Liebeslieder op. 52 (1868/69) 22:49 18 waltzes for chorus and piano four hands Texts by Georg Friedrich Daumer
 No. 1 – Rede, Mädchen, allzu liebes 01:18  No. 2 – Am Gesteine rauscht die Flut 00:56  No. 3 – O die Frauen 00:57  No. 4 – Wie des Abends schöne Röte 00:48  No. 5 – Die grüne Hopfenranke 01:30  No. 6 – Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel 02:30
 No. 7 – Wohl schön bewandt war es 01:20  No. 8 – Wenn so lind dein Auge mir 01:33  No. 9 – Am Donaustrande 01:55  No. 10 – O wie sanft die Quelle 01:10  No. 11 – Nein, es ist nicht auszukommen 01:08  No. 12 – Schlosser auf, und mache Schlösser 00:49  No. 13 – Vögelein durchrauscht die Luft 00:52  No. 14 – Sieh, wie ist die Welle klar 00:53  No. 15 – Nachtigall, sie singt so schön 01:06  No. 16 – Ein dunkeler Schacht ist Liebe 01:04  No. 17 – Nicht wandle, mein Licht 02:04
 No. 18 – Es bebet das Gesträuche 00:56
[19-34] Walzer op. 39 (1865) 21:48 16 waltzes for piano four hands
Neue Liebeslieder op. 65 (1874/75) 18:56 15 waltzes for chorus and piano four hands Texts by Georg Friedrich Daumer (Nos. 1–14) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (No. 15)
 No. 1 – Verzicht, o Herz, auf Rettung 00:50  No. 2 – Finstere Schatten der Nacht 01:30
 No. 3 – An jeder Hand die Finger 01:09  No. 4 – Ihr schwarzen Augen 00:47  No. 5 – Wahre, wahre deinen Sohn 01:11  No. 6 – Rosen steckt mir an die Mutter 00:50  No. 7 – Vom Gebirge Well’ auf Well’ 01:21  No. 8 – Weiche Gräser im Revier 01:14  No. 9 – Nagen am Herzen fühl ich 01:20  No. 10 – Ich kose süß mit der und der 01:08  No. 11 – Alles, alles in den Wind 00:47  No. 12 – Schwarzer Wald, dein Schatten 01:40
“Not by me unfortunately”, a comment famously penned by one Johannes Brahms underneath the opening bars of the Blue Danube Waltz. Numerous are the attestations that confirm just how highly the composer held the King of the Waltz, Johann Strauss, in his esteem. The waltz was not only a succinct musical idiom intimately connected with Vienna, the imperial and royal capital of the Habsburg dynasty, but retains up to the present day an emblematic significance.
From 1863 onwards Brahms had become increasingly dependent on the city, turning to the waltz as proof of his successful musical assimilation, and treating it as a homage to his newly chosen home. The famous Viennese music critic and author of many a Brahms apologia, Eduard Hanslick, describes the situation well, in 1866 in the “Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung”, whereby he makes reference to the Waltzes op. 39 for piano four hands:
“Brahms and the waltz: the appearance on such a delicate cover of these two words might seem surprising. The serious and reticent Brahms, the true disciple of Schumann, North German, Protestant and unworldly as he, and he is writing waltzes? One word solves for us the puzzle: Vienna of course. For the waltz in Brahms’ hands is the fruit of his stay in the city, and sweet it must have been too.
Not for nothing did he breathe in day and night the heady air of Austria – his waltzes are evidence of this on each and every occasion they are performed. The Straussian waltzes and the Ländler of Schubert, our humorous “stanza” and jodeling songs […] these all must have sounded quite foreign to Brahms; and as for the pretty girls, the racy city itself, the greening heights and other things besides. Whoever identifies himself with the development of such a real and profound […] talent will soon understand the waltz as a happy sign of youth, one that engenders a freshness and openness […]. What fetching and agreeable sounds! No-one really expects proper dance music: the melodies and rhythm of the waltz are treated here quite freely and ennobled by gracious expression.”
By elevating this ephemeral dance to an art form, the Waltzes op. 39 – as well as the two cycles of Liebeslieder-Walzer – present in a special way Brahms’ ideal of “eternal music”. The Waltzes op. 39 were composed in 1865, the Liebeslieder-Walzer appearing as op. 52 (1868/69) and op. 65 (1874/75). The vocal rendition of the Liebeslieder-Walzer takes the traditional form of a waltz for the voice, a performing tradition that enjoyed great popularity at the time. Johann Strauss, too, with his On the Beautiful Blue Danube makes reference to the original version for male voice choir.
The Neue Liebeslieder-Walzer, however, evince much less any folksy duetting origins and must be seen in their own right as art songs for solo voice; their waltz-like nature acts as the musical point of departure for each number, although this aspect is less palpable, being skilfully sublimated and abrogated within the piano music. It is the pianist Brahms who is on home territory here, ensuring that the piano part really lies under the hands, taking on the nature of discrete but autonomous chamber music miniatures.
The texts chosen by Brahms for both cycles of the Liebeslieder-Walzer are from Polydora – ein weltpoetisches Liederbuch, a collection by Georg Friedrich Daumer that had appeared in 1855. He was a lyric poet and storyteller, much influenced by Oriental formal design, but a writer who – in contrast to his contemporary Friedrich Rückert – did not base his art on the natural sciences. The poems in Polydora were collected by Daumer, who drew supposedly on translations from Russian, Polish and Hungarian folk poetry, although the texts later turned out to be his own creations. The final song of opus 65 is by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and not by Daumer; it remains a demonstrative finale to the two cycles. Its title, Zum Schluß, was provided by Brahms, who had taken this call to the muses from the poet’s Alexis und Dora.
The present interpretation fulfils in a special way Brahms’ desire to produce a work that unites music not far removed from folk origins with formal ingenuity. The conductor, the singers and the pianists lend this recording a remarkable authenticity, their music-making pointed up by the declamatory phrasing and articulation of the waltz: its melodic gesture is underlined by the traditional acceleration and holding back of tempo, something that lends the internal structure meaningful form and which helps the piece divest itself of any tub-thumping amateurism. A most apposite sound world is conjured up too by the generous but transparent colours of the historic Erard fortepiano, built in 1839 and one of the many still playable keyboard instruments belonging to the piano collection of the WDR.
It is these components that most convincingly demonstrates the claim by Brahms on music that “is eternal”, the present performance confirming these waltzes – pieces which are cast of course in a small form – as character pieces, elevating them on occasion to the status of works which hold up a mirror to the soul.