Back to Concert Info
Printer Friendly Version
R. Strauss: Suite from Der Rosenkavalier
Richard Strauss was born in Munich, Germany on June 11, 1864 and died in Garmisch-Partenkirch, Germany on September 8, 1949. He composed Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) between 1909 and 1910. The première took place in Dresden, Germany on January 26, 1911, conducted by Ernst von Schuch. This orchestral suite appeared in 1945. The Suite runs approximately 21 minutes in performance and is scored for piccolo, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, 2 harps, celesta, and orchestral strings.
The emotionally bruising operatic dramas Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909) seem to have purged a taste for such ghoulish material from Strauss’s system. For his next stage project, he pulled a complete about-face and produced, in close tandem with the librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the delicious, supremely tuneful “comedy for music” Der Rosenkavalier. Admirers of the previous operas were taken aback by this startling shift in style, but audiences gave the new score a swift and eager embrace. Fifty sold-out performances followed before the year was out. Special “Rosenkavalier trains” departed daily from several cities to trundle eager listeners to Dresden, and additional productions were staged across Europe in short order. It remains his most popular opera.
The plot unfolds in Vienna during the eighteenth-century reign of Empress Maria Theresa. The Marschallin, a worldly woman in her thirties, is having an affair with a young nobleman, Octavian. When Octavian falls in love with Sophie, a more suitable match for him, the Marschallin graciously steps aside and lets true, young love take its course.
The music combines Classical period charm à la Mozart, with nineteenth-century dance rhythms. The latter included the waltz, which didn’t yet exist when the opera takes place, but who cares? Strauss clothed all this in his ripe, late-Romantic orchestration.
Excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier have been featured in concert virtually since its creation, although Strauss did not prepare many of them himself. This popular concert suite appeared without crediting an arranger. The most widespread theory is that it was created by the Polish conductor Artur Rozdiński. It presents an enchanting medley of the opera’s most glorious moments, including the surging Prelude; the presentation of the silver rose; a luscious love duet between Sophie and Octavian; a teasing, languorous waltz associated with the lecherous Baron Ochs; the ecstatic final trio and duet; and another, quicker waltz to finish.
Programme Note by Don Anderson
© Copyright 2013 Toronto Symphony Orchestra