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Triumphlied

Johannes Brahms
(1833-97)



"Triumphlied" (Song of Triumph") was written by Brahms in commemoration of the victories of German arms and the reestablishment of the empire, and is dedicated to "the German Emperor, Wilhelm I." It was first performed at the Fifty-First Festival of the Lower Rhine at Cologne in 1873. The text is a paraphrase of certain verses in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation.

The scriptural selections are divided into three movements, written for double chorus (with the exception of two short baritone solos), orchestra, and organ, and are introduced by a brief instrumental prelude of a solemn but animated and exultant character, in the closing measures of which both choirs unit in jubilant shouts of ("Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! "). The theme of the movement is the German national hymn ("Heil dir im Siegerkranz"), which is worked up with consummate skill. The first part closes with a climax of power and contrapuntal effect hardly to be found elsewhere outside the choruses of Handel.





The second movement ("Glory be to God!") is of the same general character as the first. After the opening ascription, a short fugue intervenes, leading to a fresh melody alternately sung by both choruses.

The third movement, after a very brief but spirited orchestral flourish, opens with an exultant baritone solo ("And behold then the Heavens opened wide"). The choruses respond with animation ("And yonder a snow-white Horse"). Again the baritone intervenes ("And lo! a great Name hath He written"), and then the choruses take up the majestic theme ("King of Kings and Lord of Lords"), each answering the other with triumphant shouts that gather force and fire as they proceed, and closing with a mighty "Hallelujah" in which voices, orchestra, and organ join with fullest power. The work is one of extreme difficulty, as the two choirs are treated independently, and their harmonies are complicated, though blended in general effect.





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