Showcase Sep-Nov 2014 - page 44

Another influence is the waltz. This music is always on
the edge of breaking into a waltz, and at several points
it does just that, dancing wildly and grandly as it goes.
But in terms of form, this music is in a sort of extended
sonata form, complete with two cadenzas and a full
recapitulation that extends the piece out to about 17
minutes. The piano part is ferociously difficult: no wonder
Bülow refused to learn it, and no wonder Strauss had
found it so difficult to play and conduct at the same time.
The music sounds graceful, and it is, but it demands a
pianist of superb technique.
It begins with a striking gesture: very quietly, solo timpani
taps out a four-measure theme that will return in many
forms; almost the entire work is coiled embryonically into
these four quiet opening measures. The piano quickly
makes a grand entrance, and off the music goes, dancing
gracefully one moment, careening wildly through some
impossibly difficult writing the next. At the end of all this
youthful energy, the ending brings a nice surprise, winding
down in the closing moments to on a single—very quiet—
timpani stroke.
A note on the title:
, or burlesque, involves a
measure of parody, of mocking. Strauss may have chosen
this title as a way of putting some distance between
himself and this product of his youth. Yet over the last
century, countless listeners have found much to enjoy in
music that Strauss was ready to leave behind.
solo piano with orchestra comprising
2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns,
2 trumpets, timpani and strings
Program note by
Eric Bromberger
Metamorphosen, A Study for 23 Solo Strings
ew composers have been more apolitical than
Richard Strauss. Born in the early years of Bismarck’s
chancellorship, he lived through the consolidation of
Germany, the rule of the two Kaisers Wilhelm, the First
World War and the Weimar Republic, and even survived
the Third Reich without much caring who ruled Germany.
Had it not been for World War II, he might have made
it through his very long life without any real connection
to the external events of his era. As that war progressed,
Allied bombing began to obliterate many of the symbols
of German culture he held dear—the Munich Hoftheater,
in which he had heard operas as a child, and in which
his father had played first horn for 49 years; Dresden,
with its 80,000 inhabitants and its extraordinary cultural
treasures; Weimar, with the Goethehaus, which he called
“the world’s greatest sanctuary.”
resigned and went back to Munich, where he composed,
conducted opera and grew as a musician.
the work’s bumpy start
Earlier, however, between November 1885 and February
1886, Strauss had written a piece specifically for Bülow
to play, a scherzo for piano and orchestra—which Bülow
dismissed as “unplayable.” When Strauss himself tried it
out with the Meiningen Orchestra, apparently conducting
playing the piano part, he, too, called it “pure
nonsense” and put it away.
And there it might have stayed, but for the friendship
that later developed between Strauss and the pianist
Eugene d’Albert (1864-1932), who saw the manuscript of
the abandoned work and liked it. Strauss revised it, and
d’Albert gave the official premiere in Eisenach on June 21,
1890, with the composer conducting a program that also
featured the premiere of his
Death and Transfiguration
He had reservations about publishing the work and
delayed for four years, then published this work of his
youth under a new title:
the music
Everyone hears the influence of Brahms in this music,
and in fact Strauss began work on it only weeks after
meeting Brahms and hearing the premiere of his Fourth
Symphony. For the time Strauss was under the spell of the
older composer, whose mellow sound and romantic arc
can be heard in this Suite’s themes.
Program Notes
16, 17
Young Strauss conducting, 1888.
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