Richard Strauss - der Meister Garmisch



die Musik von
RICHARD STRAUSS
der Meister Garmisch

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras.


Richard Wagner
Gustav Mahler
He is known for his operas, which include 'Der Rosenkavalier' and 'Salome'; his lieder, especially his 'Four Last Songs'; and his tone poems and other orchestral works, such as 'Death and Transfiguration', 'Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks', 'Also sprach Zarathustra', 'An Alpine Symphony', and 'Metamorphosen'.
Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.
Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler (see left), represents the great late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner (see right), in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

Staatsgartnerplatz - Munchen
Strauss was born on 11 June 1864, in Munich, the son of Franz Strauss, who was the principal horn player at the Court Opera in Munich.
In his youth, he received a thorough musical education from his father.
He wrote his first composition at the age of six, and continued to write music almost until his death.
'Tannhäuser' 
During his boyhood Strauss attended orchestra rehearsals of the Munich Court Orchestra, and he also received private instruction in music theory and orchestration from an assistant conductor there.
In 1874 Strauss heard his first Wagner operas, 'Lohengrin' and 'Tannhäuser' (see right).
The influence of Wagner's music on Strauss's style was to be profound, but at first his musically conservative father forbade him to study it.


'Tristan und Isolde
Indeed, in the Strauss household, the music of Richard Wagner was viewed with deep suspicion, and it was not until the age of 16 that Strauss was able to obtain a score of 'Tristan und Isolde'.

(The score of Tristan und Isolde has often been cited as a landmark in the development of Western music. Wagner uses throughout Tristan a remarkable range of orchestral colour, harmony and polyphony and does so with a freedom rarely found in his earlier operas. The very first chord in the piece, the Tristan chord, is of great significance in the move away from traditional tonal harmony as it resolves to another dissonant chord.)
Hans von Bülow

In later life, Richard Strauss said that he deeply regretted the conservative hostility to Wagner's progressive works.
Nevertheless, Strauss's father undoubtedly had a crucial influence on his son's developing taste, not least in Strauss's abiding love for the horn.
In 1882 he entered Munich University, where he studied Philosophy and Art History, but not music.
He left a year later to go to Berlin, where he studied briefly before securing a post as assistant conductor to Hans von Bülow (see right), who had been enormously impressed by the young composer's Serenade for wind instruments, composed when he was only 16 years of age.
Strauss learned the art of conducting by observing Bülow in rehearsal.



Felix Mendelssohn
Robert Schumann
Bülow was very fond of the young man and decided that Strauss should be his successor as conductor of the Meiningen orchestra when Bülow resigned in 1885.
Strauss's compositions at this time were indebted to the style of Robert Schumann or Felix Mendelssohn, true to his father's teachings.
His remarkably mature Horn Concerto No. 1, Op. 11, is representative of this period and is a staple of modern horn repertoire.





Richard Strauss - Pauline and Franz
Pauline de Ahna
Richard Strauss married soprano Pauline de Ahna on 10 September 1894.
She was famous for being irascible, garrulous, eccentric and outspoken, but the marriage, to all appearances, was essentially happy and she was a great source of inspiration to him. Throughout his life, from his earliest songs to the final 'Four Last Songs' of 1948, he preferred the soprano voice to all others, and all his operas contain important soprano roles.
The Strausses had one son, Franz, in 1897.





Solo and Chamber Works

Some of Strauss's first compositions were solo and chamber works.
These pieces include: early compositions for piano solo in a conservative harmonic style, many of which are lost; a string quartet (opus 2); a cello sonata; a piano quartet; Violin Sonata in E flat (1888); as well as a handful of late pieces.
After 1890 Strauss composed very infrequently for chamber groups, his energies being almost completely absorbed with large-scale orchestral works and operas.
Four of his chamber pieces are actually arrangements of portions of his operas, including the superb 'Daphne-Etude' for solo violin, and the string Sextet which is the overture to his final opera Capriccio.
His last independent chamber work, an Allegretto in E for violin and piano, dates from 1940.

