Showcase Sep-Nov 2014 - page 40

Strauss set an adaptation of Sophocles’ play by
the Viennese poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. But it was
that launched the two artists’ extraordinary
working friendship that lasted through a further half dozen
projects until the poet’s death in 1929. Drawing on a broad
range of sources, Hofmannsthal provided a libretto that,
Strauss said, virtually set itself to music.
To summarize baldly:
Der Rosenkavalier
is about an
aristocratic married lady in her early 30s, wife of Field
Marshall von Werdenberg, who loses her 17-year-old
lover (who is also her cousin) when he falls in love with a
bourgeois girl his own age.
But of course there is more to it than that—it is about
what Flaubert called “sentimental education,” the
incalculable powers of eros, social climbing, the subtle
messages of language, the mysterious passage of time,
grace under fire. Not least, it is about gorgeous singing
and fragrant orchestral textures.
An impoverished and chawbacon country cousin, Baron
Ochs, comes to the Marshal’s wife, the Marschallin, for
advice. He has arranged to become engaged to Sophie von
Faninal, the sweet young daughter of a nouveau riche army
contractor who is as eager to benefit from Ochs’s title as
Ochs is to get hold of some of the Faninal money. Custom—
and this is entirely an invention of Hofmannsthal’s—
demands that the formal proposal of marriage be
preceded by the presentation to the prospective bride of
a silver rose: can the Marschallin suggest a young man of
suitable background and bearing to take on the role of the
rose-bearing knight, the “Rosenkavalier”? She suggests
Octavian, her cousin-lover. He and Sophie fall in love at
first sight. By means of a series of degrading tricks the
projected Ochs-Faninal alliance is undermined, and the
Marschallin and Ochs renounce Octavian and Sophie
respectively, the former with sentimental dignity,
the latter in an atmosphere of rowdy farce.
The first
Suite came out as early as 1911.
In addition to the (presumably) Rodzi´nski Suite of 1945,
there are excellent and interesting concert sequences by
three eminent Strauss conductors, Antal Dorati, Erich
Leinsdorf and William Steinberg.
3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo),
3 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 3 clarinets
(1 doubling E-flat clarinet), bass clarinet, 3 bassoons
(1 doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets,
3 trombones, tuba, timpani, celeste, bass drum, cymbals,
tambourine, ratchet, snare drum,
glockenspiel, triangle, 2 harps and strings
Excerpted from a program note by the late
, used with permission.
Throughout the dance Strauss indulges in some of his most
sensuously beautiful and extravagantly conceived orchestral
effects. These include the seductive “Salome” motif played
in the warmly expressive low register of the flute, the heavy
languor of the perfumed Oriental night as portrayed by
violins and horns in the Dance’s opulent central section,
and virtuosic scales for the xylophone as the huge orchestra
gyrates inexorably to an orgasmic conclusion.
3 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes,
English horn, heckelphone, 2 A clarinets,
2 B-flat clarinets, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons,
contrabassoon, 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, tuba,
2 timpani, tam-tam, cymbals, bass drum, snare drum,
castanets, tambourine, triangle, xylophone,
glockenspiel, celesta, 2 harps and strings
Program note by
Robert Markow
Suite from Der Rosenkavalier, Opus 59
er Rosenkavalier
, a “comedy for music” on
a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, was
completed on September 26, 1910. The
premiere, under the direction of Ernst von Schuch,
took place at the Dresden Court Opera on January 26,
1911. The score of the suite played at these concerts,
which bears the copyright date of 1945, credits no
arranger. Artur Rodzi ´nski probably had a hand in the
arrangement, and possibly Leonard Bernstein. It was
published with the blessing of the composer, then
desperately in need of income.
In 1909, Strauss was, with Puccini, the most famous and
the richest composer alive. He had written a string of
orchestral works, many of which had become indispensable
repertoire items; he had emerged as an important song
composer; and latterly, with
, he had
made his mark in the opera world, and in a big way.
Program Notes
9, 10, 11
Strauss, right, with
writer Hugo von
Hofmannsthal, his
longtime collaborator
and librettist for
six operas, including
Der Rosenkavalier.
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