"Six Intermezzi by Johannes Brahms"
Maria Yudina

The author of the liner notes appeals mostly to the listener's imagination, to his own active creativity.

Listening to music is not a pleasure. It is a response to the grandiose efforts of the composer and to the extremely important work of the artist-performer.

Listening to music is a learning process of the highest degree, a synthetic labour that involves the emotional sphere in the continuous dynamics and phenomenology.

We reject the music-theoretical view that the intermezzo is a form of secondary importance and insist that this form is essential as a pure concentration of instrumental lyricism.

On one hand we may compare the meanings of an intermezzo to the vocal essence of a song or a romance, and on the other to the poetics of a sonnet in all its diversity:

Stern Dante did not despise the sonnet;
Petrarka poured his burning love in it;;
Macbeth's creator loved its play;;
It helped Camoens shape his grief.;
(Pushkin, "Sonnet", 1830)

This nearly all-encompassing formula of Pushkin will be our guiding star, our compass in the historical-philosophical journey along the mountains, valleys and oceans of the world of the intermezzo that we offer our listener.

However, after a close examination of Brahms intermezzi we come to a conclusion, or a hypothesis, that most of his works in this genre are elegies, and some are hymns.

Let us turn to a characterization of an elegy, with an epigraph "My sorrow is light," by Pushkin.

The sorrow of any elegy we might consider, no matter how old, or in which art form, is always liberated of anything everyday, random or subjective, it avoids dejection and despair, and is above minute complaints.

"Elegy" (as essence, sign, symbol, or notion) comes from a flute-like old Greek instrument elegeia that accompanied the singing (by a different person) of poems of various character: contemplative, amorous, or poetic (of course the same performer could also take turns signing and playing). "Elegeia" means reed, of which this instrument was made. (This could be the source of Tyutchev's words "And thinking reed rebels.")

So we are in the VII-V centuries BC: the poets Callinus, Tyrtaeus (the lame Spartan teacher), Solon, Xenophanes, Theognis from Megara.

We further mention Ovid and his "Tristia", and the words of the brilliant writer Yu. Scheglov [now a Slavic languages professor at University of Wisconsin]: "The multitude of the described objects creates an impression of the universe as an indivisible whole, precisely because all the diverse objects behave similarly under the action of the same 'operator', time."

We may also consider the wonderful antique epitaphs as miniature elegies, such as "Oh, my friend, do not grieve my passing, the time has rushed, that was a gift of fate", or "Do not grieve, mother, this had to happen, it was my Time."

Let us recall the "El-Fayum portrait", that concentrated all perception of the world in the incredibly widened eyes of a man, and marked its own contribution to the treasury of wise sorrow.


We turn to John of Damascus, the ingenious VIIIth century poet, celebrated by Taneyev.

We present an excerpt of his canon as a brilliant example of a lyrical-philosophical elegy. ("Canon" is a cyclical variational form of Greek, Latin and Old Slavic religious, or rather liturgical, poetry, that passed through all of the medieval times, and preserved it vitality till our days.) "Which sweetness of life is separated from sorrow? What fame is irrevocable? What are mundane affections, wealth, gold, silver, multitude of servants? Who is a king, and who is a warrior? All pleasant dreams are in an instant cut by death." etc.

The main ethical leitmotif of this canon - "equality of people's fate" - is related to the creations of the XV-XVIth centuries, to the prints "The Dance of Death" (Schedel's "Chronicle of the World" and Holbein's cycle), but no! - these are not elegies, but pessimism, pure affirmation of human sins, and not the tranquil transparent silence that shines in the canon of the luminous author from Damascus.

