Richard Strauss and his residence in Switzerland

Filled with international triumphs and a career in the Nazi era, Richard Strauss left Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1945 with his wife, seeing German music’s shrines in ruins. The octogenarian couple settled in Switzerland, the country they stayed in frequently throughout their lives: Zermatt, Uchi (Lausanne), Pontresina, St. Moritz and Sils-Maria (Engadin).

No sooner had Strauss left than the Accusation Chamber in Garmisch opened an investigation into the musician’s responsibility for Nazi culture. In the end he will be acquitted.

Spa treatment in Baden, a small town not far from Zurich and located in a bend of the Limmat River, provided him with moments of respite, hence one of the last fittings: transitions.

Metamorphoses (1945)

This piece for strings strikes with its clarity. It’s an unbroken flow of cross-lines, a slow movement that glides smoothly like the waters of a wide river – and the lower registers evoke an air of mystery, as Themes 1 and 2 alternately cycle between instruments:

Topic 1

Topic 2

Strauss did not explain to him transitionsBut a note in his diary mentions his resignation in the face of the destruction of German culture. Thus, with this work, he left us a kind of “Liturgy”. Strauss specialists found numerous references to musical (Beethoven and Mozart) and poetic (Goethe) sources. Why don’t you look at transitions Like the evolution of the musical flow in this way, taking the riverbed as a metaphor, in Strauss known for his programmatic vein?

The slowness of the initial flow follows vivid figures in eighth notes and triplets, the river softens and rapids launch impulses, entrusted to the violins:


Further, in the acceleration, the themes are undercut by a running of sixteenth notes in alto, which culminates at the end in a sophisticated dissonant structure: the rush of water, the thematic elements drift wildly in a whirlwind, before the surface becomes slick, we are engulfed in a harmonious halo that prepares The ground for a funeral march breaks out suddenly (signed “In Memoriam”), and the end is stretched out in tiny ropes that exhale…

Fair Letzety Leader (1948)

At the age of 81, the spa treatment complete, Richard Strauss extended his stay in Switzerland, sometimes at Pontresina (the Hotel Sarratz, his favorite inn), sometimes at Ouchy-Lausanne or Montreux. He leans towards poetry and, having known Hermann Hesse personally, composed a piece for soprano and large orchestra in three of his poems:

  1. FRÜHLING (Spring) – H. Hesse July 1948 in Pontresina

1- In dämmrigen Grüften / traumte ich lang …

The poem evokes the flowering of nature after the sterile and dark period of winter (V “evil vaults”) And the excitement of the moment when life springs from all sides (“It makes me shudder”). If Lieder type is automatic by definition, this is it 4 songs It will be more, because instead of the piano, Strauss mobilizes all the resources of the orchestral body.

What explains the enormous popularity of this latest work? In contrast to his operas where the tonal space is often expanded, declaring modern vistas, in his 4 songs, Strauss returns to a purely romantic language – often close to Brahms.

in fountain, The orchestra introduces itself with a movement of lightness in 6/8, a percussive figure who seems to drive the movement delicately through its game between the registers, but the soprano must first rise from the depths: E flat Gravity holding it (“Dark Vaults”) flies away in a few seconds to floor, evokes the blossoming of buds and the extension of azure. to emphasize the emotional tremor of the poetic subject (“… you make me shiver”). Strauss supports the high voice with arpeggios paralleling the ascending melodic line. In the end, the orchestra keeps its pulsating movement from the ground up based on a very short rhythmic figure in two beats.

  1. Sept-Hesse September 1948 in Montreux

Der Garten trauert / kühl drowned in Die Blumen der Regen …

Hesse paints a picture of a garden at the end of summer, flowers watered by raindrops, the last roses and the fatigue of a dozing garden. A first look at the score can evoke the work of Monet or Pissarro, with its flowing dots of color and light. The orchestra’s sticks are crossed from top to bottom by cells of sixteenth notes and triplets, mainly entrusted to the clarinet, which supports the wave movement (main theme) in the treble. Strauss makes you feel here the soft rain of late summer, the drops of descending triplets, either on the violin or on the flute, and the incessant strumming of the harp reveal the decor in pastel colors. After many alterations, Summer’s Portrait brings out a fine middle finger, and the passage near the roses opens a dramatic orchestral section, before “Garden of Death” is voiced by a diminishing line of Dr to me Drthat the waters calm, that the intensity of the sound diminish—to evoke the “weary eyes” that close, at solitary distances from the horn and on the little parts that bear, in reverberation, the undulating elements of the main theme in dp In the triple…

Lieder 3 and 4 offer more in an atmosphere of detachment, a farewell to life, to culture, and to life with his wife Pauline, all with a touch of resignation, but all the quietly while – the same.

