"Morgen," Op. 27 Nº 4
BBC Symphony, Walter Weller
And tomorrow the sun will shine again,
and on the path that I will take
we, the lucky ones, will be united once more
amidst the sun-breathing Earth.
And to the shore, its wide, blue waves,
we will quietly and slowly descend.
Then we will look into one another’s eyes
and the silence of happiness will fall upon us.
"I compose everywhere, walking or driving, eating or drinking, at home or abroad, in noisy hotels, in my garden, in railway carriages. My sketch book never leaves me, and as soon as a motive strikes me I jot it down. One of the most important melodies for [Der Rosenkavalier] struck me while I was playing a Bavarian card game…But before I improvise even the smallest sketch for an opera, I allow the texts to permeate my thoughts and mature in me for at least six months so that the situation and characters may be thoroughly assimilated. Then only do I let my musical thoughts enter my mind. The subsketches then become sketches. They are copied out, worked out, arranged for piano and rearranged as often as four times. This is the hard part of the work. The score I write in my study, straightway without troubling, working at it twelve hours a day…With the flight of time, interest accumulates. Likewise as time flies, the outlined ideas develop within me. One fine day I take all the sheets out of the closet and an opera grows out of it."
Ein Alpensinfonie, Op. 64
Christian Thielemann, cond.
Over the course of twenty-two discrete sections across about 50 minutes of music, Strauss’ monumental Ein Alpensinfonie—the last of his great symphonic poems—depicts about twelve hours’ time spent clambering about in the Alps, from dawn to dusk. He had planned the work for years before being inspired to commence the orchestration in part by the death of Gustav Mahler.
The work is one of Strauss’ largest in terms of the forces required, calling for around 125 musicians. Although the music does not follow conventions of symphonic form, Strauss appears to have thought of the work as a proper “symphony,” the construction of which he characterized as less pleasing than “chasing cockroaches.” A recording by von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic became the first compact disc ever pressed commercially in 1981.
Richard Strauss - Romance in E-flat major for clarinet & orchestra, AV 61
Karl-Heinz Steffens, clarinet
Karl Anton Rickenbacher, cond.
This sunny, understated piece is the work of a 15 year-old Richard Strauss; Brahms’ famous sonatas for the instrument, Op. 120, had not yet been written. Strauss’ mature style has not yet emerged, but the materials and forces are managed with elegance. The echoes of Weber and Mozart are readily distinguishable.
(photo by shoeven)
Karl Bohm rehearses Richard Strauss’ Don Juan with the Vienna Philharmonic, 1970 (the rest of the rehearsal is also on Youtube). You have to know at least a little German to catch most of what he says, but you can get a feel for what it is that great conductors do in a professional rehearsal setting just by watching. Bohm was known for a rather severe rehearsal style, but invariably held the utmost respect (if sometimes motivated by fear) from his ensembles.
Richard Strauss - Don Juan, Tone-poem for large orchestra after Nikolaus Lenau, Op. 20
Herbert von Karajan, cond.
Don Juan, completed when Strauss when 24 years old, was the first of the composer’s works to fully exhibit his mature formal style and harmonic language. It is based on the play by Lenau, a fragment of which is given in the score, and is cast in a modified sonata-allegro structure with two principal themes and a somber coda representing the hero’s death.
Strauss conducted its première at Weimar, where he was Kapellmeister, in late 1889. Each of the orchestral parts presents its own problems of virtuosity, of which Strauss was keenly aware and evidently somewhat nervous. Rehearsals began just as Strauss was completing his Tod und Verklärung, and after the first round the composer wrote to his father:
It all sounds capital and comes over resplendently, although it’s dreadfully difficult…as a whole the piece is not really difficile; it’s only very hard and demanding, but fifty notes one way or the other won’t make a difference.
The première was rather well-received, though some subsequent performances (under von Bülow, for instance) did not come over as “resplendently” due to glossings-over of the score’s enormous technical and expressive demands.
(painting: “The finding of Don Juan,” Ford Madox Brown)