Gillian Keith (soprano) & Simon Lepper (piano)



1. Strauss, Richard [2:32]
Ständchen - Op.17 No.2

2. Strauss, Richard [3:00]
Leises Lied - Op.39 No.1

3. Strauss, Richard [2:08]
Wiegenliedchen - Op.49 No.3

4. Strauss, Richard [2:22]
Lieder Ohne Opus (i) Rote Rosen

5. Strauss, Richard [2:58]
Lieder Ohne Opus (ii) Die erwachte Rose

6. Strauss, Richard [2:56]
Lieder Ohne Opus (iii) Malven

7. Strauss, Richard [2:13]
Mädchenblumen Op.22 (i) Kornblumen

8. Strauss, Richard [1:13]
Mädchenblumen Op.22 (ii) Mohnblumen

9. Strauss, Richard [2:54]
Mädchenblumen Op.22 (iii) Epheu

10. Strauss, Richard [3:33]
Mädchenblumen Op.22 (iv) Wasserrose

11. Strauss, Richard [2:42]
Fünf lieder Op.48 (i) Freundliches Vision

12. Strauss, Richard [2:09]
Fünf lieder Op.48 (ii) Ich schwebe

13. Strauss, Richard [1:33]
Fünf lieder Op.48 (iii) Kling!

14. Strauss, Richard [2:59]
Fünf lieder Op.48 (iv) Winterweihe

15. Strauss, Richard [1:36]
Fünf lieder Op.48 (v) Winterliebe

16. Strauss, Richard [2:33]
Schlagende Herzen

17. Strauss, Richard [2:23]

18. Strauss, Richard [1:52]
Das Bächlein

19. Strauss, Richard [2:53]

20. Strauss, Richard [1:57]
Drei leider Op.69 (i) Der Stern

21. Strauss, Richard [1:19]
Drei leider Op.69 (ii) Der Pokel

22. Strauss, Richard [2:35]
Drei leider Op.69 (iii) Einerlei

23. Strauss, Richard [2:52]
Drei lieder der Ophelia Op.67 (i) Wie erkenn ich mein Treulieb

24. Strauss, Richard [1:14]
Drei lieder der Ophelia Op.67 (ii) Guten Morgen ist's Sankt Valentins

25. Strauss, Richard [3:25]
Drei lieder der Ophelia Op.67 (iii) Sie trugen ihm auf dem Bahre bloss

Gillian Keith, soprano
Simon Lepper, piano

"I thank my Almighty Creator for the gift and
inspiration of the female voice."
Richard Strauss

Strauss displays a consistent ability to bring out the best in a singer, and soprano Gillian Keith -accompanied here by pianist Simon Lepper - amply showcases Straussʼ unique reverence for the female voice.

In song-writing, as in orchestral music, Richard Strauss hit his stride early. His range and confidence is displayed in this group of songs; as the selection shows, he wrote some superb examples in his teens,and by his mid-twenties was already an assured master of the Lied; mastery which continued to develop into old age.

Generations of singers have been inspired by Straussʼ devotion to song; from the dramatic, to the lyric, to the coloratura, Straussʼ songs offer something very special.In this recital of specially chosen Lieder are many songs which have earned their place in the repertoire, along with less-often heard works such as Mädchen blumen and Drei Lieder der Ophelia, which compliment those more familiar and are at the heart of this recital.

One of Canadaʼs leading lyric sopranos, Gillian Keith made her Royal Opera Covent Garden debut as Zerbinetta in Straussʼ Ariadne auf Naxos, a role she has gone on to repeat with great success. A past winner of the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier Award, she has a natural affinity for Straussʼ music.



In song-writing, as in orchestral music, Richard Strauss hit his stride early. Something of his range and confidence is displayed in this group of songs; as the selection shows, he wrote some superb examples in his teens, and by his mid-twenties was already an assured master of the Lied. (Success in opera would take rather longer.) His mastery continued to develop into old age.

