About This Work
Richard Strauss composed his Opus 10 songs in 1882 - 83, at the age of 18 and while still living in his native town of Munich. Although Strauss had previously composed no fewer than 39 songs for voice and piano, the eight songs of Opus 10 are the
first songs about which Strauss was confident enough to attribute an opus number. His Acht Gedichte aus "Letzte Blätter" (Hermann von Gilm) thus mark the beginning of Strauss' life-long activity in the genre of the German Lied. In 1940, Strauss orchestrated Zueignung for the soprano Viorica Ursuleac, whom he wished to provide a showcase suitable for her to take on solo concert tours.
Strauss' musical setting of Gilm's poem faithfully reflects the poem's versification scheme and strophic disposition. Strauss gives each of the four verses in a strophe its own two-measure musical phrase and acknowledges the commas at the end of the first three lines by cadencing only after the refrain "Habe Dank," which returns at the end of each strophe. The musical setting of the second text strophe begins identically to that of the first, but modulates in the third verse to the closely related key of F major. Strauss moves through the key of D minor and back to the tonic key of C major in a brief piano interlude before the third strophe. The song melody recurs identically for the first two verses of the third and final strophe before the soprano, doubled in the right hand of the piano, swells up majestically to the registral climax on A with the only repeated word in the song, "heilig" (blessed), at the beginning of the third line. The transparent harmonic motion and contrapuntal texture of the piano accompaniment provide a bed of support for the solo soprano voice and participate in the dramatic pacing. Eighth-note triplet arpeggios roll gently forward throughout the song above the harmonic foundation of the slowly-moving bass. A third line in the accompaniment texture surfaces occasionally in the right hand to double or provide a countermelody to the song tune. The piano part expands in range during the third strophe, both hands enriching the texture by filling in the open intervals of the previous two strophes with chord tones and emphasizing the climax with emphatic triplets. Both voice and piano float blissfully upwards in the final two measures and the song gently drifts away.
-- Jennifer Hambrick
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