Richard Strauss wrote the "Four Last Songs" for soprano and orchestra in 1948, about one year before his death. For this final hommage to the spirit of Romanticism, Strauss selected poems by Hermann Hesse (Frühling, September, Beim Schlafengehn) as well as Joseph von Eichendorff's Im Abendrot. And it is with the same spirit that he set to music these poems filled with leave-taking: after his late and virtually classicistic concertos and the bitter sorrow of the "Metamorphosen", he turned once again to the sumptuous and highly vivid palette of colors which he mastered so splendidly since his earliest years. The "Vier letzte Lieder", a kind of transfiguration at the threshold of death, were premiered by Kirsten Flagstad and Wilhelm Furtwängler in London's Royal Albert Hall on 22 May 1950 - a moving tribute to the composer who had died eight months earlier.
For many years, Sir Georg Solti was the last great representative of the central European musical tradition, which was characterized by elegance and impeccable tastefulness. Solti's remarkable partnership with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra began in 1954, when he first led the orchestra at the Ravinia Festival. After returning to conduct the ensemble several times during the following years, he was named Music Director in 1969 and held this post for a phenomenal 22 years. He is credited with greatly extending and enhancing the orchestra's worldwide reputation. This recording with the great soprano Lucia Popp, who passed away far too prematurely, was recorded at Chicago's Orchestra Hall in 1977.