This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss and the first post that we devoted to this celebration is written (in English and in German) by the baritone Timothy Sharp (@AllAboutSharp on Twitter), who is also singing this post's lied. Of course he's talking about the composer but also about the great Hans Hotter. Our guest is planning to record a CD with Strauss' lieder this Summer, this is the link to his crowdfunding project: Richard Strauss - Ein Leben in Liedern (A Life in Song). Please have a look at it! And, as we always say to our guest writers: thank you, Timothy!
Bildnis Richard Strauss - M. Liebermann
As a young singer at the age of 23, I had the opportunity to take my first master class with the famous Hans Hotter. The theme of the course was: “Schubert, Wolf and Strauss”. I prepared six songs by each composer and went to Austria where the course took place. I was full of anticipation for the masterclass. In my bag I had, among others, my favorite Schubert songs Ganymed and Prometheus, some Goethe -Lieder by Wolf and some Strauss “classics” such as Die Nacht, Traum durch die Dämmerung and of course Zueignung, probably the most famous song by Richard Strauss.
I found out during the course that Hotter had the chance to go through Strauss’ songs with the composer himself, who was a close friend and later on the grandfather of Hotter's son in law. Together at the piano they went through almost his complete song-oeuvre to find a representative program for a recital in honor of Strauss’ 80th birthday.
I grabbed the opportunity, ditched half of my course repertoire and learned as many Strauss-songs as I quickly could. I wanted to take advantage of the chance to get as much possible authentic information on the songs as I could. Had I known that I was granted eight further courses in the course of the years, I might have taken it easier... But nevertheless: it was a great experience! To almost every song Hotter had a little anecdote or an original saying of the Master, which I wrote down like a little pupil. A few of these sayings I would like to share with you, since they partially throw a really different light on the songs.
The first song that I sang for Hotter, was the famous Zueigung, which I of course sang like an opera singer, in the allure and in continuous mezzo forte to forte. But then Hotter told that Richard Strauss has been almost saddened that this song had been so often sung by the singers as an encore, just because it concludes with the words "Habe Dank!" (English: “Thanks to you!”) and of course because of the striking final high note.
Not without reason he himself had put this song at the beginning of his Opus 10. He also said: "This song is actually a “piano-Lied” (a soft song). It's like an anthem initially very quiet and at the full emphasis is to be brought in last moment.”
I have since then always tried to implement these directions in my interpretation, even if it may sound a bit strange at first. But the effect of the last climax is tremendous!
By the way, in the context of this concert happened a funny faux-pas, that I love to tell my audiences at concerts when I sing the encore: At the final concert of the course, in which we sang equally songs by Schubert, Wolf and Strauss we had a nice applause and it we were prepared to sing Zueignung (English: “Dedication”) as the famously unwanted encore (German: Zugabe). Due to the short length of the piece it is unfortunately still an ideal encore! Although we were instructed by Hans Hotter, that this is "against Strauss will" , so to speak.
So our great teacher entered the stage at the final applause, stood before the the audience and said, with sonorous voice : Thank you ladies and gentlemen, for your rich applause. And now, to conclude this evening you will hear by Richard Strauss, the famous "Zugabe" ...
Timothy Sharp and Hans-Otto Ehrström perform Zueignung by Richard Strauss after a poem by Hermann von Gilm..
Ja, du weißt es, teure Seele,
Daß ich fern von dir mich quäle,
Liebe macht die Herzen krank,
Einst hielt ich, der Freiheit Zecher,
Hoch den Amethysten-Becher,
Und du segnetest den Trank,
Und beschworst darin die Bösen,
Bis ich, was ich nie gewesen,
Heilig, heilig an's Herz dir sank,
Yes, you sense how much I languish,
how your absence feeds my anguish.
Love can bring the keenest pangs.
Oh give thanks!
Once I posed as freedom's champion,
holding high my shining tankard,
and you blessed the toast I drank.
Oh give thanks!
Yes, you saved my soul from capture,
(translation by Peter Low)
so that, raised to holy rapture,
fired with love in your arms I sank.
Oh give thanks!