Wiegenlied (Brahms)

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Johannes Brahms, Wiegenlied

Johannes Brahms's "Wiegenlied" ("Lullaby"; "Cradle Song"), Op. 49, No. 4, is a lied for voice and piano which was first published in 1868. It is one of the composer's most popular pieces.


Brahms based the music of his "Wiegenlied" partially on "S'Is Anderscht", a duet by Alexander Baumann [de] published in the 1840s.[2][3][4] The cradle song was dedicated to Brahms's friend, Bertha Faber, on the occasion of the birth of her second son.[5][6] Brahms had been in love with her in her youth and constructed the melody of the "Wiegenlied" to suggest, as a hidden counter-melody, a song she used to sing to him.[7] Simrock published Brahms's Op. 49 in November 1868.[6] The lullaby was first performed in public on 22 December 1869 in Vienna by Luise Dustmann (singer) and Clara Schumann (piano).[6][8]


The song has been described as deceptively simple.[3] In its original publication it only had a single verse.[6]


The lyrics are from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a collection of German folk poems:[7][9]

Guten Abend, gut' Nacht,
mit Rosen bedacht,
mit Näglein besteckt,
schlupf' unter die Deck':
Morgen früh, wenn Gott will,
wirst du wieder geweckt.

Good evening, good night,
With roses covered,
With cloves adorned,
Slip under the covers.
Tomorrow morning, if God wills,
you will wake once again.

First edition (1868) —Translation

Later,[when?] Brahms adapted a second verse from an 1849 poem by Georg Scherer [de]:[5][6][3]

Guten Abend, gut' Nacht,
von Englein bewacht,
die zeigen im Traum
dir Christkindleins Baum:
schlaf nun selig und süß,
schau im Traum 's Paradies.

Good evening, good night.
By angels watched,
Who show you in your dream
the Christ-child's tree.
Sleep now blissfully and sweetly,
see paradise in your dreams.

—Georg Scherer (1849) —Translation


\relative g'
{\set Staff.midiInstrument = #"flute" \key es \major \time 3/4 \autoBeamOff
    \partial 4 g8 g | bes4. g8 g4 | bes r g8[_( bes)] | es4 d4. c8 | c4( bes) f8[_( g)] |aes4 f f8[_( g)] | aes4 r f8[_( aes)] | d[_( c)] bes4 d | es r es,8 es | es'2 c8 aes | bes2 g8 es | aes4 bes c | \appoggiatura g8 bes2 es,8 es | es'2 c8 aes | bes2 g8 es | \afterGrace aes4( { bes16[ aes]) } g4 f | es2 \bar "|."
\addlyrics {
Gu -- ten A -- bend, gut' Nacht,
mit Ro -- sen be -- dacht,
mit Näg -- lein be -- steckt,
schlupf un -- ter die Deck':
Mor -- gen früh, wenn Gott will,
wirst du wie -- der ge -- weckt,
mor -- gen früh, wenn Gott will,
wirst du wie -- der ge -- weckt.

In 1877, Brahms based the second theme of the first movement of his Second Symphony on the lullaby's tune.[10] The melody is first introduced in bar 82 and continues to develop throughout the movement.[citation needed]


The "Wiegenlied" is one of Brahms's most popular songs.[5]


In 1922, Australian pianist and composer Percy Grainger arranged the "Wiegenlied" as one of his "Free Settings of Favorite Melodies" for solo piano. This study was characterized by much use of suspensions and arpeggiation, with the first statement of the melody placed in the tenor range of the keyboard. This last practice was a favorite one of Grainger.[11]

Cultural references[edit]

A 1936 biographical film of Brahms with Albert Florath as the composer, took its title from the opening lines of this song, Guten Abend, gute Nacht.[12]

Wendy Cope's poem "Brahms Cradle Song" refers to this song.[13]

Cultural interpretations[edit]

In an article published in 2005, Karen Bottge analysed Brahms's "Wiegenlied" as an expression of the maternal voice, basing her reflections on writings by theorists such as Friedrich Kittler, Michel Chion, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Theodor W. Adorno.[3]


Recordings include:

