The Lullaby - George Goodwin Kilburne
The lullaby - G.G. Kilburne
 
Isabel Villagar is a singing teacher who, some months ago, suggested to collaborate on a miniseries about Liederabend that she would link to her webpage, La brujula del canto. Her readers have a wide range of interests, since on her blog, she talks about many different things related to voice, not necessarily about singing and not about lyrical either. Whereas Liederabend readers, on the contrary, are quite specialized. Considering so, we’ve tried to find subjects that might interest followers on both websites.

We thought of a specific series for "Art Song beginners" but in fact, two hundred posts later, it was difficult to get some new ideas (although, occasionally, there is a post of this type), so we discarded it. We also ruled out other options but, finally, we got it! We thought of coming back to the post It rings a bell!, to those Art Songs so well known by many people who don't even know they are Art Songs. We're planning three posts, one every month (April, May and June); perhaps there will be a fourth one, we'll see...

After this introduction, please let me thank Isabel for her kind invitation and also welcome all readers from La brújula del canto. Come on in, make yourselves comfortable and feel free to ask and suggest... Isabel was right when she told me that I should keep in mind that Art Song is a less-known genre; maybe you would like to read this old post to begin with. Or you might put it off and keep reading about a Lied that I'm quite sure all of you know pretty well. So tell me, who doesn't know this lullaby?
 
 
We’ve heard it in cartoons, music boxes, baby toys or sung by Frank Sinatra; surely the least heard version is the original one, composed by Johannes Brahms in the summer of 1868, as a gift for his friends Arthur and Bertha Faber on occasion of their second son's birth, Hans. I’d like we take our time to listen to it as for the first time. Listening to the voice, of course, in such a well-known melody, and also listening to the piano, because, among other reasons, the accompaniment "hides" another song, let's see.

In the letter together with the score, Brahms explained that while Bertha sang the lullaby to her baby, Arthur would accompany her on the piano singing her also a love song. This song was S'is Anderscht, written by someone named Alexander Baumann; Brahms knew it through Bertha in the summer of 1859, when she sang in the women choir he conducted in Hamburg. Can you believe how much speculation about this story there has been? Did the composer and Bertha have an affair ten years earlier? Including "their song" on his present, it might had been Brahms’ way to let the husband know. Actually, in his letter, Brahms talks about that song very naturally and asks Frau Bertha to send him the score because he hardly remembers it. Who knows. In my opinion, we can't clearly confirm or deny it. Maybe Johannes, at his twenty-six, fell in love with Bertha Porubzky, who was seventeen. Maybe she fell in love too. Maybe Arthur also knew that old story. Or maybe the composer just wanted to treat Bertha and remind that song (don't you have some pieces of music which, for whatever reason, you "share" with another person?). What we know for sure is that Brahms and the Fabers were close friends for many years, before and after this letter, and the composer published his song definitely knowing that many people would ask him why he had mentioned S'is Anderscht (a famous song in that time) in it.

The song was published two years after its composition, the fourth one of a collection of five songs, opus 49, so officially it's called Wiegenlied, op. 49/4. The Lied was very successful and the editor told Brahms many times that it was too short: it originally had only one stanza, with text taken from the traditional poetry compilation Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The editor was so insistent that the composer added a second verse in 1872, musically identical to the first, this time with a text taken from Georg Scherer's compilation Deutsche Volkslieder. And this is the Lied that we nowadays know. Do you know what really puzzles me about this story? If it was a gift for the birth of the Fabers' second child, which was the one for their first child?

It'is time to listen to Wiegenlied; I chose a version that I really like, with Elisabeth Grummer and Gerald Moore, I hope you like it too. If you feel like listening to more lullabies you can listen to other two by Brahms: Geistliches Wiegenlied (also a gift for a baby and with a "hidden" song) and Ruhe, Süßlibchen. In a few weeks, we will have a new post especially thought for friends of La brújula del canto; next week is San Jordi’s week, so for all of you, we'll have a rose.
 
Wiegenlied
 

Guten Abend, gut’ Nacht,
Mit Rosen bedacht,
Mit Näg’lein besteckt
Schlupf’ unter die Deck’;
Morgen früh, wenn Gott will,
Wirst du wieder geweckt.

Guten Abend, gut’ Nacht,
Von Eng’lein bewacht,
Die zeigen um Traum
Dir Christkindleins Baum:
Schlaf’ nun selig und süß,
Schau im Traum ’s Paradies.

 
If you need an English translation please visit this link
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