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The Four Last Songs (German: Vier letzte Lieder) were the final works of Richard Strauss, composed in 1948 when the composer was 84. The premiere was given in London on 22 May 1950, featuring soprano Kirsten Flagstad accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler. Strauss did not live to hear it.
Strauss had recently come across the poem Im Abendrot (At Sunset) by Joseph Eichendorff, which he felt had a special meaning for him. He set its text to music in May of 1948. Strauss had also recently been given a copy of the complete poems of Hermann Hesse, and he arranged three of his works -- Frühling (Spring), September, and Beim Schlafengehen (Going to Sleep)
The songs deal with death and were written shortly before Strauss himself died. However, instead of the typical Romantic defiance, these Four Last Songs are suffused with a sense of calm, acceptance, and completeness. The juxaposition of the achingly beautiful vocal line with the respectfully supportive brass accompaniment has clear references to Strauss's own life.
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