Johannes Brahms

Liebeslieder Waltzes (18) for vocal quartet & piano, 4 hands, Op. 52

    Description by John Palmer

    In May 1863, Johannes Brahms accepted the directorship of the Vienna Singakademie, followed in September 1872 by the directorship of the Vienna Gesellschaftskonzerte. During his tenure in both positions, Brahms produced numerous works for chorus, both accompanied and a cappella. Many of these works are for vocal quartet, although they are occasionally performed by larger ensembles. Among these are the Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 52, and the Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 65.

    Brahms' Liebeslieder (Love Songs) Waltzes consist of eighteen poems arranged for two pianos and vocal quartet, setting texts from George Friedrich Daumer's Polydora. Brahms' sketches suggest that he conceived the shape of the entire cycle before completing individual waltzes.

    Published in 1869, the Liebeslieder were first performed on January 5, 1870, in Vienna. After Brahms received a copy of the first edition he wrote to the publisher, Simrock, in Berlin, "I must confess that it was the first time I smiled at the sight of a printed work of mine!" The original publication is for two pianos and voice ad libitum, indicating that the voices are optional. This direction, made possible by the fact that the vocal lines are present in the piano part, was evidently inserted by the publisher, who hoped to increase sales. Brahms, of course, realized that this removed some of the most charming aspect of the pieces, and the direction was omitted from the second set of Liebeslieder, Op. 65. In the winter of 1869-1870, Brahms orchestrated a suite of waltzes taken from the Liebeslieder for a Berlin performance. He chose Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, and 11, and composed a new piece, which became No. 9 in the Neue Liebeslieder set of waltzes.

    Brahms' Liebeslieder represent the mingling of the folk music of northern Germany (the composer's former homeland) and the waltzes and Ländler of Upper Austria (his new homeland). In effect, Brahms' Liebeslieder are stylized Viennese waltzes. Nearly all of Daumer's poems are pastoral verses on both the positive and negative attributes of love. Brahms' settings tends toward folk music in their melodic characteristics, with none of the text painting that a lesser composer may have employed. A few numbers, however, stand out from the rest. Those that are concerned with different expressions receive appropriate treatment. For instance, No. 12, "Schlosser auf, und mache Schlösser," (Get up locksmith, and make me locks) finds the narrator in a moment of anger as he asks a locksmith to make innumerable locks for him, claiming, "Then the wicked, wicked mouths/Shall I shut forever!" The intensity of Brahms' setting conveys the urgency of the request in this, the shortest of the 18 songs. In the ninth song, a man notices a pink-faced girl peering out of a house on the bank of the Danube. Ten iron bars protect the doors of the house, but the man explains he could easily tear them down. The calm atmosphere is shattered as the man explains his intention of breaking through the bars, after which the first lines return with their fluid music. The 16th poem, "Ein dunkler Schacht ist Liebe," (Love is a pit of despair), receives the most fiery setting of all.


    1. Rede, Mädchen
    2. Am Gesteine rauscht die Flut
    3. O die Frauen
    4. Wie des Abends schöne Röte
    5. Die grüne Hopfenranke
    6. Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel
    7. Wohl schön bewandt
    8. Wenn so lind dein Auge
    9. Am Donaustrande
    10. O wie sanft die Quelle
    11. Nein, es ist nicht auszukommen
    12. Schlösser auf!
    13. Vöglein durchrauschet die Luft
    14. Sieh, wie ist die Welle klar
    15. Nachtigall, sie singt so schön
    16. Ein dunkeler Schacht ist Liebe
    17. Nicht wandle, mein Licht
    18. Es bebet das Gesträuche

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2016 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4796044
    2016 ATMA Classique ACD 22710
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon B002364402
    2012 Acanta 233495
    2012 Carus CARUS 83319
    2012 Decca
    2012 Decca 4783589
    2012 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4779884
    2012 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Music@Menlo LIVE 201104
    2011 Linn / Linn Records CKD382
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4778619
    2010 Decca
    2010 Ars Musici 232388
    2009 DG Deutsche Grammophon 477 818-3
    2008 Klavier Records 11092
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93554
    2007 Koch Schwann 31411-2
    2007 Decca 4758202
    2006 Philips 000666902
    2006 Arts Music 43126
    2006 Brilliant 93055
    2005 Cascavelle 3081
    2004 Brilliant 92179
    2004 Brilliant 92392
    2003 Carus 83118
    2003 Chandos 10094
    2002 Pearl 0180
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 566425
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 55430
    2000 Koch Schwann 314112
    2000 BBC Music 8801
    1999 BBC Music 8001
    1999 Arion 68392
    1999 Pearl GEMMCD9994
    1997 Guild GMCD7134
    1996 Berlin Classics 0092692
    1996 DG Deutsche Grammophon 449 641-2GJB4
    1995 APR (Appian) 7036
    1993 Telarc Distribution 80326
    1992 Universal Classics & Jazz
    1992 Philips 432152
    1992 London 425995
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48176
    1988 DG Deutsche Grammophon 423133
    Arkay Records 6102
    RCA 60325
    Eufoda 1238
    EMI Music Distribution 575722
    Brilliant 92179/1
    Brilliant Classics 93554/37
    Brilliant 92392/19
    BBC Music Magazine 120
    Lyrinx 122
    Harmonia Mundi HMC901945
    Acanta 43805
    Powder 5134
    RCA 60260
    Art of Classics 885917
    Lys 359
    Nonesuch 79008
    Vox 7204