Not all Brahms’s works were published in his lifetime. Since his death, a modest amount of material that had been lost while he was still living or which he had not bothered to publish has come to light; the process still goes on. Several of these works are choral, ranging from tiny canons to the unfinished but substantial Mass from the late 1850s, the so-called Missa canonica
(recorded on Hyperion CDA67559
), which was not published until 1984. Midway in importance between these extremes is Dem dunkeln Schoss der heil’gen Erde
, a partsong for mixed voices on words from Schiller’s Das Lied von der Glocke
. This was first printed in 1927 as part of the Complete Edition of Brahms’s works brought out in Vienna under the editorship of Hans Gál and Eusebius Mandyczewski. Writing in February 1880 to his friend J W von Wasielewski, who had requested music for the unveiling of the Schumann Monument in Bonn, Brahms mentioned that this chorus existed, only to dismiss it as unfit for the occasion. 1880 is only a terminus ante quem, however—the piece probably dates from a good deal earlier, from the late 1860s or early 1870s. The verses are funereal, apt for a burial service, and Brahms’s treatment is appropriately austere, but we do not know whether the piece was occasioned by the death of any particular friend. Its chorale-like main tune and smooth, imitative polyphony lend it the character of a brief motet, rather than a Chorlied.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2009