Cradle Song is the common name for a number of children's lullabies with similar lyrics, the original of which was Johannes Brahms' "Wiegenlied: Guten Abend, gute Nacht" ("Lullaby: Good evening, good night"), Op. 49, No. 4, published in 1868 and widely known as Brahms' Lullaby. The lyrics of the first verse are from a collection of German folk poems called Des Knaben Wunderhorn and the second stanza was written by Georg Scherer (de) (1824–1909) in 1849. The lullaby's melody is one of the most famous and recognizable in the world, used by countless parents to sing their babies to sleep. The Lullaby was dedicated to Brahms' friend, Bertha Faber, on the occasion of the birth of her second son. 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. The lullaby was first performed in public on 22 December 1869 in Vienna by Louise Dustmann (singer) and Clara Schumann (piano).
Arrangements and other uses
Brahms himself used variations on the melody for much of the first movement of his Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73. 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.
Brahms' Lullaby is also commonly sung to the Hebrew words of Jacob's blessing to his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe, in Genesis 48:16. This blessing is incorporated into the "Bedtime Shema" and has thus become a popular Jewish Lullaby (Hamalach hagoel oti...).
The 1936 biographical film with Albert Florath as Johannes Brahms took its title from the opening lines of this song, Guten Abend, gute Nacht.
Wendy Cope's poem "Brahms Cradle Song" refers to this song.
|Original German||Literal English translation||Traditional English version|
Guten Abend, gute Nacht,
Good evening, good night,
Lullaby and goodnight,
"Näglein": archaic/poetic for "Nelklein" = cloves