Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Richard Strauss – Sinfonia Domestica – Herbert von Karajan

   Late romantic and early modernist Richard Strauss lived at the crossroads of epochs. His early compositions, mostly chamber and solo works in traditional romantic style, were not remarkable accomplishments. Also his two symphonies composed these years (1st D Minor – 1880 and 2nd F Minor op. 12 – 1883) weren’t noteworthy and now they have historic meaning only. In late 1880’s Strauss evolved to new vision of big scale forms, operas and symphonic poems. Using modern harmonic language and post romantic principles, he constructed musical work with great results. Especially opera and symphonic poems was his remarkable contribution to the history of music, Salome and Electra are highlights of expressionistic music drama, and series of ten symphonic poems and songs are his crowning achievements.
   Richard Strauss created his symphonic poems in span of three decades are elements of the history of German modernism. It was the exact time Wilhelm II ruled in Germany. The time of great social changes found its reflection in consecutive musical pictures Aus Italien (From Italy) Don Juan, Macbeth, Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration), Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks), Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), Don Quixote, Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life). And it is not an accident, his last two poems has been called as symphonies. Although Sinfonia Domestica and Alpensinfonie were not in typical symphonic form and the idea of building symphonic pictures was far from classical symphonic development, Strauss used this title as a kind of universal statement.

Richard Strauss – Sinfonia Domestica – Herbert von Karajan (1973)

   Sinfonia Domestica was a tribute to the everyday life, the orderly according to the rhythm of a stable home life. The family and home life were highly valued by Strauss, and his tone poem dedicated to the private part of everyday life was his challenging intention. In first version the score of Sinfonia Domestica has been enriched with several comments. Later Strauss removed most of them. Some critics accused him of self-centeredness anyway, but it’s deeply humanistic and universal. The whole work is extremely difficult. It demands from the orchestra of over one hundred members the perfect sound and rhythmic discipline. Especially the wind section has a difficult task here. Third theme of first movement Bewegt is started with solo of oboe d’amore. It is symbolizing the child and is the one of rare cases of using this instrument in modern symphonic music. Symbolic subjects of this tone poem is a common point of narration presented in many historical and critical overviews of the work, but the best perspective to know and understand the musical composition is to listen it without prejudice. And unlike many works of program music, Sinfonia Domestica is shows deep universal contents of the symphonic poem.
   As a later reference to Sinfonia Domestica Richard Strauss composed in 1925 concert piece commissioned by famous left handed pianist Paul Wittgenstein. Strauss knew him and even they played duets as composer was frequent guest in his father’s house. Paul Wittgenstein was the World War I veteran who lost his right hand, who inspired many great concertos and concert pieces of Maurice Ravel, Sergei Prokofiev, Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith, Alexandre Tansman, Erich Korngold and many others. The 1925 Strauss’ work was titled Parergon zur Symphonia Domestica. There is also transcription of this tone poem for two pianos, recorded in 1995 for Teldec by Martha Argerich and Alexandre Rabionovitch. Thanks to numerous recordings Sinfonia Domestica is well known to listeners all over the world, but the score is quite a challenge for the orchestra and especially for the conductor, so this beautiful tone poem is still hard to find in concert programs. It is worth to remember in 1944 Richard Strauss recorded this work himself with Vienna Philharmonic, and the same year Wilhelm Furtwängler recorded this composition with Berliner Philharmoniker. The recording under Karajan’s direction was 12th on the list and followed by many further renditions.

1 comment:

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Quite an interesting blog sir!!

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