Our final two works are both sextets, but they come from opposite ends of their two composers’ careers. Verklärte Nacht [Transfigured Night] is one of Arnold Schönberg’s earliest works (Op. 4, 1899) while Richard Strauss’s opera Capriccio – the sextet forms its prelude – is his last stage work (Op. 85, 1942).
Both works deal with human love but in a very different manner: Verklärte Nacht is darkly passionate and based quite closely on a poem of the same title by Richard Dehmel that deals with sexual transgression and subsequent forgiveness (you can read it below).
The Strauss opera poses the question of the relative importance of poetry and music: are the words more important than the music or vice versa? This aesthetic dilemma is personified by a Countess having to choose between two potential lovers, a poet and a composer. The sextet that opens the opera is, supposedly, the work of Flamand, the composer.