Tone Poems and other Orchestral Works

Alexander Ritter
Strauss's style began to truly develop and change when, in 1885, he met Alexander Ritter (see right), a noted composer and violinist, and the husband of one of Richard Wagner's nieces.
It was Ritter who persuaded Strauss to abandon the conservative style of his youth, and begin writing tone poems.

Arthur Schopenhauer
He also introduced Strauss to the essays of Richard Wagner and the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity.
At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal world.
Schopenhauer's most influential work, 'Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung' - (The World as Will and Representation), claimed that the world is fundamentally what humans recognize in themselves as their will.
His analysis of will led him to the conclusion that emotional, physical, and sexual desires can never be fully satisfied.
The corollary of this is an ultimately painful human condition.
Schopenhauer's metaphysical analysis of will, his views on human motivation and desire, and his aphoristic writing style influenced many well-known thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Jung, Thomas Mann, and of course Richard Strauss.

Don Juan
Strauss went on to conduct one of Ritter's operas, and at Strauss's request Ritter later wrote a poem describing the events depicted in Strauss's tone poem 'Tod und Verklärung'(Death and Transfiguration).
The new influences from Ritter resulted in what is widely regarded as Strauss's first piece to show his mature personality, the tone poem 'Don Juan' (1888) (see left), which displays a new kind of virtuosity in its bravura orchestral manner.
'
Richard Strauss -
Eine Alpensinfonie op. 64
Zugspitze
Strauss went on to write a series of increasingly ambitious tone poems:
'Tod und Verklärung', (1889), 'Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks' (1895), '**** 'Also sprach Zarathustra' (1896), Don Quixote (1897), 'A Hero's Life' *(1898), Symphonia Domestica **(1903) and An Alpine Symphony (1911–1915). One commentator has observed of these works that "no orchestra could exist without his tone poems, written to celebrate the glories of the post-Wagnerian symphony orchestra."

Solo Instrument with Orchestra

Strauss's output of works for solo instrument or instruments with orchestra was fairly extensive. The most famous include two concertos for horn, which are still part of the standard repertoire of most horn soloists; a Violin Concerto in D minor; the Burleske for piano and orchestra; the tone poem Don Quixote for cello, viola and orchestra; the well-known late Oboe Concerto in D major; and the Duet-Concertino for bassoon, clarinet and orchestra, which was one of his last works (1947).

Opera

Around the end of the 19th century, Strauss turned his attention to opera. His first two attempts in the genre, 'Guntram' (1894) and 'Feuersnot' (1901), were controversial works: 'Guntram' was the first significant critical failure of Strauss's career, and 'Feuersnot' was considered obscene by some critics.
In 1905, Strauss produced 'Salome', a somewhat dissonant modernist opera based on the play by Oscar Wilde, which produced a passionate reaction from audiences.
The premiere was a major success, with the artists taking more than 38 curtain calls.
Many later performances of the opera were also successful, not only with the general public but also with Strauss's peers: Maurice Ravel said that Salome was "stupendous", and Mahler described it as "a live volcano, a subterranean fire".
Strauss reputedly financed his house in Garmisch-Partenkirchen completely from the revenues generated by the opera.
Strauss's next opera was 'Elektra' (1909), which took his use of dissonance even further, in particular with the Elektra chord.
'Elektra' was also the first opera in which Strauss collaborated with the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. 
The two subsequently worked together on numerous occasions.
For his later works with Hofmannsthal, Strauss moderated his harmonic language: he used a more lush, melodic late-Romantic style based on Wagnerian chromatic harmonies that he had used in his tone poems, with much less dissonance, and exhibiting immense virtuosity in orchestral writing and tone color.
This resulted in operas such as the beautiful 'Rosenkavalier' (1911) having great public success.
Strauss continued to produce operas at regular intervals until 1942.
With Hofmannsthal he created 'Ariadne auf Naxos' (1912), 'Die Frau ohne Schatten' (1918), 'Die ägyptische Helena' (1927), and 'Arabella' (1932).
For 'Intermezzo' (1923) Strauss provided his own libretto.
'Die schweigsame Frau' (1934), was composed with Stefan Zweig as librettist; 'Friedenstag '(1935–6) and 'Daphne' (1937) both had a libretto by Joseph Gregor and Stefan Zweig; and the wonderful 'Liebe der Danae' (1940) was with Joseph Gregor.
Strauss's final opera, 'Capriccio' (1942), had a libretto by Clemens Krauss, although the genesis for it came from Stefan Zweig and Joseph Gregor.

