Lieder · Songs
Thomas Hampson
Wolfram Rieger
Daniel Hope
Int. Release 07 Apr. 2014
1 CD / Download
0289 479 2943 7 CD DDD GH

Track List

Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949)
Acht Gedichte aus "Letzte Blätter", Op.10



Fünf Lieder, Op.15


Sechs Lieder aus "Lotosblätter", Op.19

Schlichte Weisen, Op.21

Vier Lieder, Op.27


Drei Lieder, Op.29

Fünf Lieder, Op.32


Vier Lieder, Op.36

Vier Lieder, Op. 36


Fünf Lieder, Op.39


Thomas Hampson, Wolfram Rieger

Zwei Größere Gesänge, Op.44


Thomas Hampson, Wolfram Rieger, Daniel Hope

Fünf Lieder, Op.48

Sechs Lieder, Op.56

Vier Gesänge, Op.87

Thomas Hampson, Wolfram Rieger

Total Playing Time 1:10:19

It could be said that Hampson performs a great service by bringing attention to this overlooked body of work, but if all things were equal, his CD should be appreciated for its varied expressions and artistic depth, and not just because it reawakens interest in Strauss' neglected songs . . . Hampson's deeply felt interpretations and Rieger's sympathetic accompaniment make this music especially communicative and memorable, and Deutsche Grammophon's exceptional recording gives both musicians an ideal platform to start a revival. Highly recommended.

This may be one of the finest recordings in the extensive discography of Thomas Hampson, and anyone with even a passing interest in Strauss's songs should consider adding this to their collection, no matter what other treasures might already be there. This is different from them all in many ways . . . "Notturno" is a remarkable work, really a tone poem. Strauss actually wrote it for voice and orchestra, but it works in the piano version as well, especially with the violin obbligato played beautifully here by Daniel Hope . . . an astonishing, harmonically adventurous (for 1899) work . . . Hampson, throughout this disc, never engages in mere singing. Everything is about using his voice to communicate text and emotion, to convey all that is beneath the surface. This could imply fussiness, but in fact the naturalness of musical flow is what distinguishes these performances, along with imaginative vocal coloration and dynamic shading. Between the softest pianissimo and loudest fortissimo, Hampson seems to have an almost infinite number of gradations. His voice can ring heroically, turn hollow with despair or anguish, or become smooth with tenderness. His diction is stunningly clear, so that this is never about just making lovely musical sounds, but about communicating words as much as music. Hampson applies a specificity of inflection that is very special, and makes each song its own unique portrait. And the voice itself is in glorious shape: resonant, full-bodied, with a real center to the tone. A good part of the success of this recording is due to Wolfram Rieger's imaginative work at the piano. Clearly he and Hampson have worked these songs out thoroughly, for they perform as one, clearly listening to each other and playing off each other. Very natural recorded sound that is perfectly balanced, and lovely notes by Hampson, round out the production . . . There is a brief trumpet call at the end of "Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland", very well played . . . clearly this is a success. It has been a long time since a Lieder recording of this quality has crossed my desk, and it is urgently and unreservedly recommended.

Die Stimme Thomas Hampsons besitzt nach wie vor jugendliches Flair, seine akzentfreie Artikulation und musikalische Sensibilität sind vorbildlich. Wie feinsinnig ihm dabei der Pianist Wolfram Rieger folgt, wird in "Morgen" besonders deutlich. Neben dem "Notturno" stechen vor allem noch die drei Lieder von Opus 87 [heraus] . . . Sie sind auf voller Strauss-Höhe, ihre Repertoire-Abstinenz ist somit nicht ganz plausibel.

Notre Américain se délecte . . . de ces textes simples et parfois sucrés, soutenus par une écriture vocale de la plus grande subtilité et du raffinement le plus exquis . . . Les rares fêlures de l¿organe, notamment dans les pianissimi du haut de la voix, apportent de plus une fragilité qui convient bien à un programme thématique fort habilement concu en faisant la part belle aux lieder consacrés au rêve et la nuit. Dans ce contexte, on louera le piano sobre, discret et efficace de Wolfram Rieger . . . Oui, les barytons ont encore des choses à dire dans Strauss. Oui, il est urgent que Hampson, Mandryka d'exception, nous donne enfin le Barak de "La femme sans ombre" qu'il nous doit . . .