We find similar elegiac lucidity in Botticelli's art, in his incorporeal images, be it muses, Venus, born out of foam, or ordinary people, Italian citizens of all estates and occupations, saints, angels, or Madonna herself. Ineffable, mellow, mysterious, sweet and graceful softness, the otherworldly, slightly saddened look that gazes past the viewer, and past all and everything in the painting, directed to the human heart; the ethereal cloudy clothes, as in Lermontov's "Demon":

Through the boundless fields of heaven
Traceless pass the fluffy sheep -
Clouds dissolving in the even
Reaches of the azure steppe.
[Translated by Friends-partners ]

Both Botticelli and Brahms (especially in intermezzi) stay on the doorstep of life and death, blaming and indicting nobody. Botticelli's astonishing palette, the original intensity of the essence of colour (in a sense "a strike of colour without modulation"), is sometimes similar to the brightest and most surprising of Brahms' sound phenomena, a sequence of chords, a sudden reappearance of a new theme, or its striking reconstruction.

However, returning to the earlier historical and cultural formations, we cite a brilliant summarizing opinion of the Soviet art historian Tsetsilia Nesselstrauss: "The main achievement of medieval art was deeper penetration into the inner world of man than ever before ... It has exhibited for the first time the complexity of the struggle between good and evil in his soul.

The aspiration to discover the laws of the universe that are hidden by a dazzling diversity of phenomena, typical for medieval thought, was reflected in the creation of grandiose art works, encompassing in its unprecedented generality an image of the world whose structure goes back to the encyclopedias of the modern scholastics. The cycle of bas-reliefs, statues, stained-glass windows, unified by a single concept, present the whole legendary history of humanity from the creation of Adam to the Judgment day."


Brahms lived and worked in countries, cities and villages blessed by the presence of many remarkable Gothic and Baroque architectural monuments. It is not surprising that these impressions inspired him and affected his art.

We may present as a central example, or remind the listener's (reader's, or viewer's) imagination, the stunning print by Albrecht Durer, with its unsurpassed synthesis of art and thought - his famous "Melancholy" (1514).

She, with attributes of Eternity in the symbols of astronomic instruments and geometric figures, with the invariable sand-glass, directs her mysterious gaze not toward the sunset sky, lighted by the comet and flickering behind it as a stage set, but to us.

We, the spectators, enter the painting (the print), magnetized by its kind silent power - monumental, gigantic Urania, Andromeda, Cassiopea, Cassandra, Diotima, Sybil, a hero of Homer and Plutarch, and ... a ghost. Her eyes are motionless, transparent and wistful. Neither she nor we shed any tears, we are stopped at the threshold of a myth.

Naturally, we see Brahms' predecessors in music itself, in the brilliant music, also to some degree, from North Germany and the Netherlands. This art is strict and severe- we can even say "strictly confined" - its high emotionality is taken to the bright extreme, organized both cognitively and ethically.

This is Swelinck and his school, Heinrich Schutz, Dietrich Buxtehude and his astounding visionary gift of improvisation. And of course, the concentration of the highest mysteries and discoveries of art in general, Columbus, Newton, Apostle, Johann Sebastian Bach.

If we have to point out an elegy by Johann Sebastian Bach, let us mention in particular Cantata #6 "Bleib bei uns" ("Stay with us"), the biblical "Jesus Walks the Road to Emmaus": "At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, 'Didn't our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?'" [Luke, 24:31-32]

"Didn't our hearts burn"? This text is one of the centers of the spiritual life of man and humanity.

And, to some degree - Beethoven. But the problem of "The elegiac elements in Beethoven" goes well beyond the scope of this essay.

However, the quiet, humble genius of Franz Schubert in the same city of Vienna, went a different path of his own.


We turn to some truly admirable "architectural elegies".

"Pavlovsk park" [near St. Petersburg] is one of the most beautiful landscaped parks in the world. The Slavianka river that disappears and then reappears again at the foot of the hills was celebrated by Zhukovsky in his elegy "Slavianka" (we present third, sixth and eighth stanzas out of the total of 36):

I walk a winding path in a grove;
With every step a new view opens;
Then, suddenly, appears through a thicket,
As in a smoke, a light valley ...

And suddenly an empty temple in the wilderness in front of me;
A neglected path; gray bushes all around;
A thick oak darkens among the crimson linden,
And coffin fir-trees sleep ...

