Song of the Night

Fri 18.10.24 20:00
€ 64 - 10

Richard Strauss, Vier letzte Lieder, TrV 296
Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 7 in E minor



Richard Strauss's Vier letzte Lieder poignantly explore the themes of farewell and death. The composer wrote them in 1948 in Switzerland, after the Second World War which had left Europe in ruins. At the age of 84, Strauss was keenly aware of his own imminent death. Three texts by Hermann Hesse are followed by Im Abendrot, a poem by Joseph von Eichendorff, who is arguably the most famous German Romantic poet. In this very last lied, Strauss aptly quotes not only his own symphonic poem Tod und Verklärung but also the opening notes of Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem. The exquisite soprano lines are enhanced by lush orchestrations, where the horn—a nod to Strauss' father, who played it—takes a prominently role.

While Richard Strauss faced his own end and that of a world with serenity and resignation, Gustav Mahler made the opposite journey in his Seventh Symphony: here, the glimmer of dawn and the radiant light of life triumph over the darkness of night. During the summer of 1904, Mahler composed a second and a fourth movement, which he respectively titled Nachtmusik I and Nachtmusik II. The image of a musician wandering in the night seemed to haunt his imagination. Notably, Nachtmusik II features a chamber-like orchestration, including guitar, harp, mandolin, solo horn, and solo violin, among others. The intimate atmosphere of the serenade evokes the mysteries of the night, one of the most fertile moments for art according to Romantic poets like Joseph von Eichendorff. In the fifth and final movement of his Seventh Symphony, Mahler demonstrates great inventiveness in greeting the light of dawn. Apotheoses follow one after another, and the jubilant finale quickly degenerates into a "sich zu Tode feiern" (a celebration of death).


Antony Hermus, conductor
Christiane Karg, soprano