Of men & mountains

Strauss’s last tone-poem, An Alpine Symphony, wasn’t written until 1915 (the composer’s previous essay in the genre, the Symphonia Domestica, was completed back in 1903). There was a reason for this long gestation period (up until the Domestic Symphony the largest gap between symphonic poems had been six years). From 1903 onwards the composer’s focus […]

In domestic harmony

Strauss’s autobiographical turn of mind continued with the work that followed Ein Heldenleben. Only this time the critic-slaying hero of The Hero’s Life (i.e. Strauss himself) is transformed into a rather cuddly paterfamilias (Richard) replete with fond/nagging wife (Pauline) and yelling/gurgling baby (Franz) plus a few extras in the form of a troupe of aunts […]

El Caballero de la Triste Figura

Don Quixote, the Knight of the Doleful Countenance, here seen in Daumier’s famous painting (though it seems to me that the star of that particular show is the clapped-out horse, Rocinante – the Don’s doleful countenance just isn’t in evidence and poor old, long suffering Sancho Panza’s reduced to an amorphous blob on the horizon). […]

Tondichtung

The German Tondichtung has several names in English. There’s the literal translation of ‘tone-poem’; there’s the slightly more musical ‘symphonic poem’ and finally there’s ‘programme music’. It’s music that tells a story; and, while composers have from time immemorial been attracted to ventures into the mundane by imitating the sounds of the natural world (birds, […]