Commemorative concert marking the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss //
Richard Strauss “Don Juan”, symphonic poem based on Nikolaus Lenau for large orchestra, op. 20
Richard Strauss Orchestral songs: „Zueignung“ op. 10/1 · „Die heiligen drei Könige aus dem Morgenland“ op. 56/6 · „Ich wollt ein Sträußlein binden“ op. 68/2 · Heimkehr op. 15/5, „Cäcilie“ op. 27/2 · „Befreit“ op. 39/4
Richard Strauss “Thus spake Zarathustra”, symphonic poem loosely based on Nietzsche, op. 300
»So long as youth lives on with pulse afire, Out to the chase, to victories new aspire!« There is no motto more fitting than these lines from »Don Juan« which Strauss had just composed on his way to accepting his appointment as Kapellmeister in Weimar in 1889. In the field of ›programme music‹, he was already being celebrated as the successor of that great magician and enchanter Franz Liszt – and now he hoped to achieve further success as conductor of the Weimar Hofkapelle. With his brilliantly orchestrated »Don Juan«, Strauss »sparked a storm of applause quite unheard of in Weimar« which was followed by further triumphs and learning experiences of various kinds before the talented young composer headed to new shores in 1894.
By the time Strauss composed »Zarathustra« in 1898, he had established a reputation for himself as »the creator of heroic figures« – a free spirit, who not only put Nietzsche’s ideas to music, but interpreted them from his own perspective. Not everyone approved of this, but Strauss – even in his late years – never shied away from criticism.
Strauss composed songs his whole life – especially the kind in which the enchanting sound of an orchestra compliments the human voice. Above all else, his songs were particularly inspired by the soprano Pauline de Ahna, who followed him to Weimar as a student and laid the foundation for her singing career there, and in 1894 became his wife. The Weimar press agreed that Pauline possessed »musical intelligence, fiery temperament and dramatic talent«. And all of these characteristics are necessary to perform Strauss’ songs with verve – along with a strong creative disposition. For the Staatskapelle, Strauss turned out to be a stroke of luck – a composer who continues to influence the acoustic character of the orchestra to this day and whose music still challenges us to reach new heights. Thank you and happy birthday, Richard Strauss!