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Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (arr. J. Nick Smith)

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Subtitle: Song of Lamentation

This work bears the designation Opus 82.

General Info

Year: 1881 / 2020
Duration: c. 12:50
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Choir and Orchestra
Publisher: Murphy Music Press
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $150.00   |   Score Only (print) - $25.00


Full Score
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
Horn in F I-II
String Bass
Harp (or Synthesizer)

Chamber Choir
Strings (optional)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Nänie (the German form of Latin naenia, meaning "a funeral song" named after the Roman goddess Nenia) is a composition for SATB chorus and orchestra, Op. 82 by Johannes Brahms, which sets to music the poem Nänie by Friedrich Schiller.

Brahms composed the piece in 1881, in memory of his deceased friend Anselm Feuerbach. Nänie is a lamentation on the inevitability of death; the first sentence, "Auch das Schöne muß sterben", translates to "Even the beautiful must die".

- Program Note from Wikipedia

The 1880s proved to be significant to Brahms' compositional output. Not only did he release his forty-five minute second Piano Concerto in B flat Major, Op. 93, and his Third and Fourth Symphonies, but he also composed several works for voice(s) including Nänie, Op. 82. Written in August of 1881,this shorter work for choir uses text by German poet Friedrich Schiller and is accompanied by an orchestra of two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets (in A), two horns (in D), three trombones, timpani, harp and strings. It is approximately thirteen minutes in length. Schiller's poem (also title Nänie – meaning "funeral song" or "lamentation") is a lament for the death of "beauty" as an idea; it is not necessarily lamenting the death of a beautiful person.

Nänie, Friedrich Schiller
[Original German omitted]

Even the beautiful must perish! That which overcomes gods and men
Moves not the armored heart of the Stygian Zeus.
Only once did love come to soften the Lord of the Shadows
And just at the threshold he sternly took back his gift.
Neither can Aphrodite heal the wounds of the beautiful youth
That the boar had savagely torn in his delicate body.

Nor can the deathless mother rescue the divine hero
When at the Scaen gate now falling, he fulfills his fate.
But she ascends from the sea with all the daughters of Nereus.
And she raises a plaint here for her glorious son.
Behold! The gods weep, all the goddesses weep,
That the beautiful perishes, that the most perfect passes away.
But a lament on the lips of loved ones is glorious,

For the ignoble goes down to Orcus in silence.

Schiller's poem makes reference to three specific stories from Greek mythology which offer different perspectives on how beauty reveals itself through individuals that have passed on. The first is the tale of Orpheus rescuing Eurydice from the underworld which reflects the beauty of true love. The second story is that of Aphrodite mourning the loss of her lover Adonis – here Schiller reminds that even the Goddess of Beauty is not exempt from tragedy. The final story refers to Thetis attempting to save her son Achilles from death. In this case, Achilles is brave, cunning, heroic and valiant, and radiates authentic beauty. The connective message that Schiller presents within each story is two-fold: the beautiful (including the lovers, goddesses and heroes) are not exempt from death or tragedy and the memories of those that have passed serve as a tribute when their stories are retold.

- Program Note J. Nick Smith


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) University Wind Ensemble (J. Nick Smith, conductor) - 4 March 2020 *Premiere Performance*

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