  1. BEIM SCHLAFENGEHEN (The Sleeping Hour) August 1948 in Pontresina Hess

Nun hat der Tag mich müd gemacht …

Escaping into sleep and ascending to the dreamlike atmosphere of the night: this, in short, is the program of this third text by Hesse. For the setting, Strauss seems to approach here to alternating harmonies, like the often unusual modulations in Schubert’s piano pieces.

Before the voice announces its desire to plunge into the night, we hear a short irregular based on the rising seventh, coming from the lower strings, like the religious-themed “de profundis clamavi”. The voice introduces the first verse roughly into the recitative, while the intermediate registers (alto and woodwinds) line up barely audible descending triplets. The individual’s urge to give up on each activity (segment 2) is expressed by a descending line of color.

Before succumbing to the lure of dream whistles, the sound is preceded by a violin solo that anticipates the passing of the key of the lie. To use a biblical image, the violin climbs the steps of Jacob’s ladder (the harmonics) to reach the heights of the dream world (remember the pathetic version of this kind of harmonic scaffolding in Zoroaster!): Du D – large apartment to me B – small flatto me C- A large apartmentto me And – the main apartment to me The main flat E….

First violin solo (starting in D-flat Major)

The soprano then sings, as if in echo, the matching sequence of the words “Flügen” and “schweben” (Trekking/elevation). What a joy it is to be able to step away from the sentimentality of everyday life to embrace the full extent of the nocturnal universe! The strings here take on a dramatic look (scales, string triplets, sixteenth notes), and then retract so as not to impede the expressive line of the soprano even flat b About the word “tausendfach” (multiple lives – or: live a thousand times). Ultimately, the thematic elements announce themselves Sensitive In slow motion, the intervention of the horn never misses its mark. It all dissolves into a file flat tide stretched, punctuated by broken tendons.

  1. IM ABENDROT (at dusk in the evening) May 1948 in Montreux (Joseph von Eichendorff)

1- Hand in hand…

Eichendorff evokes the last moments of an old couple quietly contemplating the twilight, the last domes flying away, and feeling like sleeping (or dying?). Although this lie was composed at first, it was placed last by the editors and performers for reasons of emotional progression.

The introduction begins with the unison of violins and woodwinds bowing a heavenly arc with a high-pitched melisma painting that flows softly over the anchored strings in the other registers. Not to be missed: the tambourines in the background with their quivering blows, barely audible: the announcement of death? Moreover, the trumpets, always floating with the intensity of the orchestra’s sound, are here to prepare the entry of the song, as well as each time before the new phases of the text.

On the word “Freud” (joy), the music opens a portal to A flat c related main E flat previous major. – In the “silent land” (the silent countryside) we find the pure flat b pioneerAnd the But when the valleys darken, the G flat The middle finger slides a step back towards a F sharp a dark minor, backed by a falling scale in the bass. Then the two larks soar happily into the sky, trilled by trills in the third of Psalms (not far from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons!). The last syllable introduces the calm of an almost ecstatic detachment (oh peace): the sound articulation spaced out, surrounded by the initial thought inserted between the words:

Before uttering the keyword “death”, the voice progresses hesitantly, almost crawling towards flat b (for a minor), held for a long time, to slip dp In the flat c On “Todd”, which is carried by a major chord full of sweetness…

The soprano voice is gone, and the orchestra keeps it Sensitive in a swan song spanned over twenty bars, with – echoing from afar – the hymns of larks, before the final climax in E flat of reconciliation.


gilliam brian, Richard Strauss Verlag Beck, Munich 2014

Hesse-Garbusch-Hermann (2009), Article by Volker Wedeking on Leder R. Strauss (pp. 97-114)

SCHUH Willi (connoisseur and friend of the composer), Miscellaneous articles for magazines or for NZZ

Image credits: Portrait © Österreichische National Bibliothek

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