Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 September 2011
If readers should perhaps take Strauss's statement to the great singer Hans Hotter with a barrel of salt, given the composer's primary dedication to opera, it is nevertheless true that, from beginning to end, he wrote songs. He lived around singers his entire life, after all; in his boyhood, he heard his aunt Johanna Pschorr – a gifted amateur mezzo-soprano – sing, and his father Franz Strauss played the horn in orchestral performances with some of the best singers of the day. Later, Richard's wife Pauline de Ahna was an accomplished professional soprano at the time of their marriage. In fact, Strauss began composing songs when he was a mere six-and-a-half years old: the earliest of thirty-two youthful songs without opus numbers, “Weihnachtslied” (“Christmas Song”) on a poem by Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart (the poet of Schubert's “Die Forelle”), was composed in 1870. There are gems to be found in this repertory composed before Strauss deemed his songs publishable; we discover, for example, that his love of Ludwig Uhland's poetry began early with such sensitive songs as “Die Drossel” (“The Thrush”), while “Der müde Wanderer” (“The Weary Wanderer”) on a poem by August Hoffmann von Fallersleben is another worthwhile creation.