Regenlied (“Rain Song”) is the third of Brahms’ 8 Lieder, Op. 59, published in 1873. The text by Klaus Groth is a wistful remembrance of the dreams and sense of awe experienced in childhood. The fourth song in the set, Nachklang (“Lingering Sound”) returns to the same thematic material. In this text, raindrops are equated with tears. In both songs, the piano evokes the patter of gently falling rain. Notice the way the three-note dotted rhythm motive which opens the song is echoed, ominously in the piano.
Here is a live recording by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau:
Now, let’s listen to the the way Regenlied forms the seeds for the final movement of Brahms’ First Violin Sonata, completed in 1879. We get a sense of the same underlying anxiety and melancholy that was present in the song, yet the coda offers a new quiet transcendence and release. The Sonata’s first movement opens with the same three-note dotted rhythm. In the middle of the final movement, there is a brief return of the expansive second movement.
Consider what Brahms’ contradictory tempo markings tell us about the way this music should be played: Vivace ma non troppo (“Lively, but not too much”) for the first movement and Allegro molto moderato for this final movement.
Here is violinist Stefan Jackiw’s 2010 recording:
In Abendregen (“Evening Rain”), from Brahms’ Op. 70 Lieder, the wanderer finds ultimate and lasting peace in the triumph of a rainbow: