Strauss: The Complete Songs, Vol. 6 – Elizabeth Watts
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The somewhat artificial text suits the formal, strait-laced aspects of the scene, with its pannier-skirted ladies and their elegant cavaliers. Strauss’s setting moves at a stately tempo, its decorative rococo not unlike the filigree of the Gesänge des Orients Op 77 (see). Rooted in an aristocratic E major and C sharp minor, the occasional harmonic shifts act as pictorial colour. Meanwhile the widestepping vocal line, frequently anticipated first in the piano part, evokes both the expansive view and the exalted feelings it inspires, its collage of melodic gestures adding up as much to a mood-piece as to a conventional song.
Interestingly, Weinheber’s poem turns out to be an acrostic on the name of Marie Grengg—each line begins with one of the letters of her name—who provided illustrations for the volume in which the poem was first published. Entitled Wien wörtlich (‘Vienna in words’), this was a collection of poems about Vienna and Viennese life. Strauss was presumably aware of the hidden riddle, and in his excellent biography Norman Del Mar suggests that the composer may have added a cryptic reference of his own: at the words ‘Gehn nicht die Terrassen ab und an’ the vocal line recalls a lively Croatian folk-tune from Mandryka’s aria in Arabella, in which the singer recounts his visit to Vienna.
from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2012