On Strauss’s Four Last Songs (Lubeck 2005)

When I first studied the songs, their beautiful legato lines were very much to the fore, the lovely wind passages, music which is so wide-ranging, so stirring and so…not sentimental but sensual. ‘Sentimental’ gives a completely wrong impression. Sensual. Today, I am older, friends have died, and the songs work quite differently for me. ‘Im Abendrot’ [‘At Sunset’], for example, sometimes brings tears to my eyes when I’m sitting at the piano at home and can picture this sunset and its dimming light of life – Oh, God! In this respect, for me personally the songs are even more affecting than they were a few years ago. But they musn’t be called a ‘farewell’, because that means the end of everything. I find songs which describe death and the frontiers of life like this full of hope and joy. You can feel, and hear, that Strauss was a believer. He transforms Eichendorff and Hesse so feelingly into positive harmonies and positive lines that the heart swells – he gives you hope, even after the recent death of firends. You may bid them farewell, but it is only a farewell from this world, after which comes something new….

Extracts from an NDR interview with Elizabeth Richter for the closing concert of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, with the NDR Symphony Orchestra under Christopher von Dohnanyi, August 2005