This temple, this dark arch, this quiet mausoleum,
This dying looking down flame,
All bear witness us, that all the blessings of our days,
And all the greatness are momentary.

Having been allowed into the perfect synthesis of nature and ingenious architectural thought of Pietro Gonzago [the architect of the Pavlovsk Park] we were reformed ourselves.

A Pavlovsk "contemporary" is the famous "Zelazowa Wola", a small country estate of Chopin [his birthplace] and its charming small Utrata river.

We say with Pasternak:

As Chopin once in his etudes
Miraculously conjured
Parks, groves, graves and solitudes-
A living wonder.

The moment of achievement caught
Twixt sport and torment...
A singing bowstring shuddering taut,
A stubborn bow bent.
[Translated by Avril Pyman http://www.friends-partners.ru/literature/20century/pasternak/ineverything.html(opt,mozilla,mac,english,,new)]


We are now in the first half of the nineteenth century, my dear reader and listener.

Elegy, a lyrical meditation and reflection, forms a spiritual cornerstone, a summit, blossom of an individual, the subject of this period. We leave aside the grandiose developments in prose, the novel, neoclassical architecture, the colossal movements and storms of society and politics, the decembrists [participants of the Russian aristocratic rebellion on December 14, 1825], the July revolution of 1830 in France. We are immersed in a different world in this commentary.

Thus, in the lyrical poetry of the first half of the XIXth century "elegy" is most important, its place is not only "unsubtractable" but also central. We have traced to a certain degree its origins in various forms of art. Continuing with this brief study, we will find truly unsurpassed treasures, diamonds of Russian lyric poetry.

And before that - the end of the XVIIIth century - Goethe's "Roman elegies". We also find elegiac motives in Schiller's didactic, grandly edifying, monumental poetry.

Pushkin's "Stances" ("When roaming noisy avenues ...") should be considered the central work among many remarkable elegies in the Russian poetry. Dmitrii Dmitriyevich Shostakovich has raised this alloy of thought and feeling to a mind boggling, unbelievable height in his music.


... You have not seen them,
The living sculptures of ancient Egypt,
With quiet eyes, still and mute,
And face, radiating of kings coronations.


But you have not seen them, or
The connection between us ans those sphinxes.
(Apollon Grigoryev, "To the heros of our time.")

Boris Pasternak has adopted these lines as an epigraph to his ingenious variations "A rock and a storm". The theme mentions "sphinx" three times. "Sphinx" is the elegy of the whole process of human history.


The completelness of Lermontov's "Mtsyri" with its youthful tempest and burning, doomed force is also a symphonic elegy. It suffices to listen to the epigraph to this poem: "I did indeed taste a bit of nectar from the tip of the staff that was in my hand; I am prepared to die." [Samuel I 14:42]

Tyutchev is also inexhaustible:

Oh, the water-cannon of deadly thought,
Oh, the inexhaustible water-cannon!
Which incomprehensible law
Moves you, pushes you?
How eagerly you strive for the sky! ...
But an invisible and fateful hand
Refracts your insisting ray
And brings it down from the heights in sprays.
("The Fountain")


Elysium of shades this soul of mine,)
Shades silent, luminous, and wholly severed)
From this tempestuous age, these restless times)
, Their joys and griefs, their aims and their endeavours.)
("My soul is an elysium of thoughts."))
[Translated by Friends-partners]

And Fet?

When my dreams of long past days
Find you again in the smoky fog,
I sweetly cry, as the first Hebrew,
On the verge of the promised land.
("When my dreams ...")

The marvelous compressed polished elegiac poems by Edler von Strelenau have not yet found an adequate Russian translation but are favourites of many Russian poets. [They were translated by Tyutchev and Fet.]


We ignore all of the inexhaustible sea of the English poetry, but the world of Edgar Allan Poe, that is close to Brahms in his intermezzi:

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
("Annabel Lee")

The "kingdom by the sea" ["end of the world" in the Russian translation] - the art of the North - fascinated Gorky's imagination, I had a conversation with him about that.


