Tag Archives: Richard Strauss

đŸŽ»â™«â™Ș – Metamorphosen by Richard Strauss

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
84/501Title: Metamorphosen
Composer: Richard Strauss
Nationality: German
Year:
1945

It’s early April 1945, Germany is about to surrender to the Allies after being nearly destroyed and Strauss pens a mournful classical piece for an orchestra for 23 strings by the name of Metamorphosen or ‘Changes’. It wouldn’t be another year before it’s performed and then a few years after that Strauss dies. Towards the end of his career Strauss sees some of the biggest changes in his homeland right as he’s about to undergo life’s biggest change – which explains the mournful tone.

At nearly half an hour long, this piece is a strings only time capsule for how Strauss saw himself at the end of his life as his country was on it’s knees. It’s an interesting look back at his career, one that I am not too acquainted with yet – but will be one I have gotten to grips with more of his works. Honestly, this is one of those pieces that was nice enough to listen to, but without a whole bunch of relistens I probably won’t be able to properly unpack things. So let’s just leave it there.

đŸŽ»â™«â™Ș – Eine Alpensinfonie by Richard Strauss

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
64/501Title: Eine Alpensinfonie
Composer: Richard Strauss
Nationality: German
Year:
1915

I can’t quite believe that this is the first time I’ve grabbed something from the classical list since I was in Paris two months ago. Confusingly, this is another Strauss piece – just by the German Richard Strauss who is of no relation to the Viennese Johann Strauss II. All these composers get confusing at the best of times, let alone when you have two in the same time period who have the same last name.

Eine Alpensinfonie is another example of a tone poem (or symphonic poem, depending on whose terminology you follow) which, over the course of 50 minutes and a number of phases, takes you on a day long journey in the Alps. This journey is much more varied and eventful when compared to my hikes around the Black Forest.

The size of the orchestra required to do this piece justice is immense – then again so are the swings in the mood of the piece. It’s like the orchestra equivalent of that thing where you need to pack double the clothes if you have no idea what the weather will be like on holiday. You need the thunder-board for the storm scenes and then you have to have a number of different bells for the pastoral sections in order to evoke delightful alpine cows.

It’s pieces like this, which treats the story as one long movement rather than being a song cycle containing clear divisions, that make me enjoy a good tone poem. It tells an interesting (and mostly intelligible) story where you can easily lose yourself. I know that I should be doing these classical pieces more often, so now that I have job security I’m hoping to start crossing these off more readily.

đŸŽ»â™«â™Ș – Salome by Richard Strauss

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 49/501Title: Salome
Composer: Richard Strauss
Nationality: German
Year:
1905

I posted a near identical picture to today way back in December for my post about the ballet Sleeping Beauty. That was an evening that was enjoyed so much, to the point of immediately looking on the website of the English National Opera to see if there was another production that caught our eye – which is how we ended up with tickets to see their version of Salome. 

This is being posted nearly half a year since that production ended, so review of this particular version are easily Googleable. I think that a lot of what I saw can be easily summarised by Tatianna from RuPaul’s Drag Race: “choices”.

What unfolded over an hour and fifty minutes was a baffling series of choices in an effort to modernise this opera. The fact that Salome is a story of necrophilia and incest means that there is no real need to bring the subject matter up to date in order to facilitate a reaction. Still, this did make for a different form of entertainment than I expected (such as marvelling at the gigantic purple headless horse having it’s knitted entrails pulled out) there were some things that I felt cheated out of – such as a good interpretation of the infamous ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ (because twerking has no place in opera!).

Anyway, let’s divorce this interpretation from the music. The orchestra were fantastic and most of the vocal performances were excellent – which means I can actually talk about this on a purely musical level as I have done with the likes of Porgy & Bess and The Nutcracker.

The orchestra required to pull off Salome is huge and has provided me with an opportunity to see the triangle in action. There are a large number of recurring motifs throughout the opera, but for the most part the music really helps to heighten the feelings of discomfort at what you are seeing unfold.

A lot of the music that what we hear is dissonant and, at times, unnerving. Even the Arabesque ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ is ominous and brought to mind The Rite of Spring (despite the twerking). It’s a brilliant score and, on the night, was well executed.

The story of Salome itself is utterly bizarre and I wish that the staging had allowed me to appreciate it all the more. I mean is it too much to ask for a model head to be used for the severed head of the prophet Jochanaan instead of a plastic bag filled with (what I assume is) pink slime.