STRAUSS, R.: Aus Italien / Die Liebe der Danae (Martin Sauer/ Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra/ Zdenek Kosler) (Naxos: 8.550342)
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Richard Strauss (1864 -1949) Aus Italien, Op. 16
DieLiebe der Danae (Symphonic fragment)
Waltz-SequenceNo.2 from Der Rosenkavalier
TheGerman composer and conductor Richard Strauss represents a remarkable extension of thework of Liszt and Wagner, of the former in the symphonic poems of his earlier career andof the latter in his operas, where he uses an orchestra of Wagnerian proportions in aframework that owes more to Mozart. Born in Munich, the son of a distinguished horn-playerand his second wife, a member of a rich brewing family, Strauss enjoyed a good generaleducation at the Ludwigsgymnasium in Munich, while pursuing musical studies with the helpof distinguished colleagues of his father. Before he left school in 1882 he had alreadyenjoyed some success as a composer , continuing during his brief period at MunichUniversity, with the composition of a violin concerto, a horn concerto and a cello sonata.
By the age of 21 he had been appointed assistant conductor to the well known orchestra atMeiningen under Hans von B??low, whom he succeeded in the same year.
In1886 Strauss resigned from Meiningen and began the series of tone-poems that seemed toextend to the utmost limit the extra-musical content of the form. The symphonic fantasyAus Italien in 1886 was followed by Macbeth, Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, and,after a gap of a few years, Till Eulenspiegel, Alsosprach Zarathustra, Don Ouixote and EinHeldenleben. Meanwhile he was establishing himself as a conductor of highreputation, directing the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for a season and takingappointments at Munich and then at the opera in Berlin, where he later became conductor ofthe Court Orchestra.
Thenew century brought renewed attention to the composition of opera, a medium in which hehad initially been not particularly successful. The first performance of Salome in Dresdenin 1905 was followed in 1909 by Elektra in the same city, with a libretto by the writerwith whom he was to enjoy a fruitful collaboration, Hugo von Hoffmannsthal. Der Rosenkavalier, a romantic opera set in the worldof Mozart, was staged at the Court Opera in Dresden in 1911, followed by ten furtheroperas, ending only with Capriccio, staged at the Staatsoper in Munich in 1942.
Itwas unfortunate that Strauss, in common with certain other musicians of the greatesteminence, was compromised by association with the National Socialist Government that cameto power in Germany in 1933. His acquiescence, when given the position of president of theReichsmusikkammer and his ingenuous willingness to take the place of Bruno Walter at aBerlin concert, when the latter had been compelled to withdraw by threats of publicdisorder, and of Toscanini, who had withdrawn from projected performances at Bayreuth involuntary protest at anti-Semitic policies, were later remembered. The fact that hisdaughter-in-law was Jewish and that she and his grandchildren had to be protected may haveinfluenced the course of apparent complaisance that he chose to take, a choice thatbrought its own difficulties in 1945, when he withdrew for a time to Switzerland,returning to his house at Garmisch only in May 1949, four months before his death.
Afterhis resignation from Meiningen in 1886, Strauss left for a holiday in Italy, made possiblethrough his father's generosity. As he travelled he made musical sketches of the places hevisited. These later took shape as a symphonic fantasy, a loose description of a work castin the four movements of a traditional symphony, not yet absorbed into the newsingle-movement form that Strauss was to develop. AusItalien opens in the Roman Campagna in a musical idiom that is immediatelyrecognisable. This prelude, as the composer explained, records his feelings at the sightof the Roman countryside in sunshine, as seen from the Villa d'Este at Tivoli. The secondmovement, in the ancient Roman forum, recalls with nostalgia the glories of the past, nowin ruins. On the shore at Sorrento depicts nature, described by Strauss as the sound ofthe wind in the leaves, the songs of birds and the distant sound of the sea. For the lastmovement the composer thought he had found a Neapolitan folk-song. This was in fact thepopular trite Funiculi, funicula by LuigiDenza, which here is intermingled with reminiscences of the earlier movements, providing,in geographical confusion, an element of musical unity.
Hugovon Hoffmannsthal died in 1929, leaving the libretto for the opera Arabella complete. Strauss later embarked on acollaboration with Stefan Zweig, to whom the National Socialist Government had thestrongest racial objections. Zweig refused the suggestion of secret collaboration, but waswilling to act in advisory capacity. Strauss was left with the services of the historianJosef Gregor, whose literary talents were limited. The opera Die Liebe der Danae used a libretto by Gregor, basedon an original draft by von Hoffmannsthal combining the legends of Danae, wooed by Zeus inthe form of a shower of gold, and King Midas, who turned to gold all he touched. Throughthe persistence of Clemens Krauss, whose advice had been of considerable use to thecomposer, the opera was scheduled for the Salzburg Festival of 1944, when the composer'seightieth birthday was also to be celebrated. In the turmoil of that year it provedimpossible to do more than hold a dress rehearsal of DieLiebe der Danae, in the presence of the composer, and the first publicperformance took place only after his death, in 1952. Krauss then made from the score anorchestral arrangement, describing it as a Symphonic Fragment, for which he modestlydeclined to use his own name. The Symphonic Fragment consists of a linked series ofexcerpts from the second and third acts of the opera.
Thefirst performance of Der Rosenkavalier tookplace in Dresden in 1911 and further performances followed at other major opera houses.
The work is a miraculous blend of comedy and gentle melancholy, with its story of the loveof the Marschallin and the young Octavian, whom she renounces to allow him to marrySophia, daughter of a newly ennobled merchant. Coupled with this isthe intrigue that leads to the deception practised on the boorish Baron Ochs, induced tomake an assignation with Octavian, who has met Ochs when disguised as a maid-servant ofthe Marschallin to avoid detection. The third act, from which the so-called second Rosenkavalier Waltz Sequence is taken, is set in aninn, where the disguised Octavian plans to turn the tables on Baron Ochs, who has plannedto make a financially advantageous marriage with Sophia. The gulling of the Baron isaccompanied by a series of waltzes, culminating in the appearance of ghostly figures andone claiming to be his wife, accompanied by four young children, who greet him as theirfather. The discomfiture of the Baron leads to a happy ending, at least for Octavian andSophia.
TheSlovak Philharmonic Orchestra
TheSlovak Philharmonic Orchestra has benefited considerably from the work of itsdistinguished conductors. These include Vaclav Talich (1949 - 1952), Ludovit Rajter,Ladislav Slovak and Libor Pesek. Zdenek Kosler has also had a long and distinguishedassociation with the orchestra and has conducted many of its most successful recordings,among them the complete symphonies of Dvorak.
Duringthe years of its professional existence the Slovak Philharmonic has worked under thedirection of many of the most distinguished conductors from abroad, from Eugene Goossensand Malcolm Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal Dorati and Riccardo Muti. The orchestra hasundertaken many