Wasn't the elegiac element the basic foundation of the whole art, the "secret spring" of all of Chopin's "small form" music - mazurki, nocturnes, waltzes (Preludes are an altogether different matter, they are a cycle, a unified concept), that guided his muse as a burning charcoal, an incessant craving spirit, the hearth of his heart?


We move now to the second half of the XIX century and the beginning of our XX century. We agree only partly with the bitter formula of Alexander Blok:

The cruel iron,
The nineteenth century!
You hurled into a starless night,
The carefree man.

and then

The twentieth century ... Even more homeless,
More frightening the shadows of life.

We can not mention in this essay many of his other marvelous elegiac poems, celebrated by two remarkable late Soviet composers: Vladimir Scherbachev and Yuri Shaporin. I see the romance "A fall day is rising slowly ..." as the pinnacle of Shaporin's cycle "Faraway youth". It is boundlessly enlightened, you may die now without fear - the soul has been purified. Scherbachev's romance "Mary's braids are loosened" is also surrounded by the halo of self-abnegation.


Let us recall the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi:

I always loved this solitary hill,
This hedge as well, which takes so large a share
Of the far-flung horizon from my view ...

We present just one example of the colossal treasury of Vyacheslav Ivanov's poetry from the second volume of "Cor Ardens"

Autumn at a feast! Petals of roses fall into cups.
Souls in red boats drown in you, Dionis!

Seven compositions of this wondrous cycle were beautifully and extraordinarily realized in the music of Mikhail Gnesin ("Rosarium").


Let us recall the excellent "Tristia" by Osip Mandelshtam and bow to him and his tragic death!


Nikolai Zabolotsky said:

Yesterday, thinking of death,
My soul hardened suddenly.
A mournful day! The ancient nature
Gazed at me from darkness of the forest.

Unbearable grief of separation
Shot through my heart, and at this moment
All, all I heard - the song of evening grass,
The talk of water, and stone's deadly cry.


And Pushkin's voice was heard over the leaves,
And Khlebnikov birds sang near water.
And I met a stone. The stone was still,
And Skovoroda's face appeared ...


Our dearest Anna Akhmatova, who has left the earthly world recently, our own sufferer, said not long before her death:

Gold gets rusty, steel decays,
Marble crumbles. Everything is ready for death.
The firmest on the Earth is sorrow,
And most durable is regal word.


The last elegy in the music of the XIX and early XX centuries is the grandiose, monumental, philosophical, lyrical, still unsurpassed, burning and heartfelt "Das Lied von der Erde" by Gustav Mahler.

We repeat with Zdenek Nejedly: "We lost one whom we should have never lost - a great artist and man."

But we have not lost him. He is forever with us. And, now, in the sixties of the XX century, here in Russia, we experience a real Mahler Renaissance.

In the poetry of the early XX century we have, read, decipher, attempt to translate into Russian and break our head over "Duino Elegies", an unusual cycle by Rainer Maria Rilke. They are difficult for understanding and translation. Pasternak has not translated the Elegies, he created two "Requiems" by Rilke, and some (numerous) other of his poems. Unfortunately I can not say anything about the translations by the late Usov. Konstantin Bogatyrev works hard and successfully over Rilke's poetry now. The recently published small Rilke collection in Silman's translation fails to convey adequately this marvelous poetry.

I myself, not being a poet, am guilty of daring to translate the VIIIth elegy of this cycle.

I read it once to the Tomashevskys, Irina Nikolayevna and the late Boris Victorovich, whose mysterious, fantastic death in the sea is an elegy in itself, a legend, a poem ... They approved me ...

We return momentarily to Rilke (we can not encompass the world of his elegies now!). Just three lines, or rather two and one from the VIIth "Duino Elegy":

... We construct it. It falls apart.
We reconstruct it and fall apart ourselves.

And the end:

We spend our lives saying goodbye.
[translated by Robert Harper.]

