Everyone knows the melody of Brahms' Lullaby. Even if you've never sung it, or had it sung to you, you recognize it as the quintessential going-to-sleep tune. It's everywhere, including Tom and Jerry, a TV commercial for Tiny Tears doll and Despicable Me. Even Céline Dion sings it.
The melody comes from Brahms' "Wiegenlied: Guten Abend, gute Nacht," the fourth of five Lieder published as Op. 49. And while there's no question it's a beautiful lullaby, it turns out there's also a heartbreaking love story behind the song that adds a new layer of meaning.
When we want to probe into the story behind a piece of classical music, we often turn to Tom Allen, host of Shift on CBC Radio 2. In the video below, he reveals the secret behind Brahms' Lullaby with help from some musical friends, including the Gryphon Trio, bassist Jim Creeggan and soprano Patricia O'Callaghan. You'll never hear the song the same way again.