ALBUM 3: Brahms Lieder

Hanneli sings Brahms Lieder, with piano accompaniment by Graham Johnson.
Brahms’ Lieder are distinguished by their harmonic complexity, lyrical beauty, and a typically late-Romantic emotional intensity. Voice and piano are usually equal partners in his Lieder and are, as in his chamber music, closely entwined.

Romantic poetry often relies heavily on descriptions of nature. However, nature serves merely as a point of departure: the human condition, and personal sorrow and torment are compared with nature. In Meine Liebe ist grün, the excitement of young love is compared with a lilac bush, while the initial suggestion of the tranquillity of a garden at night gives way to fiery inner longing in Unbewegte laue Luft.

In O kühler Wald, the whispering sounds in a cool forest are compared with the soft murmuring deep within one’s heart. The serene silence and isolation one experiences in a forest are described in Lemcke’s poem, In Waldeseinsamkeit, while the wonder of a summer night is praised exuberantly in O komme, holde Sommernacht.

The beauty of evening is also celebrated in Sommerabend and Mondenschein. The former consists of a simple description of the tranquillity of a landscape at dusk. In Mondenschein, the soft moonlight relieves the distress of a tired body and a weary heart. Death is compared with a cool night, (Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht), while life is the heat of the day.

Regardless of one’s views on Brahms’ legacy to German Lieder, it remains an indispensable bridge between the art of Schumann and Schubert, and the Lieder of the late-Romantic era.
– Louis Heyneman