Ständchen, to a poem by Adolf von Schack, was composed in the summer of 1887, when the composer was 23, and has become possibly the best-known of all Strauss’s songs: it became so popular, and circulated in so many arrangements, that it has been said it made its composer a household name all on its own. The lightness of touch in both accompaniment and the shaping of the melody are in fact very unlike the style of most of his other early songs, but the glowing ardour of the climax is utterly characteristic of his best music at any period. Leises Lied is one of several songs Strauss wrote to poems by the influential contemporary poet Richard Dehmel (also set by Zemlinsky and Schoenberg). Composed in July 1898, this is a rather enigmatic, almost impressionistic setting, which has been seen as one of Strauss’s nearest approaches to the style of his contemporary Debussy. Wiegenliedchen, another Dehmel setting from 1901, reveals the often-controversial poet as a masterly writer of children’s poetry, to which Strauss responds with a delightful little essay in rocking berceuse rhythms.

The three flower songs without opus number consist of two of Strauss’s earliest Lieder, and his very last song of all. Die erwachte Rose, written in January 1880, was one of a pair of settings of words by the theologian Friedrich von Sallet, and shows the 15-year- old composer was rather in thrall to Mendelssohn. Rote Rosen, from September 1883, sets a lyric by the Munich poet Karl Stieler. Strauss liked the poem a great deal, but felt his song had not turned out very well and decided not to publish it. It was not premiered until 1958, when Elisabeth Schwarzkopf sang it before an audience of thousands in Carnegie Hall, New York. Malven (The Mallows) also had a posthumous premiere. A setting of a poem by Betty Wehrli-Knobel, this charming song was completed in November 1948 – that is, after the composition of Strauss’s famous Four Last Songs. Shortly before his death Strauss gave the manuscript to the singer Maria

Jeritza, who kept it until her own demise. The first performance did not take place until 1985.

Flowers are interpreted in a different way in Strauss’s op. 22. In 1888 he was drawn to the work of the poet and historian Felix Dahn, whose reputation in Munich (he was a professor at the University) was then at its height. The four songs that constitute Mädchenblumen make up a short song-cycle in which the poet finds flower-equivalents for different kinds of girls. Though the poems now inevitably sound dated and sentimental, Strauss’s settings – dedicated to his friend, the tenor Hans Giessen – are delightful. He produces tender lyricism for the cornflower, trills and highly-coloured modulations for the red poppy, an easy-going dose of sentiment for the ivy, and rippling figuration for the water-rose.

While op. 22 is minor (though highly enjoyable) Strauss, the five songs of op. 48, composed 12 years later in 1900, contain some of his finest inspirations. Though four of the five songs are to poems by Karl Henckell, the set opens with the celebrated Freundliche Vision – a setting of a poem by Otto Julius Bierbaum. Bierbaum was a popular satirist who tried to instil a new simplicity into verse (his poetry was the inspiration of the Überbrettl cabaret in Berlin, for which Schoenberg wrote his Brettl- Lieder), but he also had his more decadent side, as is clear from the outright dreamy nostalgia of this poem, and he often inspired Strauss to golden flights of melody. The two men had been friends, but this was about to change when Bierbaum criticized Strauss’s choral ballad Taillefer in print, and as a result Freundliche Vision was the last Bierbaum poem that he set. This song is another well-loved gem within Strauss’s extensive song-output; it is also one of the most sophisticated in technique in its evocation of Bierbaum’s picture of domestic paradise. The idea of living side by side ‘with one who loves me ... in beauty and peace’ was part of the essence of Strauss’s own personal romantic feelings.

Of the Henckell settings, Ich schwebe is a swift, bell-like waltz which apparently emanates from ideas Strauss had been considering for a ballet; and the bell-imitations

(this time in the voice) persist in the ebullient following song, Kling! ..... . The last two songs, both of which Strauss later orchestrated in 1918, are concerned with winter, and indeed form a complementary pair, the melancholy of Winterweihe (a poem also set by Schoenberg) giving way to the ardent declaration of love in Winterliebe. Both songs seem to look forward to two of his later operas, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Arabella.

