Notes by TŌN violinist Gaia Mariani Ramsdell
Ruhe, meine Seele!
Completed in 1894, Richard Strauss composed his set of Four Songs as a wedding present for his wife, the eminent soprano Pauline de Ahna. The first song, “Ruhe, meine Seele!” (“Rest, my soul!”), is set to the text of a poem by the German poet Karl Henckell. Of the four songs, this one is perhaps the most somber. The poem urges the listener to rest their spirit and try to forget all sufferings, reassuring them that their troubles will soon be over.
The second song, “Cäcilie,” is one of Strauss’ most impassioned love songs. Composed the day before his wedding, it uses the text of a love poem by German writer Heinrich Hart, who fittingly wrote the poem for his own wife, Cäcilie Hart. Strauss uses a passionately churning accompaniment and soaring vocal line to express what the love of his wife means to this ecstatically happy husband.
Third in the set, “Heimliche Aufforderung” (“Secret invitation”) is set to the text of a love poem by Scottish-German poet John Henry Mackay. This is an ardent love song about a secret tryst amidst a joyous feast of merrymakers. Rippling figurations accompany the yearning vocal line and a peaceful postlude follows the voice’s rapturous plea for night to fall so the lovers can meet.
The fourth song, “Morgen!” (“Tomorrow!”), is one of Strauss’ most well-known works. Set to another text by John Henry Mackay, this rapturous love song paints the inner elation of a lover staring into the eyes of his beloved. The voice waits a considerable amount of time before entering with “and tomorrow the sun will shine again,” as if caught mid-thought in dreamy revery. Strauss uses the solo violin to emphasize the theme, creating a sense of sweet nostalgia, and a succession of chords that never resolve perfectly depicts the lover’s yearning for his beloved.