Liebestreu - Jane Christeson - with Michael Rickman (Piano) Rebecca Holbrook-Loar (Soprano) Bobb Robinson (Baritone) Jesse Christeson (Cello)
The lieder of Johannes Brahms are some of the most beautiful, haunting and richly satisfying to perform in all of song literature. The songs themselves share many characteristics of the composer's enigmatic personality - great strength balanced with sensitivity, stark emotion restrained in a classic form, and earthy humor with intensity and serious contemplation. Unlike most lieder composers, Brahms was fairly indifferent to the quality of poetry that inspired him, believing that text should be the servant of music.
The duets of Opus 20 for soprano and alto were written when Brahms, a young composer of 25, was deeply in love with Agathe von Siebold. Even though they were probably written for amateur performers and not intended to be works of great depth, they still reflect many of Brahms' most recognizable elements of compositional style, including extensive use of thirds and sixths between the voices and an intensity of expression.
The four duets of Opus 28 for contralto and baritone were composed in 1860/62, premiered in December of 1862, and published in 1863 by C. A. Spina in Vienna. They bear a dedication to contralto Amalie Joachim, who was the wife of his dear friend violinist Joseph Joachim, and for whom he would compose the Alto Rhapsody for several years later. It is interesting that Brahms grouped them into a single opus, since the texts are not by a single author and reflect vastly different relationships betweena man and a woman. In them one hears the playful humor of folk music as well as the deeper emotional intensity of unrequited love.
The two songs of Opus 91 were originally intended for contralto, viola and piano, and were published by Brahms to reunite the estranged Amalie and Joseph, hoping they would perform them together. Although she sang them at the premiere of their publication in 1886 and many times afterward, Amalie and Joseph never collaborated on them. The first song, with text by Friedrich Ruckert, is filled with typical German Romantic literature imagery of forest sunsets, restless longing, and awareness of death. The second, a lullaby intended for the birth of the Joachims' first child, is based on the old German sacred text "Josef, lieber Josef mein" with text by Emanuel Geibel. This recording features the cello as an alternative for viola.