An earlier Bierbaum setting is Schlagende Herzen, composed in June 1895 to the kind of raffish poem that made Bierbaum such a natural writer of cabaret songs. Strauss – who had just completed Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche – responds with gaiety to
the words, and takes up the idea that the lovers’ beating hearts are in fact ringing like little bells. Muttertänderlei, an effervescent little jewel of a song to a poem by the great ballad-poet Gottfried August Bürger, was composed on 15 August 1899 and orchestrated about six months afterwards as one of a group of three Mutterlieder (Mother-songs) which Strauss’s wife Pauline, now mother to his son Franz, sang several times in concert.

Das Bachlein is a comparatively late song, to words supposedly by Goethe (though there is some doubt as to whether he was indeed the poet). Composed in December 1933, it has its uncomfortable aspects, for Strauss dedicated it to Dr Joseph Goebbels, apparently as a courtesy for having been appointed President of the Reichsmusikkammer the previous month. The appointment would bring him nothing but disenchantment, but the fact that the poem’s last line contains the words ‘mein Führer’ – to which Strauss gives a three-fold repetition – has provided ammunition for commentators who wish to find Strauss guilty of support for the Nazi régime. In all other respects it is a beautiful song, with a Schubertian, folk-like main melody that Strauss treats with all the gentle sophistication at his command.

Amor is one of a set of six songs from 1918 to words by Clemens Brentano, one of the two authors of the great collection of German folk-poetry, Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The poem does not come from the anthology but furnishes Strauss with the perfect

spur to write a bravura song for a coloratura soprano, impersonating the shepherdess who puts herself in danger by sheltering the little blind child-god who has singed his wings. Later in 1918 Strauss turned his attention to Brentano’s friend, brother-in-law and fellow-Wunderhorn author Achim von Arnim, in the first three of a set of five Kleine Lieder, op. 69. Arnim’s poem Der Stern celebrates the appearance of a comet in 1811 as an encouraging omen for German liberty but at the same time longs for peace, and Strauss’s setting, with its folksong-style simplicity, stresses the second interpretation. The composer told his friend Max Marschalk that this song was a case where the musical inspiration came to him immediately, while reading the poem, and he wrote it down on the spot. Der Pokal is a high-spirited drinking-song. Einerlei is something more subtle, based on a mere poetic fragment in which von Arnim celebrates ‘sameness’ as the fount of ‘so much diversity’. Strauss set the words to a highly memorable phrase on which he then rings a host of changes and variations both melodic and harmonic.

It was around the same time that he wrote these Arnim and Brentano settings that Strauss composed three ‘Songs of Ophelia’ from Shakespeare’s Hamlet (in the translation of Karl Simrock). He was currently engaged in a bitter dispute with the publishers Bote und Bock (whom he had satirized outrageously in the song-cycle Krämerspiegel, op. 66), but was legally bound to supply them with a certain number of Lieder, and so gave vent to his feelings by producing some ‘mad songs’. The first song, Wie erkenn ich mein Treulieb?, vividly depicts the wandering mind of Ophelia as she searches for her dead lover, with its syncopated dissonances and hesitant, roving melody. Guten Morgen, ist’s Sankt Valentins Tag represents Ophelia’s demented babbling to the King and Queen with random alternations of major and minor and a completely fragmentary design. Finally Sie trugen ihm auf der Bahre, bloss penetrates to a sense of genuine tragedy with its broader melody and sense of grim finality.

Malcolm MacDonald

“…it’s no surprise she shines in high florid flourishes and trills of Amor…”

The Sunday Times

“…Gillian Keith reveals their melodic memorability...”


“…soprano Gillian Strauss – accompanied here by pianist Simon Lepper – beautifully present Strauss’ unique reverence for the female voice. “



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