Die Nacht, Op.10, Nr. 3 (1885)
from Letzte Blätter of Hermann von Gilm zu Rosenegg (1812-1864)

The auspicious publishing debut of the eight songs of Opus 10 brought some of the most popular and well known of Strauss’ Lied genre to the musical world. The 40 some songs leading up to this mature blossoming do not compare with the self-confidence of musical thought displayed here. The songs, meant to please, reflect the attractiveness and their apparent capturing of a “pure atmosphere”, the same adulation with which the poems themselves were received. Gilm belonged to the so-called “Munich Circle,” which included other song-inspiring poets like Felix Dahn and Count von Schack.

Winternacht, Op.15, Nr. 2 (1886)
Count von Schack (1815-1894)

The juxtaposition of musical imagery in this song, winter ice and their melting of these obstacles with Love’s fire–is perfectly realized in von Schack's trademark use of descriptive poetry as “nature elements.”

Mein Herz ist stumm, Op.19, Nr. 6 (1888)
Count von Schack (1815-1894)

This wonderfully atmospheric love song, which is not as well-known as many others, already hints at the “orchestral tone” soon to be common in the songs of Strauss. The icy heart of a poet warms to the timbre-rich sounds of Spring’s yearning–only to eventually plunge into the emptiness of illusory happiness.

Ach weh mir unglückhaftem Mann, Op.21, Nr. 4 (1889)
Felix Dahn (1834-1912)

One is very grateful to be distracted from the disgusting anti-Semitic writings of Felix Dahn by graceful poetry from the same pen. In this song, Strauss found himself testing the operatic, characterful writing that was about to burst onto the operatic stage in the many decades to come. An entirely enchanting, youthful scenario–in song.

Ruhe, meine Seele, Op.27, Nr. 1 (1894)
Karl Friedrich Henckell (1864-1929)

The songs of Opus 27, published in 1894, the same year that they were composed, is one of the most cherished collections of songs by Richard Strauss. This truly exceptional song would be the pride of any composer during a lifetime. Strauss, with echoes of the beginning of Schubert’s “Am Meer,” perfectly grasps the search for the peace and contentment of nature in an overbearing world of rage and conflict. That Strauss orchestrated this song during the time of his initial conception of the “Four Last Songs” in 1942, seems more than coincidence.

Heimliche Aufforderung, Op.27, Nr. 3 (1894)
John Mackay (1864-1933)

Strauss dedicated this song to his wife Pauline, and reflecting on the essential female perspective of the poem is helpful, although this rightfully very popular song has been embraced by all voice types for its ebullient sexual energy that lurks not only the festivities at hand, but the implied secretiveness of the impending assignation.

Morgen, Op.27, Nr. 4 (1894)
John Mackay (1864-1933)

The essential beauty of this song lies in its simplicity. As if caught in mid sentence, the poem and music unveil a conversation of profound devotion. Not only do the words and music create the perfect atmosphere, but the heart–which is the essential element–speaks directly and unerringly to each of us.

Traum durch die Dämmerung, Op.29.1 (1895)
Otto Julius Bierbaum (1865-1910)

By this time, Strauss’ songs were taking on a distinctive Ars Nouveau atmosphere, and his talent for modulatory decoration in the picturesque was integrating itself into his style. The fact that Strauss enjoyed telling the amusing story of setting this poem to music while impatiently waiting for his often “delayed” wife, certainly does not diminish the charm of this song.

Sehnsucht, Op.32, Nr. 2 (1896)
Detlev von Liliencron (1844-1909)

An extraordinary figure in literary circles of the time, and exuding much influence on poets such as Bierbaum, Mackay and even Dehmel, the Prussian army officer Detlev von Liliencron, whose collected poetry extends to four volumes, was one of the first Germans to recognize the extraordinary talents of Hugo Wolf. This song is structured as a kind of recitative and aria, with a poignant blend of solitude and melancholic reverie that is quintessentially Strauss.

Das Rosenband, Op.36, Nr. 1 (1897)
Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803)

Although famous, mostly for his great religious epic The Messiah, which was inspired by Milton, the lyrical poetry of Klopstock, a contemporary of William Blake, has a lightness and elegance of the 18th century that certainly served Strauss in his later inspirations for Der Rosenkavalier. Curiously, this song, in its typical Straussian harmonic playfulness, was originally written for orchestra and then transcribed by Strauss himself as song for piano and voice.

Befreit, Op.39, Nr. 4 (1898)
Richard Dehmel (1863-1920)

Dehmel did not always have the most discerning musical ear, and he in fact wrongfully criticized what has become recognized as one of the great songs of the Strauss genre. On one occasion, however, Dehmel did offer simple clarification of the poem: it is one of separation, either a man at his wife’s death bed, or perhaps an irreversible separation between lovers. In any case, the separation is one of profound, and even tragic emotion that Strauss, now on the precipice of operatic immortality, embodies in musical motifs that mirror the soaring release of personal pain.