Recordings of Brahms's "Wiegenlied"
Rec. Singer V. type Instr. I. type Cond. (arr.) Time Issuer Released
1915 Schumann-Heink, Ernestine contralto N.N. orchestra N.N. 2:06 Nimbus 1990-07[1]
1935-02-26 Schumann, Elisabeth soprano Reeves, George piano 1:35 Naxos 2006-05[19][20]
1937-03-11 N.N. orchestra Goehr, Walter 1:59
1941-05-23 Crosby, Bing vocals[a] Trotter orchestra orchestra Trotter, John Scott 2:46 MCA 1993[21]
1954-06-16 Cole Trio jazz trio Cole, Buddy 1:27
1941-11-12 Lehmann, Lotte soprano Ulanowsky, Paul piano 2:17 Eklipse 1993-07[22]
1943-12-12 SFS orchestra Monteux, Pierre 2:07 Eklipse 1993-07[23]
1947-12-22 N.N. orchestra Armbruster, Robert 2:43 Naxos 2007-11[24][25]
1948-08-05 N.N. orchestra Ormandy, Eugene 3:12 Eklipse 1993-07[23]
1950-02-12 Walter, Bruno piano 1:47 Eklipse 1995-09[26]
1944-12-03 Sinatra, Frank[b] vocals 35 instrumentalists orchestra Stordahl, Axel 3:06 Columbia 1993-10-05[27]
1953-02-03 Clooney, Rosemary vocals[c] Faith orchestra orchestra Faith, Percy 2:43 Columbia 1953-02[28][29]
1979-11 Fischer-Dieskau, Dietrich baritone Barenboim, Daniel piano 1:24 DG 1983[30]
2001-04 Lane, Piers piano (Grainger, Percy) 3:41 Hyperion 2002-06[31]


  1. ^ English version: "Brahms's Lullaby" (translated by Natalia Macfarren).[21]
  2. ^ Sinatra also sang Brahms's "Cradle Song" on V-Discs: recorded 8 July 1944 (two takes of Axel Stordahl's arrangement, released on The Columbia Years 1943–1952: The V-Discs and The Real Complete Columbia Years V-Discs) and 23 October 1944 (Raymond Paige's arrangement).[27]
  3. ^ English lyrics, "Close Your Eyes", by William Engvick.[28]


  1. ^ a b Schumann-Heink: Prima voce at www.muziekweb.nl
  2. ^ Schmidt 1844.
  3. ^ a b c d Bottge 2005.
  4. ^ Berry 2014, pp. 63ff.
  5. ^ a b c Liebergen 2005.
  6. ^ a b c d e Opus 49, Fünf Lieder für eine Singstimme und Klavier at Brahms-Institut (Lübeck) website.
  7. ^ a b Swafford 1999, p. 338.
  8. ^ McCorkle, Margit L. (1984). Johannes Brahms. Thematisch-bibliographisches Werkverzeichnis. Munich: Henle. p. 197. ISBN 3-87328-041-8.
  9. ^ Arnim 1808, p. 68.
  10. ^ Taller 2017.
  11. ^ Ould 2002, p. 5.
  12. ^ Guten Abend, gute Nacht at IMDb
  13. ^ Family Values by Wendy Cope – review, The Guardian, 23 April 2011, accessed 3 November 2018.
  14. ^ "Discogs.com". Discogs.com. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Elisabeth Schwarzkopf – Lieder & Songs 1955-1964". ArkivMusic. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  16. ^ "All Music Guide to Classical Music: The Definitive Guide to Classical Music"
  17. ^ "Discogs.com". Discogs.com. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  18. ^ Brahms Lieder, review by Richard Wigmore, Gramophone
  19. ^ Forsling 2007.
  20. ^ Elisabeth Schumann: Lieder recordings (1930-1938) at www.muziekweb.nl.
  21. ^ a b Macfarlane 2020.
  22. ^ Lotte Lehmann: The Complete 1941 Radio Recital Cycle at www.muziekweb.nl.
  23. ^ a b Lotte Lehmann in Concert: 1943-1950 at www.muziekweb.nl.
  24. ^ Forsling 2008.
  25. ^ Lotte Lehmann: Lieder Recordings, Vol. 6 – 1947 & 1949 at www.muziekweb.nl.
  26. ^ Lotte Lehmann: The Town Hall Recitals at www.muziekweb.nl.
  27. ^ a b Albin 2018.
  28. ^ a b Brahms' Lullaby (Close Your Eyes) by Rosemary Clooney; Percy Faith and his Orchestra; William Engvick; Brahms – Columbia at Internet Archive website.
  29. ^ Crossland & Macfarlane 2013, p. 192.
  30. ^ Track-Informationen BRAHMS EDITION V Lieder Download 449 6332: Details zu Künstler und Repertoire at Deutsche Grammophon website.
  31. ^ Ould 2002.


External links[edit]