By 1929 Strauss had most of his greatest operatic successes behind him. It is perhaps no surprise that his three late Rückert settings all have the epic scale of operatic perorations. Vom künftigen Alter
is a rumination on the winter of old age. ‘My hair is white but my heart is still warm’—this is the meaning of Rückert’s metaphor, and Strauss takes his cue for a favourite device, beginning in one key (E flat minor) and immediately modulating to another (E major), with the halting, frozen rhythm of the opening gradually melting into the warmer, flowing textures that accompany the rest of the song. Paler harmonies express the withering of youth’s roses, richer colours depict the life that still courses through the singer’s veins. Meanwhile sweeping right-hand phrases suggest the orchestra that Strauss probably had in mind, although they are also typical of his more rhetorical piano-writing. For once prepared to tackle a poem already set by Schubert (as Greisengesang
, D778), Strauss here achieves one of his finest, if least-known songs.
from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2009