Notturno, Op.44, Nr. 1 (1899)
Richard Dehmel (1863-1920)

Of the three most recognized poets of the fin-de-siecle avant garde--Stefan George, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Richard Dehmel,of the three,it was Dehmel who received the most severe criticism because of his willful eroticism and revolutionary social undertones.

In 1899, the year in which Strauss composed “Notturno,” it was Dehmel was the middleman who introduced Strauss to Hugo von Hofmannsthal, further tightening the circle of artists at this time. Strauss by this time preferred contemporary poets for his songs without question, and he in fact set eleven of Dehmel’s poems.

Originally composed for orchestra and low voice (baritone or mezzo soprano), the piano version of “Notturno”, initiated by Strauss himself,adds the veiled sound of the solo violin from the orchestra. The atmosphere is quintessentially turn-of-the-century – Jugendstil – with its nebulous mysticism captured in an “other-worldly” conversation of friends at night on snowy fields struggling for resolve brought on by death’s separation. The musical essence directly foreshadows that of Salome and Electra. To Dehmel’s delight, Schoenberg set his Verklärte Nacht in the same year--1899.

Freundliche Vision, Op.48, Nr. 1 (1901)
Otto Julius Bierbaum (1865-1910)

The very musical impulse that propels this magical song was its greatest criticism at the time of its publication. Strauss starts the song in the “wrong” minor key before easily and magically modulating into the unrelated major key of the song’s event. He thus captures precisely what the poem explores: a reverie of dream and waking, shadows and daylight, and the re-union of two lovers.

Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland, Op.56, Nr. 6 (1904-06?)
Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

There is something highly infectious in this original orchestra song, which was later completed in piano version by Strauss and included in his Opus 56 songs. The programmatic effects found in the orchestral version hint at Don Quixote, but the piano version holds its own with a kind of naive and even “tongue-in-cheek” scene painting that is typical of Heine and is matched by Strauss’ firm diatonicism. The intermittent outbreaks of the discouraged Wise Men, bawling oxes and screaming babies notwithstanding, the realization of the inhabitant of this humble manger, resolved in a cantilena phrase of quintessential beauty by Strauss, makes the whole episode seem worthy of the devout pilgrimage it describes.

Im Sonnenschein, Op.87, Nr. 4 (1929)
Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866)

With the (opera-)world-shattering success of Salomé in 1904 and Electra in 1906, Richard Strauss took a decidedly new operatic path in his compositional genius. The songs written between 1906 and the end of his life, although intermittent, belie a recurring interest in the setting of poetry that expresses the human dilemma. The first two songs written in 1929 and the third in 1935 on the texts of Rückert, which were not published during his lifetime and were only first performed in the 1960s, give us perhaps two final perspectives on Richard Strauss and his world.

First, in the aftermath of the tragic and in many ways unresolved social conflicts of World War I, which were exacerbated by the driving industrialism meant to both liberate the proletariat and capture the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of the free market, it was Rückert’s poetry, and specifically his orientally-influenced almost metaphysical reflections, that found a resurgence of favor among the public and academics alike. Second, Richard Strauss was one of the many creative personalities that found themselves not only disillusioned in the rubble of Europe found in the 1920s, but as well wholly displaced in a new world order completely and utterly disjunct from the world into which they had been born. (It was in fact out of this rubble of buildings and “Bildung” that Strauss aligned with Hofmannsthal and Max Reinhardt to found the Salzburg Festival.)

It does not surprise me in the least that Strauss was interested in these three poems, with the highly structured poetic form of the “Persian Ghasel” already often adapted in German by Goethe, Schlegel and later von Platen. It does, however, surprise me that, despite his ordering of the songs to Opus 87, he did not see them published in his lifetime. They impress me in their reflective nature, in their unmistakable musical relationship to the opera Arabella (1933) and their overwhelming conviction of love, youth and passion as the mitigator of the relentlessness of aging and the ambivalence of the world. The musical language he finds matches these reflections but with an urgency that defies complacency or disillusionment. Passion abounds in great quantity.

Not one to often search the dark side of human nature, but rather to perpetually illuminate the inevitable search for clarity, compassion and love that human beings so desperately cling to in their myriad fates, Richard Strauss’ songs provides each of us havens of contemplations as we travel our own paths and discover our own “stories”.

For further resources, such as a selected bibliography, chronology and further discussion of the songs of Richard Strauss, please visit Hampson Foundation.