Born in Hamburg, Brahms began his early musical training on the piano, and as a young composer received particular praise from Robert Schumann and Joseph Joachim. Having been appointed director of the Vienna Singakademie in 1863, he remained in the city for the rest of his life. These later years became a particularly fruitful period, yielding virtually all of his orchestral works and Ein deutsches Requiem, as well as a plethora of chamber music.
Sapphische Ode is the fourth of Brahms’ Funf Lieder, Op. 94, first published in 1884. Set to a strictly Sapphic text by the German poet Hans Schmidt, it describes a night-time walk through a rose garden, where the narrator recalls a lost love’s kiss bringing tears to his eyes. It thus marries two of Brahms’ most enduring themes: nature and love.
Nature again features in Wie Melodien zieht es mir, the first song in a set of Funf Lieder, Op. 105, composed in 1886 and published two years later. The text, taken from the poetry of the writer Klaus Groth, has a rather elusive meaning: it tells of the beauty of words – in somewhat self-reflexive fashion – and Brahms’ word-painting portrays this exquisitely, the melody blooming like flowers, and words fading like mist over arpeggiated figures.