Showcase Sep-Nov 2014 - page 39

English horn, 2 clarinets (1 doubling E-flat clarinet), bass
clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 6 horns,
3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, tenor tuba, timpani,
bass drum, cymbals, bells, snare drum, tambourine,
triangle, wind machine, harp and strings
Program note by
Eric Bromberger
Salome’s Dance (Dance of the Seven Veils),
from Salome
hocking, sensuous, perverse, devastating, decadent
and depraved are just a few of the terms that have
been hurled at Strauss’ opera
. Without
question, it is one of the boldest, most original and most
provocative scores ever written. The premiere of this one-
act opera in Dresden on December 9, 1905, set off waves
of revulsion and charges of scandal. Critics competed for
the most vivid and graphic images to make their point. In
staid Boston, Louis Elson admonished readers of the
that the libretto “is a compound of lust, stifling
perfumes and blood, and cannot be read by any woman
or fully understood by anyone but a physician.” Henry
Krehbiel in New York called the opera “a moral stench.”
And over in London, Fuller-Maitland claimed in the 1908
edition of
Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians
“on the average hearer it produces a sense of nausea.”
The setting is the court of King Herod in the Middle
East, about 30 A.D. Herod, in the mood for a little
entertainment, asks his beautiful young stepdaughter
Salome to dance for him. She refuses until he promises
her anything she wants. Anything? Anything! She agrees,
her cunning mind having already decided exactly what
she will demand afterwards: the head of John the Baptist,
whom Herod is holding prisoner and who has spurned
Salome’s every attempt to seduce him.
are his beloved Dulcinea del Toboso and her retinue, but
that they have been transformed by an enchanter. Don
Quixote tries to pay homage to this coarse country maid,
but the cackling girls flee in confusion.
The Ride Through the Air.
In the seventh variation, the
Don and Sancho are convinced to mount a hobby horse,
believing that it will carry them through the air; the wind
howls around them, but the two remain firmly rooted to
the earth.
The Voyage in the Enchanted Boat.
Variation 8 brings the
pair to an abandoned rowboat. They ride out into the
stream but head toward a weir, tip over and fall in; once
on shore, they wring out their clothes (pizzicato notes
echo the water dripping from their sopping clothes).
The Combat with the Two Magicians.
Here the adventurers
encounter a pair of Benedictine monks chatting happily
as they come down the road (two bassoons in busy
counterpoint). Don Quixote rides to the attack and sends
the terrified monks fleeing.
The Defeat of Don Quixote.
In Variation 10, a well-
intentioned neighbor dresses as a knight, jousts with
Quixote and defeats him. The vanquished knight is sent
home under orders to give up knight-errantry for a year,
and the pounding timpani pedal suggests his homeward
journey in disgrace.
Finale: The Death of Don Quixote.
In the Finale, the Don’s
fevered imagination gradually clears—the dissonances
heard during the first presentation of his themes are here
resolved—but he is now an old and frail man. He recalls
some of the themes associated with his adventures, and,
in the cello’s beautiful final statement, Don Quixote dies
quietly as a long glissando glides downward.
Strauss once claimed that he could set a glass of beer to
music, and
Don Quixote
very nearly proves him right; his
biographer Norman Del Mar has shown how virtually
every note in this score pictures a particular feature
of Don Quixote and his quest.
Don Quixote
is suffused
throughout with a level of understanding that is both
humorous and humane.
Strauss may have set out to write a tone poem that
would re-tell the story of one of the greatest characters
in literature, but he achieved much more: in its difficulty
and brilliance,
Don Quixote
is (along with the Dvoˇrák
Cello Concerto) one of the two greatest works ever
written for cello and orchestra.
solo cello and solo viola with
orchestra comprising 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes,
9, 10, 11
Program Notes
Dance of the Seven Veils
at the premiere of
in Dresden,
1905, with Marie Wittich in the title role.
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