Lieder

All his life Strauss produced lieder.
The incomparable 'Four Last Songs' are among his best known, along with "Zueignung", "Cäcilie", the uplifting "Morgen!", "Allerseelen", and others.
In 1948, Strauss wrote his last work, the masterful and haunting 'Four Last Songs' for soprano and orchestra.
He reportedly composed them with Kirsten Flagstad in mind, and she gave the first performance, which was recorded.
Strauss's songs have always been popular with audiences and performers, and are generally considered – along with many of his other compositions – to be masterpieces of the first rank.

Strauss and the Third Reich

Reichsmusikkammer
Because of Strauss's international eminence, in November 1933 he was appointed to the post of president of the Reichsmusikkammer, the State Music Chamber, which was a section of the Reichskulturkammer (RKK).
Strauss, who had lived through numerous political regimes and had little interest in politics, decided to accept the position.
In order to gain Goebbels' cooperation in extending the German music copyright laws from 30 years to 50 years, in 1933 Strauss dedicated an orchestral song, 'Das Bächlein' ("The Little Brook") to him.
The 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics used Strauss's monumental 'Olympische Hymne', which he had composed in 1934.
Strauss's seeming relationship with the NSDAP in the 1930s attracted criticism from some noted musicians, including Arturo Toscanini.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Late Works

Richard Strauss - Garmisch
Strauss completed the composition of 'Metamorphosen', a work for 23 solo strings, in 1945.
The title and inspiration for the work comes from a profoundly self-examining poem by Goethe, which Strauss had considered setting as a choral work.
Generally regarded as one of the masterpieces of the string repertoire, 'Metamorphosen' contains Strauss's most sustained outpouring of tragic emotion.
Conceived and written during the blackest days of World War II, the piece expresses in music Strauss's mourning of, among other things, the destruction of German culture — including the bombing of every great opera house in the nation.
The metaphor "Indian Summer" is often used by journalists, biographers, and music critics to describe Strauss's late upsurge of genius from 1942 through the end of his life.
The major works of the last years of Strauss's life, written in his late 70s and 80s, have a luminosity which matches anything he had composed earlier in his life, and they surpass most of them in emotional depth.
These pieces include, among others, his Horn Concerto No. 2, 'Metamorphosen', his Oboe Concerto, and his masterful and haunting 'Four Last Songs'.
The 'Four Last Songs', composed shortly before Strauss's death, deal poetically with the subject of dying.
The last, 'Im Abendrot', ends with the line "Is this perhaps death?"
The question is not answered in words, but instead Strauss quotes the "transfiguration theme" from his earlier tone poem, 'Tod und Verklärung' — symbolizing the transfiguration and fulfillment of the soul after death.

Death and Legacy

Richard Strauss Haus - Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Richard Strauss died at the age of 85 on 8 September 1949, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (see left).
Georg Solti, who had arranged Strauss's 85th birthday celebration, also directed an orchestra during Strauss's burial.
The conductor later described how, during the singing of the beautiful trio from 'Rosenkavalier', "each singer broke down in tears and dropped out of the ensemble, but they recovered themselves and we all ended together."

Strauss's wife, Pauline de Ahna, died eight months later, on 13 May 1950, at the age of 88.
During his lifetime Strauss was considered the greatest composer of the first half of the 20th century, and his music had a profound influence on the development of 20th-century music. There were few 20th-century composers who compared with Strauss in terms of orchestral imagination, and no composer since Wagner made a more significant contribution to the history of opera.
And Strauss's late works, modelled on "the divine Mozart at the end of a life full of thankfulness," are perhaps the most remarkable works by any composer.

