, composed in 1915, sets a poem by Joseph von Eichendorff (1788–1857), whose lyrical evocations of troubled souls and nature’s beauties appealed to many of Reger’s contemporaries; Strauss’s setting of the world-weary Im Abendrot
as what eventually became the last of the Four Last Songs
cemented the association between Eichendorff and the late-Romantic world-view. Der Einsiedler
alone had already been set by Schumann, Mendelssohn, Bruch and Wolf; one of Reger’s most celebrated pupils, Othmar Schoeck, would later add his own interpretation to the canon. The poem’s theme—the ‘comfort’ offered to the world by the ‘quiet night’—has obvious links with Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde
, whose protagonists likewise yearn for ‘night’; intentionally or not, Reger highlights this link with some Tristan
-inflected harmony, though this is less evident in the mostly homophonic choral parts than in the orchestral accompaniment (here played in Reger’s idiomatic piano transcription), and in particular in the descending chromatic lines given to the baritone soloist, who enters for the second stanza and whose voice mingles with the chorus in the third. The words ‘O Trost der Welt’, sung frequently by the chorus, are repeated by the soloist as the music finds eventual repose in the home key; the human voice seems metaphorically to convey the comfort offered by night, while the sometimes febrile, harmonically restless piano part represents the subjectivity of the eponymous hermit.
from notes by Michael Downes © 2010