In this acclaimed performance from the 2023 Ryman Healthcare Season Opening Gala, internationally sought-after Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg illuminates Richard Strauss’s swan songs with a ‘purity of tone and … interpretative intelligence’ (Limelight). Written in 1948 at the age of 84, Strauss’s Four Last Songs concluded a career of astonishing length, diversity, and productivity. Framed by the highs and lows of the twentieth century, from the rise of modernism through the roar of urbanisation and the ruin of Nazism, Strauss’s Songs are both a wistful meditation on the composer’s own impending death and a nostalgic tribute to worlds gone by. While planned as part of a five-part song cycle unfinished at his death in 1949, the Songs were collated by Strauss’s publisher in 1950 and feature poems by the Swiss writer Hermann Hesse (1877-1964) and German Romantic poet Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857). The cycle begins with ‘Spring’, a hymn to the wonders of the natural world. In ‘September’, joy turns to dread ahead of the dying winter cold, leading to dreams of eternal rest in the much-loved ‘Going to Sleep’. Weariness ultimately gives way to serenity, however, as Eichendorff’s ‘At Sunset’ sees the poet bid farewell amidst the comfort of companionship. Like the poems themselves, Strauss’s music drips with the Romanticism of his youth. Soaring soprano lines are coloured by orchestral accompaniments both full-bodied and intricate, while textual quotations and personal symbolisms connect intimately the personal with the worldly. Join MSO.LIVE to hear these aching final works by the last great composer of the German Romantic tradition.
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