The Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss, more than any other work, sum up the end of their era – that of romanticism, and the end of the old Germany (the decent, cultured Germany destroyed by the Nazi regime) that Strauss had made his name in. There is an unmistakably valedictory air, and although the songs were not intended to be published as a group (or indeed under the title of Four Last Songs), they were the final works of the composer. He had exiled himself to Switzerland after the war, and lived in reduced circumstances, suffering from the connections he had with the Nazis – although he had been denazified. His royalties had been frozen, and there was a reluctance to perform his music worldwide.
His fortunes changed in 1947, however, when a festival of his music was staged in London, conducted by the composer and Sir Thomas Beecham. It was a triumph, and at his son’s urging, he returned to composition. The premiere of the four songs took place in London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1950, one year after the composer’s death, with Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting and Kirsten Flagstad as soloist. At the end of the last song, ‘Im Abendrot’, the audience remained silent.
This disc contains eight other orchestral songs, including the ever-popular Morgen!
'Charlotte Margiono’s performance radiates selflessness, a spiritual beauty that is profoundly moving. She sings with brilliance and strength.’ The Times, London, reviewing her performance in Fidelio at Glyndebourne in 2001
Booklet essay with sung texts
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.