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17.6.13

NOI's Strauss



Charles T. Downey, National Orchestral Institute’s presentation of young musicians displays talent, haste
Washington Post, June 17, 2013

available at Amazon
R. Strauss, Tone Poems, Philadelphia Orchestra, W. Sawallisch
The best way to learn is to do. That is the goal of the National Orchestral Institute, the summer apprenticeship program for young classical musicians at the University of Maryland. Its National Festival Orchestra prepares weekly programs of symphonic repertoire with different conductors in a short turnaround time. The latest one was presented Saturday night at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

The performance, which centered on two of Richard Strauss’s virtuosic tone poems, might have been construed as biting off more than a less-experienced group could chew. That it was not was a credit to these talented musicians and to the savvy of this week’s conductor, Rossen Milanov. [Continue reading]
National Orchestral Institute
University of Maryland
Clarice Smith Center

James Hepokowski, in his study of Don Juan ("Fiery-Pulsed Libertine or Domestic Hero? Strauss's Don Juan Reinvestigated," in Richard Strauss: New Perspectives on the Composer and His Work, ed. Bryan Gilliam), wrote that analysis of a Strauss tone poem should be focused on understanding the work's ambiguities, how it takes shape in the pull of "unresolved tensions" between the musical narrative, the supposed literary one, and even how or if the two coincide. One example of this ambiguity is in the formal structure of Don Juan, which has been described as some kind of sonata form or some kind of rondo form.

Hepokowski inclines somewhat toward the rondo in his analysis, noting that there are four episodes between the returns of the Don Juan theme (Heldenthema): three of the hero's seductions, followed by what he calls a masked ball or orgy. The work ends with what is sometimes identified as the duel that concludes Nikolaus Lenau's version of the Don Juan story, in which Don Juan lets himself be killed, heard at the conclusion of final statement of the Heldenthema. Hepokowski notes, however, that the theme does not always return in the tonic, so it is more like a ritornello form than a rondo. As for the program, Hepokowski proposed a theory that the duel at the end is not an actual death but the seducer figure giving up his old ways and accepting a new persona as husband. This is similar to what was happening in Strauss's life at the time: he had met his future wife, Pauline, just before the composition of Don Juan, which was completed in 1888. This makes the pairing of Don Juan with the more transparently autobiographical Ein Heldenleben, composed a decade later and incorporating quotations from Don Juan and other Strauss tone poems, even more apt.

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