Showcase Sep-Nov 2014 - page 38

Soon the solo oboe sings a gentle melody depicting the
Don’s idealized lady-love and patroness, the fair Dulcinea.
Trumpets mark his resolve to defend her, but quickly
this noble beginning turns complex and dissonant as
Quixote loses himself in dreams of knight-errantry. In
Cervantes’ words: “through his little sleep and much
reading, he dried up his brains in such sort, as he wholly
lost his judgment.” The music reaches a point of shrieking
dissonance—Don Quixote’s mind has snapped—and
heroic fanfares break off in silence.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Out of that silence, the
solo cello is heard for the first time, presenting the Don’s
themes, now in a minor key. Quickly we meet Sancho
Panza, and it is no accident that we move to a major key
for the genial sidekick: bass clarinet and tenor tuba sing
a rustic duet that introduces the squire, and the viola
quickly takes this up, going on and on like Sancho himself.
Battle with the Windmills.
The main characters having
been introduced, the music proceeds directly into
Variation I. Don Quixote and Sancho’s themes are
sounded simultaneously as they head out for their first
adventure. It comes immediately: Don Quixote mistakes
windmills for giants and rides to the attack. A sharp
thump knocks the aged knight from his horse, and he
recovers slowly on thoughts of Dulcinea.
Battle with the Sheep.
In the famous second variation,
Quixote mistakes a flock of sheep for the armies of the
evil Emperor Alifanfaron.Their bleating is memorably
suggested by flutter-tongued minor seconds from the
winds, while viola tremolos depict the cloud of dust they
raise. Don Quixote charges into the flock, dispersing the
terrified sheep and riding off in triumph as the shepherds
Don Quixote and His Squire Have a Conversation.
In the
third and longest of the variations, Don Quixote speaks
grandly of heroic deeds while Sancho chatters incessantly.
Finally the knight cuts him off with a violent gesture, and
the two head off in search of new adventures.
Battle with the Pilgrims.
In Variation 4 the pair come upon
a religious procession (solemn bassoon and brass chords)
and ride to the attack; they are knocked flat and left lying
in the dust as the procession fades into the distance.
The Knight’s Vigil.
Don Quixote ruminates on his ideals in
the moonlight as soft winds blow in the background.
The Meeting with Dulcinea.
Variation 6 opens with a jaunty
oboe duet: the Don and Sancho have come upon three
peasant girls, and Sancho convinces the knight that they
Richard Strauss
June 11, 1864, Munich
September 8, 1949, Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Don Quixote, Fantastic Variations on a
Theme of Knightly Character
, Opus 35
n 1896, just after finishing
Also sprach Zarathustra
Richard Strauss set to work on a new project, one that
would take him in entirely new directions. Strauss at
first planned to write a tone poem based on events from
Miguel de Cervantes’
Don Quixote
. But rather than writing
a straightforward tone poem, Strauss made his task more
complicated by casting his new work as a set of variations
based on a collection of themes associated with Don
Quixote, his sidekick Sancho Panza and his idealized love
Dulcinea. Then, to bring yet one more dimension to this
music, Strauss conceived it as a virtuoso work for cello
and orchestra, with the solo cellist cast in the role of Don
Quixote. Strauss completed the score in December 1897,
and the premiere took place on March 6, 1898, in Cologne.
Don Quixote
has become one of the greatest works in the
cello literature—but we should not overlook the other
players Strauss assigns important solo roles in this music.
The part of Sancho Panza is first announced by bass
clarinet and tenor tuba and thereafter undertaken mostly
by the solo viola, which plays the role of the longsuffering
squire; at key moments the solo violin contributes to the
portrait of Don Quixote.
a story in variations
Don Quixote
consists of an introduction, a statement of
the principal themes, ten variations and a finale. Strauss
depicted only a few of the many incidents in Cervantes’
novel and felt free to alter their order in
his own presentation.
Here are most of the important themes
that will evolve across the span of
Don Quixote
, initially
presented not by the soloists but by the orchestra. At
the very beginning comes the little flute tune that will
reappear in many forms, followed by a lilting idea for
second violins that Strauss marks
and a clarinet
swirl followed by a three-chord cadence; all of these will
be associated with Don Quixote himself.
Program Notes
9, 10, 11
1...,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37 39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,...92
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