About this work
Reger composed this for and dedicated it to alto Anna Erler-Schnaudt, with whom he gave the first performance. As with the voice for which the extended song was intended, there's a darkness to the text by Friedrich Hölderlin, despite its title, "To Hope." The piece is, in effect, a vocal nocturne on the subject of death and redemption. Reger's style is steeped in that of Brahms, but his harmonies and orchestral sonorities are rather more decadent, typical of late German Romanticism. The orchestra's restrained introductory measures could almost have been lifted from Brahms' German Requiem, but soon the music becomes tonally slippery as the strings utter ardent sighs and the soloist enters with the words:
"O hope! Lovely, merciful, busy one!
Who does not avoid the home of the grieving,
O hope! And pleased to serve, noble one,
Between mortals and the powers of heaven!"
After a hesitation, the music rises to a passionate little climax on the line:
"Where are you, O hope! I've lived so little."
Then it subsides into an almost recitative-like setting of the next words:
"Yet I already feel
The cold breath of my evening. And I'm already silent,
Like a shadow; and devoid of song
The shuddering heart sleeps in my breast."
The music brightens considerably for the next bucolic passage:
"In the green valley, where the fresh spring flows
Daily from the mountain, and the peaceful
Timeless one blooms for me in the light of fall.
There, in the silence, you lovely one, I will
Seek you, or when at midnight
The invisible life awakens in the grove,
And above me the blossoms, ever gentle,
The constant stars shine bright,
O you, lovely one, I will find you.
"O you, daughter of the ether! Appear then
From you father's gardens, and if you may not
Grant me mortal fortune,
Thrill my heart with other things."
In the end, the alto rhapsodizes briefly on a final, ecstatic line: "Lovely hope, O hope!"