Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) 2 Partsongs
Goldne Bruecken – Postillons Morgenlied edited by Helmut Lauterwasser [male ch] Text: Emanuel Geibel and Wilhelm Müller
8 pages | 19 x 27 cm | 49 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-41249-7 | Saddle Stitch
The musicologist Helmut Lauterwasser, staff member of the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM) in the work group located at the Bavarian State Library in Munich, recently discovered two choral pieces for men's voices by the young Johannes Brahms: Des Postillons Morgenlied (text by Wilhelm Müller) and Goldne Bruecken (text by Emanuel Geibel).
Brahms presumably wrote Des Postillons Morgenlied as early as 1847 at the age of 14. The piece is thus the earliest of all of Brahms' transmitted works. Goldne Bruecken was perhaps written for a concert given in Celle in early May 1853. Brahms dedicated the two works to the men's choral society of that town. When he later tried to collect the non-published early works in order to destroy them, he apparently forgot the Celle pieces. The previously unknown copies had been preserved in the estate of the "Alte Celler Liedertafel." Their authenticity has since been confirmed by the Brahms Complete Edition in Kiel. The Chorus of the Bayerischer Rundfunk gave the first performance and the world- premiere broadcast of the pieces in its BR-KLASSIK program on 5 March 2010.
Considering that Johannes Brahms was known to destroy his juvenilia, it is all the more remarkable that we are now able to publish for the first time ever two early pieces for male choir, of which one was regarded as lost and the other had been totally unknown up to now. Besides these two pieces, Brahms wrote only one other work for a cappella men’s chorus, the Fünf Lieder op. 41, which, however, cannot be compared with the early pieces, not least because of the texts on which the songs of op. 41 are based. These early pieces are like fascinating bits of a mosaic that help round out our knowledge of the personality of Johannes Brahms.
In the years 1847, 1848 and 1851, Brahms spent lengthy holidays in Winsen on Luhe in northern Germany, at the home of Adolph Giesemann, the owner of a paper mill. During his very first stay, the 14-year-old Brahms was allowed to conduct the “Männergesangverein” (men’s vocal society), for which he wrote three choral songs, including Postillons Morgenlied, whose text (by Wilhelm Müller) begins with the words “Vivat! Und ins Horn ich stosse.” The male choruses written in Winsen thus number among Brahms’ “earliest transmitted works with documented titles.” From his correspondence with Giesemann’s daughter Elise, it emerges that in 1868 the composer asked her to send him back the scores of the early pieces that had remained in the Giesemann home, and then destroyed it. “One does not like to preserve visible traces of one’s childhood pranks (which include the early pieces),” he wrote to Elise Denninghoff, née Giesemann, in October 1880.
February 2010, during work on the international source lexicon Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM), a copy of the “Postillon”was found in the estate of the Alte Celler Liedertafel (Old Celle Choral Society), which is housed today in the Stadtarchiv Celle (municipal archives). The first piece in the manuscript is the men’s chorus “Goldne Brücken seien deine Lieder mir” on a text by Emanuel Geibel. Until now, there had been no traces of a Brahms setting of a poem by Geibel. It cannot be ascertained whether it was part of the composer’s juvenilia and written, for example, in Winsen, or whether it was written in Celle in May 1853, expressly for the Celler Liedertafel. It is remarkable, however, that there are a number of textual discrepancies with the source poem (see below) only in the second song, which was ascertainably written at an earlier date. This could mean that Brahms either wrote down the entire piece from memory, or that he had no written source, at least for the text.
Above the music, there is an indication that Johannes Brahms is the composer, and that “on the occasion of the first of his concerts in Celle with the Hungarian refugee Reményi, the composer gifted these two songs to the Celler Liedertafel, which had supported the concert givers.” The note was added later, in 1869, by the “Liedervater” of the Celler Liedertafel Dr. C. Kirchner, an “Oberappellationsgerichts Sekretär” (Upper Appellate Court Secretary). He erred in the year, however, for he dated the concert to the year 1851 instead of 1853. Apart from this, there is no reason to doubt the rest of the information in Kirchner’s addendum. He had been a member of the Gesangverein since 1848 and became the “Liedervater,” a kind of chairman of the society, in 1853/54. He is repeatedly described as a very worthy and honorable person. He must also have been a good singer, who occasionally performed solo. It thus seems likely that he numbered among the “10 people” who contributed two male choral pieces to the two concerts (see below). A handwritten chronicle of the Liedertafel compiled around the year 1913 shows that after Brahms had become famous, the vocal society was still very much aware of the two dedicatory pieces, but that “they unfortunately were no longer to be found in the music cabinet.”
Their concert tour of spring 1853 led the violinist Eduard Reményi and his young accompanist Johannes Brahms to Winsen/Luhe, Celle, Lüneburg, Hanover and other places. Two concerts were held in Celle, on Monday, 2 May, and on Thursday, 12 May. In between, on 7 May 1853, Brahms celebrated his 20th birthday. We know from diary entries of Heinrich Wilhelm Stolze, then choirmaster at the Stadtkirche in Celle, how the concerts unfolded. In addition to duets and solo pieces for piano and violin, two “men’s quartets” were performed by members of the Celler Liedertafel. We do not know, however, if these were Brahms’s two choral songs.
First and foremost, I would like to thank the Stadtarchiv Celle and its director Sabine Maehnert not only for their permission to publish the pieces, but also for sending the musical material on loan to Munich so that it could be arranged. This greatly facilitated both the cataloguing process as well as the biographical research on Brahms. I am also very grateful to the two staff members of the Johannes Brahms Gesamtausgabe in Kiel, Johannes Behr and Michael Struck, for their valuable suggestions and tips. Finally, I also extend my thanks to Eva-Maria Hodel, editor-in-chief of Breitkopf & Härtel, for her always reliable collaboration and highly professional advice.
Munich, Spring 2010