MAJOR WORKS

* 'Tod und Verklärung'


'Tod und Verklärung', Op. 24, is a tone poem for large orchestra by Richard Strauss.
Strauss began composition in the late summer of 1888 and completed the work on November 18, 1889.
The work is dedicated to the composer's friend Friedrich Rosch.
The music depicts the death of an artist.
At Strauss's request, this was described in a poem by the composer's friend Alexander Ritter as an interpretation of Death and Transfiguration, after it was composed.
As the man lies dying, thoughts of his life pass through his head: his childhood innocence, the struggles of his manhood, the attainment of his worldly goals; and at the end, he receives the longed-for transfiguration "from the infinite reaches of heaven".

Performance history

Strauss conducted the premiere on 21 June 1890 at the Eisenach Festival (on the same program with the premiere of his Burleske in D minor for piano and orchestra).
He also conducted this work for his first appearance in England, at the Wagner Concert with the Philharmonic Society on 15 June 1897 at the Queen's Hall in London.

Structure

There are four parts (with Ritter's poetic thoughts condensed):
Largo (The sick man, near death)
Allegro molto agitato (The battle between life and death offers no respite to the man)
Meno mosso (The dying man's life passes before him)
Moderato (The sought-after transfiguration)
A typical performance lasts about 25 minutes.
[edit]Instrumentation

The work is scored for a large orchestra of the following forces:
woodwind: 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B-flat, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon
brass: 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in F and C, 3 trombones, tuba
percussion: timpani, tam-tam
strings: 2 harps, violins i, ii, violas, cellos, double basses.

*Ein Heldenleben

Ein Heldenleben Op. 40 is a tone poem by Richard Strauss.
The work was completed in 1898, and heralds the composer's more mature period in this genre.
Hero's Life is a through-composed, circa fifty-minute work, performed without pauses, except for a dramatic grand pause at the end of the first movement.
The movements are titled as follows:

"Der Held" (The Hero)
"Des Helden Widersacher" (The Hero's Adversaries)
"Des Helden Gefährtin" (The Hero's Companion)
"Des Helden Walstatt" (The Hero at Battle)
"Des Helden Friedenswerke" (The Hero's Works of Peace)
"Des Helden Weltflucht und Vollendung" (The Hero's Retirement from this World and Consummation)

A Hero's Life employs the technique of leitmotifs that Richard Wagner used, but almost always as elements of its enlarged sonata-rondo symphonic structure.

