STRAUSS, R.: Also Sprach Zarathustra / Salome's Dance (Martin Sauer/ Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra/ Zdenek Kosler) (Naxos: 8.550182)
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Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949)
Also sprach Zarathustra, Opus 30
Von den Hinterweltlern (Of theAfterworldsmen)
Von der grossen Sehnsucht (Of the GreatLonging)
Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (OfJoys and Passions)
Das Grablied (The Funeral Song)
Von den Wissenschaften (Of Science)
Der Genesende (The Convalescent)
Das Nachtlied (The Night Song)
Das Nachtwanderlied (The Night-wanderer'sSong)
Dance of Salome
Waltz Sequence from Der Rosenkavalier
Writing in 1857, seven years before thebirth of Richard Strauss, the Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick had poured scornon the new form of music pioneered by Liszt, the symphonic poem, a creationwith "intelligence, poetry and imagery in abundance, but no musicalessence". Programme music has always had its detractors, but Hanslick'sobjections were primarily towards what he saw as the attempted inclusion ofunmusical "meaning" in a work, and that of such a vast kind that thevery effort to convey it in contemporary musical terms seemed an act ofimpudent effrontery.
Richard Strauss was an early convert tothe views of Liszt and Wagner, in spite of his father's prohibitions. Hemaintained that there was no valid distinction to be made between programmemusic and abstract music, the best forms being the most expressive. He saw nolimit to what could be expressed, either in outward detail or in subtlerpsychological terms.
Born in Munich in 1864, the son of aleading horn-player and his second wife, the daughter of a well-to-do brewingfamily, Strauss enjoyed a comfortable enough childhood and a good general andmusical education. He followed this with an early career as a conductor, atfirst under Hans von B??low at Meiningen and later in Munich, in Berlin and inextensive tours abroad. His compositions, which had provided him with hisintroduction to Meiningen, explored, once he had accepted the influence ofWagner, the symphonic poem, a form of which he made much use between Don Juan,which he finished in 1889, and Ein Heldenleben, which he completed in 1898. Thenew century brought the period of his great operas, until 1929 in collaborationwith the writer Hugo von Hoffmansthal, and a reputation that survived thepolitical difficulties he encountered through his supposed acquiescence in theNational Socialist regime in Germany. After 1945 he took refuge in Switzerlanduntil 1949, when he was able to return home to his villa atGarmisch-Partenkirchen, where he died four months later.
Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus spokeZarathustra), a tone poem after Friedrich Nietzsche, was written in 1896,during the period Strauss spent as conductor at the opera in his native city ofMunich. It is based on the rhapsodic expression of Nietzsche's highly personalphilosophy, finally published in 1892, in which Christian virtues are rejectedin favour of the power of the Superman (?£bermensch), a concept that with hisnotions of die blonde Bestie, Herrenmoral and Christian Sklavenmoral, proveduseful to later political extremists.
Zarathustra, a mouthpiece for Nietzsche,took himself to the mountains, staying there for ten years in solitude. Then,one morning, he arose and addressed the Sun, seeking his blessing, as heproposes to descend once more among men to impart to them his wisdom, settingas the Sun sets and pouring out to mankind his accumulated understanding.
Strauss makes use of an unusually largeorchestra, deployed in the most varied way, while there is a tonal ambiguitythat remains to the final bars. The work opens with the rising of the sun andemergent nature, over a note sustained by double basses, organ and doublebassoon. The climax of the rising sun is followed by Von den Hinterweltlern,the inhabitants of the unseen world, a mysterious theme, leading to the soundof the Credo and song of faith, scored for strings and organ. The great longingbrings together a theme of yearning, briefly touched on before, and the naturetheme, the Credo, and now, from the organ, the Magnificat. This material, witha stormier element, leads to a passage Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften. DasGrablied, employs two of the preceding motifs and leads, in the section Von denWissenschaften, to a fugue, its development interrupted by the appearance ofanother, triumphant theme, and resuming with a motif representing satiety. Thesemotifs and the fugue combine in the convalescent, Der Genesende. The dance-songbrings together the earlier motifs, dwindling to the night-song, a preparationfor the song of the night-wanderer. The final epilogue leaves unresolved theconflict of tonality and the conflict of nature and spirit.
The complex process of the tone poemtakes Zarathustra from the splendour of sunrise through a rejection of thosewho look to the past, to longing, joys and passions. He turns from satiety anddespair, in the funeral song, and finds no comfort in science. Falling as onedead, he is revived and finds joy in the dance of laughter, in which all humanaspirations may be combined. Night comes and the song of the watcher, asmidnight renews its eternal enigma.
The opera Salome, based on Oscar Wilde'splay, was first staged in Dresden in 1905 and won immediate favour, althoughthe censors in Vienna prevented its performance unti11918. Salome's dance, inreturn for which she demands from Herod the head of John the Baptist, was, asStrauss suggested, the dance of a chaste oriental princess, to be performedwith the most simple and restrained gestures. His wishes have not always beenrespected in the theatre. Der Rosenkavalier, with a libretto by Hugo vonHoffmannsthal, was completed in 1910 and staged in Dresden the following year.
The drama centres on the Marschallin and her unselfish renunciation of heryoung lover Oktavian in a work that seems filled with bitter-sweet nostalgia, afeeling that is perceptible in the waltz sequence from the opera that Straussarranged in 1944, to which he added further thematic development. Neverthelessthe concert version must make much of its effect in reminding us of the operaitself.
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra hasbenefited considerably from the work of its distinguished conductors. Theseincluded Vaclav Talich (1949 - 1952), Ludovit Rajter and Ladislav Slovak. TheCzech conductor Libor Pesek was appointed resident conductor in 1981, and the presentPrincipal Conductor is the Slovak musician Bystrik Rezucha. Zdenek Kosler hasalso had a long and distinguished association with the orchestra and hasconducted many of its most successful recordings, among them the completesymphonies of Dvorak.
During the years of its professionalexistence the Slovak Philharmonic has worked under the direction of many of themost distinguished conductors from abroad, from Eugene Goossens and MalcolmSargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal Dorati and Riccardo Muti.
The orchestra has undertaken many toursabroad, including visits to Germany and Japan, and has made a large number ofrecordings for the Czech Opus label, for Supraphon, for Hungaroton and, inrecent years, for the Marco Polo and Naxos labels. These recordings havebrought the orchestra a growing international reputation and praise from thecritics of leading international publications.
The Czech conductor Zdenek Kosler studiedunder Karel Ancerl at the Prague Academy of Arts, and distinguished himselfearly in his career at the Besan?ºon Conductors' Competition and in the Dim