I have been researching “Der Ring des Nibelungen” the cycle of four operas by German composer Richard Wagner and have been enthralled by them.I have always enjoyed studying German song especially Lieder, German art songs from the 19th century romantic period. I find the interplay between the pianist and the singer captivating as each depends on the other in a way that can be quite unique to this genre of music.
One of my favourite composers of Lied, the German word for song, is Richard Strauss and I find myself getting emotionally drawn in to his songs. Richard Strauss was born in Munich, Germany on the 11th June 1864. Having a father that was a principal horn player at the Munich Court Opera ensured a passionate music education which resulted in Strauss completing his first composition at the age of 6.In 1874 at the age of 10 he was introduced to the operas of Wagner and though the works were frowned upon at the time by his father they would go on to have a profound influence on Strauss’s work.
Following a brief period at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich where he studied Philosophy and Art History he left to take up his first conducting position. He was taken under the wing of the renowned German conductor Hans von Bulow at the Meiningen orchestra. At the age of just 21 Strauss went on to become the principal conductor of the Meiningen orchestra when Hans von Bulow resigned in 1885.Richard Strauss married Pauline de Anna in September 1894 who was acclaimed to be the inspiration of many of his works. I think that it is these emotions in his pieces that help me to connect with them. “Zueignung” meaning ‘Dedication’ is a beautiful song composed by Strauss, it is taken from a poem by Hermann von Gilm zu Rosenegg which Strauss lovingly set to music.
Ja, du weißt es, teure Seele,
Daß ich fern von dir mich quäle,
Liebe macht die Herzen krank,
[Hielt ich nicht]1, der Freiheit Zecher,
Hoch den Amethysten-Becher,
Und du segnetest den Trank,
Und beschworst darin die Bösen,
Bis ich, was ich nie gewesen,
[Heilig an das Herz]2 dir sank,
The translation provided by Lawrence Snyder :
Yes, you know it, dearest soul,
How I suffer far from you,
Love makes the heart sick,
Once I, drinker of freedom,
Held high the amethyst beaker,
And you blessed the drink,
And you exorcised the evils in it,
Until I, as I had never been before,
Blessed, blessed sank upon your heart,
This is a video of my performance of this beautiful song from the “Voice of The Future” competition at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in the summer of 2014. I also managed to record this to go on my album “Canzoni D’Amore”. The header photo of George Todica and me was taken by my Nana the day before the grand finale in Llangollen.
Strauss was a prolific composer and wrote many works including solo instrument and orchestra, fabulous Lieder and several Operas until his death in September 1949. I cannot wait to explore more of his repertoire in the years to come including some of his most famous opera roles like that of Salome.
If you are familiar with any of his works I would love to read what you think and if you have any suggestions regarding songs of his that I could explore then I would appreciate to hear from you :).