It's a short week with Boxing Day on Monday so we begin on Tuesday @ 1PM with a look at each of the four ballets written by the late romantic German composer. Tune in!
Known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; his tone poems, including Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben, Symphonia Domestica, and An Alpine Symphony; and other instrumental works such as Metamorphosen and his Oboe Concerto--- Strauss is not really known for his ballets.
We begin on Tuesday with Schlagobers Ballet, Op. 70. A ballet in two acts with a libretto and score by Richard Strauss, it was composed in 1921–22. It it was given its première at the Vienna State Opera on May 9, 1924.
While serving as co-director of the Vienna Staatsoper with Franz Schalk from 1919 until 1924, Strauss sought to revive the fortunes of the resident ballet company, struggling after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. He recruited choreographer Heinrich Kröller (1880-1930) from the Berlin State Opera and collaborated with him on a series of productions, restaging his earlier work for the Ballets Russes Josephslegende (1922), and rearranging the music of Schumann, François Couperin, Beethoven, and Gluck for, respectively, Karneval (1922), Ballettsoirée (1923), Die Ruinen von Athen (1924), and Don Juan (1924). Most ambitious was Schlagobers, premiered during the official celebrations for the composer's sixtieth birthday.
A group of children celebrate their confirmation in a Konditorei or Viennese cake shop, where many of the confections come alive, with marzipan marches and cocoa dances. Having overindulged, one boy falls ill and hallucinates, leading to the party of Princess Pralinée, a trio of amorous liquors, and a riot of cakes pacified by beer.
The scenario is somewhat reminiscent of The Nutcracker, which remained unperformed in the West until 1929.
On Wednesday we're treated to Strauss' Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, Op. 60
After the enormous success of the 1911 opera Der Rosenkavalier, librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal returned to Baroque-era inspiration for his next collaboration with Richard Strauss. Hofmannsthal suggested reworking Molière’s comedy-ballet Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which first played for the court of King Louis XIV in 1670, with incidental music by Jean-Baptiste Lully.
The farcical plot of Le bourgeois gentilhomme follows Monsieur Jordain, a nouveau riche merchant’s son who aspires to join the aristocracy. He embarrasses himself with fancy new clothes and lessons in such lofty subjects as fencing and philosophy lessons, and schemes to marry off his daughter Lucille to a nobleman, despite her love for Cléonte, a fellow member of the bourgeoisie. Cléonte schemes to court Lucille disguised as a Turkish prince, and Jordain gets his comeuppance when he unwittingly officiates, in an absurd “Turkish” ceremony, the very union he had hoped to block.
The combination of play and opera was premiered in Stuttgart on October 25, 1912, but it was immediately apparent that it was too long and too expensive to mount, and that also much of the potential audience for the play was uninterested in the opera, and vice versa. Strauss and Hofmannsthal set to work on separating the two works. A prologue was written for the opera to explain the presence of the comedians and the opera was premiered in its revised form independent of the play in 1916. The play was also revised, Hofmannsthal replacing the opera with an ending closer to Molière's original and Strauss providing additional incidental music in 1917. Strauss created an orchestral suite from most of the music which was completed on December 25, 1917. The premiere of the orchestral suite took place in Berlin on April 9, 1918, under the baton of the composer.
On Thursday it's the orchestral Tanzsuite aus Klavierstücken von François Couperin, TrV 245 (Dance suite from keyboard pieces by François Couperin)
It was composed by Richard Strauss in 1923 and consists of eight movements, each one based on a selection of pieces from Couperin's Pièces de Clavecin written for the solo harpsichord over the period 1713 to 1730. The Dance suite from keyboard pieces by Francois Couperin is also sometimes referred to as simply The Couperin Suite.
The origins of the Dance Suite arose out of the collaboration of Strauss with Heinrich Kroeller (1880–1930) who had choreographed Strauss' ballet Josephslegende for its 1921 Berlin premier. The arrangements by Strauss of Couperin's keyboard pieces were part of a "Ballettsoirée" (ballet evening) which premiered on February 17, 1923 (as part of the Vienna Fasching or carnival), which consisted of four parts.