1. "The Hero": The first theme has been said to represent the hero. In unison, horns and celli play E-flat major triads ascending through an almost four-octave span. A contrasting lyrical theme first appears in high strings and winds in B major. A second motive appears, outlining a stepwise descending fourth. Trumpets sound a dominant seventh chord followed by a grand pause, the only prolonged silence throughout the entire piece.
2. "The Hero's Adversaries": The movement opens with chromatic woodwinds and low brass: multiple motives in contrasting registers are heard. It is said that the adversaries represented by the woodwinds are Strauss's critics, such as 19th-century Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick, who is memorably written into the score with an ominous four note leitmotif played by the two tubas in parallel fifths.
3. "The Hero's Companion": The movement features a tender melody played by a solo violin. In an extended accompanied cadenza filled with extremely detailed performance instructions by Strauss, after the fashion of an operatic recitative, the violin presents new motivic material, alternating with brief interjections in low strings, winds, and brass. During this section, the violin briefly foreshadows a theme which will appear fully later. The cadenza concludes and the new thematic material is combined in a cantabile episode commencing in G flat. Fragments of the motives from the previous movement briefly appear. A fanfare motive in offstage trumpets, repeated onstage, is then heard.
These three initial sections comprise an elaborate exposition, with elements of a multiple-movement symphony evident in their contrasting character and tempo. The remainder of the work will comprise development, recapitulation, and coda, with occasional new thematic material.
4. "The Hero's Battlefield": In this first extended development section of the work, percussion and a solo trumpet are heard in the first appearance of 3/4 time: a variation of a previous motive. A sequence of clamorous trumpet fanfares occurs as the music approaches a harmonic climax in G flat, and the related E flat minor. Percussion is pervasive throughout the movement. 4/4 time returns in a modified recapitulation of the first theme as it appeared at the beginning of the piece, this time with a repeated quaver accompaniment. A new cantabile theme makes its appearance in the trumpet, and an extended elaboration of this serves to preface the next section.
5. "The Hero's Works of Peace": Themes of previous works, including such works as Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Macbeth, Also sprach Zarathustra, Death and transfiguration, Don Juan, Guntram, the lied Traum durch die Dämmerung and Don Quixote, are heard in this movement. The melodies lead into the final section.
6. "The Hero's Retirement from this World and Consummation": Yet another new motive appears, commencing in a rapid descending E-flat triad, which introduces a new development of the original theme: an elegy featuring harp, bassoon, English horn, and strings. The reappearance of the previous "Hanslick" motive brings in an agitato episode. This is followed by a distinctly pastoral interlude featuring English horn, reminiscent of Rossini's William Tell Overture. The descending triad now appears slowly, cantabile, as the head of a new, peaceful theme in E flat: this is the theme foreshadowed during the violin cadenza. In a final variation of the initial motive, the brass intones the last fanfare, suggesting the beginnings of another tone poem (Also Sprach Zarathustra, a work often coupled with Ein Heldenleben).


Instrumentation

The work is scored for an orchestra consisting of piccolo, three flutes, three oboes, English horn (doubling 4th oboe), E-flat clarinet, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 8 horns in F, E and E-flat, 3 trumpets (used offstage briefly), 2 trumpets in E-flat, 3 trombones, tenor tuba in B-flat (euphonium), tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, tenor drum, tam-tam, 2 harps, and strings, including an extensive solo violin part.

 *** 'Symphonia Domestica'


Symphonia Domestica, Op. 53 (Domestic Symphony) is a tone poem for large orchestra by Richard Strauss. The work is a musical reflection of the secure domestic life so valued by the composer himself and, as such, harmoniously conveys daily events and family life.


He worked on the piece during 1903, finishing it on New Year's Eve, in Charlottenburg.
The piece is scored for piccolo, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, oboe d'amore, English horn, clarinet in D, 3 clarinets (1 & 2 in B♭, 3 in A), bass clarinet in B♭, 4 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 saxophones (soprano in C, alto in F, baritone in F, bass in C), 8 horns in F, 4 trumpets in F and C, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, tenor drum, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, antique cymbals, tambourine, glockenspiel, 2 harps, and strings.


Structure

The program of the work reflects the simplicity of the subject-matter. After the family has been introduced, the parents are heard alone with their child. The next section is a three-part adagio which begins with the husband's activities. The clock striking 7am launches the finale.
The most detailed exposition of the work's structure is that which was provided for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's performance on December 12, 1904. On that occasion, the concert programme carried the following outline:

I. Introduction and development of the chief groups of themes
The husband's themes: (a) Easy-going; (b) Dreamy; (c) Fiery
The wife's themes: (a) Lively and gay; (b) Grazioso
The child's theme: Tranquil
II. Scherzo
Parents' happiness. Childish play. Cradle song (the clock strikes seven in the evening).
III. Adagio
Doing and thinking. Love scene. Dreams and cares (the clock strikes seven in the morning).
IV. Finale
Awakening and merry dispute (double fugue). Joyous confusion.

**** 'Also sprach Zarathustra'


Friedrich Nietzsche
Also sprach Zarathustra
Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Thus Spake Zarathustra) is a tone poem by Richard Strauss, composed in 1896 and inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical treatise of the same name. The composer conducted its first performance on 27 November 1896 in Frankfurt. A typical performance lasts half an hour.
The work has been part of the classical repertoire since its first performance in 1896.






