Johannes Brahms

Songs (5) for voice & piano, Op. 49

    Description by Steven Coburn

    This is a parallel set to Opus 48. Again, as there, the final song is a longer and more complex commentary on the preceding songs. In this case, the subject is more general, commenting on the pain of desire, the loss of innocence and the ever present promise of death. Also, the effect here is more cumulative and overwhelming primarily because of the great length and power of the final song.

    1. Am Sonntag Morgen (On Sunday Morning) These first two songs are paired in the way Numbers 2 and 3 were in Opus 48, representing respectively the female and male perspectives of infidelity. Here, in this through-composed setting, a woman attempts to deal with her lover's infidelity.

    2. An ein Veilchen (To a Violet). Also through-composed, this longer and more varied setting depicts a man's wish that his unfaithful lover see his tears. The change in texture as the man gives his message of grief to the violet is especially effective.

    3. Sehnsucht (Longing). A young man longs for his lover, who tarries far away. Brahms begins the song slowly and expressively as the protagonist expresses his longing, then moves into a fast and headlong dash to the end as he imagines he can see his sweetheart far away.

    4. Wiegenlied (Cradle Song). This is beyond a doubt Brahms' most famous piece. It is written in his simplest folk idiom, charming and perfect in its small dimensions. The deep irony of the song is lost when taken out of the context of this set, as its true message speaks of an innocence that can never be regained.

    5. Abenddämmerung (Evening Twilight). This long and moving song summarizes and intensifies the themes already presented in the four preceding songs. The subtlety and complexity of the accompaniment help to create the deep melancholy and almost mystical atmosphere. It is in an unusual rondo-like form, with the opening stanza returning twice.


    1. Am Sonntag Morgen zierlich angethan
    2. An ein Veilchen
    3. Sehnsucht
    4. Wiegenlied
    5. Abenddämmerung

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2011 Hyperion CDJ 33123
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 477 818-3
    2006 Brilliant 92891
    2006 St Clair / St. Clair 3468
    2005 Athene 23202
    2001 CPO 999444
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 449 633-2GJB7
    Brilliant 92891/2