Hyperion Records

Gesänge des Orients, Op 77
Between 1906 and 1918 there was a hiatus in Strauss’s song composition, but these years were otherwise highly productive of vocal music. Partly occasioned by a lengthy wrangle over copyright with the publishers Bote & Bock, the break coincided with his most important period of operatic composition, during which Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten all appeared. Most of his later songs reflect the development of his style, especially in the complexity of accompanying textures and the extension of his harmonic language.

The Gesänge des Orients were composed in 1928, shortly after Die Aegyptische Helena, and are settings of adaptations from the Persian and the Chinese by Hans Bethge, whose anthology Die chinesische Flöte had already inspired Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. The change in style from Strauss’s earlier songs is marked, with a generally more ascetic palette of colour and a quasi-oriental application of ornament, especially in the first and fourth songs, each of which contemplates an aspect of the beloved. All five songs are vertiginously high, and originally intended for tenor, though interestingly dedicated to Strauss’s beloved Elisabeth Schumann and her conductor–husband Karl Alwin.

from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2005

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