Instrumentation

The orchestra consists of the following:
woodwinds: piccolo, 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets in E-flat and B-flat, bass clarinet in B-flat, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon
brass: 6 horns in F, 4 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, 2 tubas
percussion: timpani (2 players), bass drum, cymbals, triangle, glockenspiel, bell on low E
keyboard: organ
strings: 2 harps, violins i, ii (16 each), violas (12), cellos (12), double basses (8) (several with low C string).


Structure

The piece is divided into nine sections played with only three definite pauses. Strauss named the sections after selected chapters of the book:

Einleitung, oder Sonnenaufgang (Introduction, or Sunrise)
Von den Hinterweltlern (Of Those in Backwaters)
Von der großen Sehnsucht (Of the Great Longing)
Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (Of Joys and Passions)
Das Grablied (The Song of the Grave)
Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science and Learning)
Der Genesende (The Convalescent)
Das Tanzlied (The Dance Song)
Nachtwandlerlied (Song of the Night Wanderer)


The piece starts with a sustained double low C on the double basses, contrabassoon and organ. This transforms into the brass fanfare of the Introduction and introduces the "dawn" motif (from "Zarathustra's Prologue", the text of which is included in the printed score) that is common throughout the work: the motif includes three notes, in intervals of a fifth and octave, as C–G–C (known also as the Nature-motif). On its first appearance, the motif is a part of the first five notes of the natural overtone series: octave, octave and fifth, two octaves, two octaves and major third (played as part of a C major chord with the third doubled). The major third is immediately changed to a minor third, which is the first note played in the work (E flat) that is not part of the overtone series.
"Of Those in Backwaters" (or "Of the Forest Dwellers") begins with cellos, double-basses and organ pedal before changing into a lyrical passage for the entire section. The next two sections, "Of the Great Yearning" and "Of Joys and Passions", both introduce motifs that are more chromatic in nature.
"Of Science" features an unusual fugue beginning in the double-basses and cellos, which consists of all twelve notes of the chromatic scale. It is one of the very few sections in the orchestral literature where the basses must play a contra-b (lowest b on a piano).
"The Convalescent" acts as a reprise of the original motif, and climaxes with a massive chord in the entire orchestra.
"The Dance Song" features a very prominent violin solo throughout the section.
The end of the "Song of the Night Wanderer" leaves the piece half resolved, with high flutes, piccolos and violins playing a B major chord, while the lower strings pluck a C.
One of the major compositional themes of the piece is the contrast between the keys of B major, representing humanity, and C major, representing the universe.
Because B and C are adjacent notes, these keys are tonally dissimilar: B major uses five sharps, while C major has none.


World Riddle Theme

There are two opinions about the 'World Riddle Theme'. Some sources denote the fifth/octave intervals (C–G–C8va) as the World riddle motif, however, other sources refer to the 2 conflicting keys in the final section as representing the World riddle (C–G–C B–F♯-B8va), with the unresolved harmonic progression being an unfinished or unsolved riddle: the melody does not conclude with a well-defined tonic note as being either C or B, hence it is unfinished.The ending of the composition has been described:
But the riddle is not solved.
The tone-poem ends enigmatically in two keys, the Nature-motif plucked softly, by the basses in its original key of C—and above the woodwinds, in the key of B major.
The unsolvable end of the universe: for Strauss was not pacified by Nietzsche's solution.
Neither C major nor B major is established as the tonic at the end of the composition.

'Vier letzte Lieder'

The 'Vier letzte Lieder' for soprano and orchestra were the final completed works of Richard Strauss, composed in 1948, when the composer was 84.
Strauss died in September 1949.
The premiere of the work was given posthumously at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 22 May 1950 by the soprano Kirsten Flagstad accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler.
The songs are "Frühling" (Spring), "September", "Beim Schlafengehen" (Going to sleep) and "Im Abendrot" (At sunset).

