This opus number, united by its tonalities for low voice, and with texts that can, and should, be sung by one singer, is one of the composer’s published groupings that repays performance as a whole, or even as a kind of mini-cycle. Brahms’s friend, the surgeon Billroth, clearly perceived it is a kind of equivalent to Schubert’s Winterreise
, although he saw the songs as being equally linked with autumn. Certainly, in the first song, the imagery of taking up the wanderer’s walking staff with renewed energy as the narrator makes his way to his final destination, is strongly reminiscent of the closing sentiments of Das Wirtshaus
from Schubert’s great cycle.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2012