John McCormack - Morgen by Richard Strauss
One of Richard Strauss' best known songs, this work, a celebration of love, is inspired by the composer's feelings toward his wife, Pauline. The text is "Morgen," a poem by the German poet (of Scottish extraction), John Henry Morgan (1864-1933). The poem, which blends tranquil, reassuring images of nature with deep confidence in love, inspired a natural, flowing melody of extraordinary beauty. While the atmosphere of tranquillity remains fundamentally undisturbed, the smoothly ascending movement of the melody suggests feelings of deep, boundless joy, yearning to express its immensity. Providing discreet harmonic accompaniment and gentle melodic support, the piano part beautifully complements the solo. While Strauss is better known for his symphonic and operatic works, this work, composed in 1893-1894, identifies him as one of the great masters of the German Lied.
John McCormack was one of the greatest singers of the 20th century. A tenor of the bel canto school, he enjoyed an immensely successful career in opera, on the recital stage, and with the sale of his recordings. Born in Ireland in 1884 to working class parents, he early evinced a strong interest in a career as a singer, and in 1903 with very little formal training he won the gold medal as a tenor at the Irish National Music Festival, the Feis Ceoil. He studied briefly in Italy under Sabatini and returned to London in the autumn of 1906 seeking opportunities to sing professionally. It took him less than a year, for in the autumn of 1907 he made his debut at Covent Garden, at age 23 the youngest principal tenor ever to sing there. In less than three years he was singing opera in the United States too, as well as beginning a career on the recital stage that would make him one of the most successful singers of all time, both in the hearts of a virtually global public, and in the size of the financial reward he reaped from his concerts and recordings. In 1919 he became a citizen of the United States, his adopted country, and the one where his concert appeal had proven to be nearly universal and unrelenting. McCormack's active career lasted over forty years. He made his first recordings in 1904 and his last in 1942. He first sang professionally as early as 1902 and retired (in England) in 1938. One year after that farewell concert he was back singing for the Red Cross and in support of the war effort. He concertized, toured, broadcast, and recorded in this capacity until 1943, when failing health forced him to retire again. McCormack died in September 1945.