Joseph von Eichendorff
Strauss had come across the poem 'Im Abendrot' by Joseph von Eichendorff, which he felt had a special meaning for him.
He set its text to music in May 1948.

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (10 March 1788 – 26 November 1857) was a German poet and novelist of the later German romantic school.
Eichendorff is regarded as one of the most important German Romantics, and his works have sustained high popularity in Germany from production to the present day.


Hermann Hesse
Strauss had also recently been given a copy of the complete poems of Hermann Hesse, and he set three of them – 'Frühling', 'September', and 'Beim Schlafengehen' – for soprano and orchestra.

Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877 – August 9, 1962) was a German poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include 'Steppenwolf' and 'The Glass Bead Game', each of which explores an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

There is no indication that Strauss conceived these songs as a unified set.
The overall title 'Four Last Songs' was provided by his friend Ernst Roth, the chief editor of Boosey & Hawkes.
It was Roth who categorized them as a single unit with the title Four Last Songs, and put them into the order that most performances now follow: 'Frühling', 'September', 'Beim Schlafengehen', 'Im Abendrot'.

Pauline de Ahna
The songs deal with death and were written shortly before Strauss himself died.
However, instead of the typical Romantic defiance, these 'Four Last Songs' are suffused with a sense of calm, acceptance, and completeness.
The settings are for a solo soprano voice given remarkable soaring melodies against a full orchestra, and all four songs have prominent horn parts.
The combination of a beautiful vocal line with supportive brass accompaniment references Strauss's own life: His wife Pauline de Ahna was a famous soprano and his father Franz Strauss a professional horn player.

The most heart-rending moment in the 'Vier letzte Lieder' come when the soprano sings the line 'Ist dies etwa der Tod ?', and the orchestra gently intone the 'Verklärung' theme from 'Tod und Verklärung' - written so many, many years before !



Instrumentation

The songs are scored for piccolo, 3 flutes (3rd doubling 2nd piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B-flat and A, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F (also E-flat and D), 3 trumpets in C, E-flat and F, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, celesta, and strings.


'Vier letzte Lieder'



'Frühling'

In dämmrigen Grüften
träumte ich lang
von deinen Bäumen und blauen Lüften,
Von deinem Duft und Vogelsang.
Nun liegst du erschlossen
In Gleiß und Zier
von Licht übergossen
wie ein Wunder vor mir.
Du kennst mich wieder,
du lockst mich zart,
es zittert durch all meine Glieder
deine selige Gegenwart!





'September'

Der Garten trauert,
kühl sinkt in die Blumen der Regen.
Der Sommer schauert
still seinem Ende entgegen.
Golden tropft Blatt um Blatt
nieder vom hohen Akazienbaum.
Sommer lächelt erstaunt und matt
In den sterbenden Gartentraum.
Lange noch bei den Rosen
bleibt er stehn, sehnt sich nach Ruh.
Langsam tut er
die müdgeword'nen Augen zu.




'Beim Schlafengehen'

Nun der Tag mich müd gemacht,
soll mein sehnliches Verlangen
freundlich die gestirnte Nacht
wie ein müdes Kind empfangen.
Hände, laßt von allem Tun
Stirn, vergiß du alles Denken,
Alle meine Sinne nun
wollen sich in Schlummer senken.
Und die Seele unbewacht
will in freien Flügen schweben,
um im Zauberkreis der Nacht
tief und tausendfach zu leben.








'Im Abendrot'

Wir sind durch Not und Freude
gegangen Hand in Hand;
vom Wandern ruhen wir
nun überm stillen Land.
Rings sich die Täler neigen,
es dunkelt schon die Luft.
Zwei Lerchen nur noch steigen
nachträumend in den Duft.
Tritt her und laß sie schwirren,
bald ist es Schlafenszeit.
Daß wir uns nicht verirren
in dieser Einsamkeit.
O weiter, stiller Friede!
So tief im Abendrot.
Wie sind wir wandermüde--
Ist dies etwa der Tod ?