For some reason this rather fine song remained unpublished in Strauss’s lifetime, and failed even to make it into the Complete Edition. It was composed in 1885, too late to be included with the eight other settings of Hermann von Gilm that made up Strauss’s precociously successful Opus 10, and a year before the next published set of songs, Opus 15. Darker in tone than any of the Op 10 songs (with the possible exception of Geduld
) its funereally tolling octaves suggest a kinship with the Op 15 Michelangelo setting Madrigal
—a song also addressed to a rejecting and inaccessible beloved. But in this case the canvas is far broader, not only in its continual suggestion of a wintry landscape, but also in the extended piano postlude that opens up in response to the final lines: ‘He did it, who in the field / Bedecks the lilies’. Remarkably, this peroration resembles nothing so much as the final pages of Lied der Frauen
, the last of the Brentano-Lieder (see CDA67746
), composed thirty-three years later. There is the same tonality, C major, the same sense of moving from darkness into light, the same orchestral sweep, and an almost identical final cadence. No other song of this period has anything like such an expansive play-out, which taken together with the rather abrupt change of tone in both poem and music—the Almighty making a rather surprising entrance in the last two lines—may have contributed to Strauss’s decision not to offer the song for publication. It was eventually published in 1974.
from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2012