Four Last Songs and twelve other songs with orchestra
Quatre Dernier Lieder
## 1-9 Radio-Symphonie-Orchester, Berlin - 1966,
## 10-16 London Symphony Orchestra - 1969
исполнение R Fleming 1
исполнение R Fleming 2
исполнение J Norman
============ from the cover ==========
As a boy of six, Richard Strauss composed his first song, a Christmas carol. He learned the piano and composed more songs with piano accompaniment. He married a singer and accompanied her in public song recitals. He became a conductor, and began to score his songs for accompaniment by orchestra, as a then popular alternative to a concerto in a concert - for example the Songs for a Mother included here. He became a composer, as well as an outstanding conductor, of opera, and still continued to write songs - until 1906, the year of Die heiligen drei Konige, when he abandoned song-writing as a result of a dispute with a music-publisher. In 1918 he returned to song-writing, but less profusely than before, not least since his wife had retired from public performance. But he finished his lifework with the Four Last Songs, in which his love for the soprano voice, matched with a large orchestra, finds undimmed expression.
The first volume of Strauss's songs to be published, his opus 10 to poems by Hermann von Gilm, begins with Zueignung, a fervent, strongly projected Victorian ballad of love gratefully requited. Strauss allowed his Munich Opera colleague Robert Heger to orchestrate it, and the song has remained perennially popular. In 1940 the composer made his own idiosyncratic orchestral version, but the orchestral material was not made publicly available until after this recording was made, to the chagrin of the participants. Next in order of composition we find here Ruhe, meine Seele and Morgan, two of the four songs which Strauss composed in 1894 as a wedding present to his bride, the soprano Pauline de Ahna. The second-named song quickly became popular worldwide, and Strauss had orchestrated it by 1897, giving the song's melody to a solo violin (was it defiance on the bridegroom's part, to withold the tune from the voice of his bride, a notorious shrew?). He did not score Ruhe, meine Seele until 1948, the time of the Four Last Songs, and in this orchestral version we hear him remembering many performances he had given of it in the past, all the subtleties then explored, now exactly and definitively laid down for posterity, through the medium of the orchestra that he had mastered so as to reproduce his own brand of pianoplaying. In both these Wedding Songs the voice gives musical life to the verse without finding a melody for it, and this was to be a speciality of Strauss's operas, sometimes in his songs as well.
The next of his songs represented here, Das Rosenband, was designed for voice and orchestra from the start. The poem by Klopstock (1724-1803) had been set by Schubert; Strauss treats it to elaborate Rococo decoration in which the singer takes on the orchestra, as in a romantic concerto, with chromatic harmony even more extravagant and toothsome. This was 1898, and Strauss was preparing, unbeknownst for Ariadne auf Naxos 15 years later. In 1900 proud father Strauss scored three recent songs for his wife to sing at concerts as Mutterlieder. He had anticipated the happy event with Meinem Kinds, whose exquisitely delicate piano part translates into orchestral music, nevertheless, more obviously than the Wiegenliedof a year later whose Lisztian piano writing, even more delicate and sumptuous, had to be rethought for orchestra, perhaps beneficially in the climactic third verse. Muttertandelei, in which Burger mimics the boasting of a fond rustic mother, had already been composed for the renowned contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink, famous for her vocal agility and her sense of humour, both exploited here. The orchestral version is a bravura display-piece in its own right, and tests the singer's powers even more. Freundliche Vision (written in 1900, not scored until 1918), evokes a lover's idyllic vision which gradually becomes reality - Strauss ends the song, appropriately, in a higher key, to great effect. In the same year he set Henckell's passionate avowal Winterweihe, which he also scored in 1918, as part of an uncompleted cycle about love in winter, and perhaps remembered in the second act of Arabella (1933). Waldseligkeit was written for his wife in September 1901, a marvellous declaration of love amid nature by Richard Dehmel to which Strauss could now respond with full eloquence, and enhance with his orchestration of 1918.
With Die heiligen drei Konige we jump to 1906. Salome had been produced, and Strauss was at work on Elekira. Heine's exquisite narrative lyric about the Three Wise Men (as we call them -I have translated the German title quite literally in the enclosed text) must have given Strauss a blessed holiday from the psychological abnormality of these two operas. His setting evokes the Nativity scene, as it were, through veils of memory. Violas and cellos are divided in sombre harmony at the start. An oboe suggests a cockcrow, a celesta the star, three horns bellow for oxen, woodwind trill gently for the crying baby (a reminder of the Domestic Symphony), and the long orchestral postlude is superb, the finest Straussian C major. Like a grateful son remembering fairy-tales in childhood days, Strauss dedicated this beautiful song to his mother. By 1923, when he set Das Bachlein, a pretty poem whose authorship by Goethe is much disputed, Strauss was almost reconciled to the role of a masterly anachronism. His music looks back to Mozart, as sung in 1933 by Elisabeth Schumann, one of Strauss's favourite sopranos. It was written for orchestral accompaniment which deliciously sets the aquatic scene. The lovely picture is only clouded by the last line, where the words "mein Fuhrer" assume unlovely connotations, given the date of composition and the dedication of the song to Hitler's Minister of Culture, Dr Joseph Goebbels, a nasty piece of work for whom Strauss had no time. Perhaps, we all hope, he had his tongue in his cheek.
The war ended, Strauss and his wife could escape to Switzerland, and there he composed his setting of Eichendorff's Im Abendrot, a conscious farewell to a happy life, including an orchestral quotation from his early tone-poem Death and Transfiguration (1889). A new edition of Hermann Hesse's poems spurred him further to compose three more songs. It was the most glorious ending imaginable for a great composer devoted to the female human singing voice: Strauss here justified his existence before he could outstay his relevance on earth.
-William Mann, 1985