempo (6*). The return of the first motives represent the triumph of the storys hero and his

everlasting youth. During the travels of the young man, the music illustrates the vast countryside and fascinating encounters with friends and foes. The music between the compounded ABA section of the second motive (cabaletta) and the piano postlude resembles a very long and involved development section. The harmony staggers from major to minor around many keys for nearly half of the song. Cells grow and fuse into new accompaniments and lyrical textures. Modulations take place frequently during the last half of the song, at times surprising the ear with the distant relationships: Bb Major (7*), G minor (8*), G Major (5*), Eb Major (9*), Eb minor (10*), Eb Major (11*), F minor (12*). These key centers are exemplary of Brahmsian approach to tonality. Even if not every aforementioned key center is stable for very long, it is safe to say that in general, a more emancipated treatment of key centers and their relationship was happening with Brahms. Whereas one might expect more consistency in just one song, Brahms offers an array of matices that makes the Magelone romances, and Keinen hat es noch gereut in particular stand out as one of his unique works. Brahms does not follow the trend of a more involved accompaniment. In fact, the voice is still the center of attention in his songs, a quality derived from Schubert.30 It was Schumann who promoted the pianos role in songs during the Romantic period. He was known for composing long preludes, interludes and postludes, trying to equalize the genre of song: giving the same amount of creative influence to poet, composer, vocalist and pianist.31 For Brahms, everything new was suspect. Though he is credited with being an innovator of the highest stature, he was eternally conservative. Most of his songs are
30 31

Burkholder, Grout, Palisca, A History of Western, 723. Burkholder, Grout, Palisca, A History of Western, 611.

serious, but Brahmss expansive melodic writing stands out as a defining element. The texts tend toward an emotional realm of much love and intensity, but just as much loss and suffering.32 Curiously, the Magelone romances were not really a huge success.33 They were performed and published, but there was no definite consensus regarding standardizing the song cycle. Some suggested a narrative of Tiecks prose between songs. The unity of the songs was slow to manifest. Musically, there is a thread to be followed throughout the fifteen songs. The work begins and ends in Eb Major. Most key changes between songs move by third or fifth, and, if not for the terminal double bar lines separating each song, the music could be connected fluidly. The descending Eb Major arpeggio with which the voice enters in the first song has been traced in other songs.34 To some, Brahms completed the project as a way to test the operatic waters35, an experiment into which he had delved with his one cantata, Rinaldo (Op.50). Both pieces are set to texts about medieval legends, and, pondering the daunting endeavor of composing an opera, Brahms had several similar pieces of literature in mind. Brahms hinted at the dramatic nature of the music, Arent the Magelone romances, after all, a kind of theater?36 The song cycle is relatively obscure. It certainly contradicts some defining elements of the traditional Liederzyklus, and does not clearly relate to Brahmss other more popular song sets in terms of compositional technique. Whereas many Brahms
32 33

Niemann, Brahms, 349-355. Swafford, Johannes Brahms, 347. 34 Haddon Craftsmen, Inc., ed. Leon Botstein, The Compleat Brahms (New York: 1999), 225-229. 35 Swafford, Johannes Brahms, 348. 36 Haddon Craftsmen, Inc., The Compleat, 225-229.

lieder display a stripped down, folk inspired style with dark, passionate texts, the Magelone cycle may resemble the elaborate style of his instrumental works.37 Brahmss career as a song composer was long and busy. His extant works in the genre span some forty-five years, and he has undoubtedly been wedded to history as a premier composer of the German lied. Above all, his willingness to evolve established practices makes him great. He did not always set songs to poems by the most famous masters of verse. He was willing to risk public criticism if he believed a text could be made more beautiful by music. In reference to the poetry of Goethe, Brahms has said that it is all complete, self-sufficient, that the poems are So perfect in themselves that no music can improve them.38 May one be thankful that Brahms was not entirely conservative. Of course his old fashioned attributes made him an innovator during a period of such radical artistic change. As the world became more modern and transient, Brahms was an original by way of his traditionalism. Be it groundbreaking success or banal mediocrity, the Magelone song cycle symbolizes an important aspect of Brahmss life and personality. Always thoughtful and committed, Johannes Brahms stayed true to his artistic agenda by creating a piece of music with intellectual worth and personal relevance that will lead to a substantial amount of discovery regarding composition, literature and musical history.


Haddon Craftsmen, Inc., The Compleat, 225-229. 38 Brahms, Johannes: Lieder and Soli Vocal Ensembles, George S. Bozarth, Oxford Music Online, accessed April 15th, 2011, c/51879pg11? q=Brahms+magelone&hbutton_search.x=25&hbutton_search.y=16&hbutton_search=sea rch&source=omo_t237&source=omo_gmo&source=omo_t114&search=quick&pos=3&_ start=1#firsthit.

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