Part 1 was François Couperin: social and theatrical dances in the manner of Louis XV based on books 1–4 of Couperin's Pièces de Clavecin (composed over the period 1713 to 1730). Part 2 was Maurice Ravel's Mother Goose which made its Viennese premier (with Ravel's orchestration). Part 3 was a selection of Rameau's music titled The Ballerina's suitors: a dance scene in Ballet style from the time of Louis XIV (it is not known if the music was arranged for the modern orchestra, and if so by whom). The evening concluded (as it had to) with part 4 entitled "Galloppwalzer" by Vienna's very own Johann Strauss II, consisting of the Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka Op. 214 followed by the Accelerationen-Walzer Op.234. This was "pure dance display" evoking the Vienna of the "Ringstrasse era" (1858-1900).
The music Strauss had arranged for the Ballettsoirée was published as his Tanzsuite aus Klavierstücken von François Couperin, (TrV 245) in 1923 (Strauss did not give it an opus number). Each piece in the Dance suite is based on two or more of Couperin's keyboard pieces, except for the final march which is based on a single piece. The grouping of the pieces reflects the needs of the Ballet. Whilst the orchestration retains the period feel (for example, the ornamentation), the Ballet suggested more recent combinations of instruments: for example the opening section of the Carillon is arranged for Glockenspiel, Celesta, Harp and Harpsichord which is more suggestive of a Tchaikovsky ballet than the French Baroque. Strauss also composed codas to end several of the movements.
The complete Balletsoirée was performed only twice, once on February 17, 1923 conducted by Clemens Krauss and again in Vienna on July 25, 1929. However, the dance suite took on a life of its own, often under the title "Couperin Suite", both as a concert piece and as a stand alone short Ballet. The ballet had its German premier at Darmstadt on March 24, 1924, and at the Dresden Opera in 1930. Subsequent performances with new choreography were put on in Vienna (1944, 1970), Bayreuth and Munich (1951), Dresden (2014). Part of the dance suite was used for the music to go with the 1926 silent film Der Rosenkavalier which was performed several times in Germany, London and New York.
Strauss returned to Couperin and wrote a second suite Divertimento for chamber orchestra after keyboard pieces by Couperin Op.86 which was published in 1942. This contained additional material Strauss had written for a ballet Verklungene Feste: Tanzvisionen aus zwei Jahrhunderten (Bygone celebrations: Dance visions from two centuries) in 1940.
On Friday our final work @ 1PM, is Josephs Legende (The Legend of Joseph), Op. 63
Josephs-Legende was the first of Strauss' completed ballets, written in response to a commission from Sergei Diaghilev, whose Ballets Russes had presented The Rite of Spring the previous season. Completed in 1914, it was considered a success, but the outbreak of the Great War cut short the program of the Ballets Russes, and the work was quickly forgotten.
Josephs-Legende is an hour-long work, based on Hugo von Hofmannsthal's adaptation of the biblical story of Joseph, who was sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers. Among Hofmannsthal's changes was the updating of the story from biblical times to sixteenth century Italy. The heart of the story is the unrequited love, or rather, lust, that the wife of Joseph's owner feels for the young boy. The plot has strong similarity to the story of Salome and John the Baptist, except that instead of murder it ends with the suicide of the rejected woman.
Strauss' score requires an enormous orchestra: Violins in three sections, violas and cellos in two, four harps, four celestas, six sets timpani, wind machine, piano, and organ; the immense orchestration has surely been a major cause for the neglect of the work. The music is clearly from the same hand that had just written the Alpensymphonie, and its final section is particularly enthralling.
Tune in every day @ 1PM starting Tuesday on Intermezzo with guest host Andrea Ratuski. Chris Wolf will be back Friday.