Having passed through numerous spiritual worlds of various epochs, that do not exhaust our theme of "Elegy" to any discernible degree, we turn to the immediate description of the six Brahms intermezzi that are offered to the listener. We do not have an opportunity to present in these liner notes a similar extended analysis of the genres of idyll and hymn that are not as central to Brahms intermezzi.

Before we turn to the six Brahms intermezzi presented on this record, we refer to the words of Arnold Schering (1877-1941), a remarkable music historian and thinker.

Schering mostly defines Brahms' style as "Modern baroque" (modern for the time of Brahms, the second half of the XIX century); he mentions also that even Brahms' rivals acknowledged him as "a genius of form".

"The issues of expression occupied him at least as much as issues of form"; after all, they are the same; "what" to say, and "how" to say.

And so we note the presence in Brahms' intermezzi of perfectly measured, proportional, concentrated, indisputable, faultlessly built images of songs, elegies, sonnets, hymns, idylls, where the stress of heart or observation of mind are as inseparable from the intonational and rhythmical structure as the radiance of light is inseparable from a star, or fragrance from a flower.

I. Intermezzo Op. 116, No. 2 (1880), a-moll.

We see a Serbian song, sorrowful, resigned and submissive, one of uncountable "Songs of a girl", abandoned, cheated or married to an unloved one. This is the so-called "three-part form". However, we have here an intermezzo in an intermezzo: in the central part the rhythmic field contracts, 3/8 appear instead of 3/4, and in the inconsolable swirl of the sixteenths, in the turns and breaks of highly placed intonations, similar to the begging arms of a hurt girl or a pearl necklace of tears, that contract our heart to the point of breathlessness, we hear "Why, why, why?!" The cries of incomprehensible and undeserved fate; then nine measures of illusory consolation in A-dur, fathom of hope; it is not to be, a six measure chord of heart-aching chromatism - and the original inconsolable fate returns.

The composition is rounded, returns to the unhealable injury, and the second part of "Faustus" was not written for this poor Gretchen either in her life, or by Brahms.

This is one of the most excellent Brahms miniatures in its transparent style and form.

II. Intermezzo, Op. 117, No. 1, Es-dur (1892).

From "Stimmen der Voelker in Liedern" (1807) by Herder (the Scottish):

Sleep peacefully and unperturbed, my child,
Your cry saddens me.

We are striken by the closed circle, symbol of equilibrium, calm and silence in the construction of the intonation of the beginning and the ending of this intermezzo. We repeat Lermontov's

On the wastes of airy ocean
Rudderless and stripped of sail
Through the mists in listless motion
Stars in courses never fail;
("The Demon")
[Translated by Friends-partners]

The melody flows in the harmony of being, in various voices, imitations, transparent chords, lulled by the six eighth lullaby. We inevitably recall the "music of spheres" that we have often encountered in Mozart. We may also recall in this intermezzo in the middle es-moll part of its three-part form, the words that Mozart says in Pushkin's "Mozart and Salieri":

... All at once: a ghostly vision,
A sudden gloom or something of the sort.
[Translated by V. Nabokov]

However, fortunately, this darkness is completely eliminated by the ending in the same Es-dur. The music rises into the highs of the keyboard, flies in the highest registers, is embellished by an ornament in the sixteenths, as a celebration of singing birds, the chords ring festively, everything is transformed and tranquil. We hear an idyll, hymn and glorification.


III. The Intermezzo Op. 118 No.2, A-dur (1892) sounds as an even greater degree of balance and happiness that have already turned into bliss. We are no longer on the way to, not at the doorstep of "world harmony", but inside it. We recall our wonderful lyric poet Fet:

And the entire abyss of ether is so close,
That I gaze direct from time into eternity
And recognize your flame, universal sun.
("By life tormented, and by cunning hope...")
[Translated by Poetpage]

However, here we also have a "synthesis", and a "three-part form", and an "intermezzo in intermezzo" - an episode in fis-moll. We encounter there the idea of Remembrance, Eternal remembrance. Recall Byron's poem

They say that Hope is happiness;
But genuine Love must prize the past,
And Memory wakes the thoughts that bless;
They rose the first--they set the last.

And all that Memory loves the most
Was once our only Hope to be,
And all that Hope adored and lost
Hath melted into Memory.

Alas! it is delusion all;
The future cheats us from afar,
Nor can we be what we recall,
Nor dare we think on what we are.
("Stanzas for Music")

We will recall now, listening to the intermezzo, this episode in fis-moll, the Enlightened Past. Once again Brahms' astonishing mastery of form helps us to comprehend the deepest chambers of unity of heart and mind.

However, we should mention a romance "Feldeinsamkeit", again by Brahms, As-dur, to Rellstab's text [shouldn't it be by Allmers?]. The text is risen to the transparently serene spheres, close to the Adagio of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

As far as the "intermezzo in intermezzo" is concerned we have an amazing example of this technique in Russian elegiac literature, namely, in Balakirev's ingenious composition to the text of Lermontov's "Dream". It is hard to say whether music or word is more beautiful: "a dream in a dream" is also present there.


However, both in the Intermezzo Op. 116 ("The Serbian song") and to a smaller degree in the Intermezzo Op. 117 No. 1 (with the epigraph from the Scottish song from Herder's collection) we sail to the other shore of Brahms' art, the folk song.

This world is no less essential than the astonishingly detailed art of his form, or the mighty lines of the historical origins of his music, the high intelligence and moral purity that are even more surprising given the hardship of his childhood. (As is well known, Brahms had to earn his bread since early years accompanying whoever was willing at seaside taverns and hangouts in Hamburg with most of the entertainment being hardly suitable for a child's eye and ear.)

Brahms and folk song are inseparable, even "united". It flourished around him in impetuous wholesomeness, while he absorbed it and cherished.

In Vienna, this brilliant, noisy, diverse city, everywhere - in suburbs, villages, villas, huts, cottages, estates, in fields, farms, stables, smithies, at wild parties, weddings and celebrations, in countless stores, workshops: sewing, tailor, watchmakers, shoemakers, plumbers, joiners, at factories, huge and small - everything sang: differently or monotonously, danced, when the time came to recall good old times, in taverns, pubs, or just "in the meadows"; but enlightenedly and strictly, with the whole congregation, in a church. Military brass bands roared in parks and gardens, all sorts of dances, potpourri and variations were played, for all tastes and needs.

What a mix of clothes and faces,
Of tribes, tongues and fortunes.
(Pushkin, "The Robber Brothers")

And songs were sung: long and drawn-out, plaintive, chivalrous, historical, revolutionary, battlefield, hunters, playful, dance-like, satirical, love, fantastic, comic, ballads, riddles and exorcisms.

Songs Czech, Romanian, Serbian, Croatian, Moravian, Slovenian, Gypsy, German, Austrian, Jewish and Italian, different from each other and close ones, rare and popular. The material was endless. And - Brahms liked to travel!

This astonishing man was saturated with life in all of its various aspects.


IV. Intermezzo Op. 118, No. 6, es-moll (1892-1893).

Its theme is a passage from the medieval "Dies irae" ("Day of wrath").

We hear the despair of soul and human fate about the destiny of the passing life in the variety of rhythmic shifts, in movements of the center of gravity, in the pile-up of foreign harmonies. The wrongs of the sinful past tear the soul and heart apart. However, the torn soul, its broken pieces, or rather its sawdust, is picked up by the calming gigantic wings of archangels in the enormous arches of chords through the whole keyboard, in the unthinkable range of swift modulations. The fragments of nearly late repentance are collected in the treasury of Forgiveness in the minor, in the depression of the minor, in the pianissimo at the very end of the "Universal Drama.


V. Returning to the second b-moll Intermezzo Op. 117 b-moll we relate it in our understanding to the e-moll Intermezzo Op. 119, No. 2.

Earth's gravity disappears in both intermezzi. The B-moll Intermezzo discovers its key only in the penultimate measure of the composition, measure 84, finding its way through mysteriously dark, bitter and grievous, surprisingly sudden and ghostly light tones. Anxiety and fear sound throughout the whole composition.

We have many remarkable examples of anxiety in poetry, of course, recall Pushkin's "The Bronze Horseman"

For he had lost the skill of picking
His footsteps, - deafened, it may be,
By fears that clamored inwardly.
[Translated by Oliver Elton.]

And Lenau, Blok and Pasternak, "the Wind' - a small Pasternak cycle about Blok, and especially its ending:

Blok waited for this storm and a shaking.
Its fire-strokes
Lied in his life and poems
In fear and strife for conclusion.

However, fear and anxiety reveal their source: the quest for truth as a whole, wonder, questioning, the search for one's destiny and a clue for the reason for the world's grief ("Causa mali") and the incomprehensible mysteries of the universe in general.

We relate the two intermezzi in these lyrical and philosophical aspects. They have differences: Intermezzo Op. 117, No. 2, unable to find its key till the end, receives a ghost of consolation in the middle measures [22-38] in Des-dur, and we may recall

Ophelia was dying and singing,
And singing, and twining a wreath,
With flowers, wreaths and songs,
She went down to the bottom of the river.
(A. Fet "Ophelia was dying ...")

Ophelia finds consolation of the Other Reality in the illusory irreality of her death song.

And we are at a short stopover presented to us by Brahms - a hint of peace - amidst the flow of being that Anna Akhmatova called "The Race of Time".


VI. Meanwhile, in the e-moll Intermezzo Op. 119, No. 2, anxiety turns into trembling in the scheme and construction of the repeated fragile chords of the sixteenths. However, we hear a glimpse of hope also in this intermezzo in measures [36-71] in the E-dur episode. It sounds to us as an echo of German romantic music, its light yearning to the infinite. Inevitably we have to recall also Pushkin's

It's time, my friend, it's time! The peace is craved by hearts...
Days flow after days -- each hour departs
A bit of life ...
("It's time, my friend, ...", 1834).
[Translated by Ye. Bonver]

Nevertheless the E-dur fragment is relatively less significant, the music mostly glides, struggles, trembles in whisper, night's rustle, in darkness and unknown - we come to the theme of Tyutchev's "Day and Night" and "Twilight"

The hour of inexpressible yearning!
Everything is in me, and I am in everything!...

and to "Hymns to the Night" by Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg, an ingenious young man, who had a tremendous influence on the later romantic poetry and music as well), and we recall also Vyacheslav Ivanov, his marvelous poetic thoughts about the "eternal rotation", as in the fragments of his "Daybreak"

The sound of steps is majestic,!
And clatter of hooves in the darkness of night!!
And how hostile is the stare!
Of blind pre-morning rays!!

Everything, shaking, is suddenly heavy,!
Hurrying to burden and yoke,!
The free night soul!
Enters its daylight body!!
("Cor Ardens", I)!

However, he himself celebrated the Sun and Sun-Heart:

Oh, the Sun, guide, Angel of God!!
("Cor Ardens", I)!

Let us recall the liturgical text, at the end of the Vespers service:

Glory to you, who has shown us Light!

If both of these intermezzi have not found Light and have not resurrected with Him, then we, my reader and listener, as well are confounded and lost; night, fear, mystery, incomprehensible, shimmer of hope, and its crash.
-Where are we? Whom are we with?
We arrived with Brahms in both of these intermezzi to the bottom of one of the greatest Works of Art, "the tragedy of tragedies", to Shakespeare, to "Hamlet".


It could very well be that Brahms had never thought of such a commentary; this is irrelevant. These worlds are related and close. Great Art is Eternal; invariably and inevitably it gives a projection into the Future.

April 1969

[Tranlator's note: Simon Roberts' help in de-Russifying this translation was invaluable. All remaining gaffes are solely mine. I was unable to find translations for much of the poetry above and translated these poems verbatim. I would be most grateful if a kind soul sends me better translations.]