Brahms’ Schicksalslied is a gorgeous piece that allows many opportunities to show off different colors of the voice. Using what I know about Brahms and about this time period and style, I have been encouraging my students to sing with their full voice, as Brahms as composed such lush accompaniments and a full dynamic range. Brahms’ music requires the singer to be able to project their whole voice over a thick accompaniment! Any judge should be able to clearly tell the difference between the lighter classical style in Misericordias and Brahms’ Romantic, rich and powerful Schicksalslied.
Don’t forget to sing legato!
Think legato…even on the fast sections! The tendency for all students, especially on the quicker sections, is to disconnect the notes, come off the voice, and over-articulate. It is easy to be influenced by the fast staccato eighth notes, in particular, but try your best to ignore them and stay connected vowel to vowel. You will find that when you approach your part in a more legato fashion it will be easier to sing those higher notes. To accomplish more of a connected sound, it is best to take a step back and chant legato with the track, emphasizing long vowels. If your consonants are getting in the way, make them lighter, later, and quicker.
Articulations and Dynamics
My personal preference on the staccato section (mm. 145-152 and mm. 305-312) is to not clip each note like a true staccato, but have a cycle or two of vibrato or spin. Either is fine, but in my opinion, this way you can show off more of your beautiful tone. Most importantly: stay consistent with whatever articulation you choose to do.
Brahms indicates most of the slower sections with softer dynamics and faster sections with louder dynamics. Be careful not to sing too soft when marked piano/mezzo piano and to always crescendo fully when marked to show off your dynamic range.
On the faster sections, since all the dynamics we have to work with is mostly forte and mezzo forte, assign a softer dynamic next to a couple of phrases when it is not marked with a dynamic. On these places you add in a softer dynamic also crescendo and decrescendo each phrase you choose to sing softer.
Common Language Pitfalls
In our teaching we have come across several spots that most all of our students struggle with. Remember to write in the vowels/consonants you need to pay close attention and practice speaking/chanting in those same areas! If you need in-depth language help, use our Pronunciation resource.
- Stäte/Glänzende- the ä is an ‘eh’ vowel or ɛ, it is commonly mispronounced as an ‘ah.’
- Blindlings/ins- the ‘i’ in this case is an ‘ih’ vowel, commonly mispronounced as an ‘ee.’
- Klippe/geworfen- All final E’s are pronounced “uh” or schwa (ə), commonly mispronounced as ‘eh’ or ‘ih’. By singing a big, bright vowel on a final, unstressed syllable, it almost throws off the word stress and the natural lilt of the language. This is a VERY common mistake, so mark all of them with the correct sound in your music.