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Johannes Brahms was one of the major forces of German Romanticism in the 19th century. His musical output includes works in nearly all the main genres of the time. Brahms was a prolific composer of choral music and, more importantly, a prolific composer of unaccompanied choral music. While he may best be remembered for his monumental Ein Deutsches Requiem for chorus and orchestra or his Liebeslieder Wazer for chorus and piano, his sacred and secular a cappella choral output is no less notable. An avid researcher into musical practices of the past, Brahms was particularly interested in the madrigals and motets of preceding centuries and strove to incorporate musical practices of previous times into his own composition. Nachtwache No. 1 comes from a set of five songs published in 1889 and is a setting of a text by Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866). These songs recall the intimacy of the Renaissance madrigal and show the popularity of a cappella music in the late 1800s, as music began to leave the realm of the court and enter the domain of the emerging bourgeois.

- Matthew D. Oltman

 

Leise Töne der Brust, Soft sounds from the breast,
Geweckt vom Odem der Liebe, Awakened by the breath of love,
Hauchet zitternd hinaus, Breathe out, trembling,
Ob sich euch öffnen ein Ohr, Whether or not they open your ear,
Öffn'ein liebendes Herz, May a loving heart open,
Und wenn sich keines euch öffnet, And if none opens to you,
Trag ein Nachtwind euch seufzend, May a night breeze hear you, sighing,
In meines zurück